Promise to tomorrow #12 Compassion

Cutting through virtual paper with the open blades of vertical fingers mimicking scissors singles the beginning of a debate. It is so hard to be binary in these complex times and the introduction of just three simple variables in this most ancient of games. And while there are three choices there are still only two players. Having choice brings the potential for strategy through observing your opponents behaviour and it is a little less random than being subjected to the toss of a coin. Building in explicit choices may begins the process of self-determination yet the winner and loser divide keeps the real choice of success binary. This temptation to feel like you have agency over your decisions, yet you may well be in a simple us vs them or me vs you set of circumstances over and over again. Sometimes it will be the rock over-riding and smashing scissors, the paper covering up the rock we don’t want to see, the scissors cutting through the red tape – these are choices open to us before many debates.

What have you done this week to cover up, smash up or cut through? When were you a winner and when were you a loser? And what would happen if you through your hands up in the air and decided not to play – resistance and civil disobedience are back – although they never left the scene for those on the margins who had already opted out or offered the rest of us cultural alternatives.

Building a culture of compassion goes beyond two players and three choices and necessarily embraces complexity and ambiguity. The maxim of leaving no-one behind, in the vernacular of the military, is an instruction for our times. The pleas from our Senate by a woman once on welfare who was also a soldier somehow captured the mood of the nation this week by those who were the least likely to look to her for leadership and guidance. Yet she spoke from the heart and called out her peers in the chamber. The cuts to women and children as they are the losers always in these decisions are significant. The day the cuts to single parents went through in a past administration was the same day the only female Prime Minister of our country gave her famous misogyny speech – so this is not a political point I am making. This is a point about building a culture of compassion. To bring heart, head and soul to decision making has to be an act of engagement of all those parts. As Atticus Finch told Scout:

“First of all,” he said, “if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” (3.85-87)  To Kill A Mocking Bird, Harper Lee

We need more climbing into each other’s skin to feel what it is like to be in it and walk around in it. Then the choices may not seem so obvious, the place of resistance will appear before your very eyes and the false dichotomy of winners and loser will evaporate. If we aren’t all in this together on this little blue planet, then we will all be losers.

Holding on to the promise of building a culture of compassion starts at home, right close in with yourself and walking around in your own skin and noticing the decisions and actions you take each day to leave no one behind. This is a big ask, a big promise and a lot of everyday practice.


Promises to Tomorrow #11 Harvest

On the way home from my weekly walk back from the Farmers Market in my little village a neighbourhood stopped by to say hello and to offer some freshly harvested cherry tomatoes. The season is coming to an end and she offered me a question about endings to accompany her gift: How is it facing separation, knowing it is coming? And in a flash not only had she picked the fruit for harvest she picked a piece of my heart as well.

The inevitable ending confronting me as a little of My Love disappears each day was front and centre and I thanked her for the tasty red balls delivered in the brown paper bag as a I silently continued along the path keeping the tears hidden so not to ripen before I got home. 

What if we lived our lives fully conscious of our disappearance and the disappearance of those we love and indeed the knowledge of the disappearance of our species, other species and our planet? We would live differently I am sure – we more regard for beauty and an arc towards wisdom and skips of joy solidly walking with gratitude.

The poet and philosopher David Whyte asks us to contemplate being in an apprenticeship to our disappearance. In this apprenticeship we learn from and lean into others who can help shape our thinking and desires. We sip from cups of knowledge around tables in cafes, kitchens and bars. We hold onto the sunsets and sunrises as reminders of the every turning truths each day and night holds.

Having a promise to tomorrow orientated to apprenticeship is underscored in the knowledge we are all indentured to those who have gone before us. The reward for the apprentice is to learn from the master and in these post-modern times not everyone has a master to drawn on, yet as the Celts (among others) know well, mother nature never fails to teach and she brings to every class universal lessons of the elemental nature of play, time, hopes and dreams. The tiniest of the tomatoes contains more the enough seeds to bring a future harvest – they are indeed a promise to tomorrow of fecundity and the sweet smell of new life. And the vines in my neighbourhood have started to be harvested too – the seasons are turning all around me.

So despite the heart breaking, as it is prone to do. When you love, and separation is inevitable, the wonder and joy of the new season is also on offer, and the instruction not to hurry to the next season until this one is fully complete and harvested is the promise to tomorrow I met on the road this morning.


