Corporate Hospitality


Have you ever been invited to a meeting and when you arrive it seems that everyone else knows each other, but you?

Picture senior management sitting around a big long table in silence, waiting for a meeting to begin. You get to sit at the far end of the table.

You start up a conversation with the person alongside. You find out what she does and why she is at the meeting, but that’s about all.

There is some finger food on a side table and we are invited to help ourselves. We are killing a bit of time before the exact time for starting the meeting. There are small bottles of water on the table and some mints in little bowls.

There seems to be complete social dislocation, as only individuals go to the side table one at a time and return with some food to their seat at the long table.

The time to start arrives, but the person to chair the meeting and the top boss haven’t arrived. So we begin a process of going around the table introducing ourselves. It comes around to me eventually, and I have nearly finished my introduction when the boss and his entourage walk in with apologies for their busyness. The process of introductions immediately shuts down as they take over.

The meeting is about a large commercial development with strong social and cultural aspects. These are the stakeholders and heads of various planning departments. The meeting provides an opportunity for the stakeholders to hear how the overall project is progressing.

I don’t get to go to meetings at this level very often and I am grateful for the invitation – offered on the basis of my interest in providing appropriate space to create a culture of positive intercultural and interfaith hospitality, particularly visitors to Adelaide.

I began to reflect on my experience of this meeting  when my daughter Aly and I had a conversation the following evening about a wonderful evening she had, coinciding in time with the meeting I just described.

Her husband, Tim, had written a jingle for Friends of the ABC a few years back: ‘Save the ABC!’ She and Tim had been invited to an ABC dinner, and Tim invited to play a couple of his songs and lead everyone in singing the jingle.

But what blew Aly and Tim away was the culture of genuine hospitality among the gathering.

‘Someone would come over, introduce themselves and after some exchange, say ‘O you must meet so and so! And then escort her over and introduce her to someone else – and so on!’

I must admit that I would have been happy just to sit next to Max Gillies, as Aly did, once the dinner started! (Max Gillies became famous for his Bob Hawke impersonations).

Good luck with commercial ventures that want human connections, if the strategists do not even know how to welcome a stranger to their meetings!

As Ghandi advised: ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’!

The Friday Post

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Sydney bus sign –
If you think violence against women is a big problem, tackle it when it’s little.

Idea of the week –
Project Auction

Projects are pitched in front of invited philanthropists and corporate representatives, who then bid on projects they want to support. Relationships are developed between the entrepreneurs and their benefactors.

Thought I’m pondering –
The god of religion is too small.

‘NOW’ New Years Party – 
I’m looking to support someone who would like to set up a date and venue for a BYO ‘New Years Party’ to enable the Now Tribe, and others on the same page, to make face-to-face connections and celebrate the opportunities of 2018.

Great Moment of the week – 
Paul Kelly and Co at the Sydney Opera House on ABC TV.

Friday Post

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What I’ve been hearing on Radio this week – 
Interview with Swedish journalist Elisabeth Asbrink and her dynamic new book:
1947: When now begins.

1947 was the year that WW2 formally ended, with the signing of the peace treaty in Paris. In the same year Simone de Beauvoir started writing The Second Sex, and George Orwell completed ‘1984’. It was a year of momentous change, in Palestine, in India and Pakistan. It saw the development of post-war fascist movements, a new beginning for Jews, and the rise of the Islamic Brotherhood. The formation of the UN was underway, with the post-war mantra ‘never again’.

Dumbest political comment of the week –
Government frontbencher Christopher Pyne says the 580 men refusing to leave the Manus Island detention centre are “squatters” and he’s urged them to move on.
(like the homeless in Rundle Mall?)

New Music – The gentle Irish singer-songwriter with justice and peace never far from his intent: Luka Bloom, Refuge.
(Includes a new rendition of his anthem, I Am Not At War With Anyone.)
(Original version at:

Moment of the week –
Lunch with Kitty, a homeless 30 year old, who is helping me seed the idea of the homeless caring for the homeless.
(See my last blog, Under the Blanket, for the reason why we have to de-industrialise the welfare sector and to empower people as ‘experts in their own lives’  – Dulwich Centre philosophy.)

