Childish Anger?

by Terry Sterrenberg

“When I was a child I had great difficulty with the question of why human beings hurt each other. It made no sense to me that anyone could believe that shooting and killing other people resolved anything. That kind of thinking seemed stupid to me and I would get furious. Over the years my anger has tempered some and turns more into sadness and sometimes despair.”

(According to FaceBook, I wrote the above paragraph in 2011)

As an adult I have to say that my useless anger has come back. Perhaps it is regression to my wisdom as a child. Violence begetting violence, an eye for an eye, the idea that stopping a bad guy with a gun can be accomplished by providing a good guy with a gun. Such BS makes me sick to my stomach. And returns me to my childish ways.

I blame Covid. Not the virus itself, but the whole pandemic syndrome that has made people angry, confused, crazy and mindless. Of course it is not JUST Covid. Covid is just the phenomenon that has brought out the worst in many of us, pigeon holed us and sent us into separate corners where we look for like minded others who strengthen our isolation from those who have different life experience and mindsets about what is going on.

We are living in the “rub” between cooperation and competition where individuals get polarized and rigid. The spirit of competition has pitted itself against cooperation and vice versa. I wouldn’t ever say that competition or cooperation is totally bad, but we are in a transformation from a competitive society to a cooperative one. How we resolve this will determine the survival of our democracy.

When an isolated youth or adult walks into a school, theater, etc., and starts shooting, it is too late. The good guy with a gun has already been defeated. What we need are good guys with big hearts and long arms that embrace everyone and make weapons of destruction unavailable and unthinkable to those who are struggling with life. These are the people who are acting out the same struggle we all feel. A cooperative society needs to recognize that isolation is not the fault of the person being isolated but of the community that is excluding them.

Open Spaces

by Terry Sterrenberg

Several years ago I participated in a mingling exercise at a workshop that changed my life. The directions were simple. They were to “keep moving” ; “keep walking”: “don’t stop”; “ just keep walking into the open space”. There were probably two hundred people in the room so this would seem to be a difficult task. Much to my surprise I found it quite easy. I just kept walking and there was always an open space to walk into, even when there seemed to be none. This experience branded into my brain that there was always an open space if I kept moving and looking and stepping into the unknown. The experience instilled in me a sense of freedom that I have never lost. Life never stands still when I keep stepping into the open space and each open space has been a portal to new life experiences and worlds to explore.

The theologian Paul Tillich at the end of his life was rumored as saying that “they” had done it all wrong and needed to start all over again.” I believe this about American politics and the capitalistic system in general. If capitalism is not to be just the means for creating inequality in a nation there needs to be some changes. That is why we created the “Dream We Choose” movie and the Community Wealth board game. There may be other games like it but I do not know of any, hence Laurie and I walked into the open space through a portal to a new possible economy, not an immediate fix but a possible first step toward a vision of a more fulfilling society for everyone. Some things that have been said about the game follow:

“I thought the game was particularly good for increasing people’s awareness of:

systems thinking
the complex interconnections between many ingredients for developing a business and community
the importance of long-term as well as short-term thinking
the need to balance LT vs ST payoffs (delayed gratification)
group dynamics (how decisions were made, conflicts resolved, values made explicit or not, air-time shared, people feeling included/supported/empowered)
the value of “plugging leaks”
many ways to plug leaks
the need to prepare (physically and psychologically) for unforeseen events
the feasibility and value of collaborative (community) projects, such as businesses
many ways to foster community well-being”


Recently I have begun to think that I ‘m getting too old to walk into new spaces. Today I’m thinking maybe that is not the case. So here is the deal, a hand extended and an online community for personal support. Take our hand and play the game with us and tell us what you think.

Let’s Talk About IT

by Terry Sterrenberg

So easy these days to become cynical. To exploit a familiar Netflix title, it is time to “Look Up.” Indeed it is way past time to “look up” and to look all around.

Laurie and I are trying to create supportive conversations online. Our second one is this Thursday evening. Quite frankly talking about possible futures feels like a weak response to all the misinformation that is happening. At the same time talking is something we can all do to stay in touch with each other and lift our hearts a bit. I imagine these conversations to be a lifeline to sane individuals trying to create a future for themselves with others.

