Cecil Andrews and I might be sisters separated at birth. I pretty much agree with everything she writes. So it’s no surprise that I loved her most recently published book, Living Room Revolution: A Handbook for Conversation, Community and the Common Good.
I mean just the title alone makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. Conversation. Community. Common Good. I like all those things! I even recommended this book as a resource in my own book before I even read it (shhh, don’t tell) because I knew it would be awesome.
Andrews makes the connection between equality and happiness and community and happiness. She writes about “Convivial Community and Social Change” in chapter 3. Her point is that when we work on social change, we often forget about community. But that’s where it really must start.
I’ve experienced this with my “community mindfulness/let’s promote kids’ and teen’s mental health” group. We don’t have a name or a mission statement, but we have community. And we make positive change happen through our community connections.
Sustainability and Community
One of our most pressing social change needs is related to climate change. Andrews notes that “sustainability and community are related.” It’s no surprise that Andrews is active in the Transition Movement—a collection of grassroots initiatives focused on staying ahead of climate challenges by building resilient communities.
There is a new project called Transition Streets that I’m getting involved with. I’m hoping to start a group in my community later this month. It’s so easy to get started and great for getting to know your neighbors. Consider starting a group on your street!
If we want change, relying on the government will be too late; relying on individuals won’t be enough; community is our only hope. —In Transition 2.0 movie
How to Converse
One important aspect of Living Room Revolution is that it goes into detail about how to have good conversation. It seems like a no-brainer—you just start talking, right? Not quite. We must reclaim conversation, which Andrews calls “the sacred experience of everyday life.”
Turns out conversation is an art. But sadly, it’s an art that has been “diminished in a competitive culture.” Andrews writes, “we must learn to experience conversation as a barn raising instead of a battle.” (I can relate, as I am a recovering interrupter.) Andrews devotes several chapters to how-tos related to conversation—including a whole chapter on “Civil Discourse.” (Thank you, Cecile.)
I long for living room conversations. Conversations that don’t have an agenda. Conversations that transform. Conversations that are more about making connections, rather than showing off. Conversations that aren’t constantly being interrupted by mobile devices…
Andrews’s solution is study circles, “the people’s think tanks.” Originating in Sweden, where they “were used in the 19th century to create a democracy that is today admired around the world,” study circles provide a framework for conversation and social change. Chapter 9 explores study circles in detail.
Remaining chapters highlight other ways to build a convivial community, including happiness circles, dancing in the streets (community celebrations), farmer’s markets, fairs, etc.
It’s up to us to create joyful communities, ya’ll. The government isn’t going to do it for us. (Unless we elect Bernie Sanders, of course.)
Let’s do this!
“The core of this book is that if we are to survive, … we need to learn to care about each other and the common good. … We have to realize that we’re all in this together.” —Cecile Andrews
P.S. I must also mention that Living Room Revolution is dedicated to Andrews’s deceased bichon frisé, Maggie. I have a bichon frisé too! (And yes, Sophie is mentioned in the acknowledgements.) Andrews and I must be long-lost sisters.