growing being

       The most important part of the being group for me was the opportunity for intimate small-group (2 people) conversation, as well as the opportunity to meet other people who found the being group interesting. Because it was mostly the small group interaction that I liked, I thought that any growth of the group would reduce my enjoyment of the meetings. My proposed solution to this problem was to add some structure to the meeting: The first part of the meeting would be for person-to-person conversations, the second part would be for individuals to address the whole group, and the final part of the meeting would be freely formed groups based perhaps on what individuals had just shared with whole group. In order to try out this structure, I needed a large (greater than 4) group of people who would keep coming to meetings long enough to become familiar and comfortable with each other. This was one of the purposes of the Meaning in Life Forum, because I had not been able to attract large groups of people to the being meetings.
       After the first meeting of the Meaning in Life forum, I decided that large group meetings could never have the same appeal for me as the small, person-to-person being meetings, but maybe I'm wrong about that. From that time on, however, I began to see the being group more as a networking organization for people who were attracted (for whatever reason) to the being group. People could meet each other at the larger more infrequent meetings (at monthly group dinners, for example), and then arrange to talk to whoever they wanted to talk to more later—people could arrange to go on walks together, or to meet in a park to talk and relax, for example. I think what is most special about the being group is the kind of people it attracts.
       An alternative to the networking-type being meeting and the semi-structured being meeting may be more like the Quaker meeting. The Quaker meeting can have larger numbers of people (but many Quakers prefer smaller meetings), and people simply sit in silence until they are moved to speak. I prefer person-to-person conversation though, I think because there is nothing outside of myself that is more responsive to me and potentially rewarding than another person. As an example of this I give intimate relationships of any kind.
       If you are interested in another activity similar to the being group, you might find looking up information about "T-groups" to be helpful. T-groups, I think, were started by a social psychologist in the 60s or 70s and involved small- to medium-sized groups of people talking primarily about group dynamics, i.e., about how people in the group interacted with each other in the group. They might have a conversation, and then have a conversation about the conversation. I think T-groups reached some level of popularity and I think that there are some around today.
       Here are some other imaginings I have had about the future of the being group:
       I have thought of the being group as similar to an artists', writers', or researchers' group in which a bunch of creative people get together and share some of their work and ideas. The being group would be a group of people sharing their work and ideas about living creatively in general, perhaps.
       I have visualized the being group as being the precursor to a new kind of church-like organization. . . It could be considered a church without a dogma, a purpose, or a belief or value system. It would be like a church with no values or structure except for an appreciation of people, and for creative involvement in life. This church would be like the Quaker organization in that there would be no leader, or rather, every member of the group is the leader when they choose to be. For example, each group member could have a turn at choosing the activities that would be carried out at the meeting that day. The leader that day could draw from whatever culture or ideal she wanted to, as long as the others would go along with the idea.
       I have imagined the being group as growing into a network of places with empty floors for people to sit on with the implicit understanding that this is a place where people come to ask each other questions and to share creative ideas with each other. This would be an all-ages place, and anyone could ask any question and not be worried that the question was not appropriate—it would be an environment of complete openness to questioning. I suppose that is only partly realistic, but if you're going to be working on life questions, it helps to do it with people who don't mind you asking them questions about their personal experience and thoughts. I also generally like talking more with people who are open to questioning their beliefs and experiences than with those who are not.
       In any event, I think it would be a good thing if more people met for the sake of meeting, in being-group-type meetings. I think an environment which encourages and challenges people to think creatively about life will speed up positive social change. So, how can the being group (or something like it) grow and become something that many people do in lieu of other activities?
       The groups or ideas that have grown successfully in the past have (a) incorporated within the dogma of the group growing instructions. . . For example, in the Mormon church, young adults go on missions to recruit new members. Evangelism is (I think) part of the church dogma, as is having large families raised in accordance to the church's instructions. Successful groups and ideas have also (b) so strongly appealed to the people who come into contact with them that these people tell their friends about the great new thing they have found. I'm perfectly willing to leave the being group's growth up to mechanism (b). If the being group is not a good idea then it will be left by the wayside. But, I think, at least for me, the being group symbolizes my conception of the ideal society—a bunch of people consciously asking what they want most out of life while actively trying to make the answers to their questions happen. As long as I have energy and a feeling—or even just the hope—of personal efficacy, I am motivated to find and to create the ideal environment for me to live in. Finding/creating my ideal environment, at least while I was at the UW, involved trying to get other people to meet with me 'just to meet' and to talk about these questions.
       I think many people are similarly motivated. . . To some extent, I think whatever happens is the 'being group.' I think these many people will be asking the same question, 'What is the best way to live?' and they will come to many of the same conclusions. All that the being group really is is a manifestation of the shift from the unquestioning acceptance of tradition, and status quo, and "reality" to the expansion of the individual's ability to think and feel for herself how she would choose to live. Implicit in the being group are some of the answers to that question: intimate interaction with other people is important. . . questioning is important. Finally, anything about the group is open to questioning, and this makes it difficult for the group to ever become anything! Which is what the group is about.

       The being group may be about creating a world in which everyone agrees they are all working for the same thing: enjoyment of being alive (maybe not?). . . and a world in which everyone is continually participating in the creation and continual revision of ~ideal living communities.