“If you can imagine it, you can achieve it: If you can dream it you can become it.” So says William Arthur Ward, popular American author. How many of us imagine and dream of a better world?! We long for a world where everyone’s basic needs for enough healthy food, clothing, shelter, and economic security are met; where each person has access to health care and education; where we are engaged in real democracy (what Frances Moore Lappé calls “Living Democracy”) based on ethics, cooperation, accountability and shared power; where our economic system is based on environmental sustainability and justice for all rather than on accumulation of stuff, money and power; where all people are valued and respected; where people have a sense of meaning and purpose in their lives; where there is harmony, or at least nonviolent conflict with each other, where we have clean air and water; where we respect the limits and living systems of our planet, and all we do is Life-serving.
But don’t we all hear inner and outer voices saying, “Oh, that’s not realistic! You’re too idealistic! That will never happen!” One teacher describes idealism as “persistent hopefulness.” And history can remind us that being persistently idealistic succeeds.
Was it realistic for a bunch of American colonists to fight for and win independence from England? Was it realistic to think that India could nonviolently gain independence from Britain? Was it realistic to think that apartheid or desegregation would end? Was the Women’s Liberation movement that gained so much stature and respect for women realistic? Was the movement for gay marriage ever considered realistic? Was it realistic to think we could go to the moon?
Where there is no vision the people perish. (Proverbs 29:18)
Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, and so many more, had great vision. Every manifest thing begins in the imagination. So if we can imagine a society based not on money and power, but on “a new bottom line” of cooperation, trust, respect, equality, true democracy, compassion, sustainability, then there’s no reason why it’s not possible.
If we have a vision of a better world, we need to believe we can bring about this transformation. We need to reclaim our idealism. Our hopes and dreams for a better world have been dashed and trashed so many times that most of us are afraid and unwilling to invest ourselves yet again in going for what we want and need, rather than just accepting that this is the best we can get, and believing that nothing can change. But we’ve seen that big change can, and does, happen when people come together and work together for a common dream, for the common good. There are countless examples in these modern times as well of impossible movements: farmers forming a multi-million dollar democratic, cooperative, village women in Kenya defying authorities and planting forty-five million trees, poor, landless peasants in Brazil stimulating major land reform in that country.
As Rabbi Michael Lerner says: “We have to be for what is needed, not what we think is possible in the short run. Otherwise we are just rearranging the chairs on the Titanic.”
Journalist and activist, Naomi Klein, calls herself a “possibilist,” one who believes and acts on the reality of possibility.
Frances Moore Lappé says, “We need only to believe in possibility. . . It is not possible to know what’s possible. And if that’s true, we are free. We are free to go for the world we really want, unhindered by the false idea that we should calculate our action based on probabilities of success.” (From her book Getting A Grip: Clarity, Creativity and Courage for the World We Really Want.)
“We will never be able to build what we have not first cherished in our hearts.”
How long has it been since you’ve listened to John Lennon’s magical and powerful song, “Imagine?” Let his words and music rekindle our own imaginations and idealism, and guide our minds, hearts, and actions to create the world we really want, a world that works for all.
"Imagine," John Lennon
You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one
Back to Blog