Please register HERE  to register for our conversation events and to play the Community Wealth Game and we will send you a Zoom link.

You may be wondering if this conversation is for you.

These invitations are for people who are
angry or confused
Tired of uncertainty
Tired of the delusional life of the last few years
Perplexed about how we as a country got here
Want something new and are ready for a transformation
Looking for life affirming and trust able partners/friends
tired of trying to fit your life into a new mold when all you have is the old form

This is you if you are ….
Feeling stuck and at the effect of life
Afraid of the future
Dependent on a job that makes money mostly for an employer
Overwhelmed or fed up with the covid life
Thinking armed rebellion seems like the only option
Tired of getting multiple emergency requests for money from politicians saying that your $5 is crucial to make their midnight goal.

Perhaps it is time to move past these obstacles. Someone once said “obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off the goal”. If you could design a future what would be your goal? and what would you feel like in that future. Here are a some questions to ponder in your inquiry.

What would it be like if …
1. All concerns and aspirations of everyone were of equal importance
2. The world’s resources were the common heritage of all people everywhere . 3. What do you long for?

Dragonflies

by Terry Sterrenberg

“If everyone could step outside their hamster wheel and create a vision, it would be a different world.”
Laurie Simons

Last week Laurie and I initiated two Zoom sessions inviting people to play our Community Wealth Game and also to have a conversation about wealth building in communities. We are thinking of offering these events every month. Both of these were ideas that we have had for some time that got side tracked by the pandemic. There is at least a ten year history to the game and wanting and wondering how to have conversations about transforming the future.

During that time we have discovered many stories or parables about change and transformation. This has been a lifelong search of trying and failing and trying again as reflected in the following poem I wrote in 1974.

“Trying”
Strong and firm
The wings of the mighty gull
Strokes the air,.
Propelling him beyond his wildest dreams.

Time and again
He climbs
higher,
Higher,
Up,
Up,

Into the farthest corners of space;
Expecting the sun to open
And let him pass through./

And then,
In an instant
Plunging to earth
To the beach
That he calls
His home.

The familiar often feels most safe. Even if it is not.

The story of the dragon fly though is where I have often found myself. Dragonfly larvae live in water and the story goes like this.

There was a mystery in the pond. Some of the creatures had escaped. They crawled up a reed. The problem was that not one of them ever came back into the pond to tell the rest of the creatures what was up there. There were rumors. Most could only image disaster, chaos, and death at the top end of the reed and were very afraid to climb the reed. The mystery of what was up there remained. So the creatures made an agreement. The next one of them who went up the reed promised to come back to tell them what was up there. One day, one of the creatures crawled up the reed and disappeared. So all the creatures waited and waited for his return. The creature climbed up the reed and out of the water into blinding sunlight. As his eyes adjusted he could see that this place was magnificent, and then, being very tired, he fell asleep. When he awoke he tried over and over to go back into the water to tell his friends of this wonderful place. But he could not. In his sleep he had grown a set of amazing wings that let him fly and fly but alas he could not swim. His wings prohibited him from going back to his friends in the the pond. So for them the mystery remained. (this is a slightly modified children’s story written by Doris Stickney called “Water Bugs and Dragonflies”)

I have felt like that dragonfly, talking a message that no one hears, unable to connect because of being part of different worlds and world views. That is what happened when I moved back to the United States after 10 years in Canada, and tried to describe what it felt like to have universal healthcare. It is why we made The Healthcare Movie. It felt like like I was speaking into the wind (sometimes like spitting into the wind).

I would like our events where we play the Community Wealth game and participate in conversations about building local community wealth to be “dragon fly” experiences
where we are able to look at and share our visions with each other and feel comfortable stumbling over our words. Where we meet the edge of each other’s worlds in confusing yet loving words. Where our awareness of our differences bring us curiosity instead of defensiveness and where we experience each others’ life entering our own. I want our conversations to reflect that we are all dragonflies crawling up that fateful reed to manifest our wings and fly out of the crushing pond of economic slavery in which we all live.

