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Building a Community of Communities

“We cannot live only for ourselves.
A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men.”
–Herman Melville

Creating Community

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It’s in our name.

The Cobb Institute: A Community for Process & Practice

With our process understanding, we know that we live in a relational world. We affect each other. We need each other. We have seen the affects of polarization. But even in polarization we still affect each other but in damaging ways.

At the Cobb Institute we often speak about compassionate cities, and we are working hard to collaborate with, contribute to, and support the city of Pomona in it’s effort to be in practice as well as name, a compassionate city. We hope that it will be a model for many more cities.

We are creating communities of communities. We hope you feel part of the Cobb Institute community and that you join us in some of our learning circles or events. The best way to promote a process relational philosophy is to embody it.

“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”
–Coretta Scott King

Note from John Cobb

Becoming Part of a Community of Communities

One of the central commitments of the process community is to form a community  with the understanding that we need to be a community of communities.  Of course, much of this is theoretical, and much of it focuses on what is required for an ecological civilization.  But we are also eager to be ourselves a healthy community and to become part of a healthy community of communities.

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When David Griffin and I organized the Center for Process Studies in 1973, we did not have as an explicit goal the creation of a community.  But we always wanted and needed students to help us, and through the years, there was a lot of community feeling among us.  A special example was the group of women graduate students who gave significant leadership nationally in the earliest days of feminist theology. Certainly, my feelings about David and many of those who worked with us are not simply about academic and work relationships.

The Cobb Institute is a community.  Its ancestry in my living room was a tiny community of folks who began gathering there on Tuesday mornings.  Probably most came more to participate in the community than out of expectation of benefiting the world.  That community outgrew my living room, and when it became clear that the Center was moving with the School of Theology to Willamette University, we decided to become an organization.

We did not want to lose our character as a community.  Indeed, this concern became an explicit goal.  When our meetings became virtual, some loss was inevitable, but the core retains a strong sense of community.  Pat Beiting does a wonderful job of fostering community among those who come a little early on Tuesday mornings.

Our institute is one process organization among many institutions, programs, and groups that have spun off of the Center for Process Studies or want to associate themselves with those who have.  We have invited all of these to join what we call the Claremont Process Nexus.  More than thirty have done so.  Thus far, the actual result is only that their leaders receive an occasional note from me about what is going on.  We plan occasional events, but, more important, Richard Livingston is creating a platform for communications among us.  Our first event will be celebrating the soft opening of the platform on July 18, followed by an official opening celebration in August.

Currently, the Claremont Process Nexus is a community of those communities that feel connected to the Claremont program in process studies.   We are just now opening it to individuals as well.  We hope that members of our Institute will take pride in finding themselves part of a network that includes the International Process Network and individual organizations in Korea, China, Brazil, and Venezuela.  We have a publishing house, a journal, and a website.  We have experimental educational projects and churches.  We have a strong group of scientists and philosophers working on the relation of process thought and contemporary science.  We have a nonprofit business that provides cheap solar panels especially to the poor. And much more.  Our new community of communities, with its new platform, will make it possible to learn what “we” are doing locally and globally for promoting and applying process thinking especially to replace humanity’s current global self-destruction with an ecological civilization.

John B. Cobb, Jr.

“There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.”
–Margaret J. Wheatley

Monthly Gratitude

Cobb Institute friend shares what the Institute means to her

The Cobb Institute gives me hope that a new day is arriving in which people and the planet and all her life forms, especially the human, will appreciate our interconnectedness and reciprocal relationships to each other.

Vector illustration, slices of watermelon with a hole in the form of heart

It is a community in which the non-mechanistic philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead gives meaning to our existence and the possibility of the new springing forth in love.

–Nancy Mahoney

Note of Gratitute From China

A thank you from Ms. Xiaoxia Yan, Director of Beijing Whitehead Kindergarten, in response to a welcome message from John Cobb at a recent event in China.

