The Civil Conversations Project

I just discovered the Civil Conversations Project (CivilConversationsProject.org), and invite all to visit and support their good work.

I’ve not written an entry is quite some time, but a major breakthrough in my business model has put me in the search for a nonprofit to donate my company to. I no longer need outside investment to prove my model, and therefore don’t need to organize as a B Corp.

In my search for an aligned entity that can make the most of my “invention” (to fund the empowerment of deliberative democracy), I was perusing http://www.Fetzer.org. The Fetzer Institute has a wonderful mission:

To foster awareness of the power of love and forgiveness in the emerging global community.

They’ve support the Collective Wisdom Initiative, and also provide support to the Civil Conversations Project (hosted by OnBeing.org). I’ve reached out to the staff, and hope to start a conversation and collaboration.

In reviewing some of the comments to a conversation between a fundamentalist and a progressive, I ran across one that struck a nerve. A fellow progressive had a vitriolic reaction to allowing a conservative evangelical to have a voice on a progressive platform. I crafted a response, and realized after the fact that I finally had a blog entry (that in my opinion was worth posting):

Jeff,

I can certainly sympathize with your comment, as one who has been very outspoken against fundamentalism for years. That was until I found the same degree of “certainty” among many of my atheists friends, that there was nothing beyond what science could explore (and no reason to talk about it, nor to genuinely respect those who believe otherwise).

I have come to know several conservative evangelicals, who I now count among my best friends. My frustration that they don’t see my “truth” is mirrored pretty equally by their frustration that I don’t see theirs. It is hard to overstate the importance that mutual respect has, irrespective of our (perhaps permanently) different webs of belief. I have had my own blinders and tunnel vision remediated a bit, and they would acknowledge the same.

Politically empowering our collective wisdom, compassion, and creativity is now my life work. The median voter, even after being informed and perhaps transformed by respectful dialogue is still going be to the right of me, but as professor James Fishkin has been demonstrating for decades now, rather more progressive than the median “voter” in our current, de facto plutocracy.

Respecting one another should not, of course, be motivated primarily by the instrumental gains of empowering economic populism. But in point of fact, the empowering of deliberative democracy has as a wonderful side effect a transformative influence. Our hatred toward the “other” decreases in proportion to our understanding of them.

Some of my conservative friends may still think that I’m going to eternal Hell, but they are now saddened at that prospect. Some of them are questioning the veracity of eternal Hell, and I’m most delighted by that.

I could not be more supportive of the Civil Conversation Project!

Norlyn Dimmitt

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CentristProject.org + VOP.org – Even more hope for Democracy!

My passion is to help empower deliberative democracy, to leverage our collective wisdom and compassion, and to expedite the path to a peaceful, just and sustainable world.

Two recently discovered projects are major steps toward that vision.

CentristProject.org is working to create a  Centrist Party (drawing from the collective wisdom of all sides). It is the perfect complement to the Citizen Cabinet initiative of VOP.org, which is directly aimed at empowering deliberative democracy.

I look at both as synergistic parts of the larger Transpartisan Movement.

For everyone who shares my passion for a world that works for all, visit CentristProject.org and VOP.org, sign up, and spread the word.

Norlyn

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VOP.org – Real Hope for Democracy and for the Future

VOP.org (Voice Of the People) is the most promising initiative that I’ve encountered in 17 years of following the Transpartisan Movement (aka Deliberative Democracy Movement).

Fully 75% of the public supports a Citizen Cabinet.  This Citizen Cabinet would  serve both to hold our U.S. Representatives accountable to their constituencies, and provide valuable “collective wisdom” as we seek solutions to important policy issues.

73% of Republicans, 82% of Democrats support the idea, and a number of former U.S. Representatives (almost equally divided between Republicans and Democrats) are on the board of advisors.

I will be writing at much greater length about this important initiative, but for this short intro I just want to highly encourage everyone who reads this to go to VOP.org, sign the petition, and above all, SPREAD THE WORD!!!

