THE PROFOUND FUNCTION OF TOWN
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 spirit 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, which I bear
witness is the greatest year of my life, 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. I do not rue it, but
that is what caused urbanization and took away from local man
the task of broad and long range planning for his vil1age and
the next community. Now, I believe, 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,
and I have asked myself why. I think that if I were to answer
that, I would say that I fell in love with him because I saw him
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 breaks loose. I believe that those of us who
have been educated the way you and I have been educated expect
local man to be the kind of cynic that we are and to manifest
the kind of apathy that we manifest. I find it is not true. I
find within local man a kind of integrity that I wasn't sure I
had in myself, and I think this is why I fell in love with him.
When you go through a time in our country where you have the whole
matter of Watergate and Mr. Nixon, and he was simply a manifestation
of something far deeper than Watergate, you begin to wonder if
integrity exists at all. I have found integrity in local man and
therefore I have had born within me a new kind of confidence.
Evil men will come and evil men will 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 that told me local man was on the rise was something
quite different. 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, and you and I have run into that stalemate. Wen you
go from the top down, you are always dealing with figures and
statistics, never with people. When you see that so many people
each year starve and that so many catastrophes will happen, you
come to a stalemate and finally you just panic. I think that is
what has been going on in the high places of the political dynamic
of every nation and is going to go on even more observably in
the future with the princes in the economic dynamic of life. They
simply cannot exist from the top down. They are seeing now the
absolute necessity of working from the bottom up in order for
history to move.
An oversimple illustration of this is that in no village
that I have seen is it necessary for people to be hungry. I believe
this is true of all villages in tile world. It is not necessary
for them to be undernourished, period.
This is the rise of local man. The world ran away from him,
ignored him and got into trouble precisely because it ignored
him. The world is now being forced to invite him once more to
participate in making history. Before we are many years older,
we are going to see that which is now but a cloud on a distant
horizon, as a thunderstorm covering the earth. I am not talking
simply about the third world. Those of us in time socalled
developed or overdeveloped nations have suffered from this affliction
of the suffocation of local man more than anywhere else. Yes,
there is a new kind of change that we are just waking up to, and
I think there is going to be, in our time, an emancipation of
local man in the overdeveloped nations.
For a few years now we have lived before the symbol of an
X: the top triangle was labeled the New Social Vehicle, the bottom
one the New Religious Mode. When that first appeared before us,
we knew, those of us who cared, that a New Social Vehicle had
to be created across this globe, but we did not have the slightest
idea how to go about it. Now we know how to go about it. Over
against the kind of training that we have all had, we thought
that building a New Social Vehicle was getting an ideology and
selling it to the people. That is liberalism, decadent liberalism.
That never did create a New Social Vehicle, I believe. A New Social
Vehicle is always created when local man is released to get his
own creativity into history, to decide his own destiny. I believe,
finally, in any profound sense, all social revolutions have happened
in precisely this way. I believe that what we are doing in history
is the only alternative to either Communism or Fascism. I do not
ask you to agree with that, and it has nothing to do with little
shriveled up people like us. Who cares who does it? What we are
doing is the only alternative this world has to that which continues
to squelch local man.
It is in that context that I understand Town Meeting. When
you go out into the rural villages that I have seen this year,
you do not find people alive. You find them dead. But give them
one grain of hope, and something pops loose. All you have to do
to look at our symbols and you understand it. If any of you went
to do a social demonstration and failed, I would not be able to
understand it. All you have to do is give a little grain of hope,
and local man pops loose, ready to move. 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 is that which flips the
cork, which allows a little air of hope into his being and releases
the creativity that is going to build a New Social Vehicle, cutting
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 power, the gigantic
power, that is necessary for local man to work together to build
the social vehicle.
Next, it is very obvious to you that Town Meeting is a maneuver,
a worldwide maneuver in the effort of the movement itself. And,
we have to understand this. It became clear to us not so long
ago that we had to leave our inner castles and move out into the
only world there is God's world and
that is the everyday world in which we are born and in which we
die. The Town Meeting has been the basic instrument whereby that
horrendous move of the whole movement became a realistic possibility.
I have sensed for some time that something I never anticipated
would happen this summer. I have been waiting for something, to
happen in these two or three weeks that we have been together.