What I’ve begun reading this week – An Other Kingdom – departing the consumer culture, by Block, Brueggemann and McKnight.

Our seduction into beliefs in competition, scarcity, and acquisition are producing too many casualties. We need to depart a kingdom that creates isolation, polarized debate, an exhausted planet, and violence that comes with the will to empire. The abbreviation of this empire is called a consumer culture.

We think the free market ideology that surrounds us is true and inevitable and represents progress. We are called to better adapt, be more agile, more lean, more schooled, more, more, more. Give it up. There is no such thing as customer satisfaction.

We need a new narrative, a shift in our thinking and speaking. An Other Kingdom takes us out of a culture of addictive consumption into a place where life is ours to create together.  This satisfying way depends upon a neighborly covenant?an agreement that we together, will better raise our children, be healthy, be connected, be safe, and provide a livelihood. The neighborly covenant has a different language than market-hype. It speaks instead in a sacred tongue.

Authors Peter Block, Walter Brueggemann, and John McKnight invite you on a journey of departure from our consumer market culture, with its constellations of empire and control. Discover an alternative set of beliefs that have the capacity to evoke a culture where poverty, violence, and shrinking well-being are not inevitable?a culture in which the social order produces enough for all. They ask you to consider this other kingdom. To participate in this modern exodus towards a modern community. To awaken its beginnings are all around us. An Other Kingdom outlines this journey to construct a future outside the systems world of solutions.

Thank you of the week – 
To all my wonderful friends and family from all over the world! I am so inspired to have you all as friends!


Under the Blanket

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I found this image on the Facebook page of Dr. Djiniyini Gondarra OAM, senior elder and Dhurili Clan leader of the Yolngu peoples of Northeast Arnhem Land. It represents the reality he, and  Aboriginal families, face daily.

In a recent interview, frustrated by the incapacity of successive Federal Governments to understand and respect the rights of Aboriginal people for self-determination, he said that the situation was like the Government holding a blanket over them. The rest of Australia only see the blanket. They cannot see what happens underneath.

This short edited section of a video message to the Labour Party Conference in 2011 expresses something of the frustration and sense of humiliation of the Aboriginal people, from their point of view.

Rev Dr Djiniyini Gondarra message to ALP conference, 2011. (edited section)

Rev Dr Djiniyini Gondarra responds to the ‘second Intervention’ otherwise known as ‘Stronger Futures in the NT’, a new Commonwealth Government initiative which will maintain key powers introduced through the NT Intervention. This message was screened in Sydney on Saturday December 3, at a meeting hosted by the CFMEU Indigenous Committee, “The Case Against the NT Intervention”. The meetings was part of the official Fringe program of the ALP national conference. Dr Gondarra is a Senior Elder from Elcho Island.

You put something on the spoon, and then you put the spoon in our mouth…like a child.

More recently, the present Federal Government dismissed out of hand, the considered will of the Aboriginal people for Federal political representation, expressed in the ‘Uluru Statement From the Heart’.

In doing so, I believe we see the continuing determination of colonialist interest to maintain control and superiority, while paying lip service and ‘buying off’ the original owners and custodians of the land.

I see these issues through the lens of the spiritual. Western culture seems to have cut itself off from its spiritual values, incapable of appreciating the deep meaning of ‘from the heart’, reduced to the tangibles of black letter policy and regulation to maintain the material interests of the few – making sure that the blanket of such protectionism looks beneficial to the rest of us, while hiding away the spiritual pain of the powerless beneath.

And most recently, more colour has been added to the blanket, by maintaining citizenship purity – of who can be elected to Parliament on the basis of an outdated section of the Constitution, interpreted by ‘black letter’ judges appointed by a ‘black letter’ government!

