SEPTEMBER 22, 2019 - ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA
Action can be personal, social, societal, civilizational. The Russians and Americans gathered in St. Petersburg for the Whom Do We Trust 2019 conference experienced each and, it seems to me, in the end, all of it together. We are after all humans, and the world we inhabit is undeniably of our own making. As Lao Tzu said long ago, life is a piece of wood we hold in our hands, which we shape to our own purposes.
Perhaps the larger goal of the gathering was to help young people shape their future in a way that will sustain the future of the whole world.
If this is our purpose, it was realized today by Joe Orrach, an actor, dancer, and singer for whom heart and soul are the most important ingredients. When you are spending many hours sweating the details of cybercrime, mass migration, nuclear war and climate change, taking one minute – to breathe, to look into another person’s eyes – can make all the difference.
Everyone paired up in this exercise and mirrored each other’s movement. It was a lovely moment – and it makes for nice photos, right?
But Joe also had something deeper in mind:
Each of us told another a personal story, then reversed roles, so each person had heard someone else’s story. The following day, Joe asked us each to tell the story we had heard, but using the pronoun I, that is, as if it had been our own story.
A woman whose father had avoided her ever since his divorce with her mother.
A small boy who went with his uncle to round up delinquent cows, got sleepy, and rode a cow all the way home.
A young woman who tried – and failed – to help a gifted cousin in trouble.
By truly listening to each other, by becoming the other, a space opened up for everyone in the room. And got us ready for the next, and final act, of the conference.
Without wasting time, let me say this was a session of voting on the many ideas that had percolated up on the issues people care about. So we moved from the personal outward, grappling with the need to create and hold vital relationships with each other and our societies, with how to help this sad and damaged world find peace and grace.
Build an Overconsumption Toolkit, to guide people towards living sustainably.
Create an online resource network for migrants, with a special focus on local support, to help those unfortunate people who are forced to leave their homelands.
Create augmented reality scenarios that show what reality would be like in a post-nuclear war landscape (point you phone at Times Square or Red Square, and see it decimated).
Demand and create a world of data transparency, where every person knows exactly what information is being harvested from them.
I hope to post again soon, with videos of some of the amazing people here…but I guess I need to get back to high-bandwidth California to do that. So please stay tuned – to Track Two's website, and Facebook page.
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Russian and American students and Track Two participants engage in a storytelling workshop lead by Joe Orrach.
Evelyn Messinger is an advisor to Track Two and Executive Director of CitizensChannel. Today she is engaged in the development of a television feature series on climate change and energy alternatives, This Planet.
Read more of Evelyn's reflections on her work with Track Two here.
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