With the recent societal regressions toward political polarization, isolationism and nationalism, threats to civil and human rights, reductions in environmental protections and broadening of economic inequality, it can be difficult not to despair. Those of us who are activated to make a difference, including myself, can find it difficult to avoid ranting, raging, and insulting their opponents. Even the most positive people I know can shake their heads, look at the ground, and shrug their shoulders when assessing our current situation. However, it is absolutely essential that people who are working to shift consciousness toward a more just and sustainable future not only resist what is intolerable, but create and communicate inspiring and realistic alternative visions for the future.
IONS former President Willis Harman said, “Because of the interconnectedness of all minds, affirming a positive vision may be about the most sophisticated action any one of us can take.” By this, he was not recommending a lack of action. He was saying that structuring in our minds a positive vision of the future is the most important step toward creating the behaviors, communities, resources, strategies and actions we want to see.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. knew this. He knew that nonviolent resistance must be accompanied by a sharing a compelling dream for the future. In his “I Have a Dream” speech, Dr. King states clearly what the problem is and what the urgency is, but how he succeeds in enrolling people to action is by painting an inspiring, possible vision for the future that people could feel in their bodies and in their bones.
In his book “Stride Toward Freedom,” King noted that the outcome of nonviolent resistance was the Beloved Community – not an idealistic utopia free from conflict, but a community ruled by agape which he described as “understanding, redeeming goodwill for all,” or an “overflowing love which is purely spontaneous, unmotivated, groundless and creative.” He said:
It is this type of spirit, and this type of love that can transform opponents into friends. It is this type of understanding goodwill that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age. It is this love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of men.
It is the vision of a positive future that pulls people forward, not hatred and rejection of the present or the past.
King’s vision springs from a philosophy of interconnectedness, similar to the vision and driving principle that drives the science and programs of the Institute of Noetic Sciences. In his Christmas Sermon on Peace in 1967, King states: “It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality.” This laid the groundwork for King’s nonviolence and his vision for the future, and it also forms the basis of IONS mission – to help people understand our essential interconnectedness through science and experiential programs, so that each of us are inspired to take action to help humanity and the planet thrive.
Our firm premise is that we are all interconnected, in ways that transcend space and time, and that the realization of that interconnectedness holds the key to creating a sustainable future where we work for the well-being of one another and our planet. I hope you’ll join us in squaring your shoulders, lifting your chin, and committing your time, energy and resources toward envisioning that future and making it manifest.
With gratitude for Dr. King.