“How do you know what the world is ready for?” These are the words of actress Anne Heche from her memoir book Call Me Crazy, a conversation she was having about whether the world was ready for a pair of lesbian actors (at the time she was Ellen DeGeneres’ partner) to come out of the closet.
How many times have you heard the expression, “I guess the world isn’t ready for (fill in idea or issue)”? Most often this conclusion is arrived at by someone who is seeking a rational explanation for why an intended outcome hasn’t been achieved. This phrase has long been used widely to explain unsuccessful attempts to change social systems.
Recently I experienced a surprisingly strong reaction upon hearing a friend speak these words, a reaction I cannot recall having all the other times I have heard the words, or even spoken them myself. Suddenly I was wondering if such a conclusion was a cop out, a consolation fabricated by the egoic mind. Like Heche, I was questioning who can determine what the world is ready for. What degree of audacity would be required to come to such a conclusion?
For anyone not familiar with what I do, let me explain why this subject has me so engaged: my work these past several decades has been advocating a new paradigm for how human beings relate to one another and to planet Earth. I envision a new consciousness – a “new story” - that transcends the status quo and demands a more mature approach to the challenges facing humanity today. It is an approach that includes environmental sustainability, spiritual fulfillment and social justice for all.
One expression of my work includes FutureShapers, LLC, a company I co-founded in 2012 whose mission is to “inspire, support, develop and accelerate the consciousness of leaders in executive positions so their organizations become less dysfunctional, more effective, conscious, socially responsible and life affirming.” In our view, the biggest global crisis is not climate change or population or pollution; the biggest crisis in the world today is that of responsible leadership – what we refer to as “conscious leadership.”
Is the world “ready” to embrace conscious leadership? I know large numbers of people realize the existing paradigm isn’t working for them; and they may not think in terms of paradigms. Large numbers of people are hungry for something they are not getting these days, something they may not even know how to talk about. While they may not describe these missing qualities as I would, phrases like “is that all there is?” “lack of meaning,” “unfulfilling work,” “an inner emptiness,” “yearning to make a difference,” “concern about the future their children and grandchildren will inherit” are usually met with spontaneous head nods. These responses tell me that the world – not our current leaders but the people - is not only “ready” for this change but practically starving for it!
Explaining that “the world isn’t ready” takes the pressure off those who are attempting to make change happen and places responsibility on a not-yet-ready society. It diverts responsibility by telling a different story about why the intended outcome failed. This assertion, while reasonable and logical, is egoic audacity in my view.
While we are on the subject of the ego, I suggest that declaring anyone or any group “isn’t ready” for what one might be offering is another expression of the egoic mind, implying that “the other” is less informed, less conscious, less ready or basically “less than” we. It is another way to feel better than those who “aren’t ready.”
Asserting that the world isn’t ready for what you are offering is disempowering, an expression often based on resignation, sometimes cynicism. Once you make this assertion there is no logical sense for trying to make change happen anymore. This reversion to “why-botherism” would be not only foolish but you could appear crazy.
One of my favorite quotes is from George Bernard Shaw who wrote:
The reasonable person adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to themselves. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable person.
Logic and reasonableness have gotten us into the mess we’re in. Let’s get unreasonable and rattle things up!
Many of us know that real social transformations most often occur when relatively small groups of committed citizens take a stand for the change to occur. The founders of the U.S. numbered fewer that sixty delegates to the first continental congress. There was significant opposition to the country becoming independent, and this posed real danger and risk for this small band of committed people.
Activist “Mother Jones” (1837-1930); Copernicus (1473-1543)
Often, these stand-takers for change are perceived to be radical, extremists and revolutionaries. Mother Jones, Gandhi, Caesar Chavez, Rosa Parks, Gloria Steinem and Copernicus come to my mind. They were willing to be labeled “fools” or “crazy.” Do you remember Apple’s famous commercial that began with “Here’s to the crazy ones”? The last line in the ad is:
Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.
So back to my questioning whether anyone of us can determine what the world is ready for, Whether it is voting rights for women, national sovereignty, farm workers rights, civil rights, women’s liberation, demystifying a scientific myth, or a revolution of consciousness - who can claim that they know what the world is ready for?
I believe that the world is ready to consciously evolve and accept our interconnectivity, our collective relatedness, our interdependence, our stewardship of this planet, and a compassionate recognition that the well-being of all of us comes ahead of the selfish wants of any one group of us. This is the stand I need to take, and I make this declaration based on the thousands of conversations I have had with people who know something is amiss.
This animated video, created to accompany a short talk by my mentor and friend, the late social scientist Willis Harman, makes a compelling argument that for any of us to feel secure in today’s world we all need to feel secure. It is time for us to be responsible for everyone on Spaceship Earth.
I have answered the question “Is the world ready?” for myself. I now ask you, dear reader, to answer it for yourself. And, should you agree with me, take your own stand and start acting like it is your stand rather than agreeing with those who have convinced themselves that there’s no sense in trying to change things because “the world isn’t ready.”