Draw your image of culture.
This is how our "Good Society" retreat started last week.
In a sunny, cool morning, I was sitting in a living room with other Fellows, surrounded by gorgeous autumn colors in the midst of the woods in upstate New York. Not a slightest sign of men and women other than our team...
I was totally relaxed till the question came up. I'm not an artist. How can I express such a philosophical question with drawing?! I didn't have many ideas but one. So I started.
First, I drew myself in a circle in the center. Then, from top I drew many lines converging to the circle in the center, just like a family tree. Lastly, I did the same, this time lines are stemming from the circle, diverging toward the bottom, a mirror image of the family tree in the top half.
Culture for me is like many streams running from the past to the future, some of which converge, others diverge. I am, just like anyone else is, an intersection of a unique set of streams.
The “Good Society” retreat is, according to many Fellow alumni, the highlight of 7-week training in New York (and I cannot agree more). In an isolated house, we do nothing but immerse ourselves into the words of great leaders. What does a “good society” look like for Plato? Or for Hobbes, Rousseau, Tocqueville? Why did they think this way or that way? We also talked about the great leaders of our time, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Aung San Sui Kyi, Lee Kwan Yew, Vaclav Havel, and many others.
From ancient Greece till present, so many great leaders and individuals have worked very hard to create “Good Society” on the earth. Some shares views, others have conflicting opinions. But all for the single purpose of creating a “Good Society”.
Then my poor drawing of culture came back.
Aha, now at this table of the isolated house in upstate New York intersect the rivers of the “Good Society”, also enriched by each one of us at the table!
Of course a question remains.
What is a “Good Society” which I want to create?
I don’t have a clear answer yet. I have to keep asking this question throughout this year’s fellowship and probably in many years to come.
Nevertheless, I ended the week feeling empowered. I know I am not alone, nor our generation, in this endeavor. We will be always supported by those great predecessors. And so many comrades swimming the rivers of “Good Society” all over the world, which may be invisible but certainly connected. We do what each of us can do, and will help one another if someone get drowned!