One of my Teachers College Essays: The Battle of Algiers

Posted in Uncategorized on October 30, 2009 by fractalbridge

Some friends have asked me what I’m working on at Columbia Teachers College. In my Conflict Resolution course (part of the Social Organizational Psychology department) with Peter Coleman (see below) I wrote this essay about the topic of conflict in the film The Battle of Algiers

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Rhythmic Cries: A Cross-Cultural Analysis of the Battle of Algiers

In the film The Battle of Algiers, an understandably frightened member of the French military during the Algerian war of independence in the late 1950s memorably refers to the “unintelligible and frightening rhythmic cries” uttered by the cascading crowd of demonstrating and revolting Algerians. One wonders: unintelligible and frightening for whom? Not, presumably, for the revolting Algerians, for whom the sounds were probably associated with catharsis, liberation and social justice. Thus, as I will argue and explore here, one might say that almost any conflict is at least as much a tension between opposing or contrasting perspectives as it is between opposing realities.

The Battle of Algiers is ideally suited for deep reflection and analysis of topics related to power, conflict, conflict resolution and related topics. The film has “stood the test of time,” proving to be relevant to some of the deepest and most problematic conflicts inflaming our world today. The United States Pentagon held showings of the film in the early days of current Iraq War. Insurgency movements use it as part of their training. Topics that it addresses—such as terrorism, torture and the nature of conflict—are deeply relevant to today’s geo-political realities.

One of the many perspectives from which The Battle of Algiers proves ideal for analyzing conflict is social-cultural. The film, especially as viewed through the eyes of experts on cross-cultural issues, sends a message to those interested in conflict and peace: learn how to be cultural integrators who sew a quilt of peaceful co-existence, or risk being swept up in a vicious cycle of cultural prejudice, distrust, conflict, aggression, war.

In Conflict Formulation: Going Beyond Culture-bound Views of Conflict, G.E. Faure claims that a society’s “underlying meaning is provided by culture” and that “culture is not just one variable in the methodology of conflict studies, but rather the law of variation of the methodology of conflict studies…Conflict as a concept is laden with cultural bias…. It is perceived, defined and dealt with differently (in each culture) and thus culturally rooted.” Faure explains how different cultures capture the notion of conflict and conflict resolution differently depending on their cultural context, offering the fascinating example of the New Guinean Cargo Cult of the 1950s and how fixed their cultural explanation was of the hidden meanings that explained their plight as a colonized and oppressed people.

The degree to which the Algerians and French were entrenched in their explanations of their conflict is similar. The Algerians had a relationship to their 130 years of colonization that was unique to their cultural perspective. They had many generations of “intellectual capture” of aspects of their French colonizers. The film does a remarkable job of showing the many misunderstandings and misinterpretations that both sides had regarding each other. In the same sense that the New Guinean Cargo Cult leader could not be convinced of the Australian “truth” even when presented with “evidence” on his trip to Sydney, the culture of the Algerians served as a filter through which they experienced the French colonial policies and vice-versa. The most striking example of the filter through which the French dealt with the Algerians occurs when the French military leader describes the nature of Algerian resistance using crude geometric drawings forming a long, tree-like structure. He uses the analogy of a “tapeworm” to describe the organizational structure of the Algerian resistance, which reinforces his assertion that the tapeworm’s “head must be cut off.” This way of framing the Algerian organization contributes to the acceptance of the French military perspective that they must interrogate and torture the Algerian members of this “tapeworm.” The French military leader says that they must “know” the opposing structure to be able to eliminate it: “To know them is to eliminate them.” This statement is profoundly dehumanizing, for the Algerian independence fighters become, in the mind of the French military, more like pieces of a worm than human beings.

Another way in which cultural misunderstandings and misinterpretations hijack conflict resolution is through what Kimmel calls “Fundamental Attribution Error,” in which perceived negative behaviors are attributed to personality. These negative attributes inevitably lead to negative emotions (in the victimized people) and to increased perceived negative behaviors, which in turn lead to further negative attributes, resulting in a vicious cycle. In The Battle of Algiers the French media clumsily label the Algerians as illiterate, brick-laying, draft dodgers in need of “serious reform.” Like many oppressive colonial powers, most French military officials looked through the prism of their own culture and callously degraded the Algerians. According to Kimmel, it is just this sort of negative attribution that served as a filter through which the Algerians began to exhibit behaviors that reinforced the French interpretation of the negative attributes that were applied to them, and thus the vicious circle continued. In one of the more extraordinary scenes in the film, an Algerian intellectual responds to the questions of reporters in such a way that he calls into question the labeling by the media of Algerian bombings by three women as an act of “cowardice.” He challenges the reporter’s use of this term by asking how it compares to the French military’s use of napalm to kill innocent civilians in Vietnam. The fact that this film includes Vietnam in its narrative speaks even more deeply to its relevance to U.S. policies toward other cultures.

M. J. Gelfand, L. H. Nishii and J. L. Raver explain yet another way in which cultural differences play a central role in conceptualizing conflict. Their conceptual model is called “Cultural Tightness-Looseness.” This model addresses cultural bias from the notion that what we often attribute to a value system inside the mind of a person is actually more accurately understood according to the external factors that the authors call tightness (strength of social norms and sanctioning) or looseness (weakness of social norms and sanctioning). The Battle of Algiers can be seen as providing an exploration of this phenomenon. In some of the most poignant scenes of the film, we witness the effect of the Algerians’ cultural call for all citizens to give up alcohol, drugs, prostitution and other behaviors that are deemed in their culture to be ethically and morally reprehensible. In this sense the film shows the “cultural tightness” of the society, the manifestation of which is that those who lie outside the moral norm are taunted and chased through the streets by their own people. The larger purpose of this moral crackdown was to keep the resistance, appropriately, tight—meaning well organized and streamlined. According to the perspective of those who promoted this view within Algerian society, only by upholding a high standard of morality could the Algerian resistance weed out those who were not truly committed to its cause. This dynamic, if the French had been attentive enough to understand it, might have contributed to resolving conflict more effectively: declaring a shared goal (for example, improving ethical and moral behavior of all persons) could have served as a potential bridge and thus provided negotiating points between the French and Algerians.

Finally, J.P. Lederach’s Preparing for Peace: Conflict Transformation Across Cultures provides another model for conceptualizing conflict. Lederach suggests that there is a “dialectic and paradoxical component” in conflict transformation. He suggests that there is even “some positive potential to conflict” in the sense that “the energy of seemingly irreconcilable ideas are enhanced if they are held together.” In this model, “peace and conflict can go hand in hand, setting the context for each other.”