But nothing has happened. And suddenly I became aware that what
hadn't happened had happened. When I put two and two together,
I discovered that the happening is chat which you brought here
with you. You understand that? I never saw so many runts standing
tall in my whole life. You talk about seasoning, you talk about
stability, you talk about maturity, well, you just look. That
is what happened this summer, and you know and I know that had
it not been for Town Meeting, this which did not happen here,
but happened before you came, would not have happened. That is
crucial when you are talking about a revolution.
We have talked for years about going to the masses. We have
known that as long as we contain whatever it is that we have to
offer within any corral, 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 Fat Lady. You and I have known long before we even
knew it, that we could not allow the church to contain us, that
we could not allow our nations to contain us, that we had to go
to the Last Fat Lady. Search her out and lay before her our offering.
How do you do that? Well, they say there are two million villages
in this world; my guess is that it is closer to three million.
I have had an idea that every one of us sitting in this room has
a deep conscious and unconscious resolve to not give up marching
until the last village of this world has participated in a Town
Meeting. Town Meeting has given us an instrument with which we
can go to the masses.
As you well know, what we need, when we touch down on the
soil of the 25 nations in which we work is credibility. We are
not out to be anybody, but we have to have credibility. Those
of you who work in Paducah and in Hartford and in Pueblo will
agree that the United States is one of the wealthiest, strongest,
most prestigious nations in the world. When I go to see people,
I get out as quickly as I can that gorgeous document that says
"Town Meeting '76". And I quickly tell the story of
the 5,000, systematically across this nation. People used to ask,
"Who are you?". Now they are saying, "How come
I never heard of you?" If you are not a revolutionary, if
you are not a soldier in remaking society, this has no meaning
for you. But if you mean to win, Town Meeting has given us credibility,
not these things we call Social Demonstrations and you better
believe it. And God bless all of you who are spilling your blood
in social demonstrations. I am just trying to talk as a hardheaded
revolutionary at that point.
The next thing Town Meeting has done for us, and I am going
to talk about my nation again, but it applies to Belgium, to Germany,
and to Canada as well. Town Meeting is but the beginning in this
country. It is preparing us for the next step, a social demonstration
in every middlesex village and town across this country, which
will spin so rapidly that suddenly you will discover you are doing
Primal Community Experiments, which is what we went for broke
on in 1970. I am still going for broke on Primal Community Experiments.
This next year we need to start trying to learn how to be a strategist.
We need to protect our flanks fires. That means that we have to
go to one of the prestigious cities of this country, one that
the eyes of all are upon, one that is struggling to move itself.
I am going to recommend Ivy City in Washington' D.C. That is one
flank. The other flank is to find the most needy Indian reservation
in this country. You understand what flanks are? And I mean start
a new sense of hope among the people that we have maligned as
we have maligned none other.
The third flank is to do the Selma of the 70's, which will
be a black, povertystricken, rural village in the South.
Then, maybe, there will be a fourth flank. I am not sure. It may
be that we are going to have to do something for the Latin Americans
in our country. What we are after are the heartlands of our country;
to release local man in order to cut across the whole nation.
If we do four this next year, the following year we are going
to have to do 47, the number of houses within the United States.
The year after that, 470, and the year after that, 4;00. If we
could get 470 or 4700 going, we would have momentum enough that
the governmental structures along with private institutions, hopefully
the church, would spin that into the 47,000 villages in our country.
Don't you think for one moment Then you kill yourself to set up
a Town Meeting, that you are simply setting up that Town Meeting.
We are the People of God. We have to make sure in our lifetime
that the torch that the People of God carry cuts across denominations
and solidifies religious structures. That torch must be carried
from one generation to the next. I am insistent that my fire be
spent in maintaining the torch of the people who must always pioneer
and in handing that torch on to a new awakened body who are God's
People. You can only hand over that torch when you lay down your
life in building social demonstration and in enabling Town Meeting.
My third point has to do with the profound relationship of
Town Meeting to the ontological. It centers on profound awareness.
It centers on historical engagement. It centers on human effulgence:
the plethora of humanness. I believe that this is what consciousness
is. I believe that this is what humanness is. I believe that this
is the reality that the socalled religious or spiritual
dynamic of every culture was trying to understand and bear witness
to in their own 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 every religious, every
spiritual effort was trying to be seized by.
