I believe that Town Meeting as a social instrument is giving form to a titanic trend in history that defines our times. I believe that Town Meeting as a social instrument is engineering a complex, global maneuver of the Servant Movement in our time. I believe that Town Meeting as a social instrument is manifesting a profound ontological dynamic of human consciousness in our time in history. And, I believe that Town Meeting as a social instrument is participating in the awesomeness of the final economy, of that eternal mystery, that undergirds our time and all time, past and future.
I suppose all of us have smiled a bit at our struggle in times past to grasp the profound trends in history. It is not a simple matter, of course. After my experience of this year, I have come to believe that there has been no trend since the breakloose of the technological revolution that can even begin to compete with the trend which has appeared on our horizon that has to do with the rise of local man. I believe it was that earlier trend, the technological revolution, as it solidified into the forms of history, that destroyed the possibility of local man across the world. That is what caused urbanization and too]c away from local man the task of broad and longrange planning for his village and the next community. Now local man is rising again. One of the evidences of that is that local man has not had to be persuaded to move any place I have been this year. I found him quite ready to move before I even arrived on the scene.
I have fallen in love with local man all over again this year. When I ask myself why, my answer is that it's because he's ready to move. We sometimes believe that local man is filled with apathy and lethargy. This is not true. There has been a tight cap upon his motivity, but with the least opportunity for that to break loose, it does. Those of us who have been educated the way you and I have been expect local man to be the kind of cynic we are and to manifest the kind of apathy that we manifest. It is not true. Within local is a kind of integrity that I wasn't sure I had and I think that's why I fell in love with him.
When you have lived through a time in the United States which had the whole matter of Watergate and Mr. Nixon who was simply a manifestation of something far deeper than Watergate, you wonder if integrity exists at all. Local man has integrity. Therefore, there has been born within me a new kind of confidence. Evil men will come and go in high places but there is moral integrity in local man. He is on the rise and nothing can turn him back.
Another thing has told me that local man is on the rise. I became aware of the fact that if you plan and decide simply from the top down, sooner or later you run into a stalemate. You and I have run into the stalemate. When you move from the top down, you deal with figures and statistics rather than with people. You see that so many people each year starve, so many catastrophes will happen. You come to a stalemate and you just panic. That is what's been going on in the high places of the political dynamic of every nation. It is going to go on even more in the future with the princes of tile economic dynamic of life. But they can't exist from the topdown. An overly simple illustration of this is that in no village is it necessary for people to be hungry. It is not necessary for them to be undernourished.
We see the rise of local man. The world ran away from him, ignored him and got into trouble because of that. The world is now being forced to invite him to participate in making history. And I don't mean simply the third world. In the so-called developed or overdeveloped nations, local man has been suffocated more than anywhere else. There is going to be in our time an emancipation of local man in the overdeveloped nations.
We have known, those of us who cared, that a New Social Vehicle had to be created but we didn't know how to go about it. We thought that building a New Social Vehicle was getting an ideology and selling it to the people. That is decadent liberalism. A New Social Vehicle is only created when local man is released to get his own creativity into history, to decide his own destiny. All social revolutions have happened in precisely this way.
It is in this context Town Meeting is understood. You do not find people alive in the rural villages. You find them dead. When you give them a grain of hope, something pops loose. He is not about to let anybody come in and tell him what to do. He is quite ready to participate with other people in deciding the form of the society of which he will be a part. Town Meeting flips the cork, allowing a little hope into his being and releases the creativity that is going to build a New Social Vehicle. That New Social Vehicle will cut across all of the vertical lines of demarcation that have separated us into black and white, east and west, Buddhists and Christians, and whatever else. A New Social Vehicle is coming and the Town Meeting is the means by which you release the gigantic power necessary for local man to work together to build it.
Obviously Town Meeting is a maneuver a worldwide maneuver of the movement itself. We have to understand this. We have to leave our inner castles and move out into the only world we have Planet Earth. That is the everyday world in which we are born and in which we die. Town Meeting has been the basic instrument making that horrendous move of the whole movement into a realistic possibility.
We have talked for years about going to the masses. We have known that as long as we contain whatever it is we have in narrow limits, it would be relatively useless in history. We have understood for a long time that we could do no other than go to the last person on earth, search them out and lay before them our offering. How do you do that? There are about two million villages in this world they say. My guess is that it is closer to three million. We have a deep conscious and unconscious resolve not to give up marching until the last village of this world has had a Town Meeting. Town Meeting has given us an instrument with which we can go to the masses.
When I go to see people, I get out as quickly as possible that gorgeous document called "Town Meeting '76" and quickly tell the story of the 5,000 spread across this nation. People used to ask "Who are you?" Now they don't need to ask. Town Meeting has given us credibility.
