Seven World Views in brief

The Theist (Western)

There is a compassionate God who cares about you. Happiness comes from love, service, and surrender to God. (But, according to many Christians, God is vengeful and jealous and may torture you if you disobey Him.)

The Theist (Eastern)

Your Higher Self (atman) is identical with God (Brahma). Purify yourself, meditate and surrender so that you become One with God.

The Buddhist

Craving, anger, and delusion cause unnecessary suffering. Let go of your attachment to these defilements and free yourself from the insubstantial ego. Then settle into your original empty nature (which is good, kinda, but not good enough to quality as an essence or soul).

The New Age Mystic

There are benevolent angels and spirits that will guide you, but also malevolent forces you must resist.

The Badass Cynic

The world is a dangerous and cruel place. Kick ass and you can be on top.

The Depressive Loser

The world is a dangerous and cruel place. If you’re not angry, scared and depressed, there’s something seriously wrong with you and you should see a trained professional.

The Mature Atheist

Life is both wonderful and dangerous. Grow up and don’t expect perfection, eternal life, or someone to save you. Study hard, work hard, be nice to people, be careful, and enjoy the ride.

Seven World Views

On forgiveness, self-esteem, and auto-immune diseases of the mind

There’s something that’s always perplexed me about forgiveness, and I finally think I’ve figured it out.

Most people who talk about forgiveness say that it requires a change in our attitude towards the offending character.  They also say that by forgiving that person for what they did we can free ourselves from the pain of resentment and victim-hood. Or they say we release the other person from the burden of our anger.

But I think that in order to forgive, the primary thing we need is to stop feeling hurt. We first have to stop doubting ourselves.  Our attitude to the other person is entirely secondary.

It’s not our hatred and anger towards the other person that entraps us. It’s our feeling hurt that traps us: feeling that something is wrong with us or with the world.  We may attach or project the source of our suffering on the other person, and overcoming our suffering will require us to get beyond feeling like a victim. But the important inner move doesn’t involve forgiveness; rather, the important inner move is that we come to stop identifying as the victim who has been hurt and is unworthy.

Nelson Mandela on how bitterness keeps us in prisonForgive

So, the flip side of forgiveness is that we need learn to trust ourselves and to disbelieve the bad things they said about us or “made” us feel about ourselves.

People say that we need to let go and forgive.  That carries the suggestion that our anger is vengeful.   I think what’s usually missing in such discussions is that the reason we can’t forgive is because we partially believe them when they say we’re bad. We believe that we are unworthy.  So forgiveness requires us to trust and love ourselves.

When we’re filled with anger and resentment, we’re often struggling, I think, to maintain our self-esteem. We’re feeling bad about ourselves.

Now, I’m talking here about forgiveness for acts of betrayal and emotional hurt.  When the other person did something truly horrible — such as causing physical harm  or a major betryal by a spouse — then the hurt may require a different sort of forgiveness and I’m not confident my analysis applies.

If a stranger robs us, or kills someone we love, we will feel bad. But I don’t think we will hate ourselves or be filled with the sort of toxic anger that arises when someone we love hurts us, or when someone humiliates us before others.

When someone belittles us, we struggle to defend ourselves. But part of us buys into the attack.  Like a skilled judo master, a skilled belittler enlists their enemy in the attack.   We feel bad, and to some extent so we project the cause of our suffering on something that happened to us.   Yes, they hurt us, but we over-react.

Physical injuries cause us to withdraw from the source of the damage and to avoid it in the future.  Emotional injuries cause us to withdraw and flee mentally in a similar way. When we over-react it’s akin to an auto-immune disease of the mind — a metaphor that occurred to me suddenly the other day. But it’s still a mystery to me why our defenses often attack us so harshly. Many people feel bad about themselves. (I heard the Dalai Lama had trouble comprehending why so many westerners are full of self-loathing; apparently such self-hatred is rarer in the Orient.)  When we feel hurt, we need to stop feeling bad.  Only then can we forgive the other person.

One of my coworkers is from the former Soviet Union. He said he was drafted into the Soviet army.  At training camp some of the tough recruits enjoyed beating up weaker guys.  Some of the bullied recruits killed themselves by jumping out of windows.    I suppose life was so horrible that they wanted to destroy themselves to escape the suffering.  When we are hurt by others we start to attack ourselves. Rarely do we react as strongly as those recruits.

