HYGGE: BEING NOT HAVING

HYGGE: BEING NOT HAVING

“Hygge (pronounced ‘hue-gah’) is a quality of presence and an experience of belonging and togetherness…. Hygge is an experience of selfhood in communion with people and places that anchors and affirms us, gives us courage and consolation…. Hygge is a feeling of engagement and relatedness, of belonging to the moment and to each other. Hygge is a sense of abundance and contentment. Hygge is about being not having.” – Louisa Thomsen Brits, The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Living Well.”

There I was on my Scandinavian vacation, when I discovered my hygge in a Copenhagen bookstore. With my community development perspective, I embraced it not only as cozy comfortable life style options but as a socio-economic-political paradigm. DSCN4326 (2)I remembered my own hygge moments of watching sunsets and reading in the shade of my backyard. But as previous U2Cando blogs bear witness our country is in dire need of cultural enhancements through better hygge.

Encounters not only in Denmark but also in Norway and Sweden affirmed that while citizens of these countries pay (and complain about paying) exceptionally high taxes, they do so as individual contributions to the common good. A “hygge” tax policy that efficiently supports and facilitates the opportunity for all to enjoy wellbeing.

In Stavanger, Norway, I learned at its Oil Museum about Norway’s Sovereign Wealth Fund to assure that its citizens benefited from the exploitation of their natural resources. Established in 1990 to invest surplus revenues [mainly from taxes on oil companies and payments for licenses to explore for oil], it now has over $1 trillion [US dollars] in assets, making it the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund. In May 2018, those assets were worth about $195,000 per Norwegian citizen.

DSCN4153 (2)

Outside the Nobel Peace Prize Museum in Oslo

Visiting Oslo, Norway, I reflected on how my career vocation was shaped in college by reading The Structure of Freedom by Christian Bay. His 1959 University of Oslo PhD dissertation was a study of the quest for freedom. I had the personal privilege of studying with Bay at the University of Toronto in the winter of 1973 for my Master’s degree research. His imperative that politics should be the profession of serving human needs not wants remains my mantra and remarkably relevant today. It seems to be a core “hygge” value.

 

“To hygge is to build sanctuary. The most basic security that we can provide each other is shelter – physical and psychological…. Ideally buildings and cities would be designed with our enduring human needs in mind.”

That’s a good summary of equitable development and the urgency of my current efforts in Chicago’s Uptown community. I was especially pleased and inspired to read Louisa Thomsen Brits’ final note in her book:

“Hygge is dependent on having our most basic human needs met. Without security and shelter it’s hard to survive. For every copy of this book bought a donation will be made by the author to a charity in support of the homeless.”

Sure glad I bought her book and not the more popular book profiled on the Today Show in March 2017 as a cute trend.

 

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BINDING THE WOUNDS

BINDING THE WOUNDS

“Surely we can learn, at least, to look at those around us as fellow men and women. Surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our hearts brothers and sisters, countrymen and countrywomen once again.”  — Robert F. Kennedy, April 5, 1968

I went to sleep the night of June 5, 1968 having watched the projected returns from the California Democratic Primary. Having completed my college freshmen year, I dreamt that night about the changes coming and what they might mean for me.

Earlier that April, perhaps the same date that RFK sounded the call above, flying home for Spring Break, I observed the west side of Chicago, my hometown, in flames after Dr. King’s assassination. How could I have known then how quickly tragedy would strike two months later?

I would still spend another year in ROTC but the questions that Bobby Kennedy was raising about the Vietnam War were already resonating with me.

SHELTERFORCE RFK 2007 40th
SHELTERFORCE Winter 2007

His calls to combat poverty and embrace civil rights were an awakening that six years later would become my 44-year vocation for equitable community development.

I did not foresee all those changes ahead for me, let alone our country, the morning of June 6th when I arose to learn of his assassination. Yet, I was profoundly moved to search for meaning and new ways to serve my country and my brothers and sisters.

This is not the first time I have used this RFK quote from his “Mindless Menace of Violence” speech in Cleveland the morning after Dr. King’s assassination. I did so in a blog after Trump’s inauguration speech. In my alternative history, I envisioned these simple words as the core value message of the inaugural speech that President Robert F. Kennedy could have delivered in January 1969. Given the continued onslaught of hate tweets, they should be considered imperative for the duration of the Trump Administration.

Binding the wounds will be a challenging task. Conversations are a start but underlying contradictions are pervasive obstacles to even approach the beginning of consensus. Demonstrating the possible is an appropriate response. But that too is no easy initiative.