Town Meeting is but the beginning in this country. This applies to Belgium, Germany and Canada as well. Town Meeting is preparing us for the next step which is a social demonstration in every village and town across this country. What we are after are the heartlands of our country to release local man. We'll get enough started that the governmental structures, private institutions and the church will carry it the rest of the way. Don't you think for one moment that when you set up a Town Meeting, you are simply doing that Town Meeting.
Those Who Care across the world must make sure in our lifetime that the torch of Those Who Care cuts across nations, races, and creeds. It must be carried from one generation to the next. Our lives must be spent in maintaining the torch and handing on that torch to a newly awakened body who are Those Who Care. You hand that torch on when you expend your life in building Social Demonstration and in enabling Town Meeting.
Town Meeting has a profound relationship to the ontological. It centers on profound awareness. It centers on historical engagement. It centers on human effulgence: the plethora of humanness. That's what consciousness is. That what humanness is. This is the reality that the socalled religious or spiritual dynamic of every culture was trying to understand and bear witness to in its poetry. I am not interested in ideas. I am not interested in doctrines. I am interested in the reality that you can only grasp phenomenologically that which every religious, every spiritual effort has tried to be seized by.
Without unreserved historical engagement, you never reach the fullness of humanness. Care is not finally a decision that you can make if you wish to be human. Care is not an emotion. It is an engagement with the total being in the total given. Town Meeting is here. With Town Meeting, what you are actually doing is profoundly awakening people.
There are a few that came out of the religious tradition I did who still believe, no matter how we fight it, that to wake up is to come to your senses and believe in a certain body of doctrines. That is not what the church of Christ was based on. The man Jesus was concerned that people wake up about their lives, about the reality in their lives. It may be some years before we can get this clearly articulated in theology, in genuine dialogue with our past. But it is going to be said again.
In Town Meeting, we are awakening people. This is nothing new for us. One of the first models of the church we ever built held witnessing love, justing love, presencing love. When you do Town Meeting, you are doing what I mean by witnessing love. When you are engaged in Social Demonstration, you are doing what I mean by justing love. When you are engaged in both, as we all are, then you begin to have some idea what it means to have presence and to take care of that presence so all may behold new possibility.
What is it going to look like sociologically when you intensify your profound awareness and intensify your historical engagement? Well, I'm ready to risk myself and give you an image of what it is going to look like.
In this image which looks like the Star of David you can see one triangle with the point up and another with the point down. In the one pointed up, Profound Awareness is in the left angle. In the right hand angle is Historical Engagement. Up at the top is Human Effulgence.
Now in the other triangle, up in the left hand corner is Skill. That necessary in order to be engaged effectively in history. You don't have to be literate to' have skills. When you go to Maliwada, you better know that. Those people can't read their own names, let alone write them but they are bright. On the right hand side at the top is Nurture. Only as long as your profound awareness lasts can you be historically engaged. Nurture is life or death. It's what you do for yourself and what you do with one another. At the bottom is the word Community. I don't mean some organization but the kind of community that never is confined to its own inflation. If you imagine putting a dot in the center of the image and take your finger and start spinning it as fast as you can, you have the sociological shape of Those Who Care,
Town Meeting is building that shape for the masses of humanity. I don't know exactly what people of various faiths have imagined in the past when they talked about being Those Who Care. But I know this. I have become clearer and clearer that there is an invisible economy and that my particular projected economy is always bumping into it. However you describe it, there is something going on out there that is unsynonymous with even the greatest of our battleplans and maneuvers.
We have been reminded of the temporality of our being a group or a movement. We have screamed out the urgency that comes from the awareness that nothing 1n this world long endures. Being endures, not us beings. This underscores the wisdom we've had in not organizing ourselves any more than we had to get the job done. Remember that until you have to win, you will not win. All things come and all things go. Only Being goes on. That means that only Being wins, you don't win. But being is gracious. I didn't read this out of a book; I read it out of my life. Being is gracious for it allows you to participate in its successes.
I am more clear than ever that we are not and will not be a movement. A movement may come but it won't be our movement. I see ourselves as a happening. I see ourselves as having the potential of being an explosion that could bring forth in our day a new form of profound awareness, effective engagement and an absolute plethora of humanness. If we become such an explosion, let us remember no man or group of men have ever done anything but failed. It is Being itself that succeeds in us and allows us to participate in the success of Being.
I have an appreciation I don't know how to articulate for rural man in India. The only rural men in India that I've really known intimately up to now were the ones stretched out on the sidewalks of Calcutta who had come from the land to the city that was not capable of supporting them. You can imagine my impression my image of rural man in India.
I got the shock of my life rural man of India is a proud human being. And strangely enough, he is a competent human being. Most surprising of all is his poise. I finally had to hide from people to keep from going into their huts and drinking buffalo juice out of their graciousness. But you, when you got inside those mud huts, they had a poise that you would not believe! The next thing I was impressed with was intelligence. They were intelligent. Out of that intelligence flows a creativity with forthrightness that is incredible. This underscored for me that the basic image in India, in the culture of Hinduism, is selfhood. Local man there is a self. You may not believe that but I believe it.