It was through Lederach’s discussion of this paradoxical conflict dialectic that I was able to draw the most inspiration and insight from The Battle of Algiers. Lederach’s writings enhanced my understanding of the scene in which Algerian prisoners cry out to Allah, as well as the scene showing the wild-eyed inspiration that the adults felt when the boy took the microphone from the French propaganda officer and assured the Algerians that they were doing the “right thing” in revolting. In both of these scenes I sensed short-term conflict within a transformative container. Most of all, however, Lederach helped me to understand—in greater depth—the scene in which the Algerians made noises that the Frenchman called “unintelligible and frightening rhythmic cries” as they spontaneously (and rhythmically!) broke through the French military barriers. In this scene the Algerians seemed to embody the raw transformative power described Lederach’s dialectic—a kind of paradox of conflict transformation. In those moments conflict was not necessarily a bad thing. It was not necessarily something to be avoided. Rather, conflict was part of the deeper “conflict/peace” dialectic that Lederach describes, conflict and peace magnetically interconnected with the energy of the other in the name of a deeper transformation of society and thus history. From this perspective, the “unintelligible and frightening rhythmic cries” may have been unintelligible to most of the French occupiers; to many of the Algerians, however, they were the intelligible rhythmic cries of transformative change and liberation.

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My New World: Teachers College, Columbia University

Posted in Uncategorized on March 26, 2009 by fractalbridge

I’ve recently added a new world to my New York City life–I was officially accepted this April into the Doctorate of Education program in Interdisciplinary Studies at Teachers College or Columbia University on 120th Street near Harlem in New York City! The departements I’ll be working with are Psychology in Education, Social-Organizational Psychology, Philosophy of Education, Curriculum and Teaching, and other departments related to transformative education and emotional learning!

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Here are the professors who will be on my graduate studies committee team:

1) Megan Laverty from the Philosophy of Education Department (http://www.tc.columbia.edu/faculty/index.htm?facid=ml2524)

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2) Peter Coleman from the department of Social-Organizational Psychology (http://www.tc.columbia.edu/faculty/index.htm?facid=pc84)

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Peter is also the head of the International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution!
http://www.tc.edu/icccr/

3) Deanna Kuhn from the department of Psychology and Education (http://www.tc.columbia.edu/faculty/index.htm?facid=dk100)

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4) Lynn Bejoian from the department of Curriculum and Teaching (http://www.tc.columbia.edu/faculty/index.htm?facid=lmb16)

5) Richard Keller from Psychology in Education.

They represent the dream team for my Interdisciplinary Studied Doctorate of Education Program in my goal of bridging transformative education and emotional learning to the education system!

I visited Teacher’s College for events in these departments and already I have 4-6 new great contacts (professors, fellow graduate students, socratic seminar attendees, etc) from my two evenings there. It’s becoming clear that this will be an entire world unto itself for me in New York.

But then it got even better! When I looked up information about Megan Laverty, I noticed that she has been involved with an ongoing Socratic methods/Salon group at Columbia led by a man named Ron Gross. You can read about his at this site: http://www.socratesway.com/ and here is a photo of him dressed at Socrates!

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Ron also has a “Conversation Cafe” (http://www.conversationcafe.org/Newsletters/Newsletter_08_Jan/Ron%20column.htm) at Columbia which has a similar purpose of stimulating conversation and “great talk” as a means of improving oneself, creating community and making the world a better place.

Ron has said he will be lead one of my next Salons so keep updated on when he will host!

ObamArete: Politics as Transformation

Posted in Uncategorized on February 19, 2009 by fractalbridge

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As you can read from my last post, I went to Washington DC on Inauguration Day, attended the Western States Inaugural Ball, saw Biden and Obama live, and met Nanci Pelosi. The day was a once in a lifetime event with more emotion that you could believe. One might say that on that day History, Politics and Psychology all merged together.

I’ve always loved the subjects of History/Politics and Psychology and particularly the overlap–or bridge–between them. My dad (the son of a diplomat) loved History/Politics and when I spent time with him we watched Morley Saefer and Andy Rooney on 60 Minutes every Sunday night. You might say my mom is a stereotypical Berkeley mom, really into the transformative arts, transformative courses, and books like “Women Who Run With the Wolves.”

Over the years I’ve taught History, Government, Psychology, Diversity Studies, Peer Counseling and Communications. In schools I attended and also in schools in which I taught, these subjects have for the most part been approached separately.

What I did not expect–but which somehow does not surprise me–is that many of the ideas of the Obama Administration sound incredibly similar to a lot of the Psycho-Spiritual-Emotional Intelligence ideas I’ve been exposed to in San Francisco Bay Area transformative course, particularly the ideas from my favorite transformational course called “The Arete Experience!”

And, since I enjoy making word bridges, I found myself last week amusedly coining the term “The Era of ObamArete” to represent that bridge.

I playfully coin the term ObamArete as a word to represent an interesting phonomenon occuring between the public world and the private world. In an increasingly interdependent and integrated world, political awareness and personal awareness are becoming increasingly connected. The truths one discovers at the center of their essence seem to echo and reflect the truths that prove themselves to be true in the world of politics and the public.

Here are some examples:

1) In a transformational course like Arete, one learns that by engaging authentically with others and being with what is present with your relationship, by speaking honestly and truthfully about what is so for you, that you may not always “win” but you will share your ideas, become more who you are and thus make a difference for the world and .
Barack Obama frequently shared that his political motivations were “to share his visions truthfully, and that if he lost the presidency that it would be worth it because he will have still made a difference.”

2) At the core of most transformational work is the awareness of habits and human’s tendency to take things for granted and lose appreciation.
In his book Audacity of Hope Obama writes: “(we all have)…blind spots, recurring habits of thought that may be genetic or may be environmental…one of mine has proven to be chronic restlessness; an inability to appreciate, no matter how well things are going, those blessings right in front of me.”

3) An effective transformational course looks to the transformative power of community.
Obama: “…we can ground our politics in the notion of a common good (related to ‘Commons’, or ‘Community’).”

4) Transformative courses help us check our ego and to get present to our deepest commitments.
Obama: “(Politicians) need to avoid the pitfalls of (and pursuit of) fame [ego], the hunger to please, and the fear of loss, and thereby retain that kernel of truth, that singular voice within each of us that reminds us of our deepest commitments…”

5) One of the main lessons from good transformative courses is that when we give in to stories of blame and resentments about how things happened TO US, rather than “feeling into the moment of our experience,” we invalidate and sabotage our relationship with others and ourselves.
Obama: “I am convinced that when whenever we exaggerate or demonize, oversimplify or overstate our case, we lose…we get caught in “either/or” thinking, such as the notioin that we can have only big government or not government; the assumption that we must either tolerate forty-six million without health insurance or embrace “socialized medicine.”