I am clear as never before that without unreserved historical
engagement, you never reach the fullness of humanness. That is,
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. And our sign of this are the symbols
on our walls. Town Meeting is here and with Town Meeting, what
you actually are doing is profoundly awakening people.
There are a few that came out of the religious tradition I
came out of 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 by a long sight. The man Jesus was concerned that people wake
up about their lives, about the reality in our lives. Well, it
may be some years now before we , can get this clearly articulated
in theology, in genuine dialogue with our past, but ~ it is going
to be said again and the church is going to care about changed
lives, not about conformity around ideas.
In Town Meeting, you are awakening people. Those of you who
have beep with us a long time understand that this is nothing
new. The first bug model we ever built grasped the church, the
People of God, as involved in witnessing love, in justing love,
in 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, and when you are en,
aged in both, as we all are, then you begin to have some idea
of what it means to have presence and to take care of that presence
that all that pass you by behold new possibility.
Now, what is it going to look like sociologically when you
intensify your profound awareness and intensify your historical
engagement? Well, if you really want to know, I am ready to risk
myself for the first time in history and tell you what it is going
to look like.
|Have in your mind the Star of David. If you draw your first triangle with the point up, and then draw another triangle with the point down, you have the Star of David. Now, in the one that is pointed up, over in the left angle, put down,
Profound Awareness. In the right hand angle, put down Historical Engagement. And, up at the top, you put Human Effulgence. (By the way, if any of you don't know what human effulgence is right
now, that is what you have had all this summer. None of your pains have none away, no less agony, the burden is not lighter, it is heavier. What you have is human effulgence, personally.)
Now, the other triangle. Up in the
left hand upper corner, put Skill. That is necessary in order to be effectively
engaged in history. You don't have to be literate to have
skills, and when you go to Maliwada, you better know that before
hand. Those people are brighter than hell, but they can't read
their own name, let alone write it. And over on the right hand
side, up at the top, put Nurture. Only as long as your profound
awareness lasts can you be historically engaged. And if you do
not take care of yourself, that profound awareness goes away.
Nurture is life or death. It is what you do for yourself and what
you do with one another. Down at the bottom, put the word Community.
And I don't mean some organization; I mean the kind of community
that never is confined to its own inflation. If you put a dot
right in the front of that Star of David, and take your finger
and start spinning it just as fast as you can, that is the Primal
Community Experiment, the new sociological shape of the People
of God. I
Town Meeting is building that shape, not for those of us who
are exalted by attending cigar boxes with steeples on top every
Sunday morning, but for the masses of humanity. I don't know exactly
what people of various faiths have meant in the past when they
talked about being men of God, but I know this, that I have become
clearer and clearer that there is an invisible economy that my
projected economy is always bumping into. However you describe
it, there is something going on out here that is unsynonymous
with even the greatest of our battleplans, and ~ maneuvers.
The greatest talk made here this summer was on opening night
in which we were reminded of the temporality of our being a group
or movement and screamed out the urgency that comes from the awareness
that nothing in this world long endures. That which endures is
being, not us beings. I think this underscores the wisdom we have
had not to try to organize ourselves any more than we had to get
the job done. You must always remember that until you have to
win, you will not win. No one of you ever is tired of getting
u? in the morning if you are taking care of yourself, even if
you are only 20 and maybe it is more important then than when
you are 65. You have to condition yourself to see a cold slab
with your dead cadaver on it. You get the picture; no man ever
won. We haven't fought an inch beyond RS1. All things come
and all things go, and only 3eing 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. And I think
Being has bestowed upon us the high honor of allowing us to participate
to this hour in Being's success, in Being itself.
I've had fun these last few days, just sitting around doing
nothing, and having people come by and tell me things; I wish
I had kept a list. If you consider everyone in this room and everyone
woo isn't in this room and the one thing that we have all been
about, you wouldn't believe what we have accomplished. I am convinced
that if we take care of ourselves, and I believe that you are
going to, next year is going to be absolutely out of this universe.
We have had but a preview of what a group of people that have
disciplined themselves can accomplish through God's grace and
I am more clear than ever that we are not and will not be
a movement. If a movement comes through anything we may have occasioned,
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 fashion of profound awareness,
effective engagement and an absolute plethora of humanness. If
we become such an explosion in history for the sake of being an
explosion, let us remember again that no man or group of men has
ever done anything but failed it is Being itself shalt
succeeds in us and allows us to participate in the success of