I will confess to being one of those who believes that climate change is the most pressing issue facing civilization.  But whatever issue you think is the most pressing issue that is failing to be addressed adequately by our broken, highly partisan Congress, that issue is the reason that you should care very much about the VOP initiative.

Most of my blog entries have been about the importance of “Empowering Public Wisdom” (the title of Tom Atlee’s powerful 2012 manifesto — most of which is free online at http://empoweringpublicwisdom.us/author/thomasfatley/).

Bottom line, VOP.org is the most promising attempt to actualize the vision that Tom Atlee, Jim Fishkin, and many other transpartisans have been so passionately sharing for decades.

I will be devoting a great deal of energy to supporting VOP in 2014, and I encourage everyone who sees the great importance of fixing our democracy to do the same.

Merry Christmas!

Norlyn

 

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Solving the Puzzles of the New Testament

As I continue with my re-engagement with Christianity (after closing the door on my father’s warped fundamentalism 41 years ago), I am crossing paths regularly with Christians who are truly Christ-centric (not Paul-centric). Howard Pepper is a breath of fresh air, and it has been a delight to get to know him. For anyone who believes that what Jesus taught matters greatly, but that “Bible idolatry” severely limits and distorts the meaning of an infinite God of infinite love, I highly recommend Howard’s blog.

Natural Spirituality - Loving Forum for Spiritual Harmony & Growth

When I got the idea of a short article about understanding the New Testament, I started to mentally list some of the puzzles and enigmas that exist in this small library.  There are many!  I began reviewing how different people deal with the stories there, and the new theological ideas that truly “soar to the heavens” and plumb the depths of the human condition.   I realized that to even lay out some of the key enigmas, or the concepts that have captured the hearts of so many through 20 centuries, while remaining “foolishness” (Apostle Paul) to so many others, would itself take more than a whole post.

 

 

So I’ll suggest just one of the most explored issues, at or near the core of so many others: Just who was Jesus Christ? 

 

There is the human Jesus, the real man who gained a rather small following…

View original post 899 more words

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R.I.P., JFK, C.S. Lewis and Aldous Huxley.

On Nov 22, 1963, America arguably lost its three most influential thought leaders, in the realm of American spirituality (traversing Catholicism, Protestantism, and the Human Potential Movement, respectively).

I’d like to reflect a bit on all three, in the light of that claim.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy

On Nov 21, 1963 JFK was arguably more influential to American Catholics than the new Pope, Paul VI.  As the leader “carrying the torch of a new generation”, JFK was closer in age and spirit to the countercultural revolutionaries that were soon to appear en masse in American.  Catholic sensibilities in America were deeply affected by

“the continued push for civil rights in the U.S. and the advent of the contraceptive pill, legal abortion and homosexual rights movements in many countries in the wake of their sexual revolutions.” [Wikipedia on Pope Paul VI]

After JFK, American Catholics may have deviated from the Vatican’s position on birth control more than any other nation with a significant Catholic population.  As important as Pope Paul VI was in subsequent years to the cause of the Second Vatican Council, and to the cause of ecumenical dialogue that is so important to our current quest for peace, on Nov 21, 1963, American Catholics were still basking in the pride of having the first Catholic president, and were probably influenced more, all things considered, by JFK than the Pope.

But that isn’t sufficient to make the case.  Ironically, given that JFK was a progressive, the election of the first Catholic president was a seismic shift that lead ultimately to Catholics being much more fully embraced by Protestant conservatives in the culture wars that picked up momentum in the ensuing decades.  A great deal of JFK’s influence on the subsequent direction of American politics was thoroughly unintended, but influential nonetheless!

C.S. Lewis

No evangelist in the 20th century comes close to Billy Graham in terms of influence.  Advisor to most presidents since Eisenhower, and converter of millions, if the Gallup poll on “most admired men and women” is the gauge, Billy Graham is the most admired person of the century, appearing on the list 55 times since 1955.