6) Some forms of transformation help people understand and become present to the notion that we are part of a deeply complex system that is constantly taking new shape, coaching us to have flexibility in the moment.
Obama: “…across America, a constant cross-pollination is occuring, a not entirely orderly but generally peaceful collision among people and cultures. Identities are scrambling, and then cohering in new ways. Beliefs keep slipping through the noose of predictability. Facile expectations and simple explanations are being contantly upended.”

7) Some transformation work is related to the process of expanding our frame of reference.
Obama: “Tensions arise (in life) not because we have steered a wrong course, but simply because we live in a complex and contradictory world.”

8) Notions of “authenticity” are instrumental in the process of true transformation. Obama addresses authenticity indirectly in the next passage.
Obama: “I often wonder what makes it so difficult for politicians to talk about values in ways that don’t appear calculated or phony. Partly, I think, it’s because those of us in public life have become so scripted, and the gestures that candidates use to signify their values have become so standardized…that it becomes harder and harder for the public to distinguish between honest sentiment and political stagecraft.” He later goes on to link this notion with his “audacity to hope.”

9) On the topics of authenticity we writes more.
Obama: “…we long for that most elusive quality in our leaders–the quality of authenticity, of being who you say you are, of possessing a truthfulness that goes beyond words.”

10) In a year-long course I took through Arete co-founder Guy Sengstock called the Transformative Coaching and Leadership Training, perhaps the overarching principle we learned was “seeing another person’s world.”
Obama: “…at the heart of my moral code, and how I understand the Golden Rule–not simply a call to sympathy or charity, but as something more demanding, a call to stand in somebody else’s shoes and see through their eyes…I find myself returning again and again to my mother’s simple principle–‘How would that make you feel?’-as a guidepost for my politics.”

11) Many effective transformative course essentially boil down to creating a safe context in which to challenge one’s beliefs about oneself, others and life, gradually bumping up against challenges and assumptions until solutions are formed.
Obama suggests that the entire legal system and Constitution has the possibility to transform society!
Obama: The (Constitution) also offers us the possibility of a genuine marketplace of ideas, one in which the “jarring of parties” works on behalf of “deliberation and circumspection”; a marketplace in which, through debate and competition, we can expand our perspective, change our minds, and eventually arrive not merely at agreements but at sound and fair agreements.”

12) Many transformative processes include being with both the beauty AND the ugliness of life, and embracing both in while triving for a larger and deeper goal.
Obama: “I love America too much, am too invested in what this country has become, too committed to its institutions, its beauty, and even its ugliness, to focus entirely on the circumstances of its birth.”

13) In an effective transformation course, there is a sense of having been “cleansed” by the experience of being with people. It’s pretty reassuring that Obama on many occasions found that expressing his political visions in a crowd felt cleansing!
Obama: “…as I look out over the crowd, I somehow feel encouraged. In their bearing I see hard work. In the way they handle their children I see hope. My time with them is like a dip in a cool stream. I feel cleansed afterward, glad for the work I have chosen.”

14) Another of the main principles of transformational courses I’ve experiences is that, due to an early wounding (usually from not been seen, felt or understood), we organize our worlds so as to avoid that feeling ever again. Obama is able to skillfully describe that way in which, due to so much disappointment, politicians and citizens construct ways to avoid feeling a sense of hope or optimism about the future, for fear that they will be hurt once again!
Obama: “…the sorts of feelings that most people haven’t experienced since high school, when the girl (or boy) you’d been pinning over dismissed you with a joke in front of her friends, or you missed a pair of free throws with the big game on the line-the kinds of feelings that most adults wisely organize their lives to avoid.”

The link between Obama and transformative thinking and being goes on and on.

My point? It feels like we finally have a president who embodies some of the principles of transformative thinking that I find so deeply present in much of the transformative courses and culture of the San Francisco Bay Area!

Finally, here is a link to an article about the transformative potential of Obama:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=96694999

History Up Close: My Experience in DC on Inauguration Day

Posted in Uncategorized on January 30, 2009 by fractalbridge

Now that almost two weeks have passed I think I can piece together one of the most extraordinary 24 hours of my life. A day when I saw History up close. Inauguration Day.

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After not sleeping well the night before and not feeling so well on Inauguration morning, I slept in. When I woke I found myself rushing to Penn Station and being lucky to find an available ticket to Washington DC on the Acella fast train. Of course I was sad to have missed the actual Inauguration ceremony but it would have taken too much out of me to arrive in the early icy morning to be part of that event. So I arrived in the aftermath of the ceremony and DC was all abuzz like I’ve never experienced a city before.

The best way to describe what happened to me was being caught in a swirling, spiralling wave of grace, hope and possibility. I started talking with people, telling them about my transformational community in the San Francisco Bay Area, my Salon community in New York City, and the Green School in inner city Brooklyn where I teach. I felt so much love and possibility from people that I get choked up just thinking about it.

Then suddenly a few people who took a liking to me started to mumble something…turns out they were discussing offering me a ticket to one of the “official” balls! Next thing I knew I was on my way to the Midwestern Ball! Turns out 6 of the balls were all nearby and connected to the same entrance and security points, so I walked right past the Western States Ball. Eventually I made my way back to the entrance and asked if I could enter since I’m originally from California (Berkeley/San Francisco). They were pretty strict about not allowing that, but I just kept smiling, talking to people and being open to the possibility. Out of that spece of possibility I was unexpectedly offered a VIP press pass ticket and I was sitting in seats overlooking the entire ball!

I’ve met some extraordinary people over the years including Al Gore, Thomas Friedman, Walter Cronkinte, Gloria Steinem, Ariana Huffington, David McCullough, Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood, and Dr. Wayne Dyer.
But this night was so unbelievably historical and it meant so much to me to meet Speaker of the House Nanci Pelosi that night!

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Because she felt safe in the VIP section and was obviously in a great mood, she was really open to talking. She asked me all about the Green School and I shared with her about the amazing transformational community I’m conneted to in California (which of course is where she is from, thus the Western States Ball!). She was so friendly that I felt comfortable asking to take photo with her.

Later in the evening the Biden’s showed up to dance, and then the moment everyone had been waiting for…Barack and Michelle came out at about midnight, said some inspiring words, and then danced for about 5 minutes. There were so many photos and videos going off that it was blinding…luckily I was in the raised VIP stands and was able to get about 4 minutes of unobstructed, close up footage. Obama is magical even when giving a speech about the economy, so imagine what it was like to see him interract in the context of a ball, music and dancing? Truly a very spiritual nature and enlightened leader, one that comes along once every hundred years or so.

