One Sunday in November, a group of us got together to start discussing this idea of a global, unifying vision for the prosperity of humankind. I’ll be posting the insights from that discussion over the next weeks. Today I want to talk about how to begin.
How do we start this conversation about vision? It’s one that we all have a stake in. And one we know in our hearts we desperately need—both the vision and the conversation.
Here’s what I did. Maybe it will work for you too. I contacted people I thought would be interested in such a discussion and invited them to my house on a Sunday afternoon. The response was far beyond what I’d imagined. So many people wanted to come, we had to find a bigger place to hold the gathering.
On the day of the discussion, we had some light refreshments (it always helps to “break bread” together) and gathered around in a circle. The inspiration for this whole thing is The Prosperity of Humankind, and I figured that was a good place to begin. So we started off with reading one passage from that statement (see below).
We also talked about the process of consultation. Its purpose is to come to a consensus about the truth of a given situation and to choose the best course of action among the options available at the time. Each person fully expresses his or her view and then lets go of it. It now belongs to the group. The group then can sift through all the views expressed and arrive at the truth of the matter.
We used a couple of tools as reminders of this process. Each person had a bag of “gems” (in this case, mosaic tiles). When someone expressed a thought, they put a gem in the middle of the table. It was a visual reminder that now that thought belongs to the group. The group could then look at all these gems of wisdom and form a picture of the truth.
It’s like the story of The Five Blind Men and the Elephant. Five blind men came across an obstacle in their path. One reached out and touched a leg of the elephant and declared, “This thing is a tree!” Another felt the broad vertical surface of the elephant’s side and said, “No it’s not. It’s a wall.” Another touched the ear that flaps and said, “No, it’s a sail.” The fourth man got hold of the trunk that moves and insisted, “No, it’s a snake.” The last man grabbed the tail and told the others, “You’re all wrong, it’s a rope.”
If these men continue to insist on their own views, they’ll be forever arguing. But if they offer up their view and let go of it, together they can piece together the truth—that what they’ve encountered is, in fact, an elephant.
Ways of Listening
Another tool we used was a reminder to listen to each other. We each chose a way of listening (or 2 or 3) to use during the discussion:
Equity Seeker—Make sure everyone has a chance to speak.
Prospector—Listen for gems of wisdom.
Scribe—Write down gems of wisdom.
Connector—Look for connections between ideas.
Empath—Observe the mood of the group.
Astronaut—Listen for global-level thinking.
Gatherer—Listen for the all-inclusive “we” (we humans).
Dreamer—Listen for “What if?” thinking, stretching the realm of possibilities.
Explorer—Listen for what we have not thought of yet.
Jester—Listen for the most outlandish, wacky ideas.
Kaleidoscope—Listen for as many different perspectives as possible.
Archaeologist—Dig deep and find hidden meanings.
Historian—Recall the ideas expressed at the beginning of the discussion.
Sage—Listen for universal principles (justice, equality, etc.).
Mystic—Listen for divine qualities people use in expressing their ideas (kindness, integrity, compassion, fairness, etc.).
I’m sure you can come up with more roles that encourage different kinds of listening. At the end of the consultation, we each shared what we’d learned by listening with these different ears. It added a richness and a depth to the consultation.
The atmosphere of the consultation was extraordinary. There was such respect among those gathered. And an ease as well. We all tuned in to listen as each person spoke, because you never knew who would have that next nugget of wisdom. And because you knew you were being heard, there was no need to keep trying to make your point. Themes emerged, which I’ll share in future posts. Someone would share an insight and someone else would build upon it.
Network of Light
In the middle of the discussion, an image came to me that described what was happening in a powerfully graphic way: The act of our coming together and sharing like this was forming a connection that went far beyond those in the room. That connection is expanding and spreading. It’s like wisps, tendrils of light that connect each of us together and spread out across the globe. It forms a network, a web of “light” threads that connect nodes of light and covers the entire earth. This conversation is part of a global awakening of consciousness and we are all part of it. We are all helping to build it. You, me, the guy next door. We are all part of this vast network of light. Amazingly enough, the picture above captures the spirit of what I saw in that moment (not the elephant ).
So gather your friends together and join in this global awakening. Get together for coffee. Invite people over to share a pot of stew. Start talking together about what it would be like if we had a vision that all of humanity could get behind. A vision of our future as a human race. A vision of a world where everyone contributes and everyone benefits.
Such a vision would change everything.
“Throughout the world, immense intellectual and spiritual energies are seeking expression, energies whose gathering pressure is in direct proportion to the frustrations of recent decades. Everywhere the signs multiply that the earth’s peoples yearn for an end to conflict and to the suffering and ruin from which no land is any longer immune. These rising impulses for change must be seized upon and channeled into overcoming the remaining barriers that block realization of the age-old dream of global peace. The effort of will required for such a task cannot be summoned up merely by appeals for action against the countless ills afflicting society. It must be galvanized by a vision of human prosperity in the fullest sense of the term—an awakening to the possibilities of the spiritual and material well-being now brought within grasp. Its beneficiaries must be all of the planet’s inhabitants, without distinction, without the imposition of conditions unrelated to the fundamental goals of such a reorganization of human affairs.” ~ The Prosperity of Humankind, Universal House of Justice, 1995