In this article, we are going to give examples of different types of activities that the members of a “community” of active tolerance. It could be objected that these activities “would take up too much time”, but in fact even a frequency of once or twice a month would be significantly beneficial. No minimum attendance, I need hardly say, would be imposed within the network.
Activities among the members
To have the opportunity to speak of subjects close to your heart with open-minded people, who are ready to listen to you without prejudgments of any kind, even when you are at your most fragile or least flattering. You can bring up without hesitation the essential choices of life, love, politics, the future of the world, etc. For that each member can propose a meeting on the theme that interests him or participate in the meetings proposed by others. As I’ve said before, serious subjects can be discussed (suicide, our dissatisfactions in life, our fears, etc.) themes touching the conscience (dreams…), relationships (fidelity and freedom within the couple…), politics (conspiracy theories, the foundations of the left/ right opposition…); and playful or destabilizing experiences may also be proposed (exchanging massages, tickling sessions…) etc.
To deepen your knowledge of certain subjects: here it’s not a matter of a punctual meeting, but of deciding to dedicate some of your time to the in-depth study of a subject. Mini groups (or a “special interest groups”) might be created. Let’s take an example: Pierre, Valerie and Dinh are interested in parapsychology. They would go together to attend sessions of hypnology; discuss with people in charge of parapsychology research associations; listen to what is said of the paranormal illusionists by normative psychologists, physicians… Each of these mini groups, being free in its structure, can become a “laboratory of human experiences”. Pierre, Valerie and Dinh would begin to practice telepathy or illusionism together, and go, in the middle of the night, to see what happens in the cemetery of the city…
Instead of going alone to see a conference or a documentary, to attend a concert, wandering through a salon or a demonstration, we can propose these excursions as network activities. Thus we would do what we had planned, but could afterwards share our impressions and reactions (especially if we go to see a political party, a syndicate, a spiritual movement, etc.) with other participants.
By definition, each member of the network will have come from different backgrounds. It is understood that, as much as possible, each participant can allow others to discover his background. Thus a Vietnamese participant could invite the others to an Asian New Year’s celebration, a participant who is a researcher could share his work, a musician could provide a tour of a recording studio, etc.
Each participant can share his passions with the others: one might propose a screening of Tarkovsky films, another an evening of listening to gothic music, a third a session of sophrology or of conjuring tricks, and so forth.
The participants can also test their ideas: by organizing a small internal conference within the network on a subject that you’re studying, you could take note of the critiques, the objections, etc. And when a participant writes a book, he can propose some readings from it. The network might thus contain a veritable aspect of a “literary salon” of the type in style in the 18th century! (I have often felt a certain frustration reading essays, because their authors do not take into account rather obvious objections. If these authors did this networking before publishing, they would surely hear the relevant objections to their ideas).
Finally, the participant who’s looking to commit him or herself can use the network to compare his choices with other possible options. If he or she feels attracted by a religious, he or she might also check out other spiritualities; and this method may be applied in all domains. In this way the participant’s future commitment will by better informed, he or she will have seen the “competing” movements and will know the criticisms that might be leveled at his or her chosen movement.
More practically, the network will permit you to find the right people and resources when you are interested in a subject or in practicing exchanges of knowledge thanks to a system of presentation sheets (where each participant notes what he knows, is looking for, his competences, etc.); the network could even — if it extends into different countries — provide participants with contacts when they travel.
One could object to these activities as being egotistical in character. The goal of participants is not only to “consume” visions of the world, experiences and emotions; certain of them could also promote active tolerance.
Initiating actions outside the network
As a rough guide and in a non-limiting way, here are some examples of what might encourage participants:
Organizing meetings between different groups (symposiums, festivals, etc.)
Thinking about being open-minded, about relevant theoretical tools, and about institutions favoring tolerance and progressiveness. The idea would be to create a veritable think tank dedicated to open-mindedness, to methodological debates, and to constructive confrontation between different movements and backgrounds, etc.
Initializing methodological debates (see article on this subject)
Proposing to take an in-depth look at certain social or philosophical problems: it’s a matter of taking up an important problem (unemployment, running out of oil, the existence of God…), and going to see the different groups that propose a response to it; and then to note their solution, their arguments, and the existing criticisms of these solutions. Here a new tool of citizenship, in the form of works or web pages, promoting a global vision of important subjects, could see the day.
The participants could also arouse “general states of popular initiative” as regards certain big problems, with a view to listing the solutions that have been proposed and giving rise to interesting new measures.
These different types of action are further detailed in my essay The Network Man.