Donella Meadows held out her right hand, fist closed and facing down, at the level of her eyes. “Imagine this is your vision. The world you want.”, she said.
She then put out her left hand, fist closed and facing up, at the level of her navel. “This”, she said, “is your reality. The world you live in.”.
“Now imagine there is a rubber band stretched between my fists so that you can feel the tension as it is stretched. The higher your vision from the reality, the more the tension.” She then proceeded to move the right fist, yes, the vision fist up and down.
Try it out for yourself. Imagine your vision. Then imagine your reality. Imagine the tension as your vision is higher than your reality.
“You can let the tension pull your vision and snap it to reality.” she said. “Or you can use the tension to pull your reality to your vision!” she exclaimed.
You will not be the first person if you laughed at the idea of a vision. Most people do. No wonder their world is so deeply trapped in the reality of politics. The pragmatism of economics. For them, the world cannot be different. It cannot be better. It cannot be saner. It cannot be humane, loving, offering dignity and liberty to everyone. It cannot be any different from the world they have grown up in.
In our reality of measuring a person’s worth by the wealth and power they hold, to destroy us or destroy our world, we have built the worst dystopias the modern world could be about.
We have realized every depiction of George Orwell and Aldous Huxley. We have made real exploitation by economics and suppression by politics. In the process we have forgotten our ability to envision a better world.
If you dare to envision a world different from your reality, to challenge the dystopias we live in, you will not be the first either. Most people, however, let the vision snap back into reality. They cannot take the stretch of being out of the comfort zone of their reality, even if the comfort zone was exploitative and disempowering. Just because the comfort zone is what is familiar.
Donella Meadows taught me to walk out of my comfort zone, to endure the stretch of my vision, to not succumb to the familiar reality.
I wish I can do the same for you as we face a world that has the unprecedented opportunity to rise up from our familiar exploitative economic and political reality to a world that is symbiotic, caring and respectful. As we can deaddict ourselves of the short term and learn to act in the Short Now, the lifetime of a child born today.
In the last decade of her life, Donella Meadows worked relentlessly on her vision of a sustainable world. She brought together diverse people with their families and aligned them to her vision of creating a co-habiting community that would live by the principles of a sustainable world.
In the beautiful state of New Hampshire, Donella Meadows vision, or at least something between her vision and reality, thrives at Cobb Hill. Many of the families brought together by her, live in a small community farm that grows most of what they consume. Members of this community, like all that are truly communities, are not independent of each other. They are dependent on each other not only for the co-existence of the community, the farm produce they consume, the safety net they weave, but even for the day-to-day meals and after meal conversations that they share.
We live in a world whose reality is driven by increased urbanization.
A world where more and more cities join the list of cities that have more than a million people. A world where every city dweller strives to become independent of the other. A world that has few communities, fewer that sustain. A world where exploitation and suppression are the ways of life. A world whose problems start with the absence of common purposes in the systems we participate in.
A world where those in the systems do not experience the events in the system similarly and equally. A world where the urban environment is a collection of exploitative and suppressive systems.
We live in extraordinary times. Yet, many are in a hurry to get back to the familiar. To the economic and political systems that have dominated our lives ever since we were born. To exploitative and suppressive dystopia of the pre-covid world. To being independent – financially, psychologically, socially, physically to the familiar.
Yet, there is no better time, no better opportunity to envision a new world.
There is no better time to pull the reality to the new vision. There is no better time to transform the world.
Can we envision a world of millions of communities? Communities where interdependence is founded on common purposes? Where cohabitants share experiences of their purposes similarly and equally? Where the community governs itself, and to their common purposes? Where communities are not exploited by the economy and suppressed by politics?
Where the communities are diverse, yet sustainable, resilient, symbiotic, and provide a fulfilling life? Can we dare to articulate our vision? To share it with the world? To stand ground and the creative tension that the vision brings?
Can we then allow the creative tension to pull the reality closer and closer to the world we envision? Can we build the world we would want to be in?
#All views expressed in this column are those of the author and/or individuals that may be quoted and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to them.
He can be reached @AnupamSaraph
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