Lewis B. Smedes is a theologian and author of Forgive and Forget (HarperOne, 1984, 1996). He writes:

Recall the pain of being wronged, the hurt of being stung, cheated, demeaned. Doesn’t the memory of it fuel the fire of fury again, reheat the pain again, make it hurt again? Suppose you never forgive, suppose you feel the hurt each time your memory lights on the people who did you wrong. And suppose you have a compulsion to think of them constantly. You have become a prisoner of your past pain; you are locked in a torture chamber of your own making. Time should have left your pain behind; but you keep it alive to let it flay you over and over.

… you become addicted to your remembrance of pain past. You are lashed again each time your memory spins the tape….

That’s a powerful description of feeling hurt and resentment.

Smedes tells stories of people who needed to forgive past cruelty: betrayals by coworkers that cost someone their job,  husbands cheating on their wives, mothers who hated their children, families killed in genocide.  Depending on the details, forgiveness can seem unwarranted and a betrayal of our need for settling scores.

But when Smedes goes on to talk of the solution to such suffering, he misses something.

The only way to heal the pain that will not heal itself is to forgive the person who hurt you. Forgiving stops the reruns of pain. Forgiving heals your memory as you change your memory’s vision.

When you release the wrongdoer from the wrong, you cut a malignant tumor out of your inner life.

What’s missing is the need to recover one’s self-respect: to stop believing the bad things they said about us or made us feel.

Smedes says that we need to feel forgiven to be free. Maybe that is something that Christians feel they need — forgiveness. It’s not something I can relate to very much. I don’t feel that I have sinned. I often feel that I’ve done stupid things, and I worry that I’m not smart and competent enough. But I don’t feel burdened with guilt and sin.

Another thing that bothers me about talk of forgiveness is that the act of forgiveness seems pompous — as if my forgiving the other person helps the other person in some way or as if my being able to forgive shows God that I’m a good person.   When someone we love or trust harms us badly, we may get beyond hot anger and hurt, but we are unlikely to deeply trust or actively love them again.        Can anyone really love their enemies?  Only perhaps if they love themselves again — or become enlightened and so transcend having a self (ego) to protect and feel bad about.

On walkable cities

“Walkable City: how downtown can save America, one step at a time”, by Jeff Speck, was exciting to read.

Speck presents all sorts of evidence and arguments that walkable downtowns — designed for people, not cars — increase real estate values, increase tax revenue, improve health, attract businesses, and make for fun places to live. Walkable City

Mixed use development, with medium to high density housing, leads to vibrant neighborhoods where people shop locally and develop relationships.

The greenest and most booming cities are places like Portland, New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., San Fransisco, and (yes) Seattle, where there are sidewalks, local businesses and good public transit.  Property values and tax revenues are higher in places with good public transportation. It’s a win-win economically, for the environment, and for the health and happiness of residents.

(But Republicans in the state Senate seem eager to de-fund Metro and its buses — even going so far as disallowing local transit option for funding.  Partly, I think, they just take pleasure in pissing off liberals  Partly it’s a rural vs. urban dynamic.)

Suburbs, with their sprawl, encourage dependence on cars, with all its ill effects on health and the environment.  Suburban life makes it hard and expensive for people to get together.

Though drivers complain of traffic congestion, building more roads or widening roads has the effect of inducing more traffic. It almost never stops congestion. Instead, it attracts more drivers (“induced demand”) and in a few years the roads are as congested as before, but now nobody wants to live, walk or breathe near those roads, and so land values decrease and tax revenues decrease. Road construction results in urban blight.

Many cities, including London and Copenhagen, have torn down highways and have eliminated downtown parking spots, in an effort to stop people from driving and to increase livability and property values.  For the most part these efforts have been a huge successes.

Still, Speck does not support eliminating all car traffic. He says that while some communities have great success with instituting car-free zones downtown, most cities fail at the effort.  Speck says eliminating all driving is akin to fasting if you’re overweight.

