Caption for photo above: The dynamic Dave Metler on a field trip to Rwanda to study the great apes; his Practical Wisdom Parenting Study logo; Dave interviewing Teresa Graham Brett and Allo Dieudonne about the Parent Liberation Alliance; talking with Robin Grille on the Parenting for a Peaceful World Tour; our group at the Heart-to-Heart Parenting conference. Read Dave’s Kindred posts here.
Is David Metler From The Future? Evolution In Action?
When I think of Dave Metler, I still have a tendency to drop my jaw in awe. The very first time I interviewed him my goal was to understand how he made the journey from a graduate student of human ecology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison to studying attachment parenting among the great apes of Rwanda. How was this possible and how could we entice more college students to study attachment science? It was easy, he explained in the interview, because it is logical to move from an biology-based, ecological world view of connection and apply that world view to humans, including human infants and children.
At first glance this may not sound like such an outrageous leap for a graduate student to make, but consider that a biology-based worldview in Western culture is reserved for saving whales, old forests and oceans with little consideration for how we created unsustainable humans in the first place. The UN climate report makes it clear this month that humans are so disconnected from their own biology from the beginning of their life they regard “nature” as the external “other” and not the life force we are embedded in and dependent upon.
How did this happen? As Ina May Gaskin, the godmother of midwifery, told me in an interview years ago, just being born in America is a ritual of separation preparing the infant for what comes next: crying it out; circumcision; formula feeding; lack of skin-to-skin; factory school; day care; and a dominator culture of competition contemptuous of nurturing acts, roles and impulses.
But here was Dave, talking about the eye-gazing he witnessed between mother and infant great apes and how they stared for what felt like an eternity into one another’s eyes. As Robin Grille jokes in his video interview with Dave below, a human mother would whip out her phone and say, “Smile!” to her offspring.
Over the past five years, Dave has presented at the Heart-to-Heart Parenting Conference, written for Kindred, interviewed board members, visit South Africa for our Parent Liberation Alliance initiative, co-authored a Wise Parent Study, and written little ditties like “For All The Men Who Wish They Could Give Birth.”
Today, Dave serves humanity as a spiritual advisor to children and their families in the cancer unit of the University of Michigan Children’s Hospital. And in 2019, he will serve, in addition to his day job, as Kindred’s Spirit-in-Residence. Below is Dave’s letter to you, sharing his thoughts about the upcoming year. If you feel led in supporting the Kindred Spirit-in-Residence program, and can help us compensate Dave for his time over the next year, please give your tax-deductible donation here.
Thank you, Dave, for all you are and have done for Kindred over the past years. You probably are from the future, or evolution in action, but we’re glad you’re with us for now!
A LETTER FROM DAVE TO KINDRED SUPPORTERS
Dear Kindred World,
I am grateful to be your Kindred World Spirit-in-Residence for the 2019 year. Within this role, I am excited to walk with you to reveal the power of the new story of childhood for social justice education as I am convinced that “The Ecology of the Child” is our inner passport to social justice. What does that mean? It will all become clearer soon! I am also looking forward to working with Lisa to finalize the New Story Primer and Glossary and Virtual Resource Center and to catalyzing new dynamic conversations within our community and to building deeper relationships across the Kindred World family.
Ever since the summer of 2011 when I found Kindred community and the community found me, I have simultaneously felt home at last and that I don’t belong in Kindred. A paradox, of course,and a dialectic that brings both feelings together. As Julian Rappaport writes in the article, In Praise of Paradox, “the most important and interesting aspects of community life are by their very nature paradoxical.” Why do I feel this paradox within my time with Kindred and how did I go from this paradox to becoming the 2018-19 Kindred Spirit in Residence? My story illuminates “The Ecology of the Child”, why all of our relationships with children and childhood matter in the writing of our new story of childhood, and why “the last revolution is the revolution of childhood.”
Maya Angelou poetically shared in her poem titled In and Out of Time that “we see in the distance our long way home.” And, even though I was a mere 26.41 years of age when I found Kindred, it had felt like a lifetime of feeling like a misfit and outcast before I found Lisa Reagan, the kindred spirits of Kindred community, and the larger cultural creatives movement. I felt before that what the poet David Whyte shares in the poem “Everything is Waiting for You” that “your great mistake is to act the drama as if you were alone.” I rediscovered that deep within my spirit was a profoundly intimate feeling of interconnectedness and interdependence with the entire ecology that we each are embedded within. As MLK Jr famously said, “we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny”. This wisdom highlighted the roots of my social justice pursuits with the inner wisdom that “I” am not free until “We” are all free, and I felt the solidarity of a whole movement of other humans that I belonged to who were resonating on this collective consciousness level.
And yet, I really didn’t fit in with Kindred. I was a single mid-20s activist facilitating Occupy Detroit and teaching 12th grade in Detroit and everyone in Kindred community was a parent and honestly quite a bit older than me. Despite this, I had the privilege of beginning to work with Teresa Graham Brett on a follow up to her book Parenting for Social Change, and within her finally found an activist mentor who had integrity to their social justice pursuits within the everyday moments of their personal life. Teresa’s life inspired my heart to believe that if we transform childhood we truly can transform the world. Teresa connected me to Lisa and Kindred Community and also to Allo and his work of transforming the world from childhood in South Africa. I began my PhD in the UW-Madison School of Human Ecology learning about how ecological systems thinking can support us to solve local and global challenges and focused my research around practical wisdom in parenting. I soon found myself studying attachment theory amongst the gorillas in Rwanda and I felt the awe of feeling the inner wisdom of my lived experiences align with the science of human relationships and planetary thriving.
I went on to create and direct an initiative called EcoWell to innovatively further my school’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion which explored the practice of interdependent well-being – the idea that our individual well-being is profoundly bidirectionally linked to our planetary well-being. As I met healers from across the globe and connected them into my community, I also began my own healing journey practicing the balance between inner and outer change and deepened my own understanding of my “why” of my social justice pursuits. After volunteering for the Wisconsin Prison Mindfulness Initiative in a medium security prison, I was accepted into a spiritual care internship at Meriter Hospital in Madison with a focus on the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). I currently am completing my residency in spiritual care as a spiritual advisor to children and their families in the cancer unit of the University of Michigan Children’s Hospital. My mom and I started a band called Moist Lips and Chapped that is creating music to bring families together and I am working on starting my own Kindred initiative called Inner Passport which facilitates the wisdom of the ecology of the child for immersive and innovative social justice education. And, I feel blessed to be your Kindred World Spirit-in-Residence for the 2018-19 year.
Sincerely your Kindred-Spirit-In-Residence,
David Charles Metler
ABOUT THIS VIDEO
In the video exchange below, Robin Grille asks field researcher David Metler to imagine what the ape parents he studies in Rwanda would say to human parents. David’s answer is touching and insightful. Read the full story by David below. This interview was filmed at the Heart to Heart Parenting Conference in Yorktown, VA, in December 2013, as part of the Parenting for a Peaceful World USA Tour. Robin is an Australian psychologist and author of Parenting for a Peaceful World and Heart to Heart Parenting: Nurturing Your Child’s Emotional Intelligence from Conception to School Age.