By Stewart Levine

Everyone is moving faster and faster. There are more and more of us. We collide with each other more frequently, and with greater velocity. We are bombarded with input and information. Each day adds to the overload. Telephones! Voicemails! Faxes! E-mails! Most people are focused on winning, being right, and blaming.

Each day brings news of more violence — in a school, workplace, restaurant. I cringe at the horror and wonder about the causes. Is it the mass media? Pressures to be successful? Loss of family, religion, or other grounding principles? There is no “answer.” All factors contribute.
How can we nurture each other? How can we learn to work together effectively and gain the value of each other’s unique genius? Without the collaborations that can resolve our serious global challenges like population control, starvation, education, and fear, our civilization may be shrugged off — just another layer in the archeological record. We may not resolve our serious concerns today, or tomorrow, or next year, but it is essential to reach.

Recently The New York Times featured U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and his artful diplomatic work in Iraq. Focusing on goals less worthy than those kinds of projects is like moving deck chairs around the Titanic. I believe most politicians are too frightened to pay attention to the real concerns we face, so they “move around deck chairs.”

Two years ago I conducted a seminar for a multi-national company. About a half-hour into the seminar I realized I was not very “connected” to the participants: 25 white males; I just wasn’t engaging them. Eventually I touched on the subject of the group’s apparent lack of cultural diversity. From the back of the room came a protest. John, the speaker, declared himself Native American.

At lunch, John approached me, “You know Stewart, Heaven on Earth is here, right now. Unfortunately most people are too busy and preoccupied to realize or enjoy it.” You never know when your deeply-held beliefs will be validated.

For years I have held the fantasy of creating a new political party called H.O.E. — Heaven On Earth. If you doubt the point of what John said, then think about food growing from the earth, babies being born, heroic medicine reattaching limbs and transplanting organs, the healing power of love, planes flying and the “magic” of technology. There is enough on this planet — enough food, enough resources, enough technology — to provide everyone with a satisfying life.


we all had a full stomach,
we all lived without fear,
we all had work that provided a sense of contribution
we all went beyond political and national “ism’s,”

IF we all provided that, H.O.E. would be ours to enjoy!

A few years ago, a novel by Daniel Quinn called Ishmael won the Turner Prize for the vision it held for the future. The story is about a teacher looking for students who want to save the world. The teacher is Ishmael, a gorilla. His core message is that balance on earth was disrupted when humans decided they were the dominant creatures: conquering the environment, other creatures, and each other. The human urge to dominate may destroy us.

That’s why we have to reach out — and reach far and deep!

Reaching far out with expansive thinking will help us invent the solutions to the concerns about population control, starvation, education, and fear. Reaching deep inside will allow us to discover our essence as human beings.

The noted Chilean biologist, Humberto Maturana, says that humans are unique. No other animal has the ability to caress. Couple that thought with Charles Handy who says that — as a result of the decline of traditional religious institutions, the lack of respect for political systems, and the disintegration of the family — business organizations will be the core of our social fabric as we move into a new millenium. Businesses have the responsibility to create a sustainable future by holding ecological concerns as a primary value, contributing significantly to their local communities, and making sure the “have not’s” are taken care of.

None of this, of course, will happen without some level of conflict. My work with conflict reveals that when people go beyond the “learned” need to be right, to win, to save face, to protect possessions, or to set a precedent, the deepest essence of the human spirit — to nurture and “caress” others comes to the surface.

Being human is to take care of others. Our task as leaders is to restore the balance and foster our caressing natures. We need to learn together how to move from where we are, toward what we can be. All else is moving around deck chairs, and we all know the fate of Titanic!

�© 1998 by Stewart Levine
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