Similarly, light rail has failed spectacularly in Dallas, where transit ridership decreased after the city spent billions on the largest light rail system in the nation. The experiment failed because there were few walkable neighborhoods near transit stops, and people found driving and parking to be too convenient and cheap to relinquish.

Speck’s book is a guide for city planners and mayors about how to approach urban development.  Speck suggests a triage process for revitalizing downtowns. Cities should devote resources (trees, lighting, development money) to those streets which already have interesting shops, theaters, museums, stadiums, or other buildings that encourage walkability.   Also, streets that connect highly walkable districts can sometimes be revitalized. But streets lined with fast food joints, car repair shops, parking lots, strip malls, and other unattractive establishments are better left to car culture.

It turns out that New York is the greenest city in the country in terms of carbon produced per capita. But, of course, per cubic meter of air, the pollution and carbon released are high, due to the density. The suburbs are kinda pretty and green, especially the suburbs further from urban areas, but the people who live there tend to drive a lot.

I’ve lived in cities and lived in suburbs. But my favorite places to live are villages and small towns with walkable central districts and with tree-lined streets. Sewickley, PA — reminiscent of River City in the musical the Music Man — comes to mind, as does the central district of Mercer Island, as well as downtown Kirkland.    Cities tend to be rather ugly, dirty, and noisy. Suburbs are sterile and too car-dependent. Walkable villages and towns combine the benefits of walkability with the quietness and safety of suburbia.

I’ll conclude this little article with interesting quotes and facts from Speck’s book. Many are surprising. Many are disturbing.

“In the Detroit region, he finds that housing walkable urbanism fetches a 40 percent premium over similar housing in drivable sub-urbanism; in Seattle, that premium is 51 percent; in Denver, it’s 150 percent.” In NYC, it’s 200 percent: people will pay three times as much. Similar numbers hold for commercial property.

Communities with a higher Walk Score have higher home prices: “That’s two thousand dollars per point, on a scale from 0 to 100. LA’s Muholland Drive scores 9. San Fransisco’s Chinatown and NYC’s Tribeca score 100.

On how creative, young people prefer walkability: “The share of automobile miles driven by Americans in their twenties has dropped from 20.8 percent to just 13.7 percent.” (Heck, my son, who is about to turn 18, has expressed zero interest in learning to drive. Back in my day, most kids were eager to drive — and a lot of them got in accidents.) “Fully 77 percent of [millenials] plan to live in America’s urban cores.”

Concerning walkable Portland, residents “on average drive 20 percent less…. this 20 percent (four miles per citizen per day) adds up to $1.1 billion of savings each year” (1.5 of all personal income). That ignores time wasted in traffic, which has decreased from 54 to 43 minutes per day.

“Almost 85 percent of money expended on cars and gas leaves the local economy — much of it, of course, bound for the pockets of Middle Eastern princes.”

“The average American family spends about $14,000 per year driving multiple cars… The typical ‘working’ family, with an income of $20,000 to $50,000, pays more for transportation than for housing.”

Transit construction has a 70 percent employment premium over highways.

Portland spent $65 million on bicycle facilities over the past several decades but more than $140 million just to build one of the city’s freeway interchanges.

On walking: “While fully 50 percent [of children] walked to school in 1969, fewer than 15 percent do now.” One mother in Salt Lake City was arrested because she let her son walk to school.

In the mid 70s, only 1/10 of Americans were obese. Now it’s 1/3. The obesity rate for adolescents has quadrupled.

“One study found that for every additional five minutes Atlanta-area residents drove each day, they were 3 percent more likely to be obese…. drivers who switch to public transit drop an average of five pounds.

Asthma is worse in cities with more driving.

“Car crashes have killed 3.2 million Americans, considerably more than all our wars combined…. the leading cause of death for all Americans between the age of one and thirty-four.”

Transit-friendly NYC has a traffic fatality rate of 3.1 per 100,000. San Fran and Portland are 2.5 and 3.2. Car-friendly Atlanta is at 12.7, and Tampa is at 16.2.

German and Belgian studies showed that many heart attack victims had recently been in stressful traffic.

“A 23-minute commute had the same effect on happiness as a 19 percent reduction in income.”

