Original Thinkers 2022: A Perspective!

Original Thinkers 2022: A Perspective!

Season #5 and counting. When you’ve given as good as it gets and you know it, it’s time to kick back and enjoy the fruits of your labor. At Original Thinkers 2022 festival director David Holbrooke introduced speakers, greeted the crowds at the various venues with the rakish insouciance of an experienced host welcoming guests to a cocktail party filled with some of the most interesting people in the world. Congrats too to Meredith Lavitt, OT President; Lara Shaunette, Director of Programming; Cynthia Sommers, Festival Coordinator; Geneva Shaunette, Paper Pusher; and the rest of the very tight, efficient, gracious team.

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Go here for more about Original Thinkers 2022 and past.


David Holbrooke, Founder and Ringleader, Original Thinkers


Meredith Lavitt.


Laura Shaunette


Cynthia Sommers


Geneva Shaunette

Where in the world do these worlds collide?

An immunologist who discovers a cure for a very aggressive blood cancer and saves the life of a 6-year-old girl and a beautiful dancer from the slums of Brazil who is saving the lives of girls from her favela by teaching them her art.

A former street person turned reporter for Street Sense, a rag about life on the streets, and a journalist from the prestigious Washington Post, who was in the thick of the January 6th madness and mayhem.

A brilliant gay pastor and orator who escaped the strictures of an evangelical mega church and a brave young woman fighting for the release of her innocent father who is being hold hostage in an Iranian jail.

A gaggle of fine artists and an expert in living teas – who also happens to be an herbalist, acupuncturist, and practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine, everyone of them from the hood.

A rabbi, a guy who chases fire and ice, and a former CIA operative (best-selling author and local).

Sound baths and Sunday sermons.

Hikes, climate cafes, book-signings, a woman’s circle and happy hours with exotic cocktails to wrap up the day.

The cognitive dissonance is slightly less intense when the mix includes a bevy of artists, fine and performing, one of whom was a Japanese//Mexican/Indigenous woman living and creating in America.

No doubt the mash-up is head-scratcher…unless the head in question is that of David Holbrooke, who lives where he works: out of the box. And who, five years ago, founded Original Thinkers (OT) after a decade helming Mountainfilm. Clearly his super power (and art form) is programming. Expect the unexpected from David and you will be pleasantly surprised.

In today’s world a kind of sclerosis with its corollary, polarization, is impacting public institutions and private lives alike. But not everyone, not everything, is bleached of hard truths such as:

Fossil fuels are not as readily available as the fake news suggests, including coal, and fracking is not just bad for the environment, it is also cost inefficient.

Rapid climate change: the science is real folks, duh.

And so is the influence of dark money. Look at election results around the globe, tilting right (which, in our view, is wrong). Look in our own back yard – and in social media. Democracy is really in danger.

And the pandemic? According to the experts, more sub-variants on the way and winter is coming.

Those and other examples of socio-cultural degradation and massive ecological change suggest we are at the cusp of a turning point in history. And the daily shocks we are experiencing require action or “social resilience” – examples of which abounded at OT 2022, where the glass-is-half-full message was written in bold-faced type: one person can make a difference.

We can be the cure.

But not if we sit back.

Only if we lean in…

Like The Janes, a documentary from directors Tia Lessin and Emma Pildes about a group of young Everywomen whose “weapons” were bravery, kindness, compassion and resilience. In the end, the collective helped thousands obtain abortions when they were illegal back in the late 1960s and early 1970s. With Roe v. Wade on life support this story of daring remains all too relevant now.

Fifty years later, two of The Janes came to town (with the directors) and spoke of their experience doing what came naturally – helping others help themselves.

Like Tom Voss and Florence Williams who helmed the OT program titled “The Power of Awe.”

An Iraq war veteran and founder of Ojai Earth, Voss healed his PTSD and now helps others heal through holistic practices, particularly mindfulness meditation.

Voss led restorative yoga classes throughout the weekend.

Williams first came to town to speak in 2017, in concert with the release of her first book, “The Nature Fix,” which easily, breezily, sassily demonstrates that our connection to nature is far more important to our cognition and peace of mind than we ever knew and that even limited exposure to the natural world can enhance our creativity and elevate our mood. After all, as she points out, we evolved outside. Being indoors wears us down. In her second major book, “Heartbreak,” an exploration of loss, grief, also talks about the healing powers of nature – where we find awe.

A certified instructor, Williams led forest bathing sessions.

The final program at OT featured a short doc titled “The Price of Certainty,” which “stars” social psychologist Arie Kruglanski, best known for his theory of “cognitive closure,” a term he coined in 1989 to describe how we make decisions.

In this context, “Closure” is the moment we make a decision or form a judgment that closes our minds to new information. And the more uncertain our world seems, the more we compensate by seeking certainty.

The more we define facts as anything we like and spread them like the common cold.

And that’s why heady banquets like OT matter.

A wild and wooly jostling of genres, mediums and peeps, with a focus on cultural sensitivity and inclusiveness, events like OT bend towards hope, a rare commodity nowadays.

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