TIM MUIRHEAD is the author of Finding Heraan, a ‘philosophical fable’ that explores the themes in this article. His writing is based on 30 years professional experience in building understanding between different groups.
I HAVE long felt frustrated that we in Australia, with all our benefits, are not able to realise our extraordinary potential in nourishing our own people, or nourishing the environment and wider world that we are a part of.
I wonder if this is because of a lack of imagination?
For all our achievements we seem to measure success by how hard we work, or how rich we get.
And I don’t think I’m alone in yearning for something deeper, in a human life, than hard work and material wealth.
An antidote to frustration, of course, is the work of hope: we imagine the world as we would love it to be, and act as though we will make it so.
Recently, in launching a new book Finding Heraan I felt I should confess to some of the hopes that lie beneath the imagined world within…
• I imagine a world in which we can genuinely hear each other, and be heard; where we celebrate, rather than fear, our extraordinary, rich differences as human beings. Where instead of boasting ‘I treat everyone the same’, we strive to ‘treat each person as who they are’, so that we might all be known.
• I imagine a world where we feel moved to share our own insights and truths with others around us, and then remain genuinely, courageously open to their response, so that our truths might be challenged, or even changed through the dialogue; so that our truths can become deeper, and clearer, and more encompassing.
• I imagine a world where we understand that none of us can possibly know the whole truth, but, where, if we speak and listen well, our different individual notes might combine into an ever richer symphony of truth.
• I imagine a world where we respond to ideas we don’t like or understand with questions, rather than judgement.
• I imagine a world where we don’t use our hard won ‘freedom of speech’ as a front for knowingly insulting things that others hold sacred. And, on the other side, where we don’t place things that we hold sacred above the sanctity of human life and dignity.
• I imagine a world where our love of ‘freedom of expression’ does not blind us to the need to speak of each other with care; to use words that don’t hurt or diminish or insult. And, on the other side, where we are calm in the face of hurt or insult, and so strive to enlighten the hurtful speaker, rather than punishing them.
• I imagine a world where we don’t react to disagreement with either fear or anger, but with genuine fascination for the different perspective that leads to that disagreement.
• I imagine a world where we stand against evil with love, rather than hatred; not for moral reasons but because it is more effective. Where we notice the simple fact that acts of both love and hatred are contagious, and so understand that responding to hatred with hatred simply spreads that hatred; and responding with love can, at the very least, slow the contagion.
Of course, in my living, I fall dramatically short of my imagining. And of course, in our world, we sometimes need force to protect ourselves and others from violence, and things get messy.
But, despite that, I think the first step to creating something is imagining it, naming it, talking about it, normalising it.
And so the more we—all of us who believe in love before hatred, connection before fear, and genuine interest before blind judgement—can name and talk about and imagine such a world, the more we might nudge our existing world in that direction.