One of the implications of lockdown has been that within the CCiC group there has been much discussion about how we can grow and adapt now it is difficult to organise the sort of invited and structured conversation groups we initially envisaged. Much of the conversation has been about being creative and using the CCiC “methodology” in different settings and existing groups. How that works in practice is probably a conversation for another day, but it makes me think of the aspiration that CCiC has of being able to change “culture”. Is that possible? We have been part of several conversations about this recently where people have been coming up with all sorts of arguments as to why the CCiC aspiration cannot really work: “people like being with like minded people”, “what if people are just pig headed in groups?”, “but there are experts who know more than we do”, “We can’t always be curious, what if people are wrong?” “people will get upset if they feel challenged for going on too long!”.
And so on, you get the picture. And of course, they are right.
Do I enjoy being in an echo chamber where I am with people who think like me? Oh yes!
Do I enjoy a good judgmental rant against people who are just wrong in their views? Hell yes!
Is there a place for debate, discussion and maybe even argument? Yes of course!
But, and this is a big but, if those places are the places where I think I will grow or change or mature as a spiritual person then I might just be more in need of affirmation than stimulation.
Aspiring to change culture is not the same as trying to impose a blanket way of doing things and cultures are grown and not imposed. There is an old saying used by management consultants in organisations that “culture eats strategy for breakfast!”
So how on earth can CCiC claim that it can change culture? To quote one of our facilitators “we are trying to change culture, one conversation at a time”, and that seems to me to be a good and realistic ambition. We take a particular space and time and say to ourselves that for these people in this place for this conversation, it will be different, and we will make it different by creating a different and intentional way of being together. The image I find helpful is one of trying to change the default settings of a conversation, like someone flicking a switch to a different setting. From “certain” to “curious”, from “dogmatic” to “inclusive”, from “informed” to “open”, and from “precarious” to “safe”, and so on. But like so many switches that have spent many years in one position, it is not always easy to get them to stay in the new position, so you have to work hard to keep them there. So when we create a space and run up the CCiC flag and say “in the space that follows we are going to work together to hold the default switches in new settings”, we are seeking agreement from those who want to find a new way of being, and we know that is not the way things are normally and that is the point. We can’t insulate ourselves against the love of echo chambers or the presence of people who want to be didactic and certain, but we can create a space for now that is safe, facilitated, focused, inclusive, and diverse. We can create a space where we are encouraged to put our own story into the context of others and see what grows. It won’t change everything, it won’t provide all the answers, it won’t be for everybody, but it might just be a place where I can grow and find space to be honest and open to the wisdom of others, and the movement of the Spirit in the gentleness of spiritual conversation.
We are learning that such space appeals to people who are seeking healing and the space to grow and question in a safe way. Holding the default switches to new settings takes determination and effort, and we know they spring back once the intentional space has concluded. But just as it takes, I am told 3,000 hours of practice to learn a musical instrument, so too the longer we practice being with changed default settings, the more our culture will change.
Through our struggles we will grow. Through our questions we will learn. What we practice, we become.
What do you think?
We want to hear from you!