Saturday, September 1, 2012

Playing with fire


There’s this smell. Is it a fire? Is it brakes? Getting stronger. There’s a West-Park crew at Jamie’s place, across the  street for the church, helping get her ready to move. And there’s this  bad smell in the air. Maybe electrical? I walk down to the church to see what’s going on. At the corner of 87th and Amsterdam, black smoke is pouring out of the open manhole cover. Teddy and I standing on the church steps, trying to figure  it out. Gary Greengrass out in front of his shop. Sirens wailing. Firetrucks, Con Ed trucks arriving. Seems to be some kind of electrical issue. 

Teddy was unaware of Jamie’s move. And will help. The smoke is getting dense. Snaps, crackles and pops coming from the open hole  at 87th. Dan and Nate are at Jamie’s wondering what’s going on. Definitely an electrical emergency. 

We’ll let Con Ed deal with it.  So long as  we don’t blow up.  And part of me thinks about that....

As the crew breaks for lunch,  Andrea wants to take the boys for a bite.  On the way back, I take her into  the church. Want her to see what Martin...and my boys...and Teddy...have made of the Session room. See the amazing flamenco dancers at work. Dan exchanges waves with Alejandro. You know, he’s one of the best in the world, Dan says to us. 

Scott, Jay, Jess and Jeremy of Alivewire have arrived to finalize our agreement. Yet another collateral benefit from  last summer’s  Wooodshed residency. 

Teddy and I intervene in a meeting of one of the political groups we work closest with. There’s an issue involving  leadership. Someone we care about has been cut out. And painfully so. There are a lot of questions  to be asked.

I get it. As Philip, one of my beloved mentors once told me, leaders are people with followers. That simple.  If the followers walk away, you’re no longer a leader. A leader must  stay connected to those he/she would lead, other wise leadership is empty. A leader must always be connected to one’s people.  That is all true. 

BUT, it is equally true that collective decision making models are rarely that. And that the so called process can often be used as a cover for the working out of personal agendas rooted in everything from ego to jealousy to power. Along with the invocation  of the third person anonymous power, ie, the group, the collective, the board says....Those entities don’t really exist. They are all made up of people with names, opinions, hopes, fears. Manipulable,manipulating or with solid integrity. People. 

 I have known what it’s like to get so caught up in what I’m doing and lose touch with my people. My base. Or impatiently want to move ahead without getting buy in. Organizing 101: you can’t ever skip a step.... I also have been on the other side of a power play pulled off by a board. Been there.

I tell them that all organizing is about relationships. Trust. That I make up my mind where to spend my time, who to give myself to based on relationships. No matter how valid the cause.  There are (almost) literally 100 causes a day I could give myself to ranging from women’s rights to fracking to wolves. All valid. All important. It‘s relationships that determine what I do. 

It’s because of a particular relationship that we give ourselves to this campaign, give free use of the church, bring in my clergy colleagues, etc. And that continuing is completely dependent  on relationships. Teddy and I will have to engage in discernment to see if our involvement will continue or not.And others in the church as well.  We both have to feel comfortable with an organization’s way of dealing with its with internal issues. I’ll say it again, organizing is about relationships.

Karen has been playing the piano downstairs and has come up looking for Teddy. She sits quietly in the back, listening. 

I’m on a conference call when RL comes in. And the call takes too long. And I miss the chance to talk.. I’m anxious to know how his progress is going,

Finally Rachelle is there. Effervescent. Welcoming me back. Saying how good I look. But she still has to get her cart out of the church. 

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