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The Wellspring of Deepening Democracy

Reclaiming Our Capacity to Create the World We Inhabit is Democracy in its Deepest Form

What's the point? Why is it important to deepen democracy? What does it mean to deepen democracy?

What deepening democracy does not mean is tinkering with electoral politics. Turn away from this in your thoughts before continuing. Put it behind you. Never mind left and right, liberal and conservative, democrat and republican. Forget for now the stories liberal humanism and global capitalism proffer. Press all that noise and distraction, the sturm and drang, the circus and its players, the side shows and arcades beyond the horizon of your periphery.

All this is escape, abstraction, excuse. Frenetic, restless, immovable. Exhausting. Diminishing. Disempowering. Far Away. Untouchable. Unreachable. Let's stop wasting our wild and precious lives there.

  This is a matter of life and death. The prevailing culture of dissociation is wasting people's lives. It is wasting life. It is destroying Life.

Beyond all that is a field. Let's meet there. Take a deep breath.

The point ... the point of deepening democracy is to reclaim our lives and our freedom to create the world we live in. It is to choose to live fully, to fully experience life and to do so directly, not indirectly or vicariously. To be Walking Freedoms rather than Walking Dissociations.

This is not to suggest solopsism. Nay. We are a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects. To be Walking Freedoms, to engage fully in life and to experience it as richly as possible can only be done in communion, in community. In other words, with others.

Evolution, and surely social evolution, can be seen as the journey of differentiation from, or perhaps better put, within the whole.

There are two conditions necessary. That there is a whole. That there are parts. There is I. There is We. They live together. One shapes the other in relationship.

This is a matter of life and death. The prevailing culture of dissociation is wasting people's lives. It is wasting life. It is destroying Life.

To turn the tide of destruction and waste, reclaiming our freedom, becoming ... in community ... mutually ... and in reciprocity is the most sensible path I can imagine. The most healing, wholling path possible.

We will need each other. The work of reclaiming our lives is something done in the presence of others, in the deep presence of others. We must learn to bear witness to one another in ways that draw us each up and out from our hiding and despair and into our unique gifts, works, and lives. We are changed by the encounter. The whole touches and enlivens us each time we encounter an other attentively.

We do not need to fix anything. All the fixing in the world appears to be fixing nothing. A circus. A dangerous distraction, empty and inexhaustible. Exhausting. We are spent in it, wasted.

Rather, we are called to create. To create ourselves. To create the communities, the world, we want to live in. Mass anxiety can be traced back all the way in to each person's existential anxiety. We know we are not living. We've given our power away. And that keeps us up at night, gnaws at us. Let's not drug it away, cope with it, or manage it. Let's move straight towards it for our anxiety is messenger of the gods.

  We, people, are the most complex life form we know of. A full encounter with Life then means a full encounter with community, and by necessity, each community member.

It is when we do not act on it that it festers and becomes toxic. Contain. Suppress. Repress. Avoid. Mantras and medication are likely not working. It is still with us. It is not going to leave.

If I can't get out of it then I might as well get into it. Turn towards it, look it in the eye, and begin walking straight at it. The way to cure, or shall we say honour, our anxiety, that anxiety we can't shake because it rises up from within our being, is to get to work. Get to work creating your self and the world around you with, and this is essential ... with others.

By confronting this freedom and its attendant existential anxiety, our anxiety transforms from muddy water to a marshland brewing fresh, clear, clean, nourishing water, a wellspring.

So. Where to begin?

My interest is in creating a world in which I can live free of the stories that bind me and make me small. I believe that can best happen if I keep company with people who are doing the same, living the full expression of their innate value, their Te, each on the journey of an unfolding life in a dance with Life itself and all its wondrous creatures.

I must be present, fully, and to pay attention. To tend and attend, as each encounter requires. To be present to what and to whom? No vacuum of course. To the other, an other, all others with whom I come into direct contact. Relationship is also inevitable. So, let's get into it.

We, people, are the most complex life form we know of. A full encounter with Life then means a full encounter with community, and by necessity, each community member.

I cannot experience such encounters if my behaviour diminishes, constrains, or makes people smaller. Only if my stance towards others is to be fully present, to see, to bear witness, to invite, encourage, support, and dance, will I have such encounters.

When I stop and pay attention to what is in my direct experience, in time I come to realize that even in the most parochial setting, there is more to pay attention to than I can possibly pay attention to.

It has been said that we can experience the entire universe without ever leaving the county. It requires one only to pay attention.

  As one person moves, then another, to create their world, others will come to their assistance, playing out the ancient dance of yin and yang, the Creative and Receptive. One does not exist without the other. Life is shaped in the relationship.

Be still. Pay attention. Encounter. And you will soon be moved. You may very well find yourself in motion, moving in a particular direction to do, to create, to reach out and relate, to experience something before your mind realizes you are in motion. Your Being might move before your mind knows why or to where.

And so, a place to begin is to pay attention. To be present, relationally. Relational Presencing. This Cultivates Community ... and each of us as its members.

This is the deepest, deepest democracy possible. This is the wellspring of mutual awakening, giftedness, reciprocity, the clarity and courage to create, of collaborative wisdom and work. This is Natural. It feels like coming, and being, home.

As one person moves, then another, to create their world, others will come to their assistance, playing out the ancient dance of yin and yang, the Creative and Receptive. One does not exist without the other. Life is shaped in the relationship.

Light associations and affiliations will form between people who want the same thing, or something similar, each sensing their way not in the abstract but by acting. Each step changes the world and draws all manner of assistance, provokes new information and relationships, and so each step is taken according to the path that opens up, previously unseen, before us. Each takes it in and responds as they are able, further enlivening possibilities, each making choices, while in relationship with one another, and so life unfolds, enfolds, unfolds, and enfolds.

The world of those who so move will change, by their own hands. And perhaps this is enough.

Or perhaps something new arises, some other is called up and forward and convenes another creative work.

Some such works may become more complex and a sense of organized effort will arise. How then do we organize our efforts?

That then is a question of leading by convening, shaping structures for freedom, chosen accountability and belonging.

But the first step is always to gather and to share in dialogue ... in the flow of meaning between us.


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Peter Pula's picture

Peter Pula has been exploring the pathways to social evolution since founding the Grassroots Review in his hometown of Peterborough in 1992. Since then he has served on the boards of civil society and arts organizations and served as board president on two of them.

He has been actively involved in federal politics and led a corporate communications firm. Axiom News was incorporated under his leadership in 2009 and went on to establish the practice of Generative Journalism in an international arena.
In 2015, Axiom News founded and funded the Peterborough Dialogues in its hometown. The Peterborough Dialogues hosted over 350 deep community dialogues, established and refined hosting arts, and has had lasting impact in the Peterborough community. For this work in community, Peter was awarded the 2017 Brian L. Desbiens Community Service Award by Fleming College after being nominated by his peers and members of the community.

Peter works in support of deep democracy and passionately but lightly-held spaces for citizen-led community development. He believes that artfully hosted dialogue and generative media making are together a necessary social innovation for cultivating local-living abundance.

Peter is an artful dialogue host, newsroom director, team leader, mentor, trainer, and consultant. He can be a supportive force in the cultivation of initiatives in your community, network, or organization.

He has been invited to host dialogues, summits, workshops, and learning circles in Canada, the United States, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and most recently in France.

If you would like to enjoy an exploratory conversation about engaging Peter in appropriate ways to enliven or enlighten your initiatives, you can reach him directly by writing to

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