The Recipe For New Life

by Terry Sterrenberg

Open hearts
Open hands
A lot of Grace
A little panic
A lot of patience
Some impatience
Aggressive softness
Aggressive firmness
Lots of noise
A moment of silence
Confusion
Clarity
Confusion
Time standing still
Time pushing
Life moving, slipping, sliding
A final squeeze
A cry

Al…le…lu…ya!

Living in relationship
The spark of love in any occurrence;
the green tips of skinny branches preparing to leaf;
the moment of potential before turning;
Life coming into being.

Good Guys and Bad Guys

by Terry Sterrenberg

(reference https://aeon.co/essays/why-is-pop-culture-obsessed-with-battles-between-good-and-evil)

“The ideal subject of the totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or dedicated communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists.” Hanah Arendt, “The Origins of Totalitarianism” (1951)

I have been avoiding commenting on national news because the way people are thinking about everything from January 6 to vaccines has been baffling. I connect the attitude about the 2020 election and the attitude about vaccines. I realize they are not the same, but they do have similarities. They both engender a self righteous mindset that prevents meaningful dialogue and problem solving. They both make us question our sense of reality and invert what we know in our hearts to be true and right. I recently found the above quote from Arendt and it shot me in my core. Of course, that is it. Common truth and fact can not be defined any more. That is why I feel paralyzed in my core. No rational argument has influence. Nothing I say ultimately makes the difference.

This awareness has lead me to some of the old adages from my past; Go inward (remember “Be Here Now”?), Go local, start small, be intimate, build trust, speak your truth, listen to the truth of others. But here comes the question “what do you do when the truth of others feels false and drives you crazy because they have no distinction between truth and falsehood?” My answer in the past has been to stop speaking to those persons (too confusing). And only speak to those who are open to my thoughts, This closes me off from the thoughts of those who think differently from me.

As part of my reset I recently have had a few conversations with some who believe differently than me about public health and vaccines. I’m not very good at it. I found these conversations exhausting and mind bending. At the same time I made a discovery. Some of the people I talked to believe in some of the same adages I mentioned above. I discovered that stepping out of self righteousness invites commonality and can establish a foundation on which to build trust with some people. Seems like I used to know this. Perhaps a casualty of covid and political propaganda?

Another question: “ Are there good guys and bad guys here?” There certainly is division. Most would agree that our country is divided. However perhaps no more than ever before. Our perspective of who are the good guys and who are the bad guys depends on which side of the division you stand and what values you propose. The difference between now and then is that many have forgotten our commonness. People’s stance in life is a result of their life experience. I really believe that most people try to do what they believe to be right even when they act against their own self interest. The present era has turned traditional political divisions into a battle for the existence of democracy, away from the meeting and melding of ideas and ideology.

I miss the ideology and goodwill of inclusion that includes the mentality that all of us are really trying to figure out what to do. Simplistically it used to be that “bad guys” were mainly those that wanted to do harm to others. Seems that those that want to do harm feel no good will and those that seem to have good will still do harm at times. Those that do harm just know what they want for themselves and act on their self righteous beliefs of what is good for them and perhaps what they think is right. It is the easy way out. They don’t have to take any one else into account.

”Thinking is difficult, that’s why most people judge.”— Carl Jung

My Friday

by Terry Sterrenberg

My Friday

Strollering in the park
Muted rustling of red and Yellow
Make ready for fall

Neighbors walking their dogs
Nodding, smiling, acknowledging
Their way

Graying clouds layering a storm
Only pretend
With a quiet rumble

Making light
A rogue leaf finds her lap
Igniting her squeal of pleasure

A gift from heaven

Reset! Reset! Reset!

by Terry Sterrenberg

I used to play baseball as a kid both at the neighborhood diamond and also little league. Although I truly love the game I really wasn’t very good so when I did something unusual like catch a long fly ball to right field I remember it. I always tried really hard but often failed. One time in a scrub game at the neighborhood ball field I was in right field and some kid I didn’t know very well hit a long fly that I had to run for and I remember the surprise and a little bewilderment when I caught up to the ball reached out as far as I could and watched the ball settle in the tip of my baseball mitt. “Wow”, I said to myself, “That was amazing”. No sooner had I caught the ball than I started thinking about the boy who had hit it. “He really hit that thing. He must be feeling awful that I caught it” and I started feeling awful that I had taken away what may have been a Home Run for him. I realized this kid was somewhat of a bully and I wondered what his reaction would be. But then I realized there was not much he could do. I caught the ball. Still I did not know if I should feel good or bad. Catching the ball is the point of the game is it not? Baseball has rules and if I catch the ball the batter is out.