But a thousand years from now, when Billy Graham is a footnote, along with Billy Sunday and Dwight Moody, it is quite likely that the works of C.S. Lewis (an Irish intellectual who spent most of his life in England) will still be exerting an influence on American Christians. It is even possible that Christianity a thousand years hence will have transcended the denominational divisions that have plagued it since the Protestant reformation, in the light of his unifying message in Mere Christianity.

On Nov 22, 1963, we lost the most influential Christian writer of the 20th century, and we hardly noticed.

Aldous Huxley

We know Aldous Huxley primarily as the author of the dystopian novel Brave New World (1932), which Modern Library names as the 5th most influential novel of the 20th century.  Fans of The Doors (and a great number of LSD users from the 60s who took Timothy Leary’s work to heart) might argue that The Doors of Perception (1954) is more influential.

But I will argue that looking out a thousand years, his most influential book will be his comparative study of mysticism, The Perennial Philosophy (1945), written well before the Human Potential Movement, and a decade before any of the posthumously published writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

I admit a deep personal bias for The Perennial Philosophy — it was the book that made sense of my powerful mystical experience in 1980.  But it is also a book that goes much further than C.S. Lewis.  It takes Christian mystics very seriously, but makes room for Eastern mystics.  In finding a deep common core between East and West, it provides a blueprint for broader spiritual reconciliation that, when combined with the works of the inestimably important Jesuit paleontologist and mystic Teilhard de Chardin; and the work since Abraham Maslow in the rich terrain of transpersonal psychology; it might just illuminate the path to a unifying evolutionary spirituality — one that transcends the intractable theological disputes arising from so many organized faith traditions, each with different conceptions of Truth and Goodness.

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Democracy is Dead (unless and until we take it back)

I’m not just looking for the silver lining in the Senatorial travesty that allowed the NRA’s nefarious goals to trump public safety (and the will of 90% of the citizens).  I’m determined to make lemonade out of some very bitter lemons.

This morning, I had a stimulating and productive conversation with Michael Pink, who is also trying to change the world by leveraging the economic power of the real estate industry.  For more on his vision for “Socially Responsible Real Estate”, visit www.IIConline.org.

Michael and I are in the beginning stages of trying to forming a unique group of volunteer “board advisors” to help implement our shared vision, starting with Illinois.

The group will plan and guide the execution of a local prototype of  my much larger vision of reforming residential brokerage.  Real estate is, and will remain predominantly local, and it makes sense to “Act Locally”, while “Thinking Globally”, at least until the overall model is proven in Chicagoland.

The initial goal is to impact the federal 2014 midterm elections in an Illinois congressional district, by generating funding for transpartisan initiatives that will enable the election of a transpartisan candidate (from either party, or a third party).  A transpartisan candidate is one who has pledged to support the principles of deliberative democracy and to be held accountable to a “democracy scorecard” that reflects the informed will of their entire constituency.

 

 

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Elevator Pitch – Conscious Capitalism, Democracy and a Sustainable Future

Residential real estate brokerage in the U.S. is roughly a $60 billion a year industry.

Almost half ($30 billion) is paid for listing services, even though the average listing takes one third the time of the average buyer transaction (the other $30 billion).  On that statistic alone there is $20 billion of theoretical inefficiency embedded in the listing side of the equation.

Examining the problem more deeply, there is as much as a 95% (2 x 2 x 5 = 20 fold) theoretical inefficiency on the listing side for the average newer agent (given the astronomical turnover rate, most are newer):

  1. 50-50 broker splits
  2. Fewer than 50% of listings taken to closing
  3. 75-80% of time spent prospecting

The 50-50 broker split afflicts the buyer agent side as well.

While theoretical inefficiency is rather higher than actually eradicable inefficiency, there are a number of plausible constructions (substantially improving on each of the measures above) that will generate over $20 billion of value per year.

Add to the above equation the increase in quality and efficiency of introducing:

  1. division of labor (the multiple roles Realtors assume require multiple personalities as well as detracting from the quality that comes from focus);
  2. econometric precision pricing to deliver substantially better results for sellers (the CMA/appraisal model has a huge error range, leading to lower expected sales prices.)
  3. income stability for Realtors (base and benefits plus bonus) to attract more talent, and ultimately lower the cost of labor (1099s rightfully demand much more expected income, to compensate for the much higher uncertainty).