“The Princeton psychologist Raniel Kahneman reports that commuting ranks as people’s least favorite regular activity.”

“Each ten additional minutes in daily commuting time cuts involvement in community affairs by ten percent”

People who live longest get exercise not from high-intensity exercise (e.g., running), but from everyday activity: biking to work ….

The US transfers about 300 billion dollars yearly to the Middle East in oil money, $612,500 every minute.

On the high cost of free parking: “Nobody can opt out of paying for parking. People who walk, bike or take transit are bankrolling those who drive.” (p 118) “Because there are so many parking spaces, this cumulative subsidy was calculated a decade ago at between $127 billion and $374 billion a year.” “Parking spaces under Seattle’s Pacific Place Shopping Center, built by the city, cost over sixty thousand dollars each.”   Corporations’ payments for employer-subsidized parking reduce the price of automotive commuting by a remarkable 71 percent … the same impact as an additional gasoline tax of between $1.27 and $3.74 per gallon.”

Many cities have zoning laws that require developers to provide on-site parking — another subsidy to drives — and tax on non-drivers.

Speck describes the story of the dismantling of a freeway in Seoul, South Korea. Many people feared mayhem, and street vendors who had serviced people waiting in traffic protested. But the teardown was a success:  traffic and pollution have reduced, and property values soared near the urban boulevard that replaced it.

Speck discusses the Seattle  tunnel project. Speck and his colleagues tried to convince Nickels to reject the $4.2 billion  tunnel and build an urban boulevard. Nickels refused, thinking the traffic would clog streets.

Speck presents surprising (to me) evidence that electric cars, and especially hybrid cars, offer little benefit over conventional cars, because they use electricity (much of which is generated by dirty coal), and because they encourage more driving. Tail pipe emission are just one part of the costs of automobile use.

Speck tells the ironic story of the new EPA headquarters built in the suburbs. Its previous location was walkable downtown Kansas City. The new building was “green” and energy-efficient, but the added cost of commuting by its employees offset the benefits of the green building.  Trendy environmentalism, I suppose. (But this is not to say that all environmentalism is bad!)

“Cities with higher congestion use less fuel per capita.”   So, rather than trying to reduce congestion — which will encourage more driving and eventually lead to re-congestion — it’s better to let the market work: people will drive less if roads are congested!

“Since 1983 … the number of miles driven has grown at eight times the population rate.  While almost one in ten commuters walked to work in Illich’s day, fewer than one in ten do now.”

In the U.S. 1.5% of trips are by public transportation.  In the New York region, it’s 9% (over 50% in Manhattan). Chicago and San Fransisco are at about 5%. Toronto is 14%. Barecelona and Rome are at 35. Tokyo’s at 60%. Hong Kong is 73%.

Every U.S. city with a population over 10,000 had streetcars in 1902. They were dismantled starting in 1922 by a consortium created by GM and oil companies. The case was proven in court and the companies were fined $5000; execs were fined $1 each.

Poll after poll has shown that voters favor public transit over road building, but current funding is 4 to 1 in favor of roads.

“Widening a city’s streets in the name of safety is like distributing handguns to deter crime,” because wider roads encourage higher speeds, but road engineers regularly do so for fear of lawsuits.  Instead, they should be sued for widening roads, which cause 900 additional fatalities per year.  High speed roads also discourage pedestrians, who feel unsafe. Similarly, turning-friendly intersections encourage high speed turns, and one-way streets increase speeds and harm adjacent businesses.

“In Amsterdam, a city of 783,000, about 400,000 people are out riding their bikes on any given day.”

How much can we tell about a person by how they look?

I tend to think that personality and intelligence manifest in looks. For example, you can see kindness and intelligence and grace in a person’s face.

So I ask:

Can looks alone reveal a lot about a person?

I asked this question on facebook.

Chris Tombrello posted a link to the largely discredited idea of physiognomy and wrote, “You are correct to a degree but many mistakes have been made over the years as researchers have attempted to build a science of recognition. Studies on the physical characteristics of felons, or studies of people who look bovine or dog-like tend towards the humorous or grotesque.”

One gal said that not all intelligent people are physically attractive.  I agree. I didn’t mean to imply that.