Promises to Tomorrow #10 Glue


Beyond gathering people together, or hosting a party or a meeting with family, friends, peers, colleagues … there is a moment when the group has the potential to tip into becoming a community. What are the magic ingredients being sprinkled in those moments when people feel connected more deeply than before ? The common cause? The common place? Is it the recognition in each other’s eyes that they are made of the same stuff, share the same dreams and are inspired to follow the same path?

In the choir on Monday night the sub-groups of tenors, sopranos, basses and altos bring their contribution to make a whole sound with the conductor overlaying his own joy to fuse it together. There is something about glue that turns random people into community. In my experience the glue is something other than the people, although it can indeed be manifest in flesh and blood. The adhesive quality of a sound, a mission, a place, a cause is powerful and transcends often the more familiar fixatives of colour, class and creed. Many of us know the power of coming together around trees being felled, human rights being violated or the colours of a favoured football team.

Being held together creates some kind of container in the stadium or in the park – and now in the virtual world containers like on line petitions, facebook and twitter bind communities together even when people may not have met one another. There is still glue here – the synaptic paths strengthened by digital ones. Holding these spaces for communities to deepen relies on the same techniques of support, encouragement and friendship and indeed some of these spaces become an experience of community in real life as well. Invariably though there are still glue people who are like zygotes who are cells in themselves or with a few friends who together hold all the potentiality of the DNA to made a new community or indeed even drive a movement. They join together and become the yoke that binds everyone together as they almost disappear into the new entity.

During this week of celebrating International Women’s Day I have been thinking about those women who on March 8 in 1917 rose up in their textile factory in Petrograd in what was then the Russian Empire and set the wheels in motion for the abdication of the Tsar (Nicholas II) and women were granted the right to vote – in 1975 the United Nations adopted the day March 8 as the International Day and so beyond socialist and communist countries, women’s rights as human rights took on a bigger canvas. The theme for 2017 is Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030.

My promise to tomorrow is to be zygotic, find glue people and support communities to go beyond their invisible borders to grow into their best selves, and along the way be 3nourished and empowered myself. I am intrigued that the word glue comes from the Latin gluten and being gluten free in this endeavour will not be an option if we want to stick together.


        Glue and Zygotes a long way from Petrograd , Adelaide IWD 25th Anniversary Breakfast 10 March 2017








Promises to Tomorrow #9 Stardust

Through the window of my bedroom I see Orion’s belt move across the sky on the last day of summer, the every evening reminder of our inheritance and our legacy – we are stardust.

The constant evolution from the big bang in our bodies is aching to transform our hearts and minds too. It is a story so big we can barely contain it, yet our body’s contain it and all of creation, past and to come is passing through us, pulsating in our veins and echoing in the dynamic dance of all living things. The rocks and stones themselves shout out Alleluia, and who hasn’t looked to the skies and seen beauty or to a wilderness landscape and taken a deep breath and let it out with a satisfied sigh?

What if we always acted from this knowledge that we are stardust, how would we live differently? The children’s author Elin Kelsey invites us to blow kisses so we can spread pollen and to notice we shed our hair seasonally just like the leaves on the trees. She invites us to deepen our knowledge and connection with all of nature.   Joni Mitchell was right we are stardust, we are carbon, we got to get ourselves back to the garden. She was on her way to a farm to sing, dance and play in what become an acclaimed act of resistance party with the elements of rain, sweat, blood and more than a few tears between the riffs and beating drums. What party are you going too? Are you turning bombers into butterflies? I saw Banksy has opened a hotel on the West Bank and his images are doing just that turning Palestine considered by some including Banksy, the world’s largest open prison.

The hotel is in Bethlehem and I wonder how long it will take for there to be no room at the inn? There was a star in that story too. We are stardust is a poetic metaphor. We are stardust is truth from physics. We are breathing in and out the past and the future, whether we are complicit or understand, this act of creation goes on without our consent and mostly without our knowledge, but what if we did know, understand … remember?

Knowing we are stardust is a reminder of our common start in the sky and our common destination while we travel on our common planet. We do need to get back to the garden, to find ways of beautifying walls with messages of love and alternate ways of being, and to find ways of not building the walls in the first place.

banksy-bethlehem-22Banky’s Bethlehem images are alternative futures, glimpses into what might be possible from little girls frisking soldiers and pillow fights instead of guns drawn. From the place where a star hovered over head to bring news of salvation to a people occupied, so too does a new inn offer possibilities.