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Finally, consider the power of constructing the enterprise as a Benefit Corporation, dedicated to building a just and sustainable future for all (via transpartisan democratic reform and other collaborative projects that fully tap our collective wisdom and compassion).

The increased marketing efficacy (sellers — do good, while you save money and secure better results); and the decreased cost of human capital (Realtors — do well, while doing good) would both increase the wealth creation of the enterprise, even as it creates an implicit barrier to entry against purely for-profit imitators.

I firmly believe that we can create a peaceful, just and sustainable world for all (now and in the future), by instituting transpartisan deliberative democracy (empowering the “informed and transformed will of the people”); and by redirecting the tremendous power of capitalism.  Both projects have a common thread – the transformative power of collaboratively leveraging our compassion.

Norlyn

norlyn@sbcglobal.net

630-362-4663

P.S. Please comment, critique, and above all, join the conversation!  If you are not already, invite me to connect via LinkedIn.

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Grace Elizabeth (1928-1965)

I recently found this online memorial to my mother:

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=82303047

A distant cousin added it at the end of 2011.
Thank you, Debra Polly!

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It is Valentines Day today, and it could not have started less romantically. We “celebrated” Marcia’s birthday on Feb 1, barely a week after signing away all rights to our home. Yesterday, Marcia uttered the word “homeless” for the first time, after I revealed that we didn’t have enough current cash flow to secure an apartment in a month.

Today, as I saw her off to her $12 an hour job at Delnor hospital, taken in large part so that I could secure treatment for my heart, we had a rare negative exchange.

When financial duress tears at a family, fights are seldom about the petty incident that sparks the inferno. In this case, Marcia closed the secretary before I had extracted the garbage sticker. It was the normal “picking/closing up behind you” (the only continuous clash of pet peeves that we deal with, though usually with affection and humor).

Every man will relate to what sparked the exchange (a sexist stereotype, perpetuated here for poetic effect). I’m hard of hearing, but I had no problem detecting the higher-than-normal decibels as she executed on the closing of the secretary. I also am horrible at reading minds, but was perspicacious enough to infer that the metaphorical door slam was at least loosely related to the fact that my latest financial failure had once again turned her world upside down.

Unfortunately, I picked today to forget everything I learned from Dale Carnegie (or Stephen Covey). I did not “seek first to understand”, but allowed my acute awareness of my current inadequacy as a provider to rule the day. I injudiciously uttered a defensive retort, which I will paraphrase as “I’m fully aware that I’ve ruined your life, without the passive aggressive reminder. Perhaps it would be better if your focus was more on how we can work together on getting out of the mess I’ve made, rather than on my tendency to leave the secretary open”.

Not one to stop beating a dead horse, I finished my diatribe with a flourish (not paraphrased), “I feel like we’re not in this together, that we’re standing in opposite corners”.

Her last words, as she walked out the door for a job she never imagined herself doing at age 62, were particularly sobering.

“I’ve felt alone for a very long time”.

This did not immediately register with me.

As compared to most couples, I’m guessing that we spend more time together than most. There is arguably too much TV in the mix, but we also talk a lot, and are quite comfortable sharing feelings and ideas. We certainly have a much better relationship than my mother and father had.

My father was a misogynistic fundamentalist who sincerely believed that he had God-given right (and duty) to beat us kids and my mother “for our own good”. That, and a brain injury that affected his emotional regulation contributed to my mother’s early death, in a single act of uncontrolled rage.

But I inherited my extreme non-materialism from my father, as well as his “universal benevolence for humanity, never mind the family”. Marcia’s longsuffering support of my goal to make a difference, and my corresponding neglect of taking care of the present, had undoubtedly caused her far more pain than she had ever revealed.

“I’ve felt alone for a very long time”.