I've been beaten by the forces of history into confessing that local man is on the rise around the world. The most unbelievably deep current of history is that local man is on the move. If my image of local man in India could be profoundly changed, why then should I not believe in the possibility of local man in every nation of the world?
My greatest story from Maliwada is that I fell in love with some old men there and they fell in love with me. I mean it. At times I was a little irritated because I wanted to talk and I couldn't. Then, after a while, I knew why the mystery never taught me Hindi or Marathi. It's so I can look deep into the eyes of the local man of India and to permit them to look deep into the eyes of this local man from the United States of America.
I don't know whether they embrace in India. But' I do know just as well as I know my name that if I ever go to Maliwada again' I can see an old Muslim who is going to reach out his arms. I'm going to reach out mine. We're going to embrace like a couple of Frenchmen. Then, I'll see an old Hindu man and the same thing will happen again. This I know.
Well, I had fun, tiring fun, wearing fun. I tramped those gullies with some of those old men, looking for a precious resource water. The basic contradiction of Maliwada is just two things one is they don't have cobblestones in the streets and the other is that they don't harness the water. I walked down a long, long gully about 20 feet deep and about 20 feet wide that was dry. In the monsoons it was full. Then I stumbled onto the remains of a dam that nobody seemed to know was there. Some people said it had been washed out 700 years ago. Others said it was 300 years ago. Between 300 and 700 years ago, the people had rebuilt the dam for the last time. They had built a series of earth dams with rock in the center which channeled the water and then stored it. Besides the direct use of these, they also kept the water table high. Then, they could reach the water table when they dug wells from 20 to 60 or 70 feet deep. That's the way they kept their wells full. When the dams washed out, the people rebuilt them, But what happened 300 years ago that they didn't rebuild them? What happened? What happened?
If you don't know people's past, you never get to the profound issue. Can you imagine every morning when you get up, going out of a mud hut and looking up to see that fortress?* That unbelievable fortress points to a civilization highly developed while our ancestors were running around in bearskins. Can you imagine being a Maliwada person? You see the glory of the people that were there before. Then you look at the filth in the street, the lack of education in the village, the lack of bread to eat. What happened 300 years ago?
*Near Maliwada is Deogiri, a fort carved out of sheer rock about 400 feet high. It was the capital of the Mogul Empire in the 14th century.
All around Maliwada are these big dug wells ~ some of them 20 to 30 feet across, others 6 to 8 feet across. In my imagination, I was afraid of falling into those wells. In fact, vertigo came over me. The image came to me that I was walking with those old men and we were spread out all three of us an old Muslim, an old Hindu, and an old Christian. We were walking in the fields and simultaneously each one of us fell down a separate well. There we met a water table of common consciousness.
Whatever that was 300 years ago or 700 years ago, they lost their profound consciousness. We three fell down into that consciousness again. The greatest story of Maliwada is the story of the recovery of profound consciousness, right before our eyes. Those wells we fell down were our own historical poetry. We fell down those holes of Christian poetry and Hindu poetry and Muslim poetry. When we hit the water table of consciousness, we didn't need to speak Hindi or English together. We just looked into the deeps of one another's eyes.
In the old days with our courses, we were concerned not with whether anybody agreed with us but with lives being changed. In this community of Maliwada during the consult, I saw lives changed, profoundly changed. I beheld the presence of the mystery ~ I mean my presence no, not my presence but the presence of the blue. By that I mean our presence. You were there. The presence the mystery gives you is yours to use, but the mystery is stuck with your presence and my presence and the presence of those who wear the blue around the world. The presence of the blue changed lives.
That's the story of three old men who fell down in wells. That is my learning of Maliwada. If I look unusually mature to you today, you understand I have grown a bit because of Maliwada since last you saw me.
It will be really interesting in 100 years when somebody is able to articulate how, with the birth of science, the technological revolution, the welding of the globe into one human settlement and the discovery of planning, local man got lost in the complexity of the inclusive. This has happened over several decades now, perhaps over several centuries. In the last few months the thing that has overwhelmed me most is the fact that local man everywhere is on the rise again.
I remember when I came back from World War II. A captain that I served with went into the State Department. Some months later when I saw him, he said to me, "There is no use trying to tell the public about what is going on. It is so complex, they can't understand it." Can you grasp what he was saying? That rocked me at the time and I just screamed inside. I did not know what to say back to him so I did not say anything. Now I would like to talk with him. What he said in one sense was true but in another it was not true. It is true that local man was no longer capable of significantly engaging himself. That was his situation. But now, local man is rising up around the world saying, "I can understand complex matters. Not only can I understand them, I intend to participate in them "
It is not the 15% that have been creating history and the 85% never having a chance. It is less than 15%. Probably in all history, in India only 2 to 5% put intentional creativity into history itself. Now, imagine with the rise of local man, the 85% getting its creativity into history. Local man, when his creativity is given a chance to be released, is going to explode history. That will make the first threefourths of this century, which has been astounding to us all, look simply like a mosquito on a bay window pane.