Another time I was practicing catching popups with a friend. He would throw the ball way up in the air and I would run under the ball and catch it. Except on this occasion I missed the ball. In fact I kept missing the ball. My friend threw the ball high into the air and every time I ran under it. Stood waiting to catch it and the ball landed next to me on the ground. After about the sixth or seventh time my friend could not contain himself and burst out in laughter and I must admit the scene seemed really surreal. He must have thrown the ball into the air fifteen or twenty times and each each I would run over to it, attempt a basket catch with my mitt, and hear the ball plop down beside me a the ground. Over and over we practiced and I did not catch even one. I could not believe it and we both were rolling on the ground in laughter.

I realized that doing what I think is the right thing over and over doesn’t help me catch the ball. I need to Reset. And do “It” differently. I have done this many times in my life. I’m afraid I need more than a “reset” right now. What has happened in the last 6 or seven years in this country seems bizarre and our society is suffering and crumbling.

Recently I read and recommend an article entitled Why is everyone So Rude right now from Time magazine. Covid has given us more than sickness. As a nation I believe we have become emotionally vulnerable. To say that covid’s emotional effect on the country along with the political atmosphere continues to create chaos and gross distrust is an understatement. One third of the nation does not believe that Joe Biden is the rightful president of the U.S. Anti-vaxxers believe that the vaccinations for life threatening illnesses are a government conspiracy. Climate change is bringing fire, water, and wind everywhere. People being mad at life becomes irritability, rudeness, and indifference. Religious fanatics believe we are in the last days (daze) so none of this matters. A group of people representing only 21% of the nation is controlling congress and believe they are saving the country by making it hard for people to vote. I keep saying it is time for a RESET, not knowing what that means.

I’m not one of those who believe that a reset means violent revolution. CHANGE is all around us. Our world is literally not the same day to day which begs the question “What IS Important?” Many of the old descriptors used in the past to describe our social and political life aren”t accurate any more and when we use them we are talking into empty space. They do not land anywhere or they land in a space that gives them new meaning. Not just the words of our political party (Republican, Democrat, liberal, and conservative, but also words and phrases like “rich” and “poor”, “entitled”, “work”, “make a living”, “human right”, “freedom”, “truth”, and “justice” “decency” “right and wrong”, etc

I say we need to “reset”, but it seems we have already been reset and the malaise and tension we feel is merely part of trying to catch up. I have never really perceived myself as someone trying to “catch up” although it has probably been true for most of my life. I guess all learning and new experience of the world is a form of “catching up”. And then there is always the question “Catching up to what”?

Looking back on my life I do see a few times I’ve made great catches but at this time rolling on the ground in laughter may be more gracious and appropriate.

Where Life Begins

by Terry Sterrenberg

I’m not sure when my life really began. There have been many times in the last 74 years when I have declared a date or event as the start of my life. That event is always a leap in time, like walking through a time gap where I emerge modified in some way and I experience life in a new way. One such time was in 2009 when my wife Laurie Simons and I decided to create “The Health Care Movie”. We were at a friend’s house for thanksgiving dinner and the discussion turned to healthcare. We talked about the differences in the Canadian and U.S. health care systems and the many misconceptions and lies that were being spread in the United States about the Canadian system. Someone said (I think it was me) “Someone should make a film for Americans about the Canadian health care system.” Our host said “Why don’t you do it?”

Laurie grew up in Canada and both our sons were born there. We had experience with the Canadian system. Then after living the first ten years of our marriage in Canada we came to the United States where much to our dismay we had to start paying health insurance. I began experiencing the gut wrenching choices Americans go through in wondering whether they have enough money in the bank to take their children to a hospital emergency room. In Canada this dilemma never occurred.

