Sunday, October 08, 2006

You don't have to be taught to love, you have to be taught not to

From time to time I write about the late Donella (Dana) Meadows. Among Dana’s many contributions, she founded the Balaton Group. In September, I wrote about the Group’s 25th Anniversary Celebrations. During the last years of her life, Dana wrote a monthly letter that she called “Dear Folks.” It was similar in many respects to a blog, providing thoughtful reflections in an informal personal context. After she started writing her “Global Citizen” columns, she attached them to each monthly letter. (Dana’s columns are available at the Sustainability Institute Website;

After Dana died, her friend Susie Sweitzer, a fellow resident of the Cobb Hill Co-Housing Community, and Sustainability Institute Staff Member, continued the columns, providing news about Cobb Hill and Sustainability. Susie also added a new feature. Each month, she begins her letter with a brief excerpt from one of Dana’s columns. For this month’s "Dear Folks" letter, Susie chose a 1987 reflection on the Balaton Group meetings, from which Dana had recently returned. I wanted to share an excerpt as a coda to my own account of the meetings. Dana wrote:

“I’m not sure why Balaton meetings are so special. I guess it started with the chemistry of the first members, who are still leaders of the Group. They are more than good scientists and good political activists, they are also good, honest, loving people and they have attracted other such people to the Group. New ones show up each year and fit right in. The meetings are regularly, predictably magical, at least for me. It’s if they don’t occur in real time or on this real, messed-up planet.

“You know, it’s easy to describe things that happen in your mind, intellectual things. I can tell you the good ideas I got at the meeting. But for me, Balaton meetings happen not just in the mind, but in the realm of mind/soul/heart//body integrated experience. They are a week of living fully in the moment, being fully with the people I’m with, being fully who I am without holding back anything. Times like that are indescribable….

I don’t see why the world can’t be [like that]. All week we were together, our nations sworn enemies of each other. Russians, Americans, Germans, Hungarians, Central Americans, Asians. And what was important was not our nationalities – it’s amazing how seldom nationalities come up at all in Balaton meetings. When they do, it’s as a contribution, as in songs or dances or rocks or data that are different and that be shared to make the whole picture more colorful and more complete. What’s important is who we are as people, what we stand for, how we can learn to serve to make a better world.

It’s not hard to be like that, it’s the most natural thing in the world. As a little song from “South Pacific” says, “You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear, you’ve got to be taught from year to year, it’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear, you’ve got to be carefully taught.”

You don’t have to be taught to love. The Balaton meeting gives me a safe space, both to think and to love, to be challenged intellectually and to let myself be mushy and hug people and sing and play with them without holding back my feelings. I feel released there, to be what I was put on this planet to be, loving, unguarded, emotional, happy. It’s a most wonderful feeling. I come home glowing and strengthened for another year.


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