If you want searing aliveness
there is no safe route.
There is no safety.
You don’t believe it.
See for yourself.
Just around the bend, past
the bog if you’re not sucked in
turn into the darkest tangle.
Follow the barely heard call.
Sometimes it will seem
the singer is beside you —
or ahead — or behind
— or inside.
Keep going.~ Geneen Marie Haugen
Dear Springhouse community,
I like poems that ask us to be brave. I read this poem from Geneen this week to our staff, and in our adult program. The whole poem, Trail Sign, is well worth a read.
There are many other stories that speak to what Geneen is speaking to here. Michael Meade says turn toward the roar. Jesus moved toward the person in the pool who was sick and most avoided. The Sufi poet Rumi tells us to not turn our gaze away from the bandaged place, and the poet Rilke wonders if our dragons might be princesses after all. They all tell us it is worth it to move toward the “tangle”, as Geneen puts it. These stories and poems are important in a culture designed to run away from the dragon. We design it that way, and we can design it differently.
To create a culture that takes care of Life, we have to move toward the tangled places. When I was in Alabama last fall I heard Bryan Stevenson, the Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, invite us to get proximate to pain. Get closer to injustice. When we do, we can better understand it. This is true when I face my own tangles, and when we face them as the Springhouse community. Running is not the answer.
Springhouse is a community of culture builders. We know that culture is built slowly through education, through the curriculum we live and teach, one person at a time. We know that culture is also built quickly, through the sharing of stories and media of all kinds. We would like to get bolder when it comes to sharing the message that Life is a gift and it is up to us to care for it. For culture to sustain, we need networks of authentic and deep relationships. With these three things–education, media, and networking– we build a culture that takes care of Life. This is what Springhouse is here for. To live differently, more aligned with Life itself, and to build culture.
If we are going to build a culture that takes care of Life, it is our responsibility to regularly point toward where Life is not being cared for in our world. It is even more important to stay as close as we can to it–in our curriculum, the media we share, and through our Sourced Design Network. We need to stay close to it, in the trips we take, the apprenticeships we offer, and what we learn. To build culture, the teens and adults who participate in this school, need to leave it knowing how to build an example of life giving culture that can inspire and guide others; they need to have a good sense of themselves; and they need to be very aware of the injustices we currently face in this world. Our deepest commitment is this: Teens and adults who leave Springhouse will be able to build generative culture wherever they are. This is our deepest hope and what we strive for.
When Bryan Stevenson came into the room in Montgomery, Alabama I cried. This man has been at some of the most difficult and dangerous work he could do since the 80s. He is now getting a lot of notoriety, but he did it when he wasn’t noticed. He did it when he was ignored, resisted, and opposed. I am so inspired by those who stay close to injustice, not to save the world, but to do what is right. I have been having lunch with a teen every Tuesday. As Executive Director, I don’t spend a lot of time with the teens. I teach in the adult program and mentor and work closely with the staff. I am meeting with this teen because he asked me to meet, and because I love listening to him. He tells me what he is struggling with, and what brings him alive. This keeps me close to our mission and to our vision. If our vision is to live in a world where all life thrives, everything we do should keep us close to injustice, and to the magic and beauty of Life and how it works.
We have a long way to go from our vision, but visions are like North Stars, they aren’t meant to be touched. Like Martin Luther King, Jr. said in his final sermon, he did not fear, he could see the promised land, even though he knew he wouldn’t get there; not while on this planet at least. I am grateful to those who walked before us, who carved out some steps that we can care for and continue to carve, and trust that those younger will walk on them. At Springhouse, we can be sure of it. We believe in our alumni and their capacity to build the culture we envision. We will continue to do everything we can to teach them by living what we teach as best we can, and persisting no matter what; like Bryan, Dr. King, and many others.
Thank you for carving the steps with us. There is much to be grateful for.