As if that was not enough, after the ball was complete I happened to walk by the Burning Man Ball, was invited in since it was so late, joined them for the next 4 hours, and was invited to stay over with at the friend of a friend of folks there. The next day was spent remembering all the incredible moments and feeling blessed to have seen History “up close” on Inauguration Day.

Fractal Salons: Spiraling Dialogues about Patterns, Purpose and Love that Increase Social and Emotional Intelligence

Posted in Uncategorized on December 29, 2008 by fractalbridge

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READ OR BROWSE 34 TESTIMONIALS *AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS POST* FROM ABOUT 25 SALONS HELD FROM OCTOBER 2012-JUNE 2013!

Hello, my name is Scott Hannon. I’ve studied, researched and read about history, society, psychology and happiness for years (in life and at Harvard, Columbia and UC Berkeley). One common denominator to happiness is captured by Psychology Professor Daniel Gilbert in PBS’s series This Emotional Life, who says that that strong, connective social relations and friendships is perhaps most important factor for happiness and fulfillment. A super detailed, academic study discussed in this film showed that happiness spreads through, and is connected to, our social networks!

A Fractal Community Salon is an extraordinary 3-4 hour experience with 6-10 people that draws on the best elements of group and network theory, borrowing from the contexts of dinner party, group counseling and academic dialogue to elicit the experience of strong social connection and group relations. This connection is enjoyed during the evening, and the skills learned can be taken out into one’s life and community of friends!

A Fractal Salon is a truly magical, wondrous, unforgettable community experience.

I currently teach Introductory Psychology at Holy Names University in Oakland. I recently completed a Master’s Degree in Group Learning/Counseling/Dynamics at Harvard Graduate School of Education and am studying this topic further in a doctorate program at Columbia Teachers College.

I’ve led/facilitated almost Salons in the SF Bay, New York City and Boston over the past five years. Below are many photos of Salons from the SF Bay in 2012-13. Scroll down further to see some from Boston in 2011, then read a more detailed description of the Fractal Salon, followed by photos and videos from Salons in Brooklyn in 2008-9.

And finally, read or skim the 34 TESTIMONIALS FROM THE SALONS HELD FROM OCTOBER 2012 to JUNE 2013.

June 2 Salon Jon Littel, Richard, Derek, Christine, Steve, Paul, Howard, Robin

June 2 Salon Jon Littel, Richard, Derek, Christine, Steve, Paul, Howard, Robin

Mother's Day Salon 2013 Salon Guy Breann Daniela Michele Melanie David

Mother’s Day Salon 2013 Salon Guy Breann Daniela Michele Melanie David

May 5 2013 Salon Wendy, Roland, Marenka, Donna, Keith, Rebecca, Amy

May 5 2013 Salon Wendy, Roland, Marenka, Donna, Keith, Rebecca, Amy

Easter Salon: Michele, Janet, Guy, Guy, Adam, Bella, Karen, Emily

Easter Salon: Michele, Janet, Guy, Guy, Adam, Bella, Karen, Emily

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St. Pats Lucky Circle-de Salon co-led with Guy Sengstock<

Mar 12 2013 Salon, co-led with Liam Kirsher

Mar 12 2013 Salon, co-led with Liam Kirsher

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Feb 24 2013 salon Mark, Breanne Marenka Toni Zoe Guy Robin Ali

Feb 12 2013 Valentines Salon: Kym, Scott, Marenka, Hiro, Andrei, Claire, Emelie, Veronica

Feb 12 2013 Valentines Salon: Kym, Scott, Marenka, Hiro, Andrei, Claire, Emelie, Veronica

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Feb 5 2013 Salon: Veronica, Janet, Scott, Paz, Raia, Vaibhavi, Michael, J<

Jan 22 2013 Salon (f) Vai, Donna, Vance, Janet (b) Ama, Elestia, Leo, DeDzin
Jan 13 2013 Salon: (f) Bara, Marenka, Hiro, Zoe (b) Ama, Alicial Jonathan, Ania

Jan 13 2013 Salon: (f) Bara, Marenka, Hiro, Zoe (b) Ama, Alicial Jonathan, Ania

Jan 8 2013 Salon: Natalie, Leo, Vance, Veronica, Scott, Scott, Ed, Brian, Anjali

Jan 8 2013 Salon: Natalie, Leo, Vance, Veronica, Scott, Scott, Ed, Brian, Anjali

Dec 30th 2012 Salon: Lee, Ed, Scott, Akasha, Ama, Janet, Emily, Marenka, Jen

Dec 30th 2012 Salon: Lee, Ed, Scott, Akasha, Ama, Janet, Emily, Marenka, Jen

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Dec 18 2012: FRONT Beatrice, Janet, Rex, BACK Mihai, ? Me, Veronica, Ravi photographer

Dec 18 2012: FRONT Beatrice, Janet, Rex, BACK Mihai, ? Me, Veronica, Ravi photographer

Dec 11 2012 Salon: Jesus, Vai, Cathy, Susan, Adam, Hiro, Anjali, Veronica, Scott

Nov 18 Salon: Guy S., Vince, Geralyn, Breann, Elizabeth, Ali, Thomas, me, Maritza

Oct 30 2012 Salon: Scott, Jeff, Spencer, Zoe, Cherie, Lance, Rich

October 23 Salon: Tamara, Knute, Raia, Sarah and Yuliya

Salon #35: October 9th, 2012 at Scott’s home, the “Rumi’s Field”, Bernal Heights, SF

35th Fractal Salon: October 9, 2012, Rumi’s Field, Scott’s home

May 17 2012 Berkeley Group

While this was not a formal salon, I facilitated/led this group with an amazing group of individuals including Arete founder Guy Sengstock (see http://www.aretecenter.com), meditation teacher Adam Coutts (see http://intromeditation.com/aboutteacher.html), Happiness expert Aymee Coget (http://www.bonfireheights.com/bios/bio_aymee.shtml) green/clean energy financial guru Ken Vanosky and Radical Improv teacher Liam Kircher (left early and so not pictured).

Spring 2011 Salon

Harvard Graduate School of Education Salon with adolescent boy’s expert Ben Keeler and Stanford School of Education and co-community founder Chris Gripkey (now a tennis pro in Sun Valley, Idaho).

Oct 1 2011 Salon

Attendees included museum curator Sara Egan (http://saraegan.com/), Lise Balk King (https://www.facebook.com/lisebking), and top yoga teacher Julia Novina (http://julianovina.com/).

Oct 16, 2011 Salon

Harvard Salon with New England Conservatory of Music professor Rhoda Bernard (http://rhodabernard.com/), yoga teacher and HGSE student Laura Scher (http://www.examiner.com/natural-health-in-portland/laura-scher) and others.