The situation of refugees on Manus Island, ‘The Pacific Solution’, is completely congruent.

Friday Post

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Re-learnings this week –
1. to first be the chaplain for others, the body plasma that enables others to make their unique contributions and ‘be the experts in their own lives’. (Michael White, David Epston and The Dulwich Centre). Rather than going straight to what I think.

2. to balance my critical side with positive contributions to others, even if I feel estranged from their elitist culture.

‘Wow’ moment this week – 
book launch of An Encyclopaedia of young people’s knowledge and lifesaving tips – how we overcome bullying, survive the ocean of depression, try not to take hate into our hearts, and much more, by The Dulwich Foundation.
‘Wow’ because the Dulwich philosophy is to go to and value primary sources – the experiences of people themselves and encouraging its sharing!

Thought I’m pondering –
What would be the effect if I considered the flip side for any action I’m considering?
So, for example, rather than lobbying the Lord Mayor to get behind the provision of an ‘Oasis for the City’, to invite him and his wife home to dinner to listen to his dreams and frustrations in achieving them.

Recipe of the week – 
Day-starter lemon drink.
Brew half a cup of green tea.
Squeeze a couple of lemons and wash into the cup with some of the boiling water.
Add a squeeze of honey.
Stir in a teaspoon of strawberry jam.
Night cobwebs gone!

Hospitality and the Herod Principle


More often than not, when we are invited to someone’s home, we will ask if we can bring something.  A bottle of wine, flowers Cadbury ‘Roses’…?

It’s a hark back to the Abrahamic understanding of hospitality; that when hospitality is offered, the invited guest unexpectedly turns out to offer, or be, a gift to the host. However, as modern-day guests, we have slightly corrupted the paradigm by anticipating gift-giving to the host. In the Abrahamic tradition, the giving occurs spontaneously and responsively by the guest from their being, rather than the offering of anticipatory tokens – which can become like a kind of tit-for-tat payback – so we are all on the same power level! (or is that too cynical?)

Indigenous cultures are organised around cycles of the seasons and the natural world. So in the Biblical story of the birth of Jesus, some astrologers, who noticed a new star appearing in the sky, decided to set off toward it. For them, the appearance of a new star heralded the birth of a new king. So they took gifts with them, to show their respect.

They are full of wonder and excitement to find the new-born child. They offer their gifts. They are un-phased by mixing with smelly shepherds, who had also been given a miraculous vision of the birth-place. Shepherds were the dregs of society – unclean non-citizens, not allowed to vote, and marginalised to the fields by society – a cycle of exclusion. Maybe the homeless today might fit that cycle. The astrologers were elated at having fulfilled their vision, and went home with great joy (as did the shepherds)!

But there is a dark side to the story, preserved for our edification.

On their journey, the astrologers come to Jerusalem, the religious and political heart of Israel. They naively ask if anyone knows the whereabouts of the baby that will become the king of the Jews. (Interesting that no-one knows – maybe too busy and self-interested to keep an eye on the stars?) The reigning king, Herod, takes their enquiry as a threat. And so does the rest of the civil and religious establishment.

Herod makes some enquiries with the Department of Theology. They consult the literature and come back with the answer – Bethlehem.

One could pause the story here and reflect on the two presenting paradigms. One is nature-based, experimental, almost ‘crazy’. Who, these days, would decide to take leave of home to head off in the direction of a star, expecting to find what they believe the star signifies to them? A needle in a cosmic haystack!

But for Jewish readers today, this story resonates with the story of their ancestor, Abraham, who took off with his family on a ‘blind’ journey to Palestine – and the rest is history, as they say! Hard to believe that Abraham’s ‘craziness’ has led to where we are today with the state of Israel!

Both of these dreamers, the astrologers and Abraham are no colonialists! That strategy of exclusion and extinction was taken up by Moses and his successor, Joshua, coming after a period of setting up laws and principles that would establish their identity as a nation.

