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Friday, April 20, 2007

Jackson: How to create soul in a community

The Jackson Citizen Patriot published accounts of Thomas Moore’s recent weekend workshop in Jackson. Reporter Mary Barber wrote a follow-up article on Saturday, April 14, 2007, Author has advice for soulful life, in which she says:
A soulful life is made up of the ordinary things: good food, a close family, lots of friends, a beautiful home, says author and theologian Thomas Moore. Fill your life with those things and encourage others to do the same, and you will see a great change in the community, he told an audience of about 200 at Jackson Community College's Baughman Theatre on Friday night.

"Make this a mecca of pleasure and deep spirituality at the same time," Moore said. Moore, author of the best-seller Care of the Soul and 14 other books, outlined several key elements of soul: a sense of belonging, memory, beauty, food, intimacy, sexuality and diversity.

"The soul doesn't flourish in a uniform environment," the former monk said. The Cottage Retreat Center brought Moore to Jackson for Friday night's lecture and today's workshop on creativity, change and potential. Jackson has plenty of those things, he said.

"I do feel this town is full of promise," Moore said, pointing to the Armory Arts Village and transformation of the former prison, as well as many beautiful and historical buildings downtown. "Your history and your problems are fertile ground (for soul)," he said. "Don't clean it up too much."

Perfection is soulless, he said, which might be why human relationships are the best place to look for soul. None is perfect. One couple, Raymond and Susan Fix of Cement City, said they have read Moore's books and find him to be inspirational. "He opens you up to getting real," Raymond Fix said.

The following Thursday, April 19, 2007, a participant described her first-person perspective in the paper:
Saturday gave me the feeling I was living in Jackson's future. People packed the basement auditorium of the Jackson District Library that morning to take part in author Thomas Moore's workshop on community, creativity and change. The library is a wonderful old building, full of the kind of soul that Moore spoke about Friday night at Jackson Community College.

In his view, soul is about awareness, observation and grounding yourself in the ordinary. It's about paying attention to nature, relationships and home. The meditation exercises and the conversation that Moore prompted left me full of inspiration. I wanted to take the afternoon and write down my ideas -- ideas for my own growth -- so I could work on them later.

But I also wanted to check out the artist marketing workshop at the Ella Sharp Museum of Art and History. Colorado-based marketing consultant Alyson B. Stanfield was in town for the second year in a row. I walked into the museum's beautiful new community room and saw a roomful of artists framed by a gorgeous window, the backdrop of a log cabin and woods. What a sight -- another soulful setting.

Most of the artists were from out of town -- some as far away as Milwaukee and Chicago. I doubt if any other place in southern Michigan had 68 artists gathered together. Think about it: For one day, Jackson was the place to be for working artists. I only wish that more of Jackson's hundreds of artists had been there. Marketing is a huge issue for the arts community here, and it needs to be tackled with imagination and energy. Listening to Stanfield and her audience helped me understand what artists confront as they try to turn their passion into business. That's exactly what we're all facing here.

And I do mean all. We all need to be imaginative and innovative in our work if we're going to survive this economy. Moore also had some ideas about rejuvenating Jackson. He talked about making Jackson a "mecca for pleasure" -- and, despite the inevitable sex jokes, he wasn't kidding. Good food and wonderful architecture are essential elements in building a soulful life and community, Moore said. Jackson has those elements already.

He talked about using the nature of Jackson -- its trees, birds, rivers and lakes -- as inspiration for imagining its future, and as part of its identity in presenting itself to the world.

"Everybody can be nurtured by nature," he said. He talked about the history of Jackson and its profound meaning for the future of the community. "The artist has an important role in all this," Moore said.

I am as guilty as anyone of talking about the "arts community" as if it lives and works separate from the rest of Jackson. The two groups at Saturday's workshops are not really different. In another five or 10 years, our artists will be more integrated into Jackson's economy and cultural life. And whether you believe in the soulful life or care about art, you'll find Jackson has become a deeper, richer and livelier community -- for all of us.

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