FEb 2011 Harvard Salon: Marie, Taylor, Lisa, Christina

Harvard Graduate School of Education Salon: November 21, 2010

Many associate Salons with the 18th century French gathering designed to “please and educate”.  While there some similarieties between the two, the Salons I’ve put on do not fit the somewhat elitist descriptions one reads about in reference to the French Salons.  They are community gatherings in the true sense of community, including people of all income groups, all ethnicities and all backgrounds. 

One of the main ways I explain them is that they are social gatherings that are made up of the BEST ASPECTS of a dinner party a discussion group and group counseling. 

THE BEST ASPECT OF A DINNER PARTY: In most dinner parties the conversation takes it’s own course, often split up into two or three separate conversation with no structure other than the whim of the individuals.  That is the norm for dinner partries. They are usually pleasant enough, but usually the group does not go that deep. In my Salons we are all connected to the same conversation and the result is like that dinner party you will never forget.

THE BEST ASPECT OF A CLASS/DISCUSSION/BOOK CLUB: Most group discussions, classrooms and book clubs have to stay to a book or subject. The discussion can often be pretty conceptual and you might learn something new but you don’t feel like you REALLY got to know the participants. My Salons are still about ideas, but they are designed to be more personal and to go deeper.

THE BEST ASPECT OF GROUP COUNSELING: My Salons have some of the depth and intimacy associated with group counseling, but they do not go as deep at group counseling. We do not do therapy or psychoanalysis, and there tends not to be cathartic emotional experiences. Yet we still get to know each other pretty well. And for some people, this is just what they want…a kind of “group counseling light” if you will.

I suppose you could say that the most important goal of my Salons is to learn new ideas, explore connection and community, and do that in a fun and light way!

We start with a potluck with the idea that food and music are some of the most basic ways that community is created and enjoyed.  After a while, when it feels right, I begin the Salon by thanking everyone for showing up and give some context for a Salon (which might be similar to the contents of this post). I explain that in a Salon we strive to stay conncted as an entire group, allowing the conversation to ebb and flow but keeping a certain rigor in our listening so that the conversation follows a kind of “group flow” that is unique to that group.  I ask that as the Salon progresses that people strive to connect their ideas to their own experience, bring themselves more and more to the moment.  I challenge participants to catch themselves if they get really heady, conceptual, or stuck in the past or the future.  I ask people to try to tune in and sense what the entire group wants next, where they want the conversation to go!

I usually begin Salons with introductions.  I ask people to share their name and what “home” is for them (this gives lots of flexibility with how to answer, as opposed to “where are you from?”  They might share about where they grew up, where they now live, or both.  I usually then ask that people briefly share what their “thing” is.  I like this question because it allows people to share about what they do for a living, what their main hobby is, what truly lights them up, or even all three.  I ask that people be brief in this stage since there are usually 7-9 other people to hear from. Sometimes I ask “What is something good/great/fun that happened to you recently?”

I like to bring a completion to each Salon with a process I learned in California called “I’d Like to Get Closer to You.” Basically each person has the option to choose one person (or even the entire group) and share a thought or feeling they had about them that, upon speaking it, brings them closer to the person or group.  Usually these take the form of an acknowledgement, or just choosing to say the thing that has you feel “complete,” whatever that is for you!

As you can imagine, each time we have a Salon the community gets closer and we often can’t wait for the next one.  We have had so much success that one of our main issues as a community is how we will be able to fit in my living room.   So far we are taking it one Salon at a time.

To give you a sense for these Salons, I’ve included a video of one Salon from June 4th 2008 and a few photos we took at the end of our other Salons in NYC:

June 4th 2008–SKIP AHEAD TO 5:45 TO WATCH AILEEN AND DIANA SING AT SALON #2: 

To give you a sense for the conversation part of this Salon, right after this song I asked the group “Where do you need to give yourself a ‘little more room to grow?'” since that was the most engaging question within Aileen’s lyrics.

We started a tradition of taking photographs of everyone together at the end of the Salons.  Here are some of them:

May 11 2008: Salon #1, East Village Housewarming Gathering

June 4th 2008: NY Salon #2, A Little More Room to Grow (see video above)

Todd, Ella Luckett, me, Aileen Morgan and Julia Calonge

NY Salon #2: Todd, Ella Luckett, me, Aileen Morgan and Julia Calonge

September 21st 2008:  Salon and Singing in Williamsburg

October 23 2008: Trip to Sleepy Hollow (not a Salon)

Todd, Julia, Ernest Smith, Laura Schiffeli and me

Todd, Julia, Ernest Smith, Laura Schiffeli and me

November 9th 2008: Salon #5, New President-Elect!

Ernest, Erika, David, Ai, Adriana, Julia, me and Todd

Ernest, Erika, David, Ai, Adrianna, Julia, me and Todd

Novermber 24th 2008: Salon #6, Thanksfulness Salon

December 8th: Salon #7, Who Are We as a Community?

Sabrina top first, Julie top third, Laura top 6th, Ai bottom 2nd

Sabrina top first, Julie top third, Laura top 6th, Ai bottom 2nd

December 21st 2008: Salon #8, Solsti-Salon Holiday Party

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Julia, Hillary Bacheldor, David, Adriana, Ernest, me and Dina posing while contemplating the Solstice

Julia, Hillary Bacheldor, David, Adriana, Ernest, me and Dina posing while contemplating the Solstice

January 18th 2009: Salon #9, Acknowledging Family Part I

February 15th 2009: Salon #10, Acknowledging Family Part II/Valentines Brunch

Attending: Todd Bresnick (http://drtoddbresnick.com/), Erika Hennings (http://erikahennings.com/?page_id=26), and film maker and graphic designer Adriana.

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March 7th 2009: Salon #11, Acknowledging Family Part III/Saturday Brunch

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March 28th 2009: Salon #12, Increasing Luck (St. Pat’s) in Life, Saturday Brunch which included Magnuss Magnusson (http://www.linkedin.com/pub/magnus-magnusson/7/32/69b).

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April 25 2009 Salon #13, Hopping into Spring (Easter/Passover)

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ALL TESTIMONIALS FROM OCTOBER 2012 – APRIL 2013 SALONS

1) “Scott made me feel very welcomed and comfortable right away. The Fractal Salon brought me into a state of mindfulness and connection; I think it’s one of the absolutely best ways to make connections with others and I hope this group process becomes embedded in our culture.”

