Experiencing Conversare

November 3, 2010 |  by  |  Uncategorized

Recently I ‘bumped into’ a person who had studied at the same institution as I did in England, at different times and in different fields. We had met once before when we were facilitators at an event featuring ex President Bill Clinton here a couple of years ago. Since then she has been on the list of invitees to Conversare events but she has not ever come along or responded in any way.  She said to me  “I do see the invitations but have not understood what these gatherings are about.”

Which prompts me to give another brief description both for this person and others, and then say a bit about one of the influences which underly this enterprise.

Conversare is about a way of socializing for people who like the idea of meeting others in an interesting, inclusive and fun way. It is a gathering in which there is nothing to ‘do’ except enjoy the experience – including fine food –  with a sense of ‘what a remarkable opportunity this is’ and knowing ‘this is a one off event; meeting in this way with the people who are here now will never happen again.’

This experience is at least three fold:

. Engaging, in more depth than is usually the case, with people you may not have met before,  in friendly company.

. Giving of yourself in careful listening to the people encountered during the event in a spirit of curiosity and of awe.

. Letting go of self consciousness and participating in whatever comes up, such as singing and simple Greek style dancing.

With the strong feeling of ‘Whoever comes is the right people’, that there is no ‘them and us’, there is only ‘us’ no matter who is present, in whatever number and by whatever other criteria.  In which the only thing asked of everyone present is that they contribute to the success of the event through their participation.

Anyone who feels attracted to have such an experience is welcome to come along. With the assurance that everyone who does will be fully included and appreciated. And with the sense that there are likely to be surprises, not least in what each person learns about others and possibly about themselves too.

And so to ‘a little bit of background.’  A person who I have admired greatly for a long time, both for his music and his social and environmental activism, is the singer Pete Seeger.  He is perhaps best known for his song ‘Where Have All the Flowers Gone’ and for his adapting an old spiritual song ‘I Shall Overcome’ to ‘We Shall Overcome ‘ – and then enchanting people to join in – which had a huge impact on the Civil Rights movement.

A couple of years ago I recorded a radio interview with him, from which I transcribed this:

“Participation is the key to the future of the human race. Participation in families, in politics … Participation will save the human race – if we are saved.”
Pete Seeger at 89; he is now 91.

This idea I see as central to the Conversare experiment in which people have the opportunity to participate in an environment of feeling free to give of themselves and of mutual respect for all present.

What may assist to create this kind of experience? I got more insight into this when I visited with Pete Seeger at his home in upstate New York a couple of months ago.  More to come on this story.

What do you think could be the benefits to coming along to a Conversare event?

What organisations do you think could achieve benefits for their people/staff/members/congregations through holding such events for them?

Do you see opportunities for a new career emerging as the host of such events?

Alan Stewart

What participants have said:

Having lived in Hong Kong for a long time now, I felt that many people rub shoulders with each other and do not get a chance to get to know each other. Having an event like Conversare is very precious indeed – getting people to talk and connect with each other at a deeper and more genuine level, and to have fun.  Going forward, I would love to continue to participate.

… I enjoyed last night’s Conversare event tremendously.  I love to be amongst people who like to engage in deep conversations and just be … I think dancing and singing will bring variety to Conversare as we connect with other aspects of our friends.
Susie Li

What do you get when you put a group of strangers together in a room and give them time to connect?  Oh, don’t forget this happens in a comfortable environment over a great meal. Well for me the experience of Conversare was one of respect and openness as the conversations flowed in all manner of directions across very enlightening landscape.  Thanks Alan and to my fellow Conversarist who made the [gathering] what it was.
Merrin Pearse

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