I don’t know when Marcia lost faith in me. I do know when I realized that she had — it was when I no longer had any urge to say “this time it will be different” or “I’ll do whatever it takes”, even though I am deeply committed to both propositions.

Supporting someone when you have faith in them is one thing. Supporting them when you don’t has to be incredibly difficult.

Not being able to share (with me or with anyone) that you’ve lost faith in your partner; that you are afraid of never having a financially secure future; that you feel that you’ve sacrificed for 17 years to support a man who has failed to either change the world or pay the bills — that is heavy silence that would make the toughest person feel alone.

I cannot but wonder how deeply alone my mother felt while married to the self-appointed savior of mankind. I know how I felt, enduring my father’s “love” until I was 14, always wondering why everyone else on the planet seemed more important to him than his own children. And I imagine that you feel similarly.

I truly haven’t a clue about how to salvage this Valentines Day. Words, cards, or flowers all seem particularly hollow.

Love is a verb, and to that end, I am committing to taking the first stable job that will remove homelessness from your list of immediate concerns, even if that job bears no relationship to my temporarily dormant urge to save the world.

Norlyn

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Abolitionists and Lincoln — lessons for Pro-Life and Pro-Choice advocates

Marcia and I watched the 3 part PBS series on the abolitionists yesterday, and were inspired to watch the powerful Spielberg depiction of Lincoln today, as well as to re-read Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream speech”, delivered in 1963, 100 years after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.   To critique any of these would be to detract from the most important thing I can do, which is to simply emphatically encourage anyone who has not experienced all three statements against injustice to do so.

There is another abolitionist movement that I want to encourage all of my liberal friends (with whom I agree on a great many issues) to encounter, not to alter their politically pro-choice sentiments (which I largely share, albeit with much uneasiness, as I discussed very recently), but to encourage understanding and civil engagement:

http://abolishhumanabortion.com/

One cannot watch the PBS series on The Abolitionists or Spielberg’s Lincoln without rethinking the way that we work to resolve this most contentious issue of our time.  It is my hope that others on both sides will share my uneasiness, once they’ve sought to understand, and not simply to be understood (to paraphrase Stephen Covey’s fifth of “Seven habits of highly effective people”).

I can think of no other issue where respectful dialogue is so rare, yet so needed.

 

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“Winning” the U.S. House back for Democrats

When George W. Bush began beating the drums of war, in the lead up to our regrettable invasion of Iraq, Marcia and I joined with the Fox Valley Citizens for Peace and Justice, and marched with them in protest.  As with many at FVCPJ, we also got involved with the 2004 election.

In the many internal debates that we had at various Meetups (remember how Meetup.com transformed Howard Dean’s campaign?), the ones I remember most were the ones about whether to support the “true progressive”, peace advocate Kucinich, “putting principle above politics”.

My argument then and now is to “remember Nader 2000”, where the grand stand, “on principle”, of a sufficient number of dedicated supporters of the Green Party gave us 8 years of George W. Bush (who, for all his flaws, personally took seriously the notion of “compassionate conservatism”, so absent with Romney/Ryan).

Anyway, ever the hyper-optimist, I firmly believe that Democrats can win every single Republican held Congressional district in 2014, simply by standing on a different principle.  It is a principle implicit in the party name, a principle that proclaims that, in a representative democracy, the representatives of any given constituency should represent their constituency.  All of it, not just the 25th percentile primary voter who determines the winning candidate of the Republican primary, trumping the 25th percentile primary voter who determined the losing candidate of the Democratic primary, and leaving the median voter in that congressional district almost without voice.

Under conditions of civil dialogue among a representative sample of citizens, deliberating over any contentious public policy issue, we can surely agree that the stance of the median voter will reflect a more nuanced and complete understanding of the best arguments from both sides, than an adamant ideologue who does not engage in deliberation with an ideologue in the other camp.

Coming together in a transpartisan quest to find common ground is impossible if we refuse to give credence to the very meaning of democracy, in which the majority (and hence the median voter) is given power (so long as that power does not involve trampling the rights of a minority).