~Marenka Cerny, Marriage Family Therapist (MFT)

2) I had the pleasure and privilege of attending Scott Hannon’s Fractal Salon the other day. One word: Wow. It was amazing how deep vulnerable, open, and real Scott helped us go. With his soft-spoken, kind presence Scott masterfully lead us to have heart opening and soul searching conversations which made us all feel so much closer. It helped us feel together and connected over similar kinds of pain, joy, love, and loss. Scott’s absolutely brilliant Fractal Salon idea should be used at all levels of community and government. After all if people shared as much as we did, and got to see others as humans the way we did in this Salon, the world would have so much less conflict, hatred, violence and bitterness. I really hope the Fractal Salon will catch on like wild fire, making its benevolent masterful creator successful beyond measure 🙂 Kudos Scott, my dear brother, keep on shining. From my heart to yours.”

~ Alchemyst Mystique

3) “I definitely give this a thumbs up- a double thumbs up…thanks Scott…these are worth going to!”

~Ali Cat, MFT, Speaker on Board of Ethics in Psychotherapy

4) I’m thankful for Scott Hannon, a wizard of group dynamics. I have been deeply appreciative of his mastery of conducting in improvisational situations. He uses a careful balance of direction and gentle guidance melded with a relaxed flexibility to collect and bring in everyone’s energy to create an experiential tapestry. I can remember as if it was yesterday. I come back to this often: there are people who are very good at what they do, very skilled and well trained – and then there are artists. Scott is one such very talented artist–skilled, well trained, and with lasting deep intent. His material is group dynamics. Looking forward to partaking in more of your art. Thank you, Scott!

~Andrei Armeanu

5) You are doing such a service to all of us. I am inspired and in awe. Wow….I was amazed by how quickly I deepened into my own vulnerability right from the start. The way you organized the dialogue allowed me to relax into the depth of my feeling. My experience has renewed my trust in the human spirit and the ability to develop community spontanteously.”

~Donna Moletierri, Somatic Psychotherapist

6) “What Scott is creating through the Fractal Salon experience is a foundational piece of what so many people are urgently seeking in these times. He has managed to channel and create a space that evokes conscious exploration, loving community, deep learning, insight, and fun! His masterful facilitation at once puts participants at ease and allows them to retrieve and express their inner wisdom, while experiencing authentic and powerful communication and connection. The artful structure of the topics within the “dinner party” framework levels the playing field, and enables participants to delve into deep personal and societal understanding while coming from their whole being, their embodied hearts, rather than intellectualizing. This unique form of live, loving, open and yet intentional gathering is so necessary in these times of digital friendship, over-intellectualization, and spiritual bypassing. It is so refreshing and such a privilege to have the opportunity to relish the questions- to co-create and discover communally – to joyfully raise vibration in such delicious company. I am so grateful for the opportunity, and I look forward to more!”

~Zoë Wild, Spiritual Life and Business Coach, Wild Life

7) “Scott has a beautiful way of bringing community together. The depth of effort and passion he has invested in crafting the Salon is palatable, and it feels like a gift to be included in such a unique experience.”

~Ali Fogarty, Teaching Fellow, Sociology and Gender Studies, Stanford University

8) “Scott has a profound way of holding the space and container for a group of people to become deeply connected. The conversational art is an orchestra for which Scott is a master conductor, allowing all the instruments of expression to have their place. It is bar none one of the most refreshing connecting community experiences happening here in the Bay Area. Scott is on to something really unique and cutting edge here!”

~Dr. Anna Stid, Chiropractor, Wellness Teacher

9) “I thought about the Salon all last night. It was like a light was turned on at the Salon and burned brightly through the night. I felt electrified with a buzzing hum throughout my body. Thank you for holding such sacred space and opening your heart to the group. So magical and yet so simple…the knowledge that there is nothing to do, nowhere to go, no one to be.”

~Cathy Goetze, Consultant and creator of film “RE: Invention”

10) “When I reflect on our Salon from last night it brings up beautiful memories and feelings of when people shared their hearts…I felt particularly enriched, as if someone had made a direct deposit into my emotional bank account. Scott, you created a beautiful physical space, and a specific mental context to explore deep and intentional dialogue. It was delightful in the moment, and I’ve been feeling the reverberations ever since. Thank you so much.”

~Knute Kallander, Leadership Instructor, SF State

11) “The Salon was an experience unlike any I have ever had. I immediately felt comfortable and at peace with the group and I am a better person for having attended. Thanks, Scott for bringing us all together!”

~Ann Marie

12) “Spontaneity, laughter, community, JOY all weaved by the magic and professionalism of Scott Hannon. Come join in as a skeptic and be transformed by the end of the evening.”

~Cherie Hung

13) “I had the pleasure of integrating the theme of Mandalas into Scott Hannon’s Fractal Salon last night and what an enriching experience it was to see how very clearly a Mandala is a metaphor for life itself in every possible aspect. I would LOVE to do another soon! My life and art feel expanded as a result of last night’s Salon and I am excited to see what new possibilities emerge for me, you and everyone who attended. Thank you Scott for your vision, wisdom and true giving of your most beautiful self.”

~Jenna Chandler

14) “Scott has created a structured space where conversation has depth, questions are poignant; I am able to reflect on my life past, present, future. It’s been a field of open-hearted presence. x”

~Anjali Sawhnay, Workshop Leader and Life Coach

15) “I came to my first Fractal Salon with curiosity and trepidation. I love people but groups of people, especially people I do not know, make me feel uncomfortable. I am a bit introverted so in a traditional group gathering, I often let the more extroverted personalities dominate the conversation. Scott created an environment where I felt at ease. I enjoyed his questions about life, creativity, connection. I felt free to share my authentic self. By the end of the evening, the strangers I had met hours earlier felt like family.”

~Kimberlee Reece, Acupuncturist

16) “Scott Hannon’s Fractal Salon is an extension of Scott’s personality: gentle, sweet, tender, thoughtful and caring. It’s an evening of unfolding into the realms of intimacy. Scott takes you on a journey of curiosity mixed with vulnerability that creates a very safe space to open your truer self within the group. I will definitely go again.”

~Elizabeth Cruz, Change Agent Coach

17) “I thought it was fabulous–the type of activity and community I hoped for in moving to San Francisco 19 years ago. Scott has a great talent for group facilitation. He has an excellent sense of “not too loose” AND “not too tight” which both keeps the group on track AND allows people to feel comfortable and not oppressed. He even exhibited this in handling the potluck. He set and kept a tone of supportiveness, openness, space for self-revelation.”

~Lee Robbins, Ph.D.

18) “Scott creates a warm and inviting environment that is conducive to the sweet, loving sharing that happens in the Fractal Salons. The small group environment and the guidance that Scott provides really inspires people to open and share their hearts and creates connection between the participants

~Penny, Marriage Family Therapist

19) “I deeply enjoyed both Salons I attended so far! I cherish the connections I made in both Salons. Scott’s experience as a group guide created an effective container for a beautiful, engaging, fun flow and connection. He helped us co-created a group experience that reflected our individuality and our shared interest while inspiring us and nourishing us on many levels. I loved that the format allowed me to express freely and creatively in a safe space. I will for sure be back for more!”

