(10) Think First August 2014: Poets In The Park

 In Ākāśa Community, Ākāśa Elements, Ākāśa Values, Events & Campaigns
Think First August 2014
Photo by Greta Rossi

Words, in any form of appearance, are one of the most fascinating expressions of humanity as they allow us to think, create and share new visions of the world. As part of our (50) Days of Summer to support our Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign aimed at raising £11,000 to offer free education and work experience to 12 passionate young people, we gathered together in Graham Street Park on 1st August 2014 to share passages that had inspired us recently whilst also sharing some food.

As the event happened on 1st August 2014, which is also the date we ask people to ‘think first’ about people and planet (the #ThinkFirst initiative happens each first of the month), I decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather and the grassy park situated by Regent’s Canal. I opened the event by sharing an extract from “Diary of a Bad Year” by J. M. Coetzee. This thought-provoking piece leads us to question the layout of our social structures and relations, and highlights how we as humanity have readily accepted a state apparatus that – to a certain extent – represses us in what we call ‘society’. So in order to create any productive, social and sustainable change, we need to challenge and reconstruct our social patterns, paving ways for innovation to occur.

Excerpt from “Diary of a Bad Year” by J. M. Coetzee: “On the Origins of the State” (Ch. 1)

Every account of the state starts from the premise that “we” – not we the readers but some generic we so wide as to exclude no one – participate in its coming into being. But the fact is that the only “we” we know – ourselves and the people close to us – are born into the state; and our forebears too were born into the state as far back as we can trace. The state is always here before we are. (How far back can we trace? In African thought, the consensus is that after the seventh generation we can no longer distinguish between history ad myth.)

If, despite the evidence of our senses, we accept the premise that we or our forebears created the state, then we must accept its entailment: that we or our forebears could have created the state in some other form if we had chosen: perhaps, too, that we could change it if we collectively so decided. But the fact is that, even collectively, those who are “under” the state, who “belong to” the state, will find it very hard indeed to change its form.

Then our Community Engagement Intern Michela Palese shared the poem “Youth” by Samuel Ullman, who talks about youth as a state of mind,a  voice within creativity that does not have to fade away with years, but can forever be in the hearts of young and old.

“Youth” by Samuel Ullman

Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a matter of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep spring of life.

Youth means a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity of the appetite, for adventure over the love of ease. This often exists in a man of sixty more than a boy of twenty. Nobody grows old merely by a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals.

Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Worry, fear, self-distrust bows the heart and turns the spirit back to dust.

Whether sixty of sixteen, there is in every human being’s heart the lure of the wonder, the unfailing child-like appetite of what’s next, and the joy of the game of living. In the center of your heart and my heart there is a wireless station; so long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer, courage and power from men and from the infinite, so long are you young.

When the aerials are down, and your spirit is covered with snows of cynicism and the ice of pessimism, then you are  grown old, even at twenty, but as long as your aerials are up, to catch the waves of optimism, there is hope you may die young at eighty.

Following this, our co-founder Greta Rossi read the “Leadership Manifesto” written by the inspirational Brené Brown in her book “Daring Greatly” – scholar, author and public speaker who has encouraged many to let go of their shame and fears. These bold words urge our leaders of today to engage with, inspire and instil core values within their community in order to allow individuals to flourish.

Excerpt from “Daring Greatly” by Brené Brown: “Leadership Manifesto”

Leader\’li:dər\ n: Anyone who holds her- or himself accountable for finding potential in people and processes.

To the CEOs and teachers. To the principals and the managers. To the politicians, community leaders, and decision-makers. To all of us from all of us.

We want to show up, we want to learn, and we want to inspire. We are hardwired for connection, curiosity, and engagement. We crave purpose, and we have a deep desire to create and contribute. We want to take risks, embrace our vulnerabilities, and be courageous.

When learning and working are dehumanized – when you no longer see us and no longer encourage our daring, or when you only see what we produce or how we perform – we disengage and turn away from the very things that the world needs from us: our talent, our ideas, and our passion.

What we ask is that you engage with us, show up beside us, and learn from us. Feedback is a function of respect; when you don’t have honest conversations with us about our strengths and our opportunities for growth, we question our contributions and your commitment.

Above all else, we ask that you show up, let yourself be seen, and be courageous.

Dare greatly with us.

What struck us most was how all three passages aligned with three of the core elements that make up Ākāśa Innovation: mindful of our being and our planet; caring for our community and our earth; authentic in our passions; and, lastly, hopeful for a positive, innovative future.

What words inspire you? Share them with us!

Olivia Compton, Social Impact Intern


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