So let me revise my question, lest I sound sexist and superficial:

Can you tell a lot about a person by observing them walking and talking for a minute? Or by viewing a few candid photos?

Certainly, there are false judgments. Some people look dumb but are sharp. Others look suave and competent but are shallow or mean or psychopathic.

Still, oftentimes we are right. And isn’t there such a thing as love at first sight?  I  confess that the most significant relationships in my life were launched rather quickly — and worked out OK.

The following R-rated article at Huff Post illustrates how the same person can give a quite different impression based on their posture and facial expression.  It shows the sort of thing that photos can (apparently) reveal about a person:  Stunning Nude Photo Series Challenges What It Means To Be ‘Attractive’ (NSFW).  Attractiveness isn’t just symmetry and clear skin and desirable proportions and musculature. It’s also posture and confidence and vivacity.

I read, by the way, that people who you find attractive are likely to have compatible immune systems.  But presumably that’s not something you can find out from photos and video.

Dustin Hoffman gave a moving and sweet interview in which he regrets the way he used to judge women by their looks.  Unfortunately, it’s something that I think most men do way too much. See this article or this video:

Life Skills 102

Schools sometimes offer “home economics” courses. And there’s the book Life Skills 101: A Practical Guide to Leaving Home and Living on Your Own, which concentrates mostly on financial matters.

I suggest a course, for high school seniors, called Life Skills 102. It would cover topics such as:

  • How to deal with stress.
  • How to make love to a woman.
  • Learn to love your body (for women). It would teach about healthy body image and about healthy sexuality (e.g., how to reach orgasm).
  • How to avoid a bad marriage.
  • How to avoid and overcome depression.
  • How to be a good friend.
  • How to deal with coworkers and managers.
  • How to stand up for yourself without offending and hurting others.
  • How to deal with failure and difficulty.
  • How to avoid being a jerk.
  • How to overcome self-deception.
  • How to deal with difficult people.
  • Facing your demons and overcoming shyness and inertia.

Of course, we can all probably benefit from improved skills in many of these areas.

Many people are competent at work but have unsatisfying home and social lives, due to lack of social skills.  And many problems at work are due to bad interpersonal relations. Schools should teach social skills. I suppose anti-bullying programs cover some of that material.

Christopher Kennedy Lawford: the pain of addiction, the hope of recovery

Christopher Kennedy Lawford brings his insights into addicition and recovery to Seattle, March 19.

As a thirteen-year-old with great expectations, he aspired to follow the life trajectory of his uncle: attend and excel at a prestigious university; engage in a distinguished military career; publish an award-winning book at a relatively young age; pursue a successful path in politics; and, naturally, become President of the United States. If that’s what his uncle John F. Kennedy was able to achieve, well then, reasoned youthful Christopher Kennedy Lawford, why couldn’t he?

One of Chris Lawford’s earliest—and fondest—memories is of being awakened early in the morning of July 13, 1960 by Uncle John in Los Angeles. “Christopher,” said Uncle John as he sat on the edge of his five-year-old nephew’s bed, “I’ve been nominated to be President of the United States. Will you help me?”

“I was mesmerized by the whole American political spectacle,” says Lawford, recalling how he did indeed “help” his uncle by sporting a little red jacket, tie, and American flag during the wild tumult of the Democratic National Convention at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.

When Uncle John was assassinated just over three years later, it was a horrible blow to Chris and all the extended Kennedy clan. Not to mention the entire nation. But there was still hope. Chris turned to another uncle, Bobby, for inspiration.

“Uncle Bobby was the most profound influence in my young life,” Lawford says. Uncle Bobby always seemed to be there for Christopher, was continually involved with the family. He constantly urged his nephew to explore life, and, no matter what the game or contest, Uncle Bobby saw to it that “no one sat on the sidelines; everybody played.”

That hope ended abruplty with yet another assassin’s bullet when Robert F. Kennedy was cut down in June of 1968, just as his presidential campaign was reaching its climax.

It was the “Summer of Love.” But it devolved into a summer of despair for thirteen-year-old Christopher Kennedy Lawford. Subjected to such immense pain and trauma in raw adolescence, Chris began looking for a way out. Something to help him feel better. Laments Lawford, “I spent the next seventeen years trying to ‘feel better.’”

