One of the things that I loved at the Association of Cooperative Educators conference was the invocation that ACE administrator Bill Patrie opened the proceedings with. It really impressed me because I had recently decided that I am going to bring more of my spiritual self forward in everything I do, especially on the cooperative front where I spend more of my time. I am not religious, but I am greatly spiritual, and it truly informs what I do.
So during a conference break on Sunday, I decided to ask Bill if he had a copy of his invocation because I want to blog about it. I am certainly glad that I did. I got further illumination on the relationship between cooperation and spirituality--things that I hadn't put together.
Bill said that of spirituality: "That's a characteristic of cooperators. We have a higher purpose....We see other people not as objects, but as fully important as us. It's exciting. We see people as having this intrinsic value. It's fun. That's what is cool about cooperation."
Bill said his invocation was based on the Hebrew scholar Martin Buber who wrote The I and Thou. Patrie first read the book when he was 19. The essential lesson he got: It is between the I and Thou where one finds the Divine. Essentially this means that as cooperators whose labors are expressed often as concerns for other people, our communities and the world (the thou), we are doing the work of the Divine. We indeed are spiritual people (concerned about more than ourselves).
Know that writing this two days after our conversation that I did not truly capture the full impact of the short but powerful discussion. I left the conversation with my mouth hanging open and my mind lit up.
Anyway, there so many ways to learn at a conference. Here's the invocation. I hope you are touched by it as well.
Throughout the existence of humans on this earth, we have had expressions of the Divine (as) some being that is greater than us, more powerful and capable of providing benefits not available otherwise.
No one knows the exact nature of this Being, but I will raise, on behalf of all of us, our mutual requests for benefits and our promise of improved behavior. Please join with me in an attitude of respect for the unknown and the unseen.
Divine Being, we ask for peace, tranquiity and a spirit of kinship among the people of this continent. Encourage within us a mutual affection for each other than transcends language, nationality, culture and physical boundaries. Bind us together in a true spirit of solidarity and cooperation, and help us throw off the forces that would separate and demean us.
We promise to teach, and to live our lives as if all people are children of the Divine, and are of equal value, and we shall invest our lives advancing the belief that all people have the right to life, to liberty, and to the honest pursuit of happiness.
We promise to work for happiness and to play square with those whose happiness depends on us.
Inspire us at this meeting to do the work and live the lives that would please you.
We raise these requests and make these promises in the best traditions of humankind, and equally avail evidence of your will being done among us.
Many thanks to Bill Patrie for his invocation, this teaching moment, and going out of his way to make the copy available to us.
Here's links to Buber background and quotes: