Music for Regeneration

Opening Night of Regen18

Have you read the memo? 
The one marked Regeneration
Well, as of yesterday, +250 world-changers in philanthropy, business, government, and citizen activism — who’ve all read the memo — are convening for a first-ever, four-day global conference called Regen, to foster the emergence of a new regenerative society. Let’s face the music: degenerative economy is on a downhill slide. Just look at the state of the planet, and the sorrowful woes so many of its inhabitants needlessly face every day. Regenerative economy is the upward trajectory for both people and planet, as well as profit. Regeneration is making whole what is broken in the world, and in ourselves. Welcome to Regen.

Registration and dinner took place at Impact Hub SF in its new location. (No longer in the old Chronicle newspaper building, it’s a much bigger space near the old Armory, in San Francisco’s Mission district.) There, a diversity of generations and genders and ethnicities mingled and mixed. Like they say, there are no strangers, only friends you haven’t met yet. At Regencon, it was not uncommon for business people meeting for the first time to hug.

Being in the midst of that much consciousness all actively engaged in common cause is always a tonic and an immediate challenge to my neurology. At such gatherings, it’s often not until day three that I start to bake. However, the pre-conference festivities were too warm, too open-hearted for anyone to stand to one side alone for very long.

As an ice-breaker, I asked the gal next to me if she’d heard of char. She’d had. Her outfit, SymSoil, finds, cultivates, and restores indigenous soil microbes to benefit farmers. And char is a big chunk of the equation for a quality compost. Actually, I’d just picked up a book about biochar, Sacred Soil, at the Bay Area Book Festival last Sunday. But don’t ask me how I knew char would interest her. Rare events such as these are so uplifting maybe they make me psychic. I get the feeling that in this room of 250, there’s only one person here.

Soon, another woman noticed my name tag. Beneath my name is my fledgling outfit, SEE |Spiritually Engaged Economics. She told me about Teal. I’d not heard of this aspect of the unnamed movement bringing spirituality to the workplace but would later ask my friend Maia Duerr about it, and she hadn’t heard of it either. Maia’s swell new book is Work That Matters: Create a Livelihood That Reflects Your Core Intention. The gal who told me about Teal is the guiding light behind One Earth Ventures.

Another fellow who’d read the memo later pointed out, when I explained SEE would be a nonprofit, how much this kind of categorical division matters in America, and how much less so abroad. Just such a nugget of wisdom enriches my understanding and nourishes my view. That is, as I build my organization organically, I realize it’s best to think of SEE as an organism. And I recalled Nobel laureate Gabriel Garçia Marquez saying after the collapse of the Soviet bloc, in ‘89, that maybe now we might freely consider allocation of resources across the government, private, and public sectors without being hampered by prejudice as to political labels. It’s an idea whose time has yet to come but at such places as Regen, it’s not uncommon for people to establish and maintain projects and companies that coordinate resources from the government ( mandate ), nonprofit ( mission ), and the world of profit ( margin ). They’re all part of an invisible organism called Regeneration.

Then I met a young man who’d also read the memo. His enterprise has a euphonious name: Hasten Regeneration. ( It’s so new the website is barely begun.) It’s aim : to bring together clean money, ( capital invested in ways that are beneficial to people and planet ), regenerative technologies (products and processes that renew or restore ecosystems ), and distressed communities ( groups faced with urgent challenges or needs ) to create projects that restore economies, ecosystems, and communities. It’s still a fledgling venture, and I’m amazed at the sheer dedication and persistence of such a long-range, complex, needful vision and mission, evolving through the initial steps of just one person, himself. Before we parted, I asked him how this event stacked up in relation to others he’d been to. He grinned and said it seemed to have put all the necessary pieces in place for us.

This was all music to my ears.

In between meeting new people, I’d stop and just listen to the sound of the voices in the room, and feel the quality of empathy and love underlying that music. It’s a performance of a score without sheet music. What it is — is — up to us, as Howard Rheingold used to say.

Soon ( an hour later ) it was time to walk down the block to the oldest theater in San Francisco, the Victoria. En route, I was stopped by a black street-wise gentleman passing by. Hearing the buzz ( and music ) of all the enthusiastic voices inside the Hub, he asked me what was going on, what was this place? It’s a shared workspace, I said. He nodded in agreement with the idea, and said “Cool!” So he too was hearing the memo.

At the Victoria, co-convener Holly Dublin welcomed us as we began to get a bigger view of regeneration is. She pledged that during our journey together our ideas would converge and diverge and coalesce as we traversed this space together. Before any such long trek, we usually build and fortify our resources before we set off. So, tonight, as our embarcation sustenance, we’d have … music!

Co-convener Mark Ian Barasch then took the stage to introduce the Bay Area’s now 40-year-old maverick string quartet, Kronos. Greeting as all as fellow “regenerates!,” Mark acknowledged our individual and collective intelligence and infinite power to make change. As we play and learn how regenerative threads take form, he pledged we’ll discover how regeneration pertains to all activities of life.

Including music. For those who didn’t already know of the Kronos Quartet, he recalled their debut on the scene, 40 years ago. Rather than appear in the standard Classical Music Uniform of high-end formal apparel, they wore black leather jackets and performed Jimmy Hendricks’ Purple Haze. Currently, they’ve been commissioning a free, open-source library of recordings and scores of 50 works (25 by women, 25 by men) designed to guide young professional string quartets in developing and honing the skills required for the performance of 21st-century repertoire. Drawing from some of those pieces, and others, the evening included:

–a rousing opener by Egyptian composer Islam Chipsy, a haunting rendition of The House of the Rising Sun, Baba O’Riley by former lead guitarist for the Who, Peter Townsend, am ambrosial tone poem called Flow by Laurie Anderson, One Earth One People One Love by minimalist pioneer Terry Riley ( to the accompaniment of sounds recorded in outer space by Voyager ), a rendition of Syrian wedding music entitled I’ll Prevent the Hunters from Hunting You, a transcription of throat-singing by Canadian composer Tanya Taga ( since throat singing produces two separate tones, the original was a solo and an overdub, producing four tones for the quartet), and an utterly mesmerizing composition for quartet and pre-recorded tape by post-Mexican composer Guillermo Galindo. This last piece, began with a two-minute solo by a simple but rivetting indigenous instrument played by whirling an unidentified object on a long string overhead. The subsequent interchange of taped and live strings climaxed the evening’s dialogue — a dialogue in which the listeners’ attention and the performers’ sounds got at the deep roots of true communication: silent listening (without interruption of thought) and deep expression of life itself. Such beautiful communication as this evening’s builds beloved community.

Filing out into the night, I wasn’t certain if there was a top to my head anymore. Looking at others, I could the tops of their heads, but they all radiated the same expression. ( Auras ? Halo ? ) Sheer awe. Empowerment. Joy. In a word –

– r e g e n e r a t i o n .

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