What began as teenage experiments with LSD escalated into chronic heroin and alcohol abuse. “I knew I had a problem at the age of twenty,” Lawford says, “but it took me ten years to get sober. I tried everything…nothing worked.”

But eventually, one miserably cold day in Boston, 1986, Chris hit rock bottom and began to look up.

By late 1986, Christopher Kennedy Lawford found himself wallowing in a miasma of drugs and alcohol, both despite and because of his rich family heritage from the political Kennedy clan and high-profile actor/father Peter Lawford. Feeling his great expectations might never be realized, he considered his life to be over and contemplated suicide. Then it happened.

Chris Lawford experienced a “moment of surrender, a window of opportunity,” during which he resolved to do whatever he was told to do in order to change his life. Lawford frequently emphasizes the need for such a moment in his incredibly insightful writings about addiction and recovery. Is it a spiritual revelation? Perhaps.

Chris describes it as a gut-level feeling of submission: “Please help me!” And there is help. With that help—and it may take a long time or not—anyone can move from slavery to toxic compulsions into recovery.

Addicts, observes Lawford in his latest book Recover to Live, are driven by self-centeredness. Once that self-centeredness is overcome by the realization that there is, indeed, something greater than you, then the process of reaching out for help can begin. The ultimate prize of recovery, and what Christopher Kennedy Lawford regards as his proudest achievement, is “my freedom to be me.” Finally unchained from his perceived legacy, toxic relationships, and the other assorted carry-on baggage of his previous life, Lawford revels in the possibility to examine his untapped talents and explore his future.

And he firmly believes we as a society ought to foster those opportunities for all Americans. How? For one thing, “nutrition and healthcare should be affordable for everyone.” Why? Because “physical health is mental health.” Can’t have one without the other, as Chris sees it, and everyone should have access to both.

Universal health care is one priority for Chris Lawford. A national dialogue about mental health is another. Having come from a family scarred by divorce and murder, and seen first-hand the ugly influence of poverty, Lawford insists that “we (Americans) have to overcome this enormous ignorance and shame” we feel when it comes to talking about mental health.

“My family, generationally, was obliterated by gun violence,” Chris recalls, as he bemoans right-wing political hysteria that points accusing fingers at scapegoats and scarecrows instead of engaging in genuine discussion about the root causes of social ills like aggression and addiction.

“People that care about this as a social justice issue have to get involved,” Lawford implores. If it’s left up to politicians and insurance companies dealing behind closed doors, nothing will get done.

Perhaps we as a nation need to recognize our addiction to fear, surrender our ignorance, and recover our possibilities?


  • Christopher Kennedy Lawford will be appearing in Seattle at Elliott Bay Books Tuesday, March 19, 7:00pm. He’ll be signing copies of his latest book, Recover to Live: Kick Any Habit, Manage Any Addiction, an extensive exploration of the possibilities for self-treatment of toxic compulsions from drugs to gambling to sex and pornography.
  • Earlier in the day, at 7:30am, Chris will be speaking at an Invest in Youth breakfast for Youth Eastside Services, at the Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue.

Originally published at

Value of Community

The term community has two distinct commutative meanings: 1) Community usually refers to a social unit larger than a small village that shares common values. The term can also refer to the national community or international community, and 2) in biology, a community is a group of interacting living organisms sharing a populated environment.

In human communities, intent, belief, resources, preferences, needs, risks, and a number of other conditions may be present and common, affecting the identity of the participants and their degree of cohesiveness.

Since the advent of the Internet, the concept of community has less geographical limitation, as people can now gather virtually in an online community and share common interests regardless of physical location.

The word “community” is derived from the Old French communité which is derived from the Latin communitas (cum, “with/together” + munus, “gift”), a broad term for fellowship or organized society. Some examples of community service are to help in church, tutoring, hospitals, etc.

Social capital

If community exists, both freedom and security may exist as well. The community then takes on a life of its own, as people become free enough to share and secure enough to get along. The sense of connectedness and formation of social networks comprise what has become known as social capital.