Here at the Institute of Cultural Affairs [ICA] we have launched a new series of Conversations on Social Justice. The first topic was Immigration Reform. Hearing from the opening panelists on the urgency of their respective initiatives, it remains incomprehensible to me that a country founded by immigrants can’t reconcile welcoming policies and practices.

Future topics such as addressing homelessness and assuring equitable development implore action plans not only locally here in Chicago but also nationally and internationally. When designing for change, we must imagine a better world as Bobby did 50 years ago.

 

JOINING IN A GREAT EXPERIENCE

JOINING IN A GREAT EXPERIENCE

“It was my destiny to join in a great experience.” – Herman Hesse, The Journey to the East

When a director of the Institute of Cultural Affairs [ICA-USA] shared this mantra at a November 2017 board meeting, I remembered Hesse’s famous book from college days, but was uncertain I had read it. Picking up a copy in ICA’s Archives, I discovered I hadn’t. Now that I have, this opening line serves as an appropriate opening refrain for 2018.

My first 2017 blog offered reflections on the relevancy of Sinclair Lewis’ “It Can’t Happen Here.” My March 2017 blog, “MAKING PEACE…RESPECTING DIVERSITY,” was inspired by Senator George Mitchell’s role as narrator for Old St. Patrick’s annual Siamsa na nGael concert. No doubt, my most formidable experience in 2017 was the tour of Auschwitz.

Pope at Auschwitz

Pope Francis enters the Auschwitz gate.

One personal revelation is that I do check my daily horoscopes [in both the Chicago Tribune & Sun-Times] and save my annual birthday ones. One from last week’s birthday prediction claims 2018 will be a “year full of excitement and change!” The other noted: “Family, friends and community groups can accomplish more together.” This is not fake news; these are real horoscopes.

MI Sunset Nov 2017

Lake Michigan 11/25/2017

ICA-USA’s thank you note to 2017 donors quotes Margaret Mead on its cover:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

As the sun has set on 2017, best wishes for a Just 2018.

EMPOWERING HUMAN DEVELOPMENT LOCALLY ACROSS THE GLOBE 40 YEARS AGO

EMPOWERING HUMAN DEVELOPMENT LOCALLY ACROSS THE GLOBE 40 YEARS AGO

Two and a half years and 40 blogs ago, I noted that one blessing of my job as CEO of the Institute of Cultural Affairs is the wealth of human spirit and wisdom of our Living Archives. “Their aim is to share the experiences and tools from an energetic 20th century peoples’ movement for social justice and human development with today’s citizen activists, civic leaders, thinkers, and students.”

Band of 24 LogoEarlier this month, 50 former ICA colleagues and current volunteers reunited for the 2017 Fall Archives Sojourn to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of their “Band of 24”. Launched in the early 70s, Human Development Projects [HDPs] were participatory community-building initiatives and coordinated regional development, which by 1977 were in locations across every one of the world’s 24 time zones.

I categorize the Band of 24 as a non-governmental Peace Corps with the aim to empower through measures such as motivating residents, releasing their creativity, and building leadership skills to enable comprehensive change. Each project began with a week-long consultation during which residents and volunteer consultants from around the world shared their expertise in building a plan to meet the community’s needs.

First, the consultation elicited from the community a picture of its hopes and dreams for the future. Then the major factors blocking this vision were identified so that practical proposals and specific tactics, unique to each community, could be created by residents to ensure the implementation of their plan for comprehensive socio- economic development.

Band of 24 10-12-17This month’s Sojourners shared stories, reflected on lessons learned and challenges addressed, stopping to remember those no longer present to share. Video interviews now swell the treasures of ICA’s Global Archives. The origins of ICA’s Technology of Participation [ToP] structured facilitation methods can be discovered in these stories from:

Majuro (The Marshall Islands) / Oyubari (Japan) / Oombulgurri (Australia)

Kwangyung Il/ JeJu-do Korea) / Sudtonggan (Philippines) / Hai Ou (Taiwan)

Nam Wai (Hong Kong) / Kelapa Dua (Indonesia) / Sungai Lui (Malaysia)

Maliwada (India) / Kawangware (Kenya) / El Bayad (Egypt)

Shantumbu (Zambia) / Termine (Italy) / Kreuzburg Ost (Berlin)

Ijede (Nigeria) / Isle of Dogs (London) / Caño Negro (Venezuela)

Ivy City (Washington DC) / Lorne de l’Acadie (Canada) / Fifth City (Chicago)

Delta Pace (Mississippi) / Inyan Wakagapi (North Dakota) / Vogar (Canada)

Band of 24 group photo

ICA Human Development Training Institute for local leadership in Maliwada India (late 1970s)

I am thankful for their past service and their persistent commitment to social justice. Their work forty years ago remains relevant for today’s challenging times. We must re-embrace the value of community-led development if we are ever to attain a just and equitable society.

Singing is a core of ICA’s organizational culture so there were copies of the ICA Songbook in each Sojourner’s packet and numerous songs sung during the course of the week. I offered the following lyrics in my welcoming remarks that I thought were appropriate for the journeys they shared and for my on-going search:

In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
From the mountains of faith
To a river so deep
I must be looking for something
Something sacred I lost
But the river is wide
And it’s too hard to cross

And even though I know the river is wide
I walk down every evening and I stand on the shore
And try to cross to the opposite side
So I can finally find out what I’ve been looking for…

In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
Through the desert of truth
To the river so deep
We all end in the ocean
We all start in the streams
We’re all carried along
By the river of dreams
In the middle of the night

The River of Dreams
by Billy Joel

RECALLING A LEGACY LEADER

In the early 1960s, the Ecumenical Institute moved into an abandoned seminary in Chicago’s East Garfield neighborhood in order to facilitate ‘a model community’ in which all members cared for each other, regardless of economic circumstances. While Fifth Avenue is an obscure diagonal street on Chicago’s west side, the name “Fifth City” originated from the Institute’s goal to reconceive the nature of community organization and development. To go beyond the four geographic “cities” composing the urban setting of downtown, inner city, neighborhoods and suburbs in order to empower citizens. 5th City aimed to be a replicable demonstration of the capacity of local people to transform their own communities.

“Rebirth of the Human City” described the process: “Community residents began meeting in a dilapidated basement, patiently covering blackboards with lists upon lists of the community’s problems and the possible solutions…. The decision to build 5th City gave birth to songs and rituals and to the Iron Man.” Iron Man Plaza

This statue still stands today as a witness to those residents who decided to drive their very lives like stakes into the ground of the city and take responsibility for its rebirth. Plans are being proposed to refurbish the Iron Man Plaza at Jackson & Homan.

Ruth Carter was a dynamic teacher and director of the Fifth City Preschool, the first 5th City project, chosen to address the “victim image.” The following is an excerpt, written in 2000 from the book The Circle of Life.

“In the early 1960s, I was a mother with small children, and I was eager for them to have the best chance in life. I shared that concern with others in my neighborhood, and we decided to do something about it. We heard that there was an idea to organize some kind of day care in our neighborhood, and we were invited to be a part of it. We worked with the staff of the Ecumenical Institute to develop the curriculum.

Ruth Carter & 5thCity PreSchool

Ruth Carter [right] & 5th City Preschoolers

We knew that our kids were smart and that with help, we could be teachers. In those days, there were no books to tell us how to set up a school for infants and toddlers. This was all before Headstart and there were not even guidelines for care for three and four year olds. We wanted to care for all the children, so we created our own road map.
 

After all this hard work and fun focused on our own kids, you can imagine how surprised we were when we were asked to come to New York City to give our advice to a group that was planning a new television show. We went and had a wonderful time telling those folks what we had done with small kids and how we had done it. Their show became “Sesame Street.”

Working with a whole family methodology, the Fifth City Preschool continues to provide excellent quality care. With a current enrollment of 60 children, the Preschool is regenerating the next generation of community leaders.

On May 4, 2017, the Institute of Cultural Affairs [ICA] had the privilege of hosting a performance of My Soul Cries Out: Stop! This grassroots play seeks to spark community transformation throughout Chicago. It was written, directed and produced by Denise Gathings, a Chicago Police Officer and lifelong resident of the Fifth City neighborhood. She is the daughter of Ruth Carter and the multi-talented cast are descendants of Ruth.

My Soul Cries Out Cast

Denise Gathings [in white jacket] at the podium with cast

The stories in Gathings’ play draw directly from her day-to-day interactions with local youth as a community police officer. The raw, powerful scenes authentically capture the pressures on the street that too often build to violence and its painful aftermath. There performing and singing in ICA’s GreenRise 5th City room were Ruth Carter’s legacy of community leadership.

The play closes with the hymn I Shall Wear A Crown by Thomas Whitfield:

I shall wear a crown.
When it’s all over
I shall see His face
When it’s all over
I’m going to put on my robe, tell the story how I made it over

An inspiring story and play for which Ruth can be proud.