We are stardust and the stars are all around us, twinkling and glowing in the bodies we connect with, in the nature we are refreshed by, in the crashing of tectonic plates under the sea, in the cacophony of the pink galahs arriving for their evening conference, in my heart beat and the salty tears that are as salty as the ocean

My promise to tomorrow is to sing more of stardust, to notice more golden moments and to find myself in the garden more often. There is always more stardust to celebrate and be found in every breath. I will blow more kisses as my sacred stardust duty.


We are Stardust – created by children at Adelaide Writers Week 4 March 2017


by Joni Mitchell

I came upon a child of God
He was walking along the road
And I asked him where are you going
And this he told me
I’m going on down to Yasgur’s farm
I’m going to join in a rock ‘n’ roll band
I’m going to camp out on the land
I’m going to try an’ get my soul free

We are stardust
We are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

Then can I walk beside you
I have come here to lose the smog
And I feel to be a cog in something turning
Well maybe it is just the time of year
Or maybe it’s the time of man
I don’t know who I am
But you know life is for learning

We are stardust
We are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

By the time we got to Woodstock
We were half a million strong
And everywhere there was song and celebration
And I dreamed I saw the bombers
Riding shotgun in the sky
And they were turning into butterflies
Above our nation

We are stardust
Billion year old carbon
We are golden
Caught in the devil’s bargain
And we’ve got to get ourselves
back to the garden

© Siquomb Publishing Company


Promises to tomorrow #8 Senses and Sensibilities

The WOMADelaide 2017 app is now available for downloading. A simple piece of advice full of texture, colour, sound, sights, smells and diversity. Without the app those qualities of WOMAD would still be there, and when the app isn’t ready to be downloaded you can still peek in to what is offering through the magic of the webpage … but there is something abut downloading the app that brings it all home and you can begin to plan what journey you will make over the Sounds of the Planet weekend in March once again.

There are decisions to be made and Spoilt for Choice moments are matched with Fear of Missing Out syndrome.

The rich blend that is WOMADelaide draws me in year after year finding ways to connect in novel and surprising ways – over a bump in a queue, a trample over someone’s marked out space, a melting of bodies in a dusty dance floor, the inevitable serendipitous hello with an old acquaintance in the toilet block, furious attention to liaison points between acts and of course the never to be forgotten moment that comes when it is time to share the world’s best organic donut as part of the annual voracious worship in the food court. WOMADelaide is a sign of what our planetary community could be like everyday – a multicultural fused better version of ourselves in a market place where the currency is trust and deposited are made in the micro banking world of rugs placed under Moreton Bay Fig trees and territories of tribes with porous borders so children can safely roam without the benefit of adults having a child protection check, police check or health check documentation on hand to oversee the play space.

WOMADelaide gives me hope. It tells me there are other ways of being a community. It reminds me that music, dance, conversing about our planet, honouring the ancient cultures, experiencing new and emerging cultures are ways of being and becoming. When the stars shine and the moon finds it way across the night sky on the first evening of WOMADelaide, I am being invited once again into four days and nights of opening up to my senses and the sensibilities of our common humanity – and the one thing we all have in common is the planet we live on.

My promise to tomorrow WOMADelaide offers each year is the promise of being a cultural custodian and the culture I want to have custody of is one where you can put your rug out on a lawn and there is no fear it is going to be whipped away; one where you are invited to join a table if there is a spare seat and even if there isn’t one you can find one to join in; where conversations are hosted and some how it doesn’t matter who is sitting at the table the conversation continues whether you are there or not; where the music wafts around you and soaks into one of your sensory orifices unfiltered by your conscious mind.

The app is now on the phone, and my choices don’t really matter when tomorrow sounds so promising. Looking forward to putting on my 2017 four day pass-port to global citizenship.

Womadelaide 4 day pass

Womadelaide 4 day pass


Promises to Tomorrow #7 Badlands

Vows are a solemn promise to the future. Not necessarily a guarantee, but certainly a declaration and always vocational, a sacred intention.  How do we bring our commitments to fruition in an ever-changing complex world?  The idea of a vow is an old fashioned one and connected to a time where relationships had their own time line linked to the longevity of a human’s life span.