Social capital is defined by Robert D. Putnam as “the collective value of all social networks and species (who people know) and the inclinations that arise from these works to do things for each other (norms of reciprocity).” Social capital in action can be seen in all sorts of groups, including neighbors keeping an eye on each other’s homes. However, as Putnam notes in Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (2000), social capital has been falling in the United States. Putnam found that over the past 25 years, attendance at club meetings has fallen 58 percent, family dinners are down 33 percent, and having friends visit has fallen 45 percent.

The same patterns are also evident in many other western countries. Western cultures are thus said to be losing the spirit of community that once were found in institutions including churches and community centers. Sociologist Ray Oldenburg states in The Great Good Place that people need three places: 1) the home, 2) the office, and, 3) the community hangout or gathering place. With this philosophy in mind, many grassroots efforts such as The Project for Public Spaces are being started to create this “Third Place” in communities. They are taking form in independent bookstores, coffeehouses, local pubs, and through new and innovative means to create the social capital needed to foster the sense and spirit of community.


In a seminal 1986 study, McMillan and Chavis identify four elements of “sense of community”: 1) membership, 2) influence, 3) integration and fulfillment of needs, and 4) shared emotional connection. They give the following example of the interplay between these factors:

Someone puts an announcement on the dormitory bulletin board about the formation of an intramural dormitory basketball team. People attend the organizational meeting as strangers out of their individual needs (integration and fulfillment of needs). The team is bound by place of residence (membership boundaries are set) and spends time together in practice (the contact hypothesis). They play a game and win (successful shared valiant event). While playing, members exert energy on behalf of the team (personal investment in the group). As the team continues to win, team members become recognized and congratulated (gaining honor and status for being members), Influencing new members to join and continue to do the same. Someone suggests that they all buy matching shirts and shoes (common symbols) and they do so (influence).

To what extent do participants in joint activities experience a sense of community?

A Sense of Community Index (SCI) has been developed by Chavis and colleagues and revised and adapted by others. Although originally designed to assess sense of community in neighborhoods, the index has been adapted for use in schools, the workplace, and a variety of types of communities.

Studies conducted by the APPA show substantial evidence that young adults who feel a sense of belonging in a community, particularly small communities, develop fewer psychiatric and depressive disorders than those who do not have the feeling of love and belonging.

SAFE is a Community of Bank Tenants standing together to stay in our homes. We offer resources, emotional support, shared risk and powerful tools of public unity and numbers. Alone against the banks and the courts we don’t stand a chance in changing the system. Together we have a loud voice and ability to make a difference.

By Sonia; a family in foreclosure.


Upcoming Actions:

  • Monday February 18th 5:30 PM – Mass Mailing for Neighborhood meeting, addressing and stuffing envelopes. Stop by if you can to help.
  • Tuesday February 26th 6:30 PM – Neighborhood Meeting

Other Upcoming & Ongoing Events:

  • 7:00 – 8:30 PM, Tuesdays: Weekly Meeting at the SAFE House at Bethany UCC. All are welcome!
  • Working Group meetings:
    • Message – Tuesdays at 5:00 PM at the SAFE House
    • Organizers – Tuesdays at 6:00 PM at the SAFE House
    • Resource – Tuesdays at 5:30 PM at the SAFE House
    • Tactical – Wednesdays at 6:30 PM at the SAFE House
    • ITC – Mondays at 3:00 PM on Google Hangouts
  • 1:30 – 4:30 PM, Saturdays: Outreach meeting and Door-to-Door canvassing. We need more volunteers.

This Past Week:

  • February 7th – Meeting with Larry Gossett, King County councilmember. Stephen, Evonne, Don, Luisa, and Kraig asked Larry to champion a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions in King County. Larry said he has too much on his plate, but would consider it. (We take this as a no.) He agreed, however, that the only thing that’ll move him and the county council is if the people and the media demand a moratorium. (Nothing replaces organizing!)

 Questions?  Comments?  You can reach us at or 206-203-2125.  Please visit our web site:

Housing is a Human Right!

We are bringing Dr. Parenti to Olympia in October

I am pretty excited about having Michael Parenti do the keynote speaking event for the Fourth People’s Movement Assembly. Will post more about that soon, but for now, just want to share this Parenti video for folks who are not familiar with Dr. Parenti’s work.