Kairos, n. (kai·ros | \ (ˈ)kī¦räs): a time when conditions are right for the accomplishment of a crucial action; the opportune and decisive moment.
The world of February 2021 is not the same as the world of a year ago. No one can exempt themselves from the collective trauma created and exacerbated by three seismic events: the pandemic, anti-democratic political violence, and the upswell of international protests for Black lives that highlighted the United State’s continuous struggle toward “a more perfect union” against the forces of white supremacy. To explore paths toward healing and reconciliation — and to hold ourselves accountable for our own role in perpetuating systems of inequity — we’re rolling out The Way Forward. These quarterly virtual summits will help us all understand the roles we can play in shaping a safe, equitable future — and understand the ways we’ve contributed to the present-day crisis.
Last year, Esalen co-founder Michael Murphy offered the concept of “kairos” as a way to understand the profundity of our current crossroads. The world is shifting, we are at a precipice of great possibility, and we must each decide how we respond. How do we begin to imagine our highest humanity in the face of a pandemic that continues to claim the lives of the most vulnerable among us? How do we collectively grieve the loss of life in a moment where significant numbers of our fellow humans refuse to even believe the pandemic is real? How do we work toward a vision of a more just world as we watch the U.S. Capitol besieged by a citizenry determined to overturn a free and fair election with violence? How do we value diversity and community in the face of deep systemic inequality and disconnection?
Esalen chooses to respond by starting with ourselves. After the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, we made a commitment in June “to account for our inactions and to look inward to see the changes that we now need to make.” We recognize voices like George Leonard in our foundation, who had a deep commitment to the CIvil Rights Movement and insisted that the work of human potential be grounded in the moral arc toward justice and collective action and will commit to have more of those voices. We understand that as a historically white institution our mission and values require us to center the voices of marginalized people whose humanity continues to be contested.
As another layer of this healing process, we have committed to repairing the wound in our relationship with the Esselen Tribe of Monterey County, under the guidance of trained reconciliation facilitators from the Healing and Reconciliation Institute. Looking ahead, this process may include repairing relations with other tribal leaders and sovereign nations in our area. This is the first phase of the crucial and continuous work we must do to step fully into our mission, values, and vision with truth and accountability. The Way Forward summits offer another opportunity stay focused on this critical work of reckoning while also bringing the larger community into the conversation. We know this work will not be easy. We know we will make mistakes. We also know that being transparent about this work will help us stay the course.
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