“Where there is no vision, the people perish.”
Proverbs 29:18 as quoted in SEEKER AND SERVANT by Robert Greenleaf
I have been able to attend a number of conferences recently where the major topic has been the state of the world around us, particularly the natural state of the world. If you have looked at this state lately, it is not a good one. The consequences of a warming planet pose serious threats, our water is polluted and in many areas scarce, and the quality of our air makes it dangerous to breath at times, and our world is filling up with more and more people.
I have gone to these conferences hoping to find some good news, some hope for the future, but instead I only learn more about the details of how badly we our treating our planet. The only hope I heard was that our technology would solve our problems -- that we could all install low flow toilets, or use energy more efficiently via such technological advances as the compact fluorescent light bulb, or that we could all drive hybrid cars. Unfortunately, I believe it will take much more than simply buying new fangled merchandise to clean up our mess.
What I finally realized that what was missing from these talks was a hopeful vision for our future. There seemed to be little if any talk or description for what our world could look like if we decided to treat it with respect, instead of treating it like a limitless garbage dump. We need vision. When I mistakenly shared my disappointment with my wife about the lack of vision in the speakers, she reminded me that perhaps it was me who needed a vision.
The dictionary defines vision in several ways: “something seen in a dream, trance, or ecstasy; and object of imagination; a manifestation to the senses of something immaterial” to name a few of the more unflattering definitions. It might be the focus on that fantasy quality or the un-achievability of the vision that has resulted in our being a very blind society when it comes to describing a future we would like to inhabit.
At least that has been my experience lately as I view the world through my own cynical eyes. So after moping around for several weeks, I came across a presentation by Donella Meadows titled ENVISIONING A SUSTAINABLE WORLD. Her discussion on what keeps us from being a visionary and how to overcome it is a worthwhile read.
Robert Greenleaf asks in his essay Towards a Gentle Revolution, Far too many of our institutions – and of course, far too many people – are failing to serve at a level that is reasonable and possible for them. If the main reason for this deficiency in both people and institutions is, as I believe, that they are not inspired by a sufficient vision of greatness, then what is the remedy?
It seems our task for the short-term future is to begin work on coming up with our own vision for the future.