Your NameMark Benjamin
Cohort AssignmentCohort B (Americas, Online Intensive)
1. What do you see as your primary work at this stage of your life?

My work is to create conditions that will allow the forested community I am a part of, to thrive.
The means to this has been through dialogue and organizing. I originated forest theater seasonal performances, around the theme "Invoking the Beloved Community" that asks of the participants, who is part of our beloved community, who do we not include in this, and how then shall we respond. Organizing neighborhood prosperity projects seek to blur conceived lines of private ownership that creates anonymity, to treat the forested community my human community is enfolded within as contiguous, as sentient, as inclusive in character as their diverse population. How do we participate in an economic, social, and ecologic prosperity that includes migratory birds, elderly humans, oak trees, rivers and others? These are questions which I hope are addressed by our gatherings and the projects that come from these gatherings.

2. What role do you see as yours to play?

I originate dialogues with performers that lead to seasonal performances which I also participate in. We created a container for the Forest Theater performances that is valued in my community, and I want to carry this forward. Much as street theater can be brought to different places so may this be brought to other communities. The neighborhood prosperity projects came from carrying forward interest from my neighbors. I want to facilitate elucidating and carrying forward other ideas we come up with.

3. What goals or aims do you have in regard to the above?

How to engage with others in my community to these ends. Improve my skills at creating dialogue and at carrying through with initiatives. I'm fairly soft spoken and reserved and want to move through that.

4. Where do you feel your next arenas for personal growth are?

I need to develop better interpersonal skills. To speak a language that invites people in. Co creating with others rather than coming up with pretty good ideas on my own.

5. And for professional growth?

At this stage in my life, I have no professional goals. But this is more my lifework, and it evolves. To grow for me means to become more a part of community dynamics.

6. What have you invested in to get you where you are?

My self-designed undergraduate major was on spirit of place, a transpersonal approach to community. Since then (almost thirty years ago!) I continued to participate in workshops and course studies that further that focus: non-violent communication, co-counseling, deep ecologic practices are amongst the avenues I have explored. And I have developed a daily contemplative practice with forest and river, which centers me in place and in awe. I also owned and ran a CSA farm for a number of years having already worked at other farms helped to define my relationship with others.

7. What fields of learning and which thinkers have been important in your life?

The lineage of activists who refined the idea of The Beloved Community, from Josiah Royce through MLK and Thich Nhat Hanh. The rabbinic lineage and Jewish lay people who carried forward a panentheistic spiritual cosmology, which deeply informs my own perspective. Activists from the Catholic Worker Movement on the personal being political and speaking with a voice of authenticity out of a spiritual centering. Arne Naess, Joanna Macy, Rabbi Gershon Winkler, Peace Pilgrim, and so many others have helped form my thinking.

8. Can you frame your philosophy or cosmology of life? What role(s) do humans play in it?

I really like these questions. My cosmology evolves and shifts and is an unstated or partially stated part of performance, so I relate through this form.
Life sings forth. All creation praises, in their bodily presences. We are here to witness this and join in. River song, forest song, frog song, ancestral voices, the voices of our Descendents, the diverse voices of the human community and of our greater kin...they all reside within us, to the degree we let them in, and help to compose the song of our own lives. How we treat others, our ability to find contentment in this moment, what shall be our legacy, is measured by our attentiveness to the diverse voices found within any one place. To celebrate, grieve, find joy, and a voice for the voiceless, to "pray with our feet", to be an active part of a greater beloved community. This is the role humans can play.

Date CreatedJanuary 26, 2023