About 20 years ago, when we lived in Ottawa, a friend working for the government said that she was working on a document called Vision 2020. A cute name, for sure, but it got me thinking. If we’re a goal-oriented species, with our individual and collective well-being tied to working towards something, what happens when we don’t have a vision of the future?
As individuals, we live according to the ancient template of a successful life: birth, learning and working, building family and community, seeing the fruits of our labour, dying peacefully. It’s a trajectory that’s part of a repeating cycle, with our input determining the quality of our lives and to some extent the quality of life of the community.
But what is the ancient template guiding us in our collective development? Some see our times as the end of history, and it’s certainly the end of many aspects of our long childhood. There are games and behaviours that need to be left behind. New responsibilities need to be taken on.
The present moment in history seems characterized by a lack of vision and long-term thinking. How can we build something or go somewhere without a plan? We need at the very least some idea of what we want. There’s a fearsome layer of brown scum visible in the distance, a pollution of cynicism, short-sightedness and dystopian thinking that threatens all of us who live in it, breathe it.
Why don’t we stand up, take control of the situation and turn it around? There is no question that we have it in our power. The only real impediment is our lack of unity, and luckily, that can be given birth to with a little hope, faith and love.
Alright, maybe more than a little.
But here is my hope and vision for the next decade: that we first commit ourselves to seeking solutions to the world’s problems. We can’t just create a personal or even community oasis in a sea of turmoil. I hope we will increase the power and strength of international institutions by making them more democratic, allied to our deepest values, and able to preserve and protect all of humanity as well as our common home.
Our international bodies should be free of control by vested interests. Their values should be those common to our traditions and conducive to both individual and societal health. Their range of jurisdiction should include the well-being of the environment, in recognition of our connection and dependence on all our relations, the entire web of life. Their power to preserve and protect should include all reasonable means, but primarily those that are diplomatic, seeking consensus and cooperation, constantly building trust. Within that strong and open structure, those institutions should give freedom and empowerment to the young, the entrepreneurial and the innovative, allowing them to be rewarded for their contributions within the bounds of wisdom and moderation.
My hope is that we can begin to think of these modern needs without succumbing to nay-sayers and defaulting to childish games that no longer serve us. At its core it requires an essential element, the ideal of the noble human being. It requires rehabilitating our belief systems to be inclusive and respectful of both science and the wisdom, traditions and stories that have gotten us to this point in history. The new has to include the beauty of the old and the eternal. Above all, we require unity.
These are the times of oneness. What’s the first step? Vision. And a little faith, hope and love.
Sheila Flood is a member of the Bahá’í community of Saanich and Chair of the Victoria Multifaith Society
You can read more articles on our interfaith blog, Spiritually Speaking, HERE