The other paradigm is of a different kind of authority – the exercise of power by institutions and hierarchies that comes from settlement. Their attitude is that following stars is for the fairies! Does not compute!

Institutions are constructed with certain purposes in mind. Boundaries (laws and principles) ensure the maintenance and progress of the institution. Such institutions invariably create a culture of protectionism. They might call it sustainability! Others might call it resistance to change!

And so it was, for Herod.

No doubt he was all smiles as he received the eastern visitors in his luxurious office to get the information he needed to eliminate the perceived threat to his kingdom. He holds a secret meeting with them (‘commercial in confidence?). He lies to get what he wants, feigning affirmation and collaboration: ‘Go and make a careful search for the child, and when you find him (sic), let me know, so that I too may go and worship him’. Crafty!

The astrologers leave Herod and go on to the achieve their mission. But they have a dream which tells them not to go back to Herod, and they go home another way.

Now the Herod Principle shifts to a new level. From the illusion of self-important status and its inherent hubris, comes the protectionism of the entitled that is capable of ruthless violence.

Ultimately, those who live in the joy of dreams and visions cannot be controlled. They go their own way. It may be because those who offer fake hospitality are not able to receive their gifts – they live outside the paradigm of unconditional gift-giving. Gifts are understood as bribes in this regime.

Desperate to maintain his kingdom, Herod has all the children in Bethlehem slaughtered – and in the immediate vicinity, to be on the safe side! But the dreamer parents have escaped with the baby, having being forewarned.

The Herod Principle – do what it takes to maintain power – is alive and well. Men over women, managers over subordinates, political parties, commerce…
But there are also dreamers, trying to evade the Herod Principle, who are looking for a better way!

I think that way begins with an understanding of radical hospitality – likely best understood by being ‘caught’ as well as ‘taught’.

Friday Post


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What thought has helped me this week –
Exercise is the training I must do to enable me to continue to do what I like doing.
(rather than a boring interruption!)

‘Wow’ moment this week – 
Interchange between Sam Neil and Jimmy Barnes on QandA last Monday night.
Followed later by an electrifying unplugged performance of ‘Working Class Man’ by Jimmy.
Shames all past political-bickering QandA’s into obscurity.

Quote of the week – 

What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. Victor Frankl 

(Victor Frankl was imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp during World War 2. He observed that it was not necessarily the physically strong who survived, but those who held hope in front of their minds. His book, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ is a classic.)

Thought I’m pondering – 
‘Unconditional acceptance’ or ‘unconditional love’ is not a passive or irresponsible attitude, but a spiritual discipline.
– a practice that must be practised – recognising and empowering the other to grow and contribute their unique life in their own unique way toward human flourishing.
– a discipline reducing a tendency to control or micro-manage others to satisfy my needs.
– a discipline serving the interests of the other for the greater good.
– ‘Am I taking responsibility away from the other?’ may be a key question in a presenting situation.

What I’m listening to – 
Revisiting OK Compter, Radiohead – moments of fragile beauty, overwhelming power, irony and satire – darker commentary on the human condition – musically innovative, brilliantly conceived and performed – simple melody lines belie highly complex musical arrangements. (Put on headphones and you’ll hear things you never heard otherwise!)

Book of the Week –
Journey to the Common Good, Walter Brueggemann.
They say that Brueggemann is the Bruce Springsteen of Theology – people come from everywhere when they hear he is speaking and some follow his gigs all over the country!
I confess to being a big fan! I gave away my last copy and I’ll probably give away this one that just arrived, once I’ve read it again! He digs through the Biblical records in search of perspectives to this question: Can the simple concept of Neighbourliness show us the way toward a greater common good?

Encouragement of the Week – 
From friends on The NOW Tribe on Facebook. I think I’ve found my tribe!

Surprise of the Week – 
Discovering the Oasis philosophy in full swing among a group of younger people in Moscow. (See my post: Moscow)

Have a great weekend!