Local man underscored that for me. It happened when I was working with a great Indian architect. He went with us to select some of the villages in India. We talked about how India has been invaded something like 32 times in its history. Some of those were massive invasions that actually turned the culture upside down. He pointed out that in those cultures that came with the invasions, local man had no chance to build in any significant way his own home. Somebody else was blowing the whistle and calling the signals. They built such things as the Red Fort in Delhi and the Taj Mahal but never had a chance to build their own habitat. They were busy building other things. It became clear to us that India has to be rebuilt from the ground up. That architect is old now but he said he is going to spend the rest of his life rebuilding the habitat of local man and trying to get every other architect in India to join with him in reconstructing the whole of India.
We have a possibility that rarely a group of people has had in history. If you care, you care for all. You care for the 700,000 villages. Within a year from now other states are going to want to start a Maliwada. Then you have to remember in Korea there are 35,000 villages. I'll bet some of you will be dead before all of this gets done' And then there is the United States. How are we going to do it? The Isle of Dogs taught me, if I did not know it before, that every community in the developed world is in as dire need of this as are the communities of the underdeveloped countries. It just takes a different form.
I want to talk about what we are all about. In the broad sense, this is not easy. Those of you who have been around some time know that fundamentally, we have dealt with the personal or the individual. To oversimplify it, what resulted in these 20 years of work was the intellectual methods. Then, secondly, we forged out the social methods, and thirdly, the spiritual methods were forged out, and I do not mean spiritual in some narrow sense of the word. Our work in The Other World is probably the most important bit of creativity that has ever come out of this group. Now, our creativity has come to the social. This does not mean that this was not in the original thinking of this group, but we did not know how to come at it. We believed that you had to deal with the problem of understanding what it means to be a human being in the world before you could significantly impact the social structures. I am trying to get at the ontological ground underneath what we are doing. It seems to me, in the social arena, our job is to awaken men in their basic communities, and then, to awaken the individuals and communities in history.
In this arena, we are doing two fundamental things right now. The first is Town Meeting. If you are going to impact society, you have no choice but to awaken man, and to awaken him in his community. That is the function, it seems to me, of Town Meeting. Without it there is no possibility of a new social vehicle or a new human habitat. The second thing that we are engaged in is Social Demonstration! which is the way of engaging communities and the individuals in them. The most important thing about Maliwada is that individuals have been awakened. They are not only awakened but they are engaged in their situation and therefore engaged in history.
We are not doing Fifth Cities or Maliwada. We are doing something to history in our time. We are doing one project with local man around the world. This goes back to what very early in our life we understood if you did not relate to the whole of history and the scope of the globe, you would not find within yourself the power to endure day after day in the ceaseless wearisome engagement that is ours.
Last year I got to know local man across the world. In a sense I was local man myself, born in Breezewood, Pennsylvania and growing up in Ada, Ohio. Yet the moment you and I get an education we are cut off forever from 85% of the world. If you are ever to reenter that universe, and I am not sure you ever can, you have to work at it. In one sense, you have to earn it. But to the degree that I got my toes wet in that area, it made my life. I fell in love with local man. And then I developed a new confidence about history as a whole, because I got a feel after a fiber of integrity that I miss in people like myself who are the 15%.
Then I became aware of what I call "locality" not meaning space but a social dynamic. This last point has grown in me and made me more alive and more realistically optimistic about history. I am not sure that I mean the word "optimistic." I am really dealing with the hope where there is no hope. Only now in history has such an explosion been possible.
We are also doing something transparently in history. I have been impressed with our effort to draw together the universals out of the project documents. Each of them represents the unique thinking of a unique community. The important thing about what we do is that we pick the minds of the people themselves to get their own hopes and dreams. That is the most crucial part of the consults. There you deal with contradictions to those hopes, not something else. Then you deal with proposals that resolve those contradictions, not something else. Then you render into tactical systems those proposals, not something else. So you are dealing with the hopes and dreams of concrete local man. However, you could not be here at this time in history when globality is a reality without being able to abstract common threads out of that.
When people ask us, "Now really what are you doing?" they are asking a universal question. This requires finally that we build a new social philosophy of what it means to be profoundly human. That philosophy grows out of the data that has come out of our lives and our work in the projects over the past several years. That is the beginning of a brand new social vehicle which is going to be worldwide. It is going to be built, not from the ideology of some elite, but by awakened global man.