- Whatever food happens to be available for a meal, especially when offered to a guest: Having arrived unannounced for supper, we had to take potluck.
- A meal at which each guest brings food that is then shared by all. Also called potluck supper.
- Whatever is available at a particular time: The scheduled flight was canceled and passengers had to take potluck on the other airlines.
Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved. Retrieved at
So why is this word so important?
Making positive things happen in the world and in our lives becomes possible by understanding how things work — that is, not only how they function but how they succeed. Understanding how things work becomes possible by understanding dynamic systems, because dynamic systems are everywhere, everywhen, everything. And the potluck idea is exemplary, at least metaphorically, of how dynamic systems work.
- Diversity — In a potluck supper, everyone brings a little something different. Success comes from variety and complementarity, as it does in all dynamic systems. The ongoing diversity automatically yields…
- Novelty — No two potluck suppers are alike. Each is a whole new experience — often a new dish for each contributor to make, and always a new menu for the group as a whole to enjoy. This novelty is characteristic of so many dynamic processes in the universe. Diversity and novelty mutually reinforce each other, and together they are mutually reinforcing
- Community — Individuals come together with unique contributions to give sustenance to each other. The job of creating the experience is shared and so made easier on everyone. There are few such clear examples of community, whose etymological roots mean giving gifts together. This quality of community is a particular kind of…
- Synergy — Because all sorts of things are brought to the table, everyone gets out more than they put in. It’s a win-win situation in which the whole becomes more than the sum of its parts. This synergy, whose etymological roots mean cooperation and working together,
- Abundance — At a potluck supper, everyone brings what seems like a little, but everyone goes away full, and often with leftovers. Just like the inherent diversity, this abundance is impossible for any individual to generate alone. It can only be realized through synergistic community. Ironically, this bounty is possible due to…
- Sufficiency — The wealth of the potluck — both the material wealth of the diverse abundance of its offerings and the intangible wealth of community — is a given. It emerges effortlessly from the circumstances. Nobody is ever found wanting, and so nobody feels a need to stress the resources surrounding them. Paradoxically, over-indulgence is only possible amidst scarcity, while sufficiency comes to pervade when abundance and community are present as a matter of course. And the sense of sufficiency itself helps ensure that abundance will endure — yet another mutual reinforcement. A dynamic like this, happening easily on its own without forethought or management, is a stellar example of…
- Self-organization — From stars and planets to organisms and ecosystems to cultures and economies, dynamic systems arise, adapt and evolve by simply taking advantage of what the universe hands them, doing the best they can with what they’ve got. This is the essence of self-organization. And when this is done, all the other qualities of the potluck arise effortlessly, automatically. So the original sense of the word potluck, taking whatever happens to be available, has everything to do with all of these other potluck qualities — and everything to do with understanding how things function and succeed.
So how does this metaphor come into play for this website?
The Potluck website is:
- A voice that promotes the systems perspective, particular those qualities embodied in the potluck metaphor, in order to bring about fundamentally positive change for individuals, communities, businesses and ecosystems.
- A platform for a diversity of offerings from people who cultivate systems-based ideas. Many offerings directly express those ideas. Others are more tangential, presenting other material of interest to the site’s creators.
- A place to foster community for the people who create its offerings. This includes not only community among themselves, but also connections to others out there in the world working with similar ideas, as well as personal space for the site’s creators to talk about and express themselves aside from the site’s more formal offerings.
In the end, Potluck is a Smorgasbord of Systemic Succulence and Dynamic Delicacies, as well as Non-linear Nourishment, Evolutionary Enticements and Adaptive Ambrosia! … not to mention some Miscellaneous Munchies just for fun.
Before this site launched, its content had one history and its domain name had another. To learn about the content before it lived at potluck.com, visit the post about Mosaic: A Magazine of Arts, Sciences & Everything in Between. To learn about what the potluck.com was before it became this site, visit Sandy Bradley’s page.