Dear Dr. Cobb,

It is such a pleasure to see you again, nice and peaceful as always, at the 15th Whitehead Children's Education Forum. Although it is online, I'm as happy and excited as all the times when I saw you in person. Listening to your speech, I'm glad and humbled. Glad that the kindergarten has been recognized and encouraged by you today. Humbled that we have done far from enough, on carrying out Whiteheadian romantic education, guiding children's independent development, and teaching them about life and ecological civilization. Your speech is such a great inspiration for us. I and my staff shall read your speech again and again, to understand the connotation thoroughly and take action. I believe our understanding and efforts will be conducive to the growth of children and the development of kindergarten.

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“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.”
–Melody Beattie

You enlightened me not only in my work for the kindergarten, but also in my family life. I still remember the great time when you visited Beijing and I took my parents to meet you. Although we didn't know the language, your good manners and attitude towards life were so impressive to them that it raised them up on their attitude on life, and made them full of hope again. Ever since then, my parents have lived a very positive life and in good shape at their 80s, and influenced our community in a very good way. My parents and I often talk about you, they admire you a lot and are very grateful for you, giving you all the best wishes.

No matter in kindergarten work or family life, your noble and elegant manners as a gentleman set up a great example for me. Your fatherly love and encouragement for our kindergarten children and stuff has become my driving force in work. I will love every child with this faith and work hard in the Eden of kindergarten, for the lives of children and teachers to bloom and glow.

Your noble figure and heartful instruction have imprinted in our Whitehead kindergarten. My stuff and I will try our best to love every child and make our kindergarten full of laughter and joy.

I wish you very good health, and look forward to your visiting to Beijing and our kindergarten again every year.

Translation by Helen Zhang

Schedule and Events

July 6th will be a holiday for John Cobb & Friends. However, we are invited by our friends Howard Pepper and Norlyn Dimmit to join a webinar, "Compassionate Citizens Empowering #BelovedCommunity.” Webinar details will be emailed to our Friends list. Meanwhile, explore their organization at compassionatecitizens.us. On July 20 we will host a follow-up conversation focused on communities where we are engaged.

John Cobb & Friends - featured image - wide

July 13:  Sophia Said: On Being Muslim in America

Sophia Said started a mosque in Arkansas will share her experience with us. See the website of the Madina Institute and Mosque, and the Arkansas Interfaith Center, which partners with Cobb Institute.  See also her Open Horizons affirmation "I Am Not Afraid."

July 20: Howard Pepper and Norlyn Dimmit: Making Compassion a Community Asset

Howard and Norlyn have worked for years across many collaborations to make compassion local. Guests will reflect with us on ways in which creative localization of compassion is happening in Pomona, California, and Chicago’s west side. 

July 27: Dr. Yuan Gao: Whitehead and Agriculture

Ms. Gao was formerly a visiting scholar at the Center for Process Studies in Claremont, and she has just received her Ph.D. from China’s premiere educational institution, Beijing Normal University. She will share what she has learned by writing the first Ph.D. dissertation in China on Whitehead and Agriculture. She will be ZOOMing in live from Beijing.

Process Being Made at the Cobb Institute

Educational Development

Join us on July 26 as we welcome Dr. Richard Rose of University of La Verne. Dr. Rose will discuss internships for students at the new Institute for the Common Good and the new major in Sustainability Studies. Learn more about the institute and program in the school's announcement.

Spiritual Integration and the Arts

Check out the Cobb Institute Facebook group every Sunday for a spiritual post to inspire wonder. You can find our Facebook group here.

We Need One Another, by George Odell

We need one another when we mourn and would be comforted… when we are in trouble and afraid… when we despair, in temptation, and need to be recalled to our best selves again.

We need one another when we would accomplish some great purpose, and cannot do it alone… in the hour of our successes, when we look for someone to share our triumphs [and] in the hour of our defeat when with encouragement we might endure and stand again.

We need one another when we come to die, and would have gentle hands prepare us for the journey. All our lives we are in need, and others are in need of us.

The Arts

Two poems by Cobb Institute friend and volunteer Dick Bunce.

TWO MEN AND A DOG

Tom strummed his way
through vagabond youth
with his beloved guitar.

Gain upon gain in search of beauty
loss upon loss in neglect of money,
one day he was shoved onto the streets.

Jeff, devout of faith, day by day
strode to church for morning mass,
then to work the tracks and tables.

