“And so we must imagine a new country.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates – Poet, journalist, prophet of our times
Imagine the Future—
Called by Hope, Driven by Courage, and Powered by Science, the Humanities, and the Arts.
An invitation from David O’Fallon
Our work—my work— now is to use courageous imagination in the creation of worlds in which we—all of us—can thrive. This time and age ask us to go beyond identifying what is broken, beyond adding to the litany of disasters, beyond identifying a solution to a specific problem, as important as all that is.
We are asked now to learn from the wisdom we have and from the deep roots that brought us here, from indigenous wisdom and the myths that give and sustains life—and courageously imagine what could be.
Organizations were created in a particular time and place and within a particular narrative, a story of how the world was made, who it was made for, who could determine what was to be valued and what systems were best to produce and protect what was most valued.
Now, encountering complex and interrelated challenges, that narrative, that founding story, that origin story which led to policies and programs and practices to serve purposes as determined by the privileged people of that origin story and its world of beliefs—needs to be challenged and often—needs to change.
Here are few voices that speak to this foundational change from different perspectives:
“…focus on critical connections rather instead of critical mass. These are more important in long term transformation than mass”. Grace Lee Boggs – activist, philosopher, community and movement creator in Detroit
“Do you feel optimistic about our future as a species, our future as a country, as a world, when it comes to meeting the scale of the challenges we face?”
“One of my most serious concerns is whether we can rally around a national ambition, one that needs to be articulated for us to drive toward the positive future I see as well within our reach. I grew up under the shadow of Sputnik. While that event was terrifying for our nation, for me as an elementary school student it opened up untold opportunity and untold possibility for what science could accomplish.
Of course it’s important to be realistic about threats, but it’s also very, very important to muster our resources to our greater glory. Not just our intellectual resources, but also our emotional resources, to imagine a future that could be better than the one we’re living in today.” Susan Hockfield – Neuroscientist, and the first female president of MIT
“Are there indeed tools that have not been invented, which we must invent in order to build the house we want our children to live in? Can we go on from what we know now, or does what we know now keep us from learning what we need to know? To learn what people of color, the women, the poor, have to teach, to learn the knowledge we need, must we unlearn all the knowledge of the whites, the men, the powerful?
The most powerful such tool, is the imagination – the ability and willingness to imagine alternative to reality as we know it, which is always the first step toward making different and better realities possible. She points to storytelling as the most powerful use of the imagination in expanding our scope of the possible.” Ursula K Le Guin
“To be a little grandiose about it, this is a really unique moment in human history. We’re likely to decide in this time frame what people are going to live with forever.” Paul Romer – Nobel Prize winner for economics, interview in New York Times
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” Buckminster Fuller
“At this point we have all the information we need to create a change; it isn’t a matter of facts. It’s a matter of longing, having the will to imagine and implement something else.” Adrienne Marete Brown – in ‘Emergent Strategy’
“We are building something immense together that, though invisible and immaterial, is a structure, one we reside within—or, rather, many overlapping structures. They’re assembled from ideas, visions and values emerging out of conversations, essays, editorials, arguments, slogans, social-media messages, books, protests, and demonstrations.
About race, class, gender, sexuality; about nature, power, climate, the interconnectedness of all things; about compassion, generosity, collectivity, communion; about justice, equality, possibility. Though there are individual voices and people who got there first, these are collective projects that matter not when one person says something but when a million integrate it into how they see and act in the world. The we who inhabits those structures grows as what was once subversive or transgressive settles in as normal, as people outside the walls wake up one day inside them and forget they were ever anywhere else.
We live inside ideas. Some are shelters, some are observatories, some are windowless prisons. We are leaving some behind and entering others. At its best, in recent years, this has been a collaborative process so swift and powerful that those paying closest attention can see the doors being framed, the towers arising, the spaces taking shape in which our thoughts will reside—and other structures being knocked down. Oppressions and exclusions so accepted they’re nearly invisible become visible en route to becoming unacceptable, and other mores replace the old ones. Those who watch with care can see the structure expanding so that some of those who object or ridicule or fail to comprehend will, within a few years, not even question their lives inside those frameworks. Others try to stop these new edifices from arising; they succeed better with legislation than with imagination. That is, you can prevent women from having access to abortions more easily than you can prevent them from thinking they have the right to an abortion.
The consequences of these transformations are perhaps most important where they are most subtle. They remake the world, and they do so mostly by the accretion of small gestures and statements and the embracing of new visions of what can be and should be.
The unknown becomes known, the outcasts come inside, the strange becomes ordinary. You can see changes to the ideas about whose rights matter and what is reasonable and who should decide, if you sit still enough and gather the evidence of transformations that happen by a million tiny steps before they result in a landmark legal decision or an election or some other shift that puts us in a place we’ve never been.” Rebecca Solnit
“And so we must imagine a new country.” Ta-Nehisi Coates – Poet, journalist, prophet of our times
These quotes and ideas are shared from a personal and a professional perspective. I’ve led national and state organizations, changed policy at the federal, state and local levels. And now see in front of me—and of us—the need for fundamental change, that will take more than my lifetime to achieve. And I will do all I can to be part of that change—what has been called by David Korten and others, The Great Turning.
The Climate Crisis pulls in all the elements of savage capitalism, entrenched racism, and predatory and exploitative “economy”.
It is overwhelming AND we can and will take steps now.
The future is not a given. We can create one in which all thrive. We will——
Build networks of active hope.
Many are doing good work in many sectors, in education, local agriculture, in arts and cultural work, health, environment, and yet many feel isolated from others in their field and in other sectors. Deliberately gather people across separate sectors, to share success, resources, ideas and affirm and support each other.
Convene across boundaries, start and support new relationships.
The future will be imagined and created as we are start and nurture new relationships, new networks, new organisms. These will have simultaneously deep local roots (place matters) and world consciousness.
Imagine new ways of being in relationship
The new (ancient) power is in shared values, shared responsibilities for each other and for the place and time one is in. Sustainable Power lives in collaboration and community.
Devise and create the tools needed to see, support and value the work of transformation.
Tools of communication, connection, and evaluation are evolving to help create and strengthen the visions and networks and organisms needed.
Chop wood. Carry Water. Do the next right thing.
Chose daily not to be overwhelmed or dismayed by the cascade of crisis. Note the good work near and with you—and do the next right thing where you are .
David O’Fallon, PhD,