Sunday, October 11, 2015

Be Kind. Be Connected. Be Unafraid

It has been a month without a post. Between a vacation without information technology and without a visit from the Muse, ideas simply sauntered through the consciousness without pausing. This entry does indicate that information technology is at hand, but whether the Muse has visited can be best be determined by the reader.

The post title, "Be Kind. Be Connected. Be Unafraid." comes from a novel read on the vacation, The Dandelion Insurrection by Rivera Sun.

The Dandelion Insurrection The phrase becomes the rallying cry of the insurrection that takes place in what would seem to be the not too distant future - a time when climate change and income inequality have grown even more visible and troublesome than they are today. It's a dark period, but the optimism of the everyday people who become forces for change drives the story.

 Rivera Sun, who has authored several other novels, is a good writer.

Goodreads: Book reviews, recommendations, and discussion 

The website Good Reads gives this a 4.4 out 5.0 score from its 33 raters. I'd make it 34.

It's surely a book meant to inspire the reader to "Be the Change You Want to See" as Gandhi is often quoted uttering. Indeed, like Gandhi there is a strong visible current of commitment to nonviolence from the lead characters. But of course, not all the characters who want to see change share that commitment. Yet unlike most novels, Sun actually wants the reader to be moved, to get involved. She, for example, includes an appendix  from nonviolence scholar Gene Sharps "198 Methods for Nonviolent Action".

I heard from the characters of this novel a similar call to that being heard recently from Bernie Sanders in his continued emphasis less on his election as President but more for the importance of citizens becoming engaged, regardless of whom is elected. We also hear a parallel theme coming from Pope Francis, especially in his recent encyclical on climate change and poverty, Laudato Si, which I also read on this vacation. If I wasn't such a skeptic I could easily believe that Francis read Dandelion Insurrection and it inspired the encyclical.

       "113. There is also the fact that people no longer seem to believe in a happy future; they no longer have blind trust in a better tomorrow based on the present state of the world and our technical abilities. There is a growing awareness that scientific and technological progress cannot be equated with the progress of humanity and history, a growing sense that the way to a better future lies elsewhere. This is not to reject the possibilities which technology continues to offer us. But humanity has changed profoundly, and the accumulation of constant novelties exalts a superficiality which pulls us in one direction. It becomes difficult to pause and recover depth in life. If architecture reflects the spirit of an age, our megastructures and drab apartment blocks express the spirit of globalized technology, where a constant flood of new products coexists with a tedious monotony. Let us refuse to resign ourselves to this, and continue to wonder about the purpose and meaning of everything. Otherwise we would simply legitimate the present situation and need new forms of escapism to help us endure the emptiness.
112. Yet we can once more broaden our vision. We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology; we can put it at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral. Liberation from the dominant technocratic paradigm does in fact happen sometimes, for example, when cooperatives of small producers adopt less polluting means of production, and opt for a non-consumerist model of life, recreation and community. Or when technology is directed primarily to resolving people’s concrete problems, truly helping them live with more dignity and less suffering. Or indeed when the desire to create and contemplate beauty manages to overcome reductionism through a kind of salvation which occurs in beauty and in those who behold it. An authentic humanity, calling for a new synthesis, seems to dwell in the midst of our technological culture, almost unnoticed, like a mist seeping gently beneath a closed door. Will the promise last, in spite of everything, with all that is authentic rising up in stubborn resistance?"
Is this from the encyclical or the novel?
Years ago, I heard Tony Cortese, founder of Second Nature talk about the essential connection of Head, Hands, and Heart as we try to design a sustainable future for all. Second Nature was working on trying to infuse sustainability thinking, reflection and action into higher education. The dominant force in higher education as you might guess is on the HEAD. The hands and the heart are scuttled to the side so they don't bias pure objectivity. Pope Francis and Rivera Sun are clearly calling for the unification of Head, Hands, and Heart and you hear it in the motto, "Be Kind. Be Connected, and Be Unafraid." I think it's the last of these that is most needed in this time. Pope Francis and Rivera Sun encourage us to "Be the Change We Want to See in the World." 
The urgency grows by the day. Perhaps we begin with Rivera Sun's first suggestion - "Be Kind - If you do nothing else, bring kindness to the forefront of your daily life." A better world is possible and these two works help us appreciate that possibility.