The Foundation Stone

“The greatest gift of a garden is the restoration of the five senses.” – Hanna Rion

In the last chapter I talked about sowing the seeds of a community. Any gardener will tell you that it takes lots of hard work and nurturing to get your garden to be what all that she desires. Turning the soil, sowing the seeds, watering and weeding, always weeding. A community organizer goes through the same steps. The common failure is thinking that he can sow the seeds and walk away, that the community will grow organically. This is a fallacy and the reason why many a grassroots movement dies on the vine. That’s why it’s important to take basic steps before we even start, like an architect or builder, to lay down the foundation stone of the building before we bring out the bricks and the mortar to bind it all together. The foundation stone of any movement is the vision. The bricks and the mortar are the people.

Before we can set the foundation stone it is important to be clear on the vision. Just like an architect who might try out many different blueprints for a building, a group might try out many different goals and values before it coalesces into a community. Some will embrace the common goals and others will move on, but the community will be stronger in its unity. That’s why it is so important for each member to tend to her own garden before she can fully embrace the greater community. We all have core values that are central to our greater fulfillment and happiness. The question isn’t whether we should change our own goals and values, but whether we can further them by coming together on the things that we agree upon. This is progress. But first we need to figure out what we believe in.

Determining our core values is not something that we can do by reading web pages and listening to speeches and watching television news. Our beliefs have to come from within. In her excellent book PRACTICING PEACE IN A TIME OF WAR, Buddhist nun and teacher Pema Chödrön tells us that looking within is the key to attaining any goal. We need to tend our inner garden before we can hope to grow anything so substantial as a community. Set aside some time for yourself, free from distraction, to ask the big questions. It doesn’t matter if you meditate, write it down in a journal or something more substantial. The important thing is to shine a light on your hopes and dreams and see where they lead you. In doing so, you will determine your core values. Only then will you be ready to sow the seeds of your community.

We are at a crossroads of humanity. History has been a succession of ages and epochs. We have passed from the industrial age in to the technological age. Change has been so rapid that the greater part of humanity has been unable to keep up. A tiny percentage of the world’s population has stepped into the vacuum to seize a disproportionate amount of the world’s resources as their own. Their control of wealth is like a boot on the neck of the rest of humanity. It was systematic and systemic, going unnoticed by the general public for three decades. And then we woke up. Now it’s time to set the foundation stone to this new age. The field is fecund. The blueprints are being created. Now it’s time to reach out and grab the hand of your neighbor and plant some seeds.

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