We had never created a movie like this before. Laurie had learned how to make films at Bellevue Community college but I felt like a complete amateur. A moment I will never forget occurred two years later at the film’s premiere in Edmonton Alberta when at the end of the film we received a standing ovation. It took my breath away. I’m still gasping for the breath of new life I knew that the film represented for me and many others.

I’ve learned a lot since then, mostly how naive I was. I truly thought that by showing true information, people and government would change their view of what they thought was correct and possible. I quickly learned that facts are not what changes people. Giving the facts about what is possible for U.S healthcare seemed to only make the resolve stronger that the U.S. was different than the rest of the world. Starting from the viewpoint of what is best for people and then finding a way to create that was turned into an idealistic utopian impossible dream. I learned that health insurance companies are like many (if not all) corporations. Their business is to make money. They cannot exist without profit. They pay people to help them make money rather than create a system that makes healthcare available to everyone. That is why insurance based systems will never be able to make health care universal. Universal Healthcare is not a financial problem. It is a moral problem. It is a dilemma of the heart not of financial scarcity. Economic systems can be created to allow all persons the medical treatment they require if the goodwill is present to do so.

The difficulties of creating a universal healthcare system mirror and demonstrate the heart dilemma present in the gross division and distrust that exist in the U.S. today. Heart dilemmas create broken hearts, pain, desperation and confusion. Heart dilemmas can also create visions, hope, sustenance and appreciation for others. For me the need for order, connection, and intimacy becomes primary. Only then does the gasping for air become the basis for new life. Only then am I able to see and feel the goodness that lies still around me in spite of the confusion that tries to fog it over. Only then do new trusting relationships emerge.

Every day I wake up wondering what is going on today that can make the world better. Sometimes I remember that “what that is” is going on all the time.

Common Good?

by Terry Sterrenberg

So we have bought a co-op apartment in Brooklyn. What does this mean in regard to the Dream We Choose? Without going into all the personal reasons we did this suffice it to say that we have not abandoned the search for a new economic model. The two basic principles that drive this search are 1. An economy that everyone contributes to and that everyone benefits from. And 2. An economy that is driven by abundance and multiplies abundance for everyone. All grounded in the concept of “The Common Good”. The present economy is driven by scarcity, competition and self-interest.

I keep wondering how an economy such as this is possible in a world where so many individuals are not willing (let alone able) to take care of each other. Belief in the common good is very limited when there is such division and hostility among different groups of people. I now question whether there is much consideration or even belief in the Common Good. When I was a child I went to church and the minister would talk about everyone as being “God’s Children”. As a child it helped me be considerate and empathetic to other children. As an adult I’m not particularly fond of the description, but at the very least it is a metaphor for the “Common Good”.

So here we are in a very nice Brooklyn apartment with a great view of the city, not feeling too common and at the same time feeling very common, trying to align ourselves with “The Common Good”. Perhaps the problem I’m having is that “The Good” is not as common or evident as I thought.

In the past I have played those BS psychological games with the term “good”. Stepping in to the notion that good is relative and good is situational and good is somewhat unknowable. Today I want to take the other side. Some would call it taking a position or a stand. Acknowledging the self righteousness in taking a stand (feels more like self discovery) gives me a handle to hold onto when I ask “Are there not some values and thus actions that are good and others that are clearly not good? ‘Well sure, but it’s all relative.’ Even the most base actions such as hurting or killing someone, lying, or being disrespectful are all relative.

Until someone says… “It is not……relative.”

Such BS is so destructive it is literally killing our planet. Corporate power, hurricanes, climate change, political parties that literally think the other party is always lying, being deceitful, and out to take advantage of people. A large part of the population lives with a big US and THEM mentality and believes that the THEM are out to get US, and believe that those in power have no sense of compassion or will to help US. They find lots of evidence for this perception . The BS rules.

Until someone says…. “No! it doesn’t.”

All this drama (victims and persecutors) destroys connection to the Common Good. The BS eats up hope for the future.

Until someone says… “Stop!…..Live!…..Be!…..Hope.”

And someone asks… “Where (What ) is the Common Good?”