creative localization, open spirituality, fresh vision
"The Cobb Institute, named in honor of our founder John Cobb, promotes a process-relational way of understanding and living in the world. As a philosophical outlook it shares wisdom, emphasizes harmony, and focuses on the common good. We live out this philosophy by engaging in local initiatives that help build an ecological civilization. With the knowledge that all life is interconnected and in process of becoming, we use education, creativity, and an open view of spirituality to help each other and our communities thrive. This is a bold collaborative view that recognizes our interdependence, and thus emphasizes that we have a responsibility to care not just for our own lives but also for the world we share with everyone and everything else."
Interested in the practice of process thought? Same here. Here's some good news. The Cobb Institute has arrived. Or, better, is arriving.
It is a small but growing community of people in southern California who, in collaboration with friends in different parts of the US and world, are offering fresh vision for the common good of the world. They speak of that vision as a process-relational worldview. You can learn about that worldview in many pages of Open Horizons; see Twenty Key Ideas. Or take a look at my six-minute introduction below.
But please note: the worldview is influenced by but not at all restricted to the organic philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead. Process-relational worldviews can take many forms: African, East Asian, South Asian, Islamic, Jewish, and Buddhist, for example. Many writers in Open Horizons are not Whiteheadian in any sense, but they well embrace and enrich a process-relational worldview. The focus of the Cobb Institute is not on the worldview alone but on its practical expression in daily and community life. Its focus is on creative localization: that is, the creative transformation of local communities in holistic ways, so that they become cooperative and compassionate communities.
Creative localization is itself a process. It does not happen all-at-once or once-and-for-all, but grows through time. Its practices are of two overlapping kinds: (1) social practices aimed at helping build local communities that are sustainable, just and joyful, and (2) personal practices aimed at helping people negotiate life's journey as individuals and communities. Process practices include justice-making and music-making, community banking and backyard gardening, political engagement and silent meditation, childhood education and hospice care, social work and soul work -- all illustrative of what it can mean to help build, and live within, an ecological civilization.
An ecological civilization is one whose citizens live with respect and care for the community of life: people, animals, and the earth. Such a civilization is sorely needed in our time; its moves past the exclusively human-centered, class-divided, earth-exploiting, consumer-driven civilization of western modernity. The building blocks of an ecological civilization can be cities, towns, villages, or neighborhoods; churches, synagogues, mosques, or sanghas. They are local communities that are creative, compassionate, participatory, diverse, inclusive, humane to animals, and good for the earth, with no one left behind. The hope of the Cobb Institute is that groups in Southern California can grow into these kinds of communities. Its many friends want to help make that happen.
But let's get specific. Already the work of the Cobb Institute is well underway in various ways. Here are some of its projects:
Compassionate Pomona: working with the city of Pomona on its Compassionate Pomona project, which now includes local food initiatives, energy initiatives, educational programs.
La Verne University: working with La Verne University to develop educational programs emphasizing the dynamics of ecological civilization.
Backyard Gatherings: Friday "backyard gatherings" in Claremont for fellowship and exploring process thought.
Friends of John Discussions: Tuesday discussions among "friends of John Cobb" that both explore process thought and strategize on projects.
Process Salons: developing 'process salons' (face-to-face and online) to foster process spirituality.
Lectures: lectures and sermons offered by John Cobb and others in local community settings
Learning Laboratories: introducing process thinking and practice to the wider world (e.g. a Probing Process and Reality with John Cobb course)
Happily, the friends of the Cobb Institute do not need to live in Southern California, and the projects of the institute can happen in other regions as well. The Cobb Institute also partners with other organizations in different parts of the US and world to undertake similar projects, some online and some local. Partnering organizations include the Center for Process Studies; the Institute for Ecological Civlization; the Center for Process Spirituality; the Becomings Arts Collective; the Madina Institute in Arkansas, and the Interfaith Center of Arkansas.
- Jay McDaniel
Might I, too, be a Friend of the Cobb Institute?
I write this as a friend of the Cobb Institute who lives in Arkansas. I sit on on the Tuesday discussions online and keep up with its activities. I am also a member of its board, but being a friend is, for me, much more important than being on the board. With its vision of a compassionate community that includes people, animals, and the earth; with its recognition that practice is as important, and usually much more important, than having the 'right' worldview; with its interfaith spirit and appreciation of the arts, I see the Cobb Institute as one of the most important process groups around today. I want to help.
What does it mean to be a friend?
For me it means joining the Institute and its work in my own local setting and online communities, experimenting with the various practices it recommends both at home and in the community. My own work with the Center for Process Spirituality, the Open Horizons website and its worldwide community, and the Becomings Collective is part of how I do this. Another way is by doing singalong music as assisted living centers in my area twice a week under the rubric of the Four J's Singalong group. And still another is by working with an interfaith center and local mosque on interfaith explorations. All of this, for me, is what it means to be a friend.
Other people in other settings can do this in still different ways. There is no "one way" to be a friend. We can be friends in small ways and large ways; there is no discrimination. Nor is there one religious path for such friendship. Friends of the Cobb Institute can be, and are, Buddhist, Daoist, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Pagan and none-of-the-above because spiritually independent. They can be and are atheists, too. What is important is a commitment to the process of creative localization for the sake of compassionate communities.
-- Jay McDaniel
And money, too.
Another way to be a friend is to contribute to the Cobb Institute financially. Its budget is quite limited, and it needs contributions to flourish. If you are able and so inclined, I encourage you to make a contribution. I have.
The Cobb Institute promotes a process-relational worldview to advance wisdom, harmony, and the common good, and cultivates local initiatives to bring about an ecological civilization. These aims will be accomplished by fostering creative transformation through educational development, community collaboration, sustainable practices, and spiritual integration.
A Process-Relational Worldview One Person's Six-Minute Version
Every moment in a person's life is an act of improvisation: creating something new out of a settled past.
Improvisation goes all the way down into the depths of matter. The whole of nature is alive with creativity.
We live in a universe of inter-becoming; each event in the universe carries the influence of, and influences, all the others.
The building blocks of the universe are moments and relationships -- not 'things,' Each and every living being deserves respect. Each is a subject of its own life with intrinsic value, and not just an object for others.
Subjectivity, like creativity, goes all the way down into the depths of matter. The universe is a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects. (Thomas Berry)
Our human calling is to appreciate the value of life and help build communities that are creative, compassionate, participatory, multicultural, humane to animals, and good for the earth, with no one left behind. These are the building blocks of the world's only real hope: Ecological Civilizations.
As we seek to fulfill this vocation, we are beckoned by the ideal of Beauty: harmony and intensity of experience.
This ideal of Beauty, and its inwardly felt beckoning toward the fullness of life for each and all, is how the living Mind of the universe -- God -- is present continuously in life on earth and the entirety of the cosmos. God does not and cannot manipulate the world like a puppeteer. God acts through persuasion not coercion, love not force, and is an eternal Companion to all the world's suffering and joys. God is love.