on the Open Space listserve, Harrison Owen reflects, and I quote.
…..We speak, understandably, about “doing an Open Space” … “Doing
and Open Space” implies that we are following a certain set of
prescribed procedures, after all [OST] is a method.
This is true, but it may also hide a larger truth, I think. We don’t
do an Open Space – we are an open space in which we and our fellows
find meaning and purpose, or not. For some of us that space may be
very constricted, and those lives tend to look pretty much the same
way – narrow and locked into set patterns and expectations, which may
even become comfortable, like old shoes. Others seem to occupy a much
more commodious space in which change and possibility are constant
companions and experiencing that novelty is a real high. All of us
have the potential to expand our space, or maybe more accurately, to
recognize and acknowledge the larger possibilities which could be
ours. I think what happens in an Open Space event is that we are
invited to consider those possibilities and make them our own, if we
so choose. … So we might more
fruitfully understand that all of life is open space and an Open
Space gathering is simply a moment in time/space when we are
encouraged to go exploring. So it is not so much about “Doing an Open
Space” as about being fully and intentionally present in the infinity
of life space available – at least so far as we are able. Corollary
to this would be that the Open Space event is not something strange,
unique and different – it is just life. All of life is open space. We
must choose whether that space is expansive or constricted for us.
Then I thought of a song I have always enjoyed, “All of Life’s a
Circle,” sung by a favorite whose name has disappeared [Harry Chapin] in a senior
moment. You might think of this as variations on a theme. It is true
that we may square the circle, bisect the circle (semi-circle), even
go around in circles – those are choices which may be quite
appropriate under certain circumstances. But that does not change the
fundamental reality that all of life is a circle. A circle of
friends, a circle of peers and colleagues, a circle of power and
influence, a circle of life and death. We may attempt to reduce life
to straight lines (“A career path”), sharp angles and squared
intersections (the standard PERT chart and project management schema)
or even get life in a box, a nice, neat rectilinear box. But at the
end of the day, and indeed on every day, life will go its own way as
a circle, the transformation of circles, the inter-connection and
overlapping of circles, all contained in a larger circle.
Presence is our way of being in the great circle(s) of life. This may
be a grudging presence, a distracted presence, a frantic presence, or
something approaching a full, intentional, appreciative presence in
which the infinite possibilities (good and bad) of life are
acknowledged and engaged. To a certain extent the nature of our
presence is a matter of choice, but no matter the choices made or the
constraints encountered there is always the possibility of an
expanded presence in the great open circle of life. I think.
And Open Space Technology? For me every Open Space gathering becomes
an opportunity to practice our presence, should we choose to do so.
On the surface it will appear that important issues are raised,
problems solved, plans made, organization grown, products designed.
All important, and for most participants probably sufficient to meet
expectations, or not. But beneath (above?) it all I experience a
practice of presence – becoming more fully engaged with our selves,
our fellows, and our world. Just living more intentionally in the
great open circle of life. Or something.