I’ve just had the privilege of spending two days immersed in the ‘Art of Hosting’ in the People’s Republic of Stokes Croft in Bristol. I’ve encountered AOH a few times, but it was beautiful to spend time in such an environment. Yet again, I find my self changed, challenged, stretched and inspired by love and relationship.
The weekend began with us checking in together with a simple, yet profound two-part question: why here? why now?
For me the answer to the first part was connected to the land itself. There are some places that are calling for new conversations. Stokes Croft is such a place and I felt a deep connection with it. The land itself was prepared and ready. Some places resist such conversations, and I don’t think we could have had the conversations we were having in the middle of Westminster, at least, not yet.
Why now? And here I link slightly back to my last blog. I believe we are on a cusp. We are at a moment in time when many things we have felt ‘certain’ about are proving to be very shaky and things are crumbling and breaking around us. We are in a post-capitalist, post-post modern, post-christendom, post-nation state moment. But the imaginings of what else is possible are still in dream form. And so, for me, now is the time for conversations, not only for the sake of talking (although really talking to one another is in-itself wholly worthwhile!), but with intentional actions emerging. I absolutely loved the resonance in the room as I shared this. Forty people from a bunch of European nations, of whom I had only met one before, all sensing the same thing…………
Charles Eisenstein writes in his latest book, “The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible”:
“When any of us meet someone who rejects dominant norms and values, we feel a little less crazy for doing the same. Any act of rebellion or non-participation, even on a very small-scale, is therefore a political act.” (Taken from his website charleseisenstein.net).
AOH is a profound experience because it holds a space open in which and from which these political acts can emerge.
For me, and I think increasingly for many, the nation-state project, at least in Europe, is failing or waning. As William T Cavanaugh writes in Theopolitical Imagination: “Nation States are only held together by our imaginations”! But our imaginations have become tired of them. They do not hold the substance of the beautiful world our hearts know is possible! The evidence of this shift is seen with the conversations/tensions happening in Scotland, Spain, Greece and Ukraine. Nation states have become unmanageable, dislocated from reality, unrelational and unsustainable. I believe we will see the rise of regional governments and city states and I am excited to call for transformative conversations to emerge around new possibilities.
I too enjoy these kinds of spaces. I hope to begin small towards one in East London.
The trick it seems to me is to ensure in such times that we eat from the Tree of Life as well lest it simply be a munching on the Tree of lack of Knowledge.
Lovely blog Andy. It was a pleasure to meet you. Matthew – we held a day in Bethnal last May at the Gallery Cafe and are planning another, hopefully this autumn. Will be on the AoH site.
Thanks Paul – such a privilege to have met you and had some time together in the AoH environment!