MAKING PEACE…RESPECTING DIVERSITY

MAKING PEACE…RESPECTING DIVERSITY

“When I first came here, people on both sides of what is ironically called the peace line told me, without any rehearsal, exactly the same thing – that there was direct correlation between the level of violence and unemployment.” – Senator George Mitchell, June 25, 1996

Mitchell & Ted Belfast 1996That was former U.S. Senator Mitchell’s welcoming comment, as Special Advisor to President Clinton and Secretary of State for Economic Initiatives in Ireland, to our delegation in Belfast at a three-day conference on Work, Education & Training for which the US State Department had invited us as participants. As CEO then of the Chicago Association of Neighborhood Development Organizations [CANDO], that quote resonated with me and I shared it in for my article entitled, “Rainbow Over Belfast,” in CANDO’s 1996-97 Annual Report.

Now over 20 years later, there remains a direct correlation between the level of violence and unemployment in Chicago. A lesson repeatedly revealed in every morning’s news headlines.

Senator Mitchell was in Chicago this past St. Patrick’s week as the narrator for Old St. Patrick’s Church’s 21st Annual Siamsa na nGael. This year’s theme was “A Bridge Over the Troubles: The Peacemakers.”

Yes, the choir did sing that Simon & Garfunkel song; but they also sang my favorite hymn, Canticle of the Turning, and my favorite Broadway tune, Make Them Hear You from Ragtime. I have used lyrics from both for previous blog posts.

Senator Mitchell’s narration shared many stories from his “few months” assignment that became five years. I had already read some of them in his memoir, The Negotiator, and look forward to more as I start his book, Making Peace. I particularly appreciated his reflections on John Hume, who not only won the Nobel Peace Prize but also the Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Awards; the only person to have earned all three.

When the audience entered Chicago’s Symphony Center for the concert, there was a large screen hanging over the orchestra with a quote from Hume’s Nobel acceptance speech. Hume quoteAgain, a lesson learned 20 years ago in Northern Ireland that the US remains in dire need of remembering today: “most fundamental principle of peace: respect for diversity.”

Composer Scott Stevenson was commissioned to write the “Hymn of Unity” from Hume speeches with lyrics that ring out as a call even more acute today for us.

In this land, this land of ours, by difference torn apart
We pray for strength and wisdom to discern our common heart.
A heart with ample space for many different minds,
A heart that is open to the whole of human kind.
A heart that breaks down ancient walls,
because we share the same bright sun
by which we walk together towards tomorrow.
From many, we are one!

 

GOING ALL THE WAY

GOING ALL THE WAY

And here’s to the men and the legends we’ve known
Teaching us faith and giving us hope
United we stand and united we’ll fall
Down to our knees the day we win it all….
And when the day comes with that last winning run
And I’m crying and covered in beer
I’ll look to the sky and know I was right
To think someday we’ll go all the way
Yeah
Someday we’ll go all the way
by Eddie Vedder

Someday finally came just before midnight [central time] on Wednesday, November 2, 2016.

Cubs fans had seen 8th inning heartbreaks before; I was there at Wrigley in 2003. This time the threat was with only 4 outs to go, not 5. I had texted my brother at 9:30 Wednesday night to stop counting outs. It was hard not to.

Eddie Vedder was there in Cleveland, easily seen on TV in the front row. I started wondering if he was going to have to write a new verse to his song, first performed in public on August 2, 2007, another Cub year that didn’t have a happy playoff ending.

But this year there was divine intervention, when the heavens opened for a 17-minute rain delay. Yes, the player who hadn’t been hitting used this “Cubbie time out” to motivate his teammates to remember NEVER QUIT. A new Cubs legend was born out in the top of the 10th. Thank God, they scored 2 runs since they needed both.

Our son TJ grew up at Wrigley Field listening to Harry Carey sing the 7th inning stretch. tj-family-brickUsually the Cubs were losing in the 7th and Harry would end by yelling: “LET’S GET SOME RUNS!” It was always plural, since Harry knew one run might not be enough for our bullpen.

One game, when TJ was 5 or 6, the Cubs were actually winning by a large margin in the 7th so Harry didn’t add his signature call. TJ looked up at me and asked: “Dad, why didn’t Harry finish the song?” He had grown up thinking “Let’s Get Some Runs!” was the last line of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

That’s our “family brick” on Sheffield just to the left of TJ’s hand in his World Series celebration photo. We finally got enough runs.

I tweeted at 11:57pm November 2nd with the official Cubs World Series Champions logo: “Season ticket holder since 1985; worth all those games to raise our son a Cubs fan to never quit.”

Yes, we went all the way! Now TJ, Lynne & I really can’t wait until next year. Let’s Get Another One!

world-series-game-at-wrigley