The melody of WE that flows through humanity
From: Tree Bressen (
Date: Tue, 12 Oct 2004 14:12:40 -0700 (PDT)
Dear folks,

In forwarding to you this post from my friend Tom Atlee, i feel a lot less articulate than the post is. I think i'm going to just go ahead and send it to you, trusting that you will see the relevance of it to cohousing and group meetings that take place in that context.



Date: Mon, 11 Oct 2004 22:31:04 -0700
To: cii [at] (undisclosed list)
From: Tom Atlee <cii [at]>
Subject: The melody of WE that flows through humanity

Dear friends,

The essay that follows is said to be an excerpt from "The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life" by Benjamin Zander and Rosamund Stone Zander <>. It is a descriptive exploration of the intelligent entity that I refer to when I speak of "collective intelligence." Who or what is intelligent in "collective intelligence"? It is the WE the Zanders speak of. In democratic terms, it is "WE the People." But the Zanders generalize it to ALL types of WE, from a couple to the entirety of humanity.

I will save my further comments until after you've read the essay below.
_ _ _ _ _


More often than not history is a record of conflict between an Us and a Them. We see this pattern expressed across a broad spectrum: nation to nation, among political parties, between labor and management, and in the most intimate realms of our lives... What can we invent that will take us from an entrenched posture of hostility to one of enthusiasm and deep regard?

To begin the inquiry, we have distinguished a new entity that personifies the "togetherness" of you and me and others. This entity, the WE, can be found among any two people, in any community or organization, and it can be thought of, in poetic terms, as a melody running through the people of the earth. It emerges in the way music emerges from individual notes when a phrase is played as one long line, in the way a landscape coalesces out of the multicolored strokes of an Impressionist painting when you get some distance, and in the way a "family" comes into being when a first child is born. The WE appears when, for the moment, we set aside the story of fear, competition, and struggle and tell ITS story.

The WE story defines a human being in a specific way: It says we are our central selves seeking to contribute, naturally engaged, forever in a dance with each other. It points to relationship rather than to individuals, to communication patterns, gestures, and the IN-BETWEEN. Like the particle-and-wave nature of light, the WE is both a living entity and a long line of development unfolding. This new being, the WE of us, comes into view as we look for it - the vital entity of our company, or community, or group of two. Then the protagonist of our story, the entity called WE, steps forward and takes on a life of its own.

By telling the WE story, an individual becomes a conduit for this new inclusive entity, wearing its eyes and ears, feeling its heart, thinking its thoughts, inquiring into what is best for US. This practice points the way to a kind of leadership based not on qualifications earned in the field of battle, but on the courage to speak on behalf of all people and for the long line of human possibility...

Usually what we mean by the pronoun "we" is "you-plus-I," so the questions "What shall we do?" or "What will work for us?" generally refer to a compromise between what you want and what I want...

The practice of the WE offers an approach to conflict based on a different premise. It assumes there are no fixed wants nor static desires, while everything each of us thinks and feels has a place in the dialogue...

Traditional methods of resolving conflict, all the I/You approaches, tend to increase the level of discord because they attempt to satisfy the dictotomous positions people take, rather than providing the means for people to broaden their desires. I/You methods deprive people of the opportunity to WISH inclusively. They do not give people the chance to want what the story of the WE says we are thirsting for: connecting to others through our dreams and visions.

While the WE practice can enhance any aspect of your life, it also poses a risk. It is not a technique for arriving at a decision based on known quantities; it's an integrative process that yields the next step. It asks you to trust that the evolution you set in motion will serve you over the long line. What happens after that is not in your control, but springs spontaneously from the WE itself.

_ _ _ _ _


The Zanders' WE comes alive in response to life -- people responding to each other as they collectively respond to the situations of life. The Zanders use a musical metaphor to explore this responsiveness, this mutual relatedness, saying that the WE "can be thought of as a melody running through the people of the earth." The notes of such a melody derive their special character and meaning through their unfolding dance of mutuality through time. They do not exist meaningfully alone; their magic is in their unfolding relationship.

I find myself wanting to extend their lovely musical metaphor: Human responsiveness and relatedness doesn't always unfold in a linear melodic dance (as in dialogue). It can also manifest as a still-point vibration, a resonance between us -- or in the deeply nuanced simultaneity of harmony -- all of us in all our diversity resonating together NOW. Such resonance feeds back on itself, amplifies. The emergency of a WE among us can have any or all of these qualities -- all of which is about that elusive aliveness that is between us and among us and arising through our togetherness.

Choirs and meditators chanting with resonant harmonies create a Music which lifts them into itself. That is why such music is so often part of (especially communal) spiritual practice. Similarly, through high quality connection, love, dialogue, deeply shared life -- AUTHENTIC MUTUAL ENCOUNTER -- a WE emerges among us and draws us up into itself. This can happen whenever we take the time and attention to meet each other in this way, where our diversity embraces our unity and rises into Music. Intense life situations -- Twin Towers, hurricanes, inspiring social visions -- can also call us into such WE-responsive, self-amplifying feedback loops.

Few people have experienced the kind of high quality dialogue and collective reflection that can generate a powerful WE in virtually any group or community. I find it encouraging, though, that merely WITNESSING such dialogue, or encountering compelling stories from or about it can create resonance within the witness, who can then "taste" the WE experience. A fascinating example of this in a community meeting is described in a video at And, for a whole-nation example, look over the way Maclean's magazine publicizing their "The People's Verdict" experiment at

Vicarious experiences of WE-ness such as these means that a well done, well publicized dialogue in a microcosm small group can be used to stimulate the emergence of WE-awareness in a whole community or country -- especially if it is done iteratively over time. This is a tremendously hope-filled fact. It means that WE-ness in a political sense -- We the People -- can be midwifed, birthed and raised to maturity through our wise design of certain democratic innovations and (dare I say it) institutions of a new sort, such as citizen deliberative councils (e.g., ). And I think we will soon be able to reach beyond citizen deliberative councils. As noted in the Tao of Extreme Democracy wiki , I expect that breakthroughs in the realm of WE-intelligence await our weaving of electronic and deliberative forms of democracy into a coherent WE-uplifting system that generates and distributes the collective intelligence and wisdom we need to make it through the 21st century.





Tom Atlee * The Co-Intelligence Institute * PO Box 493 * Eugene, OR 97440 *
Please support our work.  *  Your donations are fully tax-deductible.


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Tree Bressen
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