I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honour you all the days of my life. Wedding vows

The good times and the bad times – in equal measure and yet sickness comes before health in the marriage vows, a secret code embedded into the transaction to let you know that is where the learning will most likely come.  Another hint of the future hidden in the vows knowing the days of life are limited and finite.

Loving you is also a key message – not loving some kind of preferred imaginary version of you, but you, a clever little word able to be singular and plural.  What if the vow refers to the plural – the you the couple becomes by being in union?

Taking an oath is sacred and sanctified by the witnesses.  In these days when the oath is linked to office or evidence it is a public declaration that brings integrity and honour.  It is also an opportunity to be humble and being willing to hold yourself to some kind of public account. It is a marriage with the people or with the truth.

Our world is challenged by ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’ and so the marriage, the social contract with those who have taken vows and oaths on our behalf: delusional leads to dissolution.  The marriage between political leaders and the public is heading to divorce. The public prefer the good times and health to bad times and sickness and their patience won’t last as long as most marriages.

The social contract between those who make oaths and vows with us is under threat. Springsteen forecasted in Badlands (from Darkness on the Edge of Town) these badlands are the price to pay before we are raised above and are treated so much better.  The vows strain towards hope, lean towards fidelity, taken in dark times, cling to the promise of better days beyond the badlands.

Poor man wanna be rich,
Rich man wanna be king,
And a king ain’t satisfied,
’til he rules everything …

Well, I believe in the love that you gave me,
I believe in the faith that can save me,
I believe in the hope and I pray,
That someday it may raise me
Above these badlands …

Badlands, you gotta live it everyday,
Let the broken hearts stand
As the price you’ve gotta pay,
We’ll keep pushin’ ’til it’s understood,
And these badlands start treating us good …

What vows will you make to the future to go beyond the badlands?

My promise to the future is a vow: to be true to you (plural) and bring my truth to our conversations in public and private domains; seek to honour others truths;  bring what health I can to places where there is ill health … and that will take me into the badlands.



Promises to tomorrow #6 Consensus Building

In response to a question on why some work had been delayed or at least incomplete the response was: they gave the job to a 23 year old woman. I sat there and didn’t call out the ageism and the sexism. Somehow implicit in the words was that it was not the fault of the person doing the work, but those who had appointed her. There was power playing at every level. I didn’t call that out either. I witnessed. There was nothing inherently wrong with stating the facts, yet why was the age and the gender relevant at all? I know some pretty amazing people who were delivering in their twenties and some now in their twenties doing the same. Maybe whoever appointed her to the work believed in her, just as someone believed in me when I was early in my career, maybe those who appointed her didn’t understand the brief or were struggling in some way themselves, maybe what was delivered back was OK, but didn’t match expectations … who knows and how relevant anyhow to my promise to tomorrow? In our parliament this week there has been abuse, defections, loss – all pointing to a lack of a shared vision for a country, and we can all see how that approach is working and spilling into fuelling fear and hatred all around the world from Syria to Moscow to Washington. Lets start naming what binds us together, not what keeps us apart.

I have lost my vigilance on sexism and ageism for the young. Going to the edge of our discomfort and acting from that place becoming vulnerable and speaking your truth doesn’t need to take others down with you. Holding your integrity and honouring difference is a quest. Consensus building takes time, requires space and demands commitment. I have served boards and been on governing bodies and in teams where consensus decision making was the only way forward – taking everyone with us. I thank the Quakers for all their teachings around this, Marshall Rosenberg for non-violence communication skills and for all the people whose arguments I endured before decisions were made. I thank the people who taught me to stop and take time for silence and to have a break in proceedings before a decision was taken and who insisted each person have time to speak and explain their position and hold the responsibility to devise a solution if they were going to block the decision.

Decisions take time to arrive. All the voices need to be heard, all the facts on the table, all the advice in the room, feelings expressed and respected.

My promise to tomorrow is to continue to practice my consensus making muscle to leave no one behind. I can’t see a tomorrow without a shared vision of where we all want to go on this little blue planet. That is going to bring me close to the edge often and on watch for baby steps that can be taken to address the divisions inherent in our language and actions to build a future for us all. I hope I am travelling with others who can hold me to account and get in my way so I can develop my consensus building practice.