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Detroit emerging

By Shea Howell
Special to the Michigan Citizen

Something new is happening in Detroit. Largely unseen by the powerful elites who are locked in old ways of thinking, artists, visionaries, social philosophers, entrepreneurs and new thinkers and doers recognize these new possibilities. The signs of this new emergence are everywhere for those who are willing to look beyond the headlines that blind us. This past weekend was a vivid example of the new ways of living being created in Detroit.

People came from Turkey, Brazil, Canada, the United Kingdom, Texas, Ohio, Wisconsin, New York and other places around the country to immerse themselves in a Learning Journey of Detroit. Under the guidance of Margaret Wheatley and the Boggs Center, people spent four days observing with “open hearts and strong backs” the new ways of living that are evolving in our city. They visited urban gardens growing community along with vegetables, explored the difference between a job and new work in a church basement designed to challenge and develop the creative imagination of children, walked with people creating community relationships of peace and forgiveness and witnessed the creativity of our young people, guided by adults willing to hear, help and heal them toward their future.

Margaret Wheatley framed the Learning Journey. Wheatley is a widely respected author and thinker. Her most recent work, “So Far From Home: Lost and Found in Our Brave New World,” was published this October.

She writes, “For me personally, this is the most important book I’ve yet written. It describes how we ended up in this world that no one wants — a harsh, destructive world that’s emerged in spite of our best efforts to change it. I explore this brave new world using several perspectives, including my experiences in many countries with organizations of all varieties, and the newest of the new sciences, epigenetics and neuroscience.

“After probing deeply into this darkening world, I invite us to consciously choose a new role for ourselves, that of warriors for the human spirit. (The term ‘warrior’ is used from the Tibetan tradition of ‘one who is brave’ — brave enough to never use aggression, whose only ‘weapons’ are compassion and insight.) As warriors for the human spirit, we discover our right work, work that is ours to do no matter what. We engage wholeheartedly, embody values we cherish, let go of outcomes and be vigilant with our relationships. We learn how to persevere, to remain focused and confident in service to the issues and people we care about, focused not so much on making a difference as on being a difference.”

Wheatley’s decision to host a Learning Journey in Detroit reflects a lifelong understanding of how real change occurs in our world. In another recent book, “Walk Out Walk On: A Learning Journey Into Communities Daring to Live the Future Now,” (2011) coauthored with Deborah Frieze, she describes communities in India, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Greece, Mexico, Brazil and Ohio.

She says, “In each of these places, people walked out of limiting beliefs and assumptions and walked on to create healthy and resilient communities. These walk outs who walk on use their ingenuity and caring to figure out how to work with what they have to create what they need. In every case, they challenge our assumptions about what’s possible and provide us with truly hopeful examples of how a shift in beliefs makes it possible to solve seemingly intractable problems.”

Wheatley shares with the Boggs Center the belief that change happens as people work toward a vision of what is possible.

Today, people from all over the globe recognize that Detroit represents something new. They see that in the midst of the dying industrial society, people are drawing upon the deepest resources of memory and imagination to make a way out of no way and create the world anew.

Contact Shea Howell at howell@oakland.edu

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