Near the end of the recording, Johnny asked the group what three things we have learned from the Cosmos Café. I stated many learnings but concluded that participation in the smallest and largest sense of the word (within the actual call and within the world at large) was my biggest takeaway. Johnny also “assigned” “homework” . . .carry forth into the world what we had learned from the Café . . . pay attention to how we ground and amplify the learning.
This reminds me of a story, something that happened soon after the call . . .
I arrived home from work to a quiet house, about an hour after our call. Lolo asleep after his first day at new job (third-shift) with Vincent, our recent infant graduate, scooped snug and safe away from the bed’s edges. Lola reading in another room. Miles is outside, playing at his plastic trainset with a new train he received from his great-grandmother.
an aside . . .
(This is the fourth or fifth train he has received. We don’t buy new stuff for Miles; there is enough hand-me-down, birthday gift, Goodwill, freshly tossed out quality items available at the ready in this world. We have spoken to my grandmother about our “consumer” beliefs and gentle requests at no big/new purchases, please . . . but she will continue to buy . . . that is just what she does. We have made vain attempts to explain to Miles about the cost of these battery-powered trains that become ruined when left outside vs using the ones he already has + visiting granny without expecting to receive a gift each time (which easily becomes the norm now that the consumer line has been crossed) . . . etc. etc. Bottom line: this is a classic Batesonian situation (double-bind). The parent’s response of “irkedness” at the situation and the “state of the consumer realm” is only confusing to a child who just wants a nifty toy.
I provide this lead-in to explain that I tried a different approach this go around)
Instead of questioning how this train came into the household I decided to play along with my child. Typically, it can be a challenge to extract my son from his play. He is fully engrossed in his stories, so to intrude with adult world questions is to impede upon his creative output. In this day’s story, he was having a shiniest engine contest, taking each train to get washed down by to hose. As he continued on with the wash-downs, he began describing the trains and their differences.
“You can see that Gordon and Thomas have yellow trim around their cab window. Percy and James do not. . .
and some of the engines have two wheels here, but on the DVD’s they have three wheels on each side.”
Typically I will be temporarily involved with the details and his story then move along, as he would prefer to work alone. My attempts to take his mind out of “train brain” mode are often derailed. This time, something felt right to continue on with the differences.
“Yes, I see that now. That is something I have never noticed. What other differences do you see?”
He goes on listing a few more that he sees in front of him. He loves spot the difference activities and compare and contrast tasks found in kids’ workbooks. With a little bit of Socratic-style questioning (which is similar to Clean Language, I think, it which it allows the child or “subject in attention” to hone in on their own processing rather than be influenced by the questioner or other outside forces), he took a branch line away from the trains and onto the trees in our backyard. Even the trees are different. Every tree is different. Yes, I see that too! They all have different types of leaves. Yes, heres a poplar and that one is a black walnut. And the flowers too, look.! Yes! Do you think that people are different too? Yes, I think everyone is different.
We finally got around to the fact that it seems like everything is different, on the cosmic scale. God almost entered the conversation. But if everything is so different, how are they the same? The conversation lingered into the night as we ate dinner. We noted that lolo with his new job is missing out during breakfast. Miles said that when someone is missing it is like a piece of the pizza has been cut out and taken away, but the missing piece comes back. The conversation entered again when he grunted at the straightforward and boisterous neighbor-peer asking if he wanted to play. Miles didn’t say hello or no thanks or anything so I got the two of them together when the neighbor asked why Miles is so mean . . . “everyone is different, we all have different ways of talking with each other. And we are always learning.” That seemed to settle things for a few minutes.
This was not the first time that I connected with my son in a profound manner. Something so simple as the different trim colors on toy engines led to a conversation about the infinite amount of differences to be found within the trees in the backyard and the people in our circles. And I’d like to circle back to the beginning, to the “assignment” . . . there was no explicit effort to remember the content of our talk as I interacted with my son or a direct attempt to use what I learned today and spread this to the ones I love and interact with. Really, the only thought that came up was something like . . .“oh, Bateson talks about differences that make a difference…” . . . then I carried on with life.
In a way, and I want to be careful with my language so as not to impress upon you flowery prose or a new age vibe, but my son is our son. Strange to say out loud or see visually on the screen.
In the call I noted that, while listening to the others speak, there will be a growing collection of half-formed thoughts, notes-to self, fleeting emotions, and other internal florilegia that trail off into the great beyond-our-grasp when it comes time to speak. Some of it may be saved for a rainy day or may appear in the subconscious or dream realms. But the collection received from the Collective, especially from our discussions and shared material . . . all of this becomes “me” and becomes part of him. By “our son” I mean it in the same manner that Donna Haraway speaks of creating kin. Our son is not the Neo that is supposed to save the world. Liminal leadership as described by Nora Bateson has little room for saviors. Our sons and our daughters will be the ones to save the world, but that’s another cliché if we think of it that way. They will save the world by saving, restoring what we know to be true for all kin, all creatura. They will save our created world, a world that consumes little, consumes only a little bit of your time and attention, one that senses rhythmic layers abound, puts the “a” in atypical and imagines the others, embodies the others. I don’t really like the phrase “the difference that makes a difference”, but I think it makes sense here! I do like symmathesy, Nora Bateson’s term for mutual learning and look forward to our next symmathic event.