~Raia Haltam, Bhakti Rock vocalist

20) “What an amazing evening…soulful, loving, kind, enlightening, nourishing…thank you Scott for holding a warm, loving, wise and caring space for a circle of people to come together and share their intimate interior with such a feeling of depth and community. The Fractal Salon makes it so easy to drop in, reach out and connect.”

~Natalie Zeituny, Founder of the Conscious Business Center, NZ Consulting

21) “This is a fascinating meetup. I have been to two so far. First of all, how many of us have the luxury of having a Harvard-trained Psychology teacher whose expertise in group dynamics give you tips on how to be an effective contributor in this kind of setting? Then to try out the new skills with great company, great environment, and great food. What could be better? This experience was exceptional in part because of Scott’s overlaying a Salon communication format with a dinner party. The environment felt safe and heartfelt. I met some really interesting people. I felt heard and had a sense of connection. I learned some new tools for building community. I very much got the sense that the participants were relatives from a larger tribe. The Fractal Salon format allowed us to connect quickly to each other in a safe and heartfelt way, different than the usual ways we habitually socially self-organize. It felt like a flock of birds of different species who learned to fly together. Strongly recommended.”

~Hiro Hashimoto, Physician

22) “Scott succeeded in providing an open, relaxing, comfortable, trusting circle for the group. While guiding the group to feel the energy and to be present with others we blended together and manifested a liberation from guards, a blossoming of humanity. Thank you Scott for providing such a beautiful set up and sharing your passion to get individuals to share some of their deep thoughts and feelings. I would be delighted to join the Fractal Salon again.”

~Iyad Kaddoura

23) “I have attended Scott’s Salons for about 6 months now; they are intimate and guided in a very open way allowing one to get to know the other guests on a deeper level. Scott leads the group by asking interesting questions that allow us to open a discussion in which everyone can participate. Every Salon is different and unique. I have made very dear, deep, meaningful friendships with people who have become very close friends. He definitely attracts an eclectic wonderful group of people. When I can I will attend the next, and the next, and…”

~Ama Nkwa, Hynotherapist

24) “The Salon was quite an insightful experience. It allowed me the opportunity to open up, share, learn and grow in a community based on trust, respect and kindness. It was powerful to co-create something so intellectually, emotionally and spiritually enriching. Thank you very much Scott for sharing your gift with us!”

~Vipul Shaha, MA, Harvard Graduate School of Education, worked for Teach for India

25) “I attended the Dec. 4th Fractal Salon, not quite knowing what to expect, but open to the possibilities. At the very least, I figured that a dinner party with good conversation and good food would be a pleasant evening. Scott provided a warm, safe place in which to share our thoughts and feelings, sometimes very personal ones…we were able to connect on our common “human-ness”. The time flew by, and I think most of us were a bit sad to say goodbye.”

~Beth

26) “Scott brought together a bunch of great people, and deftly guided conversation toward meaningful sharing. Great stuff!”

~Jesus-Matthew, Yale grad, Computer Science

27) “A remarkable evening skillfully facilitated – thank you Scott! Your ability to seamlessly include two people who arrived after the group had already gathered momentum was truly masterful and a huge boon for all of us. I’m very grateful I was able to be a part of the Fractal Salon and to feel so seen and supported. Mmbop!!!”

~Emily Bouchard, Family Wealth Consultant and Facilitator

28) “Thank you, Scott, for a magical evening! I’d never been to a Fractal Salon and was curious about what that could mean. I was very impressed with your skill at educating us to the structure of the Salon, encouraging us to share deeply (yet succinctly), and to look for that which we find common to our human experience, in spite of our perceived differences. I arrived at the gathering feeling a bit low in energy and with an over-riding sense of feeling isolated that I’d been sitting with for the past week or so. I was looking forward to the possibility of connection, but apprehensive that this venue could perhaps be too contrived for my taste or make me feel pressured to participate more that I was comfortable with. I was very relieved and happy to find that the format of the evening, as well as the quality of presence and sincerity of all of the participants allowed for a continued deepening of connection and resonance as the evening progressed. I left the gathering feeling refreshed and renewed, as though I had just spent a few hours with very close friends. Gone was the feeling of isolation I had been carrying and my energy was vastly better. I was very grateful to be a part of the group and look forward to another “fractal” gathering!

~Scott Evans, Accupuncturist

29) “This was my second Fractal Salon event and I found it even more interesting and meaningful than the first. I was thrilled to share this with my 23 year old son who fit in seamlessly with this group. Having attended a previous Salon, I was able to really drop into the dialogue and found that I had ruminated about some of our discussion points over the past several weeks and made some new discoveries about my own personal journey. Scott is a wonderful facilitator and is extremely attuned to the group dynamic. One of the best parts was the “after party,” where most of us stayed around and continued to connect with each other. I made some great connections and new friends at both events.”

~Janet Pailet, Attorney and Sex & Relationship Coach (who has now attended about 8 Salons)

30) “While Fractal Salon has a momentum of its own, and the participants’ willingness to be open paves the way for a deeply meaningful evening, it is Scott Hannon that has created a process, a container, that everybody seems to feel safe in. Many other groups can be overly talkative, people can be in their heads giving endless details and stories… but to truly connect, short ideas that are vulnerable need to be shared between people… that is the stage that is set with Scott’s Salon. I will be back.”

~Derek Hart, Software Engineer, Life Coach and Healer

31) “Scott’s Fractal Salon attracts smart, non-judgmental, loving, open-minded people who are looking for new ways to connect to others. The evening is kicked off by a potluck, which allows for mingling and getting acquainted. This is followed by a very structured period where Scott asks open-ended questions and then allows everyone time to reflect and answer to the group. This allows not only for inquiry into self, but also to have other people’s answers be a catalyst through which to see the world in new ways. The evening culminates with the final question that allows for appreciation of individuals, which fosters close personal connections. Scott is an amazingly talented facilitator who keeps the group on track and creates a safe environment to explore and connect.”

~Christine LeMay, Careen Counselor at Marx Group, HAI and Biodanza Enthusiast

32) “Thank you all for co-creating a wonderfully rich and yummy space. And thank you Scott for following your inspiration, giving it form, and making it available so open-heartedly!”

