Since the beginning of our organization six years ago, we have been in endless pursuit of the best ways to draw people together in meaningful, real and civil conversation. We’ve had great success. Our Dinner at the Square series is almost always sold out, drawing about 175 people every time. Take-out Tuesday programs, including our hyperlocal forum Our Town have been standing-room only. And Faith, Food, Friday has been a unique (and we think profound) addition to our community fabric that we’re really proud to be associated with.
But there has always been something missing – a forum that grabs a hold of intractable challenging issues that are the source of enduring divisiveness and makes real progress on the issue. That challenge has truly flummoxed us. It’s a hard thing to do without making civility a casualty of the effort. Enter The Asteroids Club, a concept I first heard of after Jon Haidt and Steve Seibert were in the same car together for six hours (imagine a brew of deep and out-of-the-box thinking that gets so electric that it’s virtually pinging off the car doors).
The Asteroids Club has all the trappings of the things we know already works: People engaging who are politically diverse but have an existing and enduring relationships, a few rules that keep the forum safe for disagreement, breaking bread together and a commitment to not taking things too seriously – to laugh whenever possible.
But it adds critical concepts that we have since learned, largely through our study of Jon’s work (oh ok, our groupie-like devotion to his work) confirmed 100% by the direct experiences with the challenges we’ve faced. The Asteroids Club speaks to the intuitive “elephant” that is the source of the vast majority of human decision-making rather than the rational “rider” who functions more like the elephant’s press secretary, offering post-hoc rationalizations rather than true objective reasoning. Almost every forum that ever existed invites riders, not elephants. The Asteroids Club makes its central theme the reciprocity that is one of the lovely aspects of basic human nature – “I’ll help you deflect your asteroid, if you help me deflect mine.” Finally, the concept clearly expresses that ultimately it is common threat more than common ground that really brings human beings together. And boy do we have real common threats.
We’re so excited about the Asteroids Club, we told Jon we’d help it come to fruition. You can find our first Asteroids Club event online here. You can even use our user-editable We the Wiki website to easily create a webpage for your own public Asteroids Club event. Find directions for creating your event page at the bottom of this page. Feel free to call us and we’ll help you set up your page inside 15 minutes! Find us at (850) 264-8785 or firstname.lastname@example.org.