What is it like to participate in Leadership Calgary? Cameron Ansorger, alumnus from Class of 2010, shares his experience of the program.
When participating in the Leadership Calgary Class of 2010 a curious thing happened: I rekindled a love of tree climbing. Throughout the duration of the program I found myself climbing trees whenever I could, from the opening retreat (where I had a tense stand-off with a irritated squirrel) to a few of the Learning Days, if they provided the opportunity. It was usually during allotted periods of reflection, where we’d take the time to go off individually or in pairs to think about the content of the day. There is a very pleasing, tactile sensation to climbing trees. The feel of the bark (preferably smooth), earthy smell, fluttering leaves in the breeze, using my own muscles to haul myself up, my brain to calculate weight bearing branches and find a perch. Once there I’d feel my body relax, mind unwind and I could think lucidly.
There may have been a time before Leadership Calgary where I would not have dwelled long on such behaviour, stocking it up as another eccentricity by the token artist (such am I.) But the kind of thinking that Leadership Calgary engenders has a way of not letting you off the hook so easily. You’re always feeling the tug of deeper inquiry into almost everything. In Leadership Calgary you’re going to hear about biological drivers: evolutionary instincts that are ingrained with our genes that still make us small-troop primates on a fundamental level, that link us back to our early hominid ancestors. Over a year after my tree-climbing escapades I read Last Child In the Woods by Richard Louv where there is a passage about tree-climbing, describing the action as a form of healing: a respite from the adrenaline rush of being hunted. (We’re often not game for other animals these days; but we are faced with an onslaught of automobiles roaring past us, media beaming violence [real and simulated] into our living rooms and our communities, due to urban planning [or lack thereof] neglecting to provide peace-inducing elements.) [pg. 42-43]
So, what was I seeking to be healed from? What was hunting me? In many ways it was myself. As an artist I assumed going in that introspection, examining my own thought patterns and habits, would not be an area that I would need to pay more attention to because I figured that I was already well practiced in that regard. I came to learn that this was very much a blind spot of mine, that there were many elements at play that I had not considered in the past that formed my conscious, and continue to form my conscious. I learned in much more detail about all the levels of programming that society run on – especially biological drivers, confirmation bias, orienting stories, in-group/out-group dynamics, formal authorities and self-authorized behaviour. The examination of my own thoughts and events in the wider world are much nuanced now and I can more readily draw connections and see patterns between them both. This developing skill will greatly enhance my role as an artist in society, a crucial skill when engaging creativity to move along the human venture down wiser paths.
Going into Leadership Calgary I was well aware of the myriad of challenges facing humanity. Through Leadership Calgary I came aware that in some cases the challenges were more dire than I’d previously thought, manifested in ways that I did not consider and were interconnected by means I did not see before. It’s a realization that could leave one in despair and it did at times. However, as it was often said in the program: despair is not an option. I now am more adept at seeing the challenges systematically and am heartened that there are already brilliant minds out in the world thinking about these problems. I am constantly reminded that there is much striving to do and I’ve always felt most alive and human when moving forward and continually learning. Leadership Calgary strives to create a community out of the various people that form a Class, bringing together individuals from different sectors, backgrounds and skill sets. Going forward this network of diverse people – passionate about making a difference in the world – provide support, advice and wisdom to test my assumptions.
About a year after my time in the Leadership Calgary program my son was born and for the past year I’ve been a full-time parent. When I look at him and think about the epochal challenges that he and others in his generation will likely have to face an incredible weight settles on my heart. However, through Leadership Calgary and other movements I see that there are many people out there thinking these same thoughts and many already working on addressing these challenges. I look at my son and know: despair is not an option.
Are you looking for a learning experience like this? We are searching for the class of 2013! Apply for Leadership Calgary before May 17.