~Jon Littel, Transformational Visionary

33) “From October 2008 to June 2009 I attended about 10 Brooklyn Fractal Salons hosted by Scott Hannon who was loved by so many Gothamites (NYC). I eagerly looked forward to being with Scott, whom I affectionately refer to as a brother. Each Salon proved to be unique. People new and veteran always felt at home, in touch with others, and safe. I remember what Scott encouraged: openness, clarity, authenticity and attention to others the room, and that being present in the moment always delivered freshness. The themes engaged our curiosity from one Salon to the next. I enjoyed the uniqueness of the backgrounds, trainings, cultures and enthusiasm that each person brought. How could I have such rich listening from others in such an intimate setting? How could “deep speaking” be possible with people I barely knew until the Salon? Scott moderated a “dinner party meets transformational class” conversation. The guests seemed eager upon arrival and enthralled at some point in the night. Scott used live and recorded music allowed us to entrain and kept our time together from being too much about talking. Thanks to Scott, Ernest, Todd, Julia, Adriana, Richard, Julie, Beatrice, Aileen, Erika, Kim, and countless others my Salons enlivened my time in New York City. Scott has a way of bringing people, places, topics, and temporality into an amalgam of bubbly tastes that only the palate of the soul can savor. For me, Scott Hannon is the Pied Piper of What’s Possible, beyond the veil and outside of the illusion. His instruments of beholding, giving, honoring and ultimately letting go of the process all make for a tune that soothes and reminds. Thanks Scott. May all your Salons be symphonies.”

~David Potter, massage therapist, teacher, healer, actor, magician

34) “The Fractal Salon is a great place to share ideas, learn something new, meet interesting people and do some reflection. It is obvious that Scott puts in a lot of planning and he facilitates the session in a way that makes a space for everyone be as engaged as they want to be. The format is designed to stimulate dialogue which is different typical social discussion. There were provocative questions around the theme of the Fractal Salon that made me and others think in non-traditional ways. We got to know each other in a deep way.”

~Ed Porter, Leadership and Education Consultant (working mostly with Superintentends)

A Night with Elie Weisel

Posted in Uncategorized on December 17, 2008 by fractalbridge

Tonight I finally see and hear a great hero of mine named Elie Weisel

He is a Holocaust survivor and wrote a famous book called Night.

My family celebrated some Jewish holidays and I have vivid memories of Chanukah with very happy people.  I studied History in college and then earned a teaching credential and Master’s Degree in Education. I taught History for 5 years and the Holocaust was an important part of the curriculum. I had the wonderful opportunity to also teach Diversity Studies, Psychology and a course called Living and Dying to high school seniors.

One summer right after college I spent a summer as a camp counselor at a mostly Jewish camp in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  I loved my campers a lot and one night I read them appropriate passages from Weisel’s Night.  They were so engaged by the book that they often did not want me to stop reading.  Perhaps the most moving part of the experience was the conversations that evolved after reading together where we often talked about the meaning of life and our own experiences of life.

Now, after all these years, I will go to the 92nd Street YMCA in Manhattan and see Elie Weisel in person. 

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I’m back from his incredible talk and I took notes on his quotes.  Some of them stand alone and others were part of a larger narrative. 

 Elie Weisel:

 Times change but the questions remain the same.

 I just wrote a book titled “A Mad Desire to Dance” which is strange because I’ve never danced.

 I quest for meaning. Great patience is required.

 When reading try to find a secret place in the story within the novel. At that point what is unsaid is more important than what is said.

 Letting suffering speak is the language of truth.

 Racism has received it’s final blow in the election of a black man to president of U.S.

 We are all rugged individualists with an Aristotelian impulse toward community.  Obama has tapped into this strain of our character.

 I’m not sure History has a sense of justice but it has a sense of humor.

In the recent tragedies in India the Jews were singled out and tortured…anti-semitism is alive and well.

Hitler and Mussolini made language their captors.

Governments don’t lie, they engage in “mis-information.”

What is memory?  What are it’s limits?  What is it’s weakness? What role does imagination play in memory?  Do they contribute to each other or take away?

All disciplines owe so much to memory.

It’s easy to fall in love with someone who can tell stories or who can listen to stories.

How can we truly heal without knowing the true nature of the shadows and the dark places?

How is it that we can, in the same world, have such cruel people and also such kind hearted people, too?

My answer to the question of how to be happy?  Fall in love again, even if you fear it, just fall in love again, and again, and again.  A character in one of my books falls in love in a bakery!

Ahh, what will we do for the children who are so scared, so afraid…we will continue to talk to them to tell them stories, to teach them…we will tell them to wait patiently for the world’s fervor, for it’s fire, for it’s deep love, it’s music, it’s melody, and it’s occasional silence…

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 I had the honor of shaking his hand that night.

Atticus Finch in the Flesh: Sam Waterston

Posted in Uncategorized on December 10, 2008 by fractalbridge

For about 5 years I was raised on one of those spiritual, “alternative communities”  in the Napa Valley of Northern California.  While it had it’s flaws, it was mostly a great experience.  For example, I did not experience lies, misrepresentation or betrayal  until my family left “the land” and joined society.  I had an intrinsic trust that life was fair.  As you can imagine, I had a rude awakening to the realities of life when I entered society and the public school system at the age of about 12 years old. 

Yet somehow through it all I still clinged to a sense of idealism that life was fair.

There was a time in my life when I wanted my dad to be Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird

There was even a time when I wanted to become Atticus as an adult.  Right after college and for most of my 20’s I was particularly idealistic (this is more balanced with some realism now).  Contemplating Finch’s character, who fought against injustice in the world, brought tears to my eyes.  The actor who played him–Gregory Peck,–also played a character in the film A Gentleman’s Agreement who fought against anti-Semitism.

It’s probably not surprising that I also loved characters like Jimmy Stewart’s Mr. Smith in the film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

Even back in 1992 before the Green and Systems Theory movements were in the mainstream I loved those idealistic independent films such as Mindwalk which was loosely based on Fritjof Karpa’s groundbreaking book The Turning Point. In this film I particularly loved the politician character played so well by Sam Waterston.  Here is a clip:

So imagine my excitement when I heard that Sam Waterston would be interviewed by the dean of Fordham Law School at an event called “Atticus Finch in the Flesh: A Conversation with Law and Order’s Sam Waterston!”

I attended this event on November 19th and it was all it shaped up to be, with Sam Waterston demonstrating that he is not only an extremely talented actor, but incredibly intelligent and knowledgable about topics such as the law and ethics. 

The dean asked great questions related to how Sam thinks our society has been affected by shows such as Law and Order, and that it means to have a system that is “fair.” One of Waterston’s comments filled me with a sense of hope for humanity…he said that he thinks one of the reasons people love shows such as Law and Order is because people deeply care about the notion of fairness.

What does fairness mean to you?