What time is it in the world? This question has never seemed more relevant to me than right now. It is a question I first heard in Art of Hosting work, often to context the times we are in, moving from a global perspective to much more specific contexts. In the work and conversations I’ve been in over the last decade, there has been a sense of preparing for a time to come. Now, in this time in the world, we are no longer preparing. We are full on in it. The shape of the world is shifting rapidly and it is a good time to be awake.
No longer are we waiting for someone else to fix the problems in the world. Like the Hopi prophecy says: we are the ones we’ve been waiting for. Ordinary citizens are peacefully showing up by the thousands in public spaces in cities around the world to say, Enough! The Occupy movement has been rolling out across North America since September 17, 2011 beginning with Occupy Wall Street, inspired, whether they know it or not by events in Europe over the spring and summer where people also showed up in the streets of Greece, Spain, and London to name a few places. It is a movement that started with little fanfare and almost no news coverage. It is going strong, gaining momentum over the last three weeks or so and still not much coverage in the main stream media. Thank goodness for social media! People don’t quite know what to make of it because it is not typical of demonstrations and protests where demands are made and violence is more the norm.
As Charles Eisenstein said in his post: Occupy Wall Street: No Demand is Big Enough “Occupy Wall Street is the first manifestation in a long time of “people power” in America. For too long, democracy has, for most people, meant meaningless choices in a box. The Wall Street occupation is stepping out of the box.” With many of our financial and government systems on the brink of collapse, the stakes are high – the highest they’ve been in my lifetime.
Tom Atlee, in his post Dawning Realizations, has noticed that “although Occupy Wall Street LOOKS like a protest and a demonstration (and occasionally turns into one), it is actually something more, something else: It is a passionate community of inquiry acting itself out as an archetypal improvisational street theater performance embodying, in one hand, people’s longings for the world as it could be and, in the other, their intense frustrations with the world as it is. These longings and frustrations reside in the whole society, not just in the occupiers.”
The Occupy movement has all the hallmarks Open Space Technology – whoever shows are the right people, when it starts is the right time, when it’s over it’s over and whatever happened was the only thing that could have happened. People are exercising the law of two feet just in showing up.
This is not the first time I’ve heard an Open Space reference made to recent public gatherings. It was said about the gatherings in Greece and many others in Europe - a giant open space with quiet conversations happening all over the square that no one individual or group called or planned. It just began to happen. And in Israel, a 10,000 person Cafe process was hosted in the streets of Tel Aviv and elsewhere. Never before even imagined.
These references point me to another observation I’ve been making about What Time Is It In The World? This observation percolates out of my recent time in Brazil where I was part of an Art of Hosting training in Porto Alegre and also got to visit friends in Sao Paulo. The first Art of Hosting training in Brazil was about five years ago. Since that time a small but mighty group of friends have been building, holding and supporting the AoH field in that country. In the last year, the field has experienced incredible growth. After lovely, deep conversations with friends throughout the couple of weeks I was there, I came to the understanding of a subtle but powerful distinction. This beautiful group of early adopters and stewards is no longer holding the field – the field is now holding itself. While these people are still important the field has grown beyond them – just like the field of shift in the world seems to have grown beyond any one individual, organization or community.
And, of course, it is not particular to the Art of Hosting field, which is what makes it even more powerful. It comes from many fields and many different communities – like World Cafe, Open Space, Circle Practice, the Presencing Institute, Pioneers of Change, Society for Organizational Learning, Berkana, ALIA and many more; the quiet revolution Paul Hawken references in Blessed Unrest.
Sometimes it seems strange to go about my daily life, engaged in ordinary and profound conversations, dropping my son at school, navigating my parents health questions and concerns, taking care of the mundane ordinariness of life while at the same time being aware of the deep shift happening in the world right now wondering what will be different and how it will be different. Without being able to see the path, knowing with absolute certainty that things are different, they are changing and life will never be the same again, feeling in my heart that the things we have been longing for, in my awareness for the past decade or so, just might come to be.
What time is it in the world? Are you paying attention? Are you awake? It is a beautiful and amazing time to be awake in the world right now.