Adam Fletcher interview about Engagement

Adam’s Note: Recently a student interviewed me for her graduate thesis on self-engagement. Here are my responses to her questions. Thanks Sue!
What’s the purpose of engagement?
Engagement is the purpose of living.

I say that because without engagement we will never get to wherever it is each of us is going. It just won’t happen. Where each of us is going is so completely individualized and intangible that it is nigh impossible to name that realization. Seeking to make the implausible teachable, I teach that the journey is the destination, and in that, engagement is the purpose.

It’s important that we explicitly define what we mean by engagement, and stay focused on that as a goal, rather than merely as a process.

How do we get people engaged?

After spending a lot of time working to change macro-level systems, micro-level practice, and interpersonal attitudes and foster cultures of engagement, I have come to understand that the single most important key to creating a culture of engagement is for the person seeking that to become deeply engaged within themselves. By deeply I mean that there becomes a seamless fjord of self-responsibility that comes before all other things in this world, defined and strengthened and driven by each of us, individually. Without that fjord, all attempts to engage others within themselves or throughout the world around them are bound to fail, if not with urgent immediacy, then within a short period of a person’s lifetime.

Shouldn’t we start with community engagement and then go inward?

Far be it from me to condemn another for doing the work of their heart and insisting that they must do unto others, but too many teachers throughout too much history, ancient and recent, have taught this. In my own insistence, I worked throughout two decades in order to change others. It was only when life slowed down and my engines stopped racing that I discovered that all my attempts to engage others were irrelevant until I became engaged myself. But I’d always been engaged in my favorite topics, in things I cared about! I was still off-base. I came to understand that it’s not simply about engaging with things outside myself, but with what is inside me.

I am teaching this now, in addition to my work through The Freechild Project, SoundOut, and CommonAction. I’ve traveled a meandering road through bounding mountains as I have come to understand things, and as you already understand, Paul, that path is determined by each of us, individually.

Technology has changed everything. What difference do you think it makes for engagement?

I agree the boundaries and distinctions between our online lives and our in-person lives are forever blurred. There is infinite value in using the Internet as a tool, and I wholeheartedly believe it provides opportunities for engagement that other venues do not. Thank you for calling that out.

I also believe that somewhere in the midst of the potential of the Internet and the reality of face-to-face interaction, something does get lost. As sentient beings, we yearn, crave and even, to some extent, require in-person interactions with others of our species. I refuse to acknowledge the value of the computer in any form to provide that same type of interaction, as I think that would be irresponsible and reckless. There are many people who believe that as a society we’re moving that direction inevitably, irregardless of my opinion. I’ll let that stand where it is.

So, from that perspective, as frequently as is appropriate I charge the world with unplugging, particularly towards white, middle class audiences for whom technology is ubiquitous. Feed the need in a different way. And to the technocrats who think there is no other way anymore, I charge them with the task of creating real-time, in-person methodologies that cause interaction/reaction/inspiration/perspiration the way the Internet does, without the Internet. Let’s get humans moving, not machines.

Engaging others is an exciting thing to do! What should we remember?

I will restate that my concern that any conversation about how to engage others generally deflects from the point I’m trying to make: Every one of must, must engage deeply within ourselves before even considering the need to engage others. I think that our well-meaning other-centeredness incapacitates our innate desire to do right for them by ignoring this central demand of engagement. Another way to say this may be, Do unto yourself as you would seek to do unto others.

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to Learn more at!

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