Posted by: Ken Homer | April 13, 2008

On Being Unabashedly Positive in the Face of Cynicism

I am often accused of harboring and/or spreading utopian, naïve  and/or unrealistic notions.

I will cop to utopian.

I will reject naïve.

I will argue unrealistic.

Utopian 

It is true that I am holding a vision of, and working toward, a world where the vast majority of people are fed, clothed, sheltered and granted access to an education that allows them to bring forth and use their best talents and greatest gifts in furthering the conservation of the natural world and the advancement of the human race.

I think that pretty much qualifies as utopian. 

I hold that vision because anything short of such a world weighs too heavily on my soul, and affronts the dignity of my ancestors, my relations and my descendants. 

The fact that I do not expect to see this vision realized in my lifetime does not deter me in my pursuit.

Naïve

Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance combined with conscientious stupidity” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Because I often speak with passion about the creation of a world where our grandchildren praise our names instead of spitting on the ground at their mention, I am frequently accused of being naive.

History, I am told, provides adequate examples to prove that humans are savage and warlike.

There are many among us who hold that we are selfish and stupid, and strongly attached to belief systems that bring harm to ourselves and others, and to the world around us.

There are the wars that have killed untold millions and brought unbearable suffering to millions more. 

The causes of these wars include:

– ideological differences

– battles over turf and resources

– one people believing they are superior over, and therefore entitled, to the property of others – in extreme cases holding beliefs that they are entitled to wipe those others from the face of the Earth

– people with no respect for life

– and, those with an unquenchable appetite for power.

But mostly the cause of war is hatred – the inability to grant “an other” the right to be in legitimate co-existence with oneself.

I am told: People have been killing each other since day one and that is not going to change.

I am told: It has always been thus, and thus it shall always be.

This aspect of human history is not cavalierly dismissed on my part. 

Yet I do not accept it as the whole story either.

History is also peopled with those among us who perform and inspire the most astonishing acts of kindness, compassion, forgiveness, self-sacrifice, beauty and love.

I would not be able to write this blog, nor you able to read it, were it not for such love.

And I don’t mean the gushy, giddy headlong rush that accompanies falling in love – though that is one of the greatest experiences in life – but love that sees others as legitimate and brings us together to make the world work. 

History is the story of love triumphing over hatred – not the other way around.

If placing my trust in love is naïve, then I am guilty as charged.

“Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Unrealistic

This vision of a world that works for all first took root in my mind in the late 1980s as I read and reread the work of Bucky Fuller. In fact, the articulation of the vision above comes directly out of his work and something called World Game.

His book, Critical Path, was my first exposure to planetary-scale thinking and frankly, in addition to finding it nearly impenetrable, it rendered me a little crazy. There are sentences in that book containing polysyllabic-hyphenated-constructs that take up a page and a half!

But it opened a doorway in my mind that connected me to my right to dream of a world that works for humanity instead of being resigned to one where we run out the clock on our species’ time as we squander the natural wealth that is our birthright.

One of my favorite quotes is from historian Arnold Toynbee:

“The 20th Century will not be remembered chiefly for its political conflicts or technical advances, but as the age in which human society dared to think of the welfare of the whole human race as a practical objective.”

The amazing website and project that is Massive Change also lends support to the contention that a world that works for both humanity and nature is both possible and within reach.

At the same time, we are faced with massive challenges that, from neary any rational perspective, seem practically insurmountable.

Renowned biologist David Suzuki cautions we may be so far into overshoot that some aspects of collapse will soon begin to affect many of the systems we take for granted.

Nevertheless, he is holding open the possibility that the creative genius of the human mind will invent ways to see us through these possible catastrophes. 

While technology will play a critical role in how we thread our species through the eye of the needle we are rapidly approaching, it is the quality of our relationships that will determine how we use that technology.

Currently we have the wealth, knowledge and distribution systems to achieve the utopian vision outlined at the beginniing of this post. 

The question is: do we have the love to make it a reality?

Although it’s a model long practiced here in the west, the world brought forth when the organizing principles of humanity center on enriching and caring for an elite at the expense of the many is ultimately doomed to failure – as is becoming more and more evident with each passing day.

We can bring forth a different world.

We are bringing forth a different world.

We will bring forth a different world.

A world where the organizing principles of humanity center on reclaiming and restoring the health of our planet’s ecosystems.

A world where the organizing principles of humanity center on creating and maintaining a world where the health of the children of all species is seen as equally important with that of caring for our own children.

A world where we awaken to the gift of Human Presence on Earth as a unique and sacred intelligence capable of surviving and thriving for millions of years to come.

Such a world is not only possible, it is on its way.

But that is no cause for slacking off and allowing others to do the hard work needed to bring it into being.

To bring forth this world, we need to navigate through some very tangled webs.

My assertion is that the only way out is through, and the only way through is together.

And I believe there is something noble in our nature that is waking up to that fact.

By granting legitimacy to each person’s right to be fed, clothed, sheltered and given access to the educational resources for them to bring their greatest gifts to the world’s deepest needs, we just might awaken and activate the kind of universal intelligence  we need to manage passing along a world where our grandchildren praise our names.

For those who see a vision of a world that works for the children of all species for all time as a distant, unachievable fantasy clung to by only a few tree-huggers on the fringes of society, I suggest you watch this six minute youtube video of Paul Hawken’s address to the 2006 Bioneers conference.

It just might help you to be unabashedly positive in the face of cynicism.

 

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Responses

  1. To paraphrase one of my favorite musicians, there is a door up ahead, not a wall.

    And what can we do? Keep alert. Read. THINK. Don’t be shy about making your opinion known. Vote. Join one of those organizations Paul Hawken showed. Better yet, start one.

    Every grain of sand that gets moved helps move a mountain.

  2. And to quote an old Taoist saying:

    If you want to change the course of a mighty river, go upstream far enough and you can do so by moving a single pebble.


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