To all of my Democratic friends who are share my “unfortunate” situation of being in a congressional district that is center right, I would impore you to all adopt a different principle in 2014, and to select in the primaries Democratic contenders who are committed to representing their entire constuency, even though the median voters of those constituencies all align themselves more with the Republican platform than with the Democratic platform.

Pick a Democratic candidate who also is committed to participatory democracy (implicit in the notion of deliberative democracy), who promises to “query” representative samples from their constituency on every contentious public policy, in full knowledge that the median voter in those samples will not be quite as progressive as you are on climate change; on defending Roe v. Wade; or on securing sustenance and genuinely equal opportunity for the least advantaged; but who will assuredly be more progressive than the candidate that the Republican party will most likely put forth, whose commitments are to something far short of their entire constituency.

Of course, be sure to select a candidate with sufficient charisma and character to win against the Republican contender in the general election.

In publishing this post, I’m allowing the Republican party to steal that secret and table their own candidate with a similar commitment to their entire constituency, and with a similar commitment to deliberative democracy.  And it is conceivable that they will field the better candidate, and win the general election.  Wouldn’t that be horrible?

[If I had anything to wager, I’d wager it all on the proposition that we won’t be faced with such a horrifying prospect in a single congressional district where the current incumbent is a Republican, given the nature of our deeply flawed primary process, and the voting psychology and theology of the median voter in any given Republican primary.  I should be so lucky and thrilled if my tiny readership is multiplied millions of times, and among readers who align themselves with the Republican party, who are persuaded to back a candidate committed to deliberative democracy.]

I do not personally believe in either party or any party (although my personal convictions align overwhelmingly with the Green Party, which is rather to the left of the Democratic party), insofar as those parties operate oppositionally, through a primary process that elevates personal conviction to a political stance that would trump the notion of political equality implicit in the idea of democracy.

As an advocate of almost every principle in the platform of the Green party, I was deeply dismayed at Ralph Nader’s decision to run in 2000, because it divided the left just enough to guarantee their loss of that election (when coupled with the anti-democratic travesty that transpired in Florida).  So long as we have our broken political system, I’d rather support the candidate selected by the median Democratic voter, and that meant Al Gore in 2000.

I’m rather hypocritical in my prescription for the 2014 midterm elections, because I have no desire to spend even a minute convincing voters in Congressional districts held by Democrats to adopt my strategy.  Until the system is fundamentally fixed, I’ll advocate for a Progressive counterweight to the gerrymandered usurpation of power in the U.S. House of Representatives (nationwide, a majority of American voters voted for Democratic representation in 2012).  My slightly undemocratic goal is to win the House back in 2014, by advocating for truer democracy only in Republican held districts, which would hopefully catalyze a sea change, as both parties move towards the “radical middle”. As commitment to representing one’s entire constituency becomes the cultural norm, it will lead to our abandonment of a primary system that continually tears us apart. Our current system ensures a quite anti-democratic version of “representation”, whereby 26% of voters at the far end of the left-right spectrum dictate our public policy.

What I really want, and the primary point of this blog, is to win the U.S. House of Representatives back for democracy — for the “informed and transformed Will of the People”.  I am convinced that dialogue among representative samples of citizens will transform (and therefore move) many voters on the Right to adopt a more nuanced view on poverty; on the use of armed force abroad and the issue of gun violence at home; on women’s views about reproductive rights; and on the imperative of addressing climate change.  But I also believe that, by engaging deliberatively with the right, many voters on the Left will adopt a more nuanced view on the positive attributes of the “invisible hand of the free market”; on the transformative potential of business that is committed to the “triple bottom line”; on the deeper meaning of religious tolerance towards those who believe that life begins at conception; and on the tradeoff  between personal responsibility and our communitarian impulse to provide a social safety net to the truly needy.

Collaboratively and creatively, we can build a much better world.  But only when we have effected transpartisan reform can we fully tap the enormous but latent public wisdom that can illuminate our path to that better world.

NRD

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