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For my colleagues and myself, the juice in crafting this volume comes from the joy that arises from joining with an Other to create something new. The great cellist YoYo Ma inspired both my conception of this project and helped me appreciate the deep joys and illuminations that I received in the process of doing it with this idiosyncratic, intricately thoughtful, and wildly creative group of people so different one from another.  At the end of the last century, he created “The Silk Road Project” based on his gathering musicians, singers, and songwriters from the entire length of the first Silk Road which crossed the land beween Kamchatka to Prague.  He took on the project when he was struck by finding that all along that endless route, musicians had for centuries relished playing with one another, even though their instruments and words were strange to each other, and while the religious and secular leaders along those same paths were engaging in endless bloody conflicts to this very day.  In fact “even though” does not do justice to the significance of his insight.  What he grasped, thanks to these various artists, is that in the case of creativity and the imagination, “difference” is an essential component, moving the creative person out of the already-done into the fresh world of the not-yet explored.  Over the past 15 years, I have attended many of the gatherings of these musicians, where you can witness a living model of a creative community of radically different people, where the differences are transformed from problems into stimuli for a soul-wakening freshness. What makes their work possible in a world riven by conflict is that they are operating on the sub-conceptual, non-ideological level, where the feelings of rhythm, movement, sound, and words felt in the throat and mouth, take precedence over the ethereal philosophies and theologies that are used (often misused) to support violent struggles for wealth and power. In doing so, these artists penetrate to the heart of those deeper impulses longing for a more humane and just world.  In their emphasis on the non-conceptual realm, their work is not so different from ours, which is based in silent touch, moving, sensing, sounding.  As I worked with each of these gifted authors, I kept finding myself in that joy that comes from working with others to create something genuinely fresh, the unexpected insights and formulations, the move towards new layers of understanding how our lives together might be more satisfying. A clear hope emerges that perhaps we might make some contribution to efforts to turn diversity from a source of strife into a nudge towards creating the new.

Don Hanlon Johnson in conversation with Tayla Shanaye Ealom on interruptions of the ordinary allowing the new to emerge

Don Hanlon Johnson in conversation with Nick Walker on Neurodiversity from the viewpoint of an autistic scholar/practitioner

Don Hanlon Johnson in conversation with Haruhiko Murakawa on the body and the natural world from the viewpoint of a Japanese spiritual perspective

Don Hanlon Johnson in conversation with Jules Pashall on body image and judgements about fat

Don Hanlon Johnson in conversation with Alyssa Zelaya on Santeria and approaches to community mental health emerging from the Afro-Caribbean diaspora

Don Hanlon Johnson in conversation with Nick Walker on Neurodiversity from the viewpoint of an autistic scholar/practitioner.

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