Please, sit down with me. Gather round and form a circle. If there are too many people, form another circular row behind the first. Leave yourself some space to be comfortable. Get cozy. Yes. You are reading and this is just a gathering in our respective minds. Feel free to include as many or as few people in this gathering as you would like.
If you’re comfortable with it, please close your eyes while we do a little settling in. Staying relaxed, lets do five forward shoulder rolls. Now five backward shoulder rolls. Now, lets properly stretch our neck. First, pretend like your trying to touch your right ear to your right shoulder. It’s ok to lean into the direction a little bit. Bring your head back to normal. Do the same for the left side.
Be mindful of the division between the left side and right side of your neck. Lean your head towards your right shoulder. Let your neck relax and return the center of your body so your head is bowed and stop in the center. Bring your head back to its normal position. Repeat for the left side. From an upright position, lean to the right and stretch. Return to center. Lean to the left and stretch. Return to center. Keep your back relatively straight and bend forward to feel a slight stretch in your lower back. Return to center.
Now take some time to focus on your breath, let’s say 4 minutes, but longer if you have the time. Feel the sensations in your body while you focus on your breath. Watch your thoughts as they pass through your mind without holding onto them or following them. See the stream of reality pass by. Experience the ripples and eddies. Notice it all, but do not dwell upon any of it drifting past the riverbanks of your soul. Breathe in. Breathe out.
Let us each build a world. Envision the society you think you’ve always wanted. Include as little or as much of our current world as you see fit. What institutions should make it into this envisioned world? What social structures and power dynamics should be in this new experience of the world? Of all the concepts in our world, what should be included and what should be left out?
Should there be more ceremony? More art? More music? More vibrance? Less poverty? Does your vision draw upon ideas which could improve the lives of people in your life? Does it just improve your own life? What kind of people are here living together in harmony in this world? How did that unfold and how does it work? How do people resolve their differences in this world?
Are there completely new institutions that should come to be? Take your time. Be creative. Stretch your limits if you can.
Now I want to focus on the other people in your vision. Who did you include? Did you leave people out? I don’t want this be a judgemental experience. I want this to be a learning experience. Please go easy on yourself. Remember to observe but not dwell on. Observe, but not be taken over by it. You can always come back to it later and reevaluate yourself.
While answering the next set of questions, focus on breathing and relaxing into this self knowledge. Once, I was walking around barefoot. I stepped on a group of rocks. My first reaction was to holler in pain. My second reaction was to relax into it. If my foot could relax, I wouldn’t be pushing as hard against the rocks and pebbles. This means it wouldn’t hurt my nerves as much, because there would be less pressure. Relaxing into this self knowledge allows us to more fully understand it by sitting with it. It gives us the opportunity to explore without immediately running away.
In your vision:
- How many people were there who think differently than you?
- How many people were raised in a different culture?
- How many people were there who don’t look like you?
- How many ethnicities did your include in your vision?
- Did those ethnicities reflect the true variety of cultural and “racial” makeup of each one? (specifically regarding the history specific to those people due to a different culture or skin color)
- How many LGBTQQIAAP people did you include?
- How many of the LGBTQQIAAP people were BIPOC?
- How many of your friends did you include?
- How many friends of friends did you include?
- How many locations and countries did you include?
- How many institutions and cultures did you change?
- Did you remove them because you saw them impacting the above people, or because it impacts you?
- How many institutions / ceremonies / feasts / gatherings / traditions / cultures did you add?
- Did you add them because you saw them impacting the above people, or because you just thought they were a good idea?
- How many needs of all of these groups did you use to make you vision of a better world?
- How different was the group of people you imagined coming together at the beginning of this post compared to the people you envisioned in the perfect world?
- How certain are you that the changes you made wouldn’t require other people to change vital aspects about their cultures?
Keep these things in mind: No one has a full grasp on all of these issues. In the so called “Americas” there are around at least 1500 Indigenous groups across all the landmass. There are over 5000 Indigenous groups/nations worldwide. There are currently 195 recognized countries in the world. Each of those countries has its own collection of ethnicities and groups with their own issues. I’m sure the issues vary by region, too. I would bet that even managing a list of all of your friends’ issues is difficult these days.
Now that we have a better concept of the limits of our own imaginations, we can work to expand them with a few tools. What is something we could focus on to reveal what would make things better for other people? Everyone has them, babies especially. Any guesses?
No one knows the needs of everyone, but in our society so many people don’t have their needs met. This is probably why most visions people project out into the world fail. Most people in politics focus on the economy: how productive we are, how many jobs there are, the velocity of money. They have a hope that the market will meet the needs of the people because of a constant balancing of supply and demand. Unfortunately, many aspects of life can get in the way of people meeting their own needs.
According to a story about cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead, the first sign of a civilization is the ability to take care of someone who is dealing with a potentially life threatening injury until they can recover. I really like that picture. Imagine a society where everyone worked together to meet their collective needs. Our society shows signs of being an anti-civilization. We get so focused on meeting our own needs through the market that we have no time or no spare resources to help other people — or even listen to them unless it is to participate in the market itself.
What many people fail to see about a progression to a corporate and capitalist economy is corporations with capital become drivers of the economty and the needs of the people no longer drive the economy. The jobs follow the capital. Many people say the capital is a direct result of the people and their desires, but much capital is under the control of management and investment firms out of the reach of most people. These cannot fully operate in the realm of needs. Food doesn’t make money unless you can minimize cost. Rent doesn’t yield much return for the investment unless they are “luxury” apartments or condos. If growing food and property management cannot yield much gain, why should they really be commodities? Some people have argued they shouldn’t be commodities.
We need to come back the basics of meeting people’s needs. The only way to know what someone’s or some groups needs are is to ask them. Listen carefully when they tell you their needs. Work hard to arrive at a neutral root cause. Who is asking what people’s needs are? You could be asking these questions if no one else around you is. Maybe more people will start asking, “How can I help you meet your needs today?” and “What are your needs?”
Currently, I see people using people’s needs as weapons. It’s true, weak spots can be leveraged to turn people against each other: “You need a job? Oh that person over there is coming to steal the job you were going to get.” People can accept this without critically dissecting why they would loose the job. It’s not because that other person is coming over here, it because people with capital can exploit that to lower wages. This is what the anti-leaders occupying leadership positions around the globe today are saying and how they are creating more division. True leadership focuses on meeting the needs of the people who are part of their group. If people’s needs are taken care of, they can focus on what needs to be done.
I leave you with a few questions:
- Are your needs being met?
- How aware are you of the people around you and their needs?
- Are the needs of the people around you being met?
- If your needs are met and the needs of the people around you are not met, are you content with not helping those around you?
- If you and everyone around has their needs met, are you all content with not helping people further away?
- If someone cannot meet their needs, who’s responsibility is it? Does individualism preclude all communal help?
- If neither you nor the people around you are getting your needs met, what are the strategies and tactics you are going to use to organize, be heard, and get your needs met? Between all of you, are there enough skills and ability to find a solution?
- When you meet a person’s needs, how sensitive are you to their history, individuality, and intersection with numerous cultures? How much does that kind of sensitivity matter? How much of that sensitivity is too much?
- How hard are you working to establish a relationship, and not just a one time gift?
This might be a lot to examine all at once, so take your time and process it and think about it over the rest of the year (or longer, if need be). Try and figure out if there are any attitudes you have which could change. Try to figure out if there are any actions you could take and try to integrate those actions into your daily life.
- This was originally published on my website on June 28, 2020.
- Featured collage by Guilherme Maueler