Faith extended to horses and dice
unrequited faith, false faith, false hope.
One day he landed on the streets.

Bibi, terrier, joyful, strong willed.
Too much for some to handle.
One day she was dumped onto the streets.

She wandered, became dirty, sad,
sought friendship, sustenance
of body and soul.

Tom, Jeff, Bibi found each other on the streets.
Tom, leader in the survival search,
Jeff, supporter in the survival search.

Bibi, crucial to the survival search.
Thanks to a friend, now washed, given shots, licensed,
awarded service dog status, emotional support.

I walked with them
some days, some nights
as crises came,

blocked, as Tom and Jeff were,
by inner demons –
fear, forgetfulness, fantasy

blocked by outer demons –
social workers, police, bureaucracy
rules, regulations, rejection.

Hopeless, I thought.
No resources
for their uphill slog.

One evening I stood back, watched
as they entered a store silhouetted
against bright interior lights.

Tom, long grey beard now, with cane in hand.
Jeff, weakened by his cancerous leg,
clutching, pushing a wheelchair.

Bibi perched high on the chair
atop meager belongings, posture happily erect,
ears upright, flopping at the edges.

I saw what they have.
I saw the hope,
the gift.

I saw the love,
the trust.
They are a family.

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Image courtesy Leon Rojas

RV PARK HAPPENSTANCE

She entered south end
he, north end
she, site 109
he, site 108.

Her story,
divorced
angry
Lockheed-Martin
manager of war.

His story,
widowed
melancholy
worker in the hood
soldier for peace.

She, RV with national flag raised high.
He, with bumpers speaking justice and peace.

She, brazenly smart and beautiful.
He, reed-like, winsome, smart in his own way.

She, alone first night, campfire blazing.
He, alone first night, forgot the firewood.

The conversation begins.

watermelon heart

“We all need each other.”
–Leo Buscaglia

In the Learning Lab

At the Institute Learning Lab, we think that more important for students than learning to do research is personal growth and wisdom. We think that more important for the world than teaching everyone how to do value-free research is having millions of people studying how to create an ecological civilization without which the human future looks very bleak. We hope we can find ways to involve local educational institutions individually and collectively in serious discussion of their responsibility to students, humanity, and the entire world.

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Our courses provide students the opportunity to learn in a way that is open, exploratory, and transformative. Each one is taught by an expert in the topic, who can communicate the concepts in a way that is accessible to any interested learner. They range in length from three-session mini-courses to ten-session in-depth treatments.

Check out our courses

Learning Lab - Learning Circles - 540x540

Learning circles are small groups that share a common interest in a topic, text, or activity. In a mode that is informal and conversational, they are typically made up of five to fifteen people who gather together to learn from one another. A learning circle might be a book study group that stops meeting once the book is completed, or an affinity group that meets for an indefinite period of time to better understand process-relational thought or reflect on ways put process into practice.

Check out our circles

Do you have ideas for a class or a learning circle that you would like us to offer? Are you interested in leading a learning circle?
Send a message to learninglab@cobb.institute.

Process in Praxis Blog

The Process Approach to Gardening

By Stephen Yorba | June 15, 2021

What does it mean to be a process farmer? According to the Reverend Farmer Stephen Yorba, it’s about understanding our place in an ecosystem. It’s about remembering our relationship to the earth. It’s about being brought into right alignment with our food. It’s about slowing down, paying attention, and understanding how we’re all interconnected.

Read the post or watch the clip

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Science Advisory Committee

Tim Eastman Unties the Gordian Knot

In this series of conversations Tim Eastman will engage with other scholars about his new book, Untying the Gordian Knot: Process, Reality, and Context.

WHAT: 8 conversations with Tim Eastman

WHEN: 2nd Saturday of each Month
(8 AM PST / 11 AM EST)

WHERE: Online via Zoom

Watch Last Month's Conversation

Final Words

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”
–Leo Buscaglia

  • Kathleen Reeves is a member of the Board of Directors at the Cobb Institute, and leads the Institute’s group for Spiritual Integration and the Arts. She also serves on the communications team and oversees the Institute's social media messaging.