Oasis in the City?


I keep running into people who have ideas for human flourishing that seem to be obstructed because the vision they want to contribute is not valued by the institutions in which they work. Does that ring any bells?

Last week I had lunch with a good friend of mine, Leillie McLachlan.

Getting two activists together is always dangerous! Soon enough we began to envision a centre in the city that might provide a nurturing home for ‘ visionaries for human-flourishing’ and begin to bring these dreams and passions together in a tangible way.

My experience has been with university students, so naturally I thought of the hundreds of international students living in the city. And my experiences of ‘Couch Surfing’ and ‘Air BnB’ over the last decade have been so rewarding, as visitors share their stories while we provide hospitality. Many friendships with past students and visitors continue, reciprocated when we visit or are invited to their home countries. Could there be a better way of promoting the beauty of Adelaide than experience and word-of-mouth?

One of my passions is for personalising space. It is the difference between providing a commodified service, efficient as that may be, compared to an inter-personal supportive relationship intent on listening, respecting, empathising and understanding in the first instance. It is the difference between ‘telling you what I think you need’ and empowering the other to achieve their goals their way. It is the difference between fee-for-service and a free and open exchange of life stories that elicit edges of growth. It is the difference between grants and handouts and a working together on shared concerns. It is the difference between running programs (ask Aboriginal communities about this!) and trusting the other that together we have what may be lacking, and empowering the other at their edges of growth. It is us lucky and privileged ones sharing life with others in mutual respect and equity.

Why do we need such a centre?

Because I believe our western world is becoming so commodified, we are losing our sense of communal compassion and kindness – in the words of an ancient writer, ‘we are gaining the whole world, but losing our own soul.’

Those who come from overseas often have more respect for hospitality and a sense of community than we do in our suburban castles or cocooned apartments – we seem to be getting harder and meaner. The kind of centre being proposed is well understood by overseas visitors in their cultures. We don’t have to go on an overseas fact-finding mission, when they come to us!

Another passion I have, which I took from my teaching career, was the power of informal learning. Knowledge is out there for anyone on the internet. But not the experience of  inter-personal depth. Such personal interactions are difficult to convey to others, beyond mere words. There is something ‘caught’ in a personal interaction that can’t be ‘taught’. But it can be understood in observing a working model.

That’s why it is important to have an accessible working model that demonstrates what a culture of respect and care look like.

Here might be a beginning: Oasis in the City (updated, 4 April, 2017)

Let me know what you think?

One thought on “Oasis in the City?

  1. Yes, without that personal interaction we are lost. Hope to achieve some of this at with the Lions Club. 160 students have expressed intererest in joining at the Orientation Week. Look forward to catching up with you and comparing notes. – JOHN AUSTIN

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