Re: Diversity, Boundaries, and more self-design
From: Mark Ottenberg (
Date: Fri, 19 Jul 1996 11:38:45 -0500
Greetings all:  The following was an interesting thaught that I snipped from
a conversation that went on between myself and a few others who are actively
researching and working on the concepts of self design of social systems,
such as cohousing neighborhoods.  I hope this puts a new sparkle of interest
in our long hashed Diversity conversation:

>I especially appreciated Matthew's highlighting of the tremendous difference
>it makes when the cultural vision [mission statement, etc.] "given" to
persons "leaves room" to
>individuals for self-design versus when the culture imposes its own vision,
>one that "closes space" for individual creativity and initiative.  I have had
>to assure that the academic culture at PGI is sufficiently of the former type
>to permit students to design.  Some of my colleagues on the faculty seem to
>believe it is the faculty's responsibility as "experts" to provide "correct"
>visions of "the mentally healthy person/couple/family" to students.  Indeed,
>most student expect this when they enroll.  
>What has made it possible to provide the needed cultural environment for my
>students is establishing clear boundaries around our subculture.  In this I
>have drawn guidance from a favorite American poet, Robert Frost, who wrote:
> "Good fences make good neighbors."  A good fence keeps my cows from
>trampling on my neighbor's bean field and provides a friendly rail to lean on
>when we have conversation.  I think the postmodern age requires us to build
>"good fences" of a new and invisible kind so we can be "good neighbors" in an
>age when there are many legitimate ways to operate and think about anything.
>--SNIP--     It occured
>to me afterward that if there were a way for us to build fences that
>clarified and distinguished the legitimate differences among us, it might
>facilitate contactful conversation and the discovery of common ground.

My personal therapy work lately has been focused on increasing my abilities
to participate in social community by my strengthing (and sometimes
creating) personal boundaries and semi-permeable screens.  With these tools,
I am much more able to live in a diversely mixed and active environment and
still respect others views without letting them unduely hurt me and without
being corrupted by points of view that are not my own (or trying to force MY
views into someone else's head).  Combined with an increased capability to
truely LISTEN, community in a diverse sense becomes much more possible and
enjoyable  for me and those around me.

Just my $0.02 worth.

                                                                -- Mark

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