Friday, July 24, 2015

Polarization of politics is the bane of democracy

Citizen Diplomacy with Russia
September 2015
Facilitator: Dulce Murphy

Led by Dulce Murphy and Michael Murphy since 1980, and in conjunction withTRACK TWO: An Institute for Citizen Diplomacy and colleagues in Moscow, Esalen’s CTR is promoting Russian-American partnerships that are designed to improve the relationship between our two nations. For example, The Esalen Pacifica Prize was launched in 2012 and continued in 2013 to highlight the role of the arts in enriching and deepening ties between Russia and the United States across a range of common interests – cultural, scientific, business and economic. This project was commended by the U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul in a letter dated May 21, 2013, calling the project “a positive symbol of U.S.-Russia relations.”
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In fall 2014, CTR and TRACK TWO: An Institute for Citizen Diplomacy held a conference in Paris to explore the past and future relationships among Russia, the United States, and Great Britain with the overarching goal of figuring out why wariness and distrust continues among these nations and what can be done to improve this. Ambassador Jack Matlock, Jr., and Thomas Graham of Henry Kissinger Associates were among the luminaries who attended this conference. As in all TRACK TWO work, the goal was to increase mutual understanding among the ruling elites of the countries involved, and to promote saner policies and greater cooperation. Suffice it to say, this conference hit a home run for Esalen.
Details for the September 2015 Conference at Esalen are currently under discussion and an update will be provided.

Overcoming Political Polarization
October 2015
Facilitators: Sam Yau and Jay Ogilvy

The increasing polarization of American politics is the bane of our democracy and, as yet, no existing institution seems to have a handle on how to make a change. Well-meaning appeals for a return to pragmatism and centrism have failed, leaving the ship of state floundering in uncertain waters. The daunting complexity of the subject, which touches on all aspects of America’s political order, calls out for new perspectives, innovative thinking and unconventional approaches. Why has our nation become increasingly polarized? Why does the center lack sufficient cultural gravity to hold the electorate together? Are systemic issues at the root of the issue: campaign finance, gerrymandering, or the media’s obsession with the political horse races? Or are there deeper cultural issues at work, historical trends that can help us better explain and diagnose the clash of values that poisons our nation’s political system? In early October 2014, a small gathering of leading public figures, academics, pundits, theorists, insiders and activists met to address the most vexing and important issue facing the country today—the growing tribalism of America’s political order. The meeting was a beachhead in beginning civil discourse between conservatives and liberals to bridge the divide. A fellowship was formed of the initial participants, intense and ongoing blogging among the fellowship is taking place, and a 2nd conference will be held in October 2015 to carry forward the work begun at Esalen. Click here to read Volume III of the Esalen eZine, which covers the 2014 Conclave on Political Polarization.

The Further Reaches of the Imagination: Experience and Theory
November 2015
Facilitator: Jeff Kripal

This is the second in a series of symposia on the nature and scope of the imagination as something potentially cosmic. What if the imagination is not a simple spinner of subjective fantasies? What if sometimes—in rare but real moments—it becomes a mediator, translator, or communicator of information and worlds beyond the brain and body, beyond the senses, beyond even space-time. What if the imaginal can become a kind of psychic ability or real-world superpower? And if this is true, how might we re-engage these imaginal potentials in creative writing, in film, in sport, in our daily lives? How might we imagine ourselves into something and someone else? This symposium will bring together film-makers, writers, historians, philosophers, and scholars of religion to help frame anew and offer answers to these questions.

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