Can You Dream a Little?

A few weeks ago I read an article in The Guardian, which has given me much cause for thought ever since. The ideas are not new to me and the conclusions don’t quite work for me either, but there is much in it that is worth exploring more about the demise of the nation state:

 

https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/apr/05/demise-of-the-nation-state-rana-dasgupta?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

 

Unknown-1Alongside that sits my ongoing rumination about economics and politics and a need for something altogether different. Economics, from the Greek word, ‘Oikos’ literally means ‘household’ or ‘ecology’ and has to do with how we organise our household or our ecology – worth noting here that both the household and the ecology are ‘living systems’ and not ‘mechanistic’ (a word which describes many of our current approaches in how we think about economics generally). I have particularly found Kate Raworth’s book, Doughnut Economics, to be extremely helpful, along with Charles Eisenstein’s, ‘Sacred Economics’, and Tomas Sedlacek’s, ‘The Economics of Good and Evil’, in helping me reframe how I think about economics and to dream about what else might be possible for us together.

 

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from certianlyher.com

Politics, on the other hand, comes from the Greek, ‘Polis’, meaning ‘the city’ and has to do with how we live together as people. Our current political system is simply not cutting it. I’m actually not out to criticise our politicians. I think many of them are genuinely trying to do a good job. It’s the system that is broken and lacks the ability for true representative democracy to flourish. There is such a weariness with the two-sided braying and mocking, referendums which don’t even come close to talking about the real issues, media control of the arguments and social media manipulation of the mass psyche. Posturing, pedestalling, point-scoring, point-missing and powerful lobbies pulling strings……is this it? Is this the best of us? Is there nothing better that we can imagine? What I’m interested to find is a reimagining of what it means for us to live well together in this global age and hope we can find a way forward together, politically (with a small p) to face up to the major issues of our day.

 

My friend, Steve Lowton, recently did a little vlog series about authenticity and it has made my ears prick up. He stated that there are three things he is listening out for: 1) the sound of people living authentic lives, 2) the sound of the people on the streets (people movements which are emerging) and 3) creative artists/poets/dreamers who can help to open up the imagination of what might be possible. If Rana Dasgupta is right, and the nation state as a concept, is crumbling, we have 100 years ahead of us of some significant turmoil as we try and navigate our way through to a reimagined future. What if, as Bishop Michael preached at imagesHarry and Meghan’s wedding, we reimagined the world based on love?! Is it really that crazy? It is foolishness to those who deem themselves wise and experts in how things need to be run….but there is great wisdom to be found in the ‘self-giving, others-empowering love’ we find in the kenotic source of life itself!

 

Unknown-2More than ever, we need to find ways of having conversations, based on the premise of Albert Einstein, who said that if he had one hour to save the world, he would spend 55 minutes trying to find the right question and then he would only need 5 minutes to solve it. Our temptation is to dive in and fix problems, often based on our own very limited perspective, or piece of the jigsaw, which often leads to finger pointing, blaming and shaming, before we’ve really discovered what the question is that we’re actually needing to ask……The problems before us are complex and the next election isn’t going to fix them! We have an environment which is under significant stress, an economic system which is profoundly dysfunctional, global inequality at every level, major health crises, boundaries and histories which divide us and ongoing conflicts and wars. Pointing fingers and blaming ‘the other’ isn’t going to help us. We must be willing to encounter those totally different from ourselves and find an altogether better way……

 

But if you take the time to listen, there are people of authenticity making a different sound, there are people movements across the globe calling for something new and there are many creative minds, hearts and voices beginning to weave together some dreams of what might be possible……

 

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from animals.howstuffworks.com

Do you think that the caterpillar can ever conceive of becoming a butterfly? And yet….in the cocoon, in the waiting, IMAGINAL cells form – they have the potential to become anything!! It is time for a great metamorphosis, where our imaginations can dream of what seems utterly impossible…..it is time for new creation…..can you see it? Can you perceive it? Can you hear it? Can you feel it? Then be authentic and turn your face into the wind that is blowing…..because together, with love, we can!

Love is the Foundation for us to Reimagine the Future

Here is a beautiful extract from Bishop Michael’s address at Harry and Meghan’s Wedding. If we can imagine this…. then we can reimagine the future together.

This love, this is the way of Jesus. And it’s game changer.

Imagine our homes and families when this way of love is the way.

Imagine our neighborhoods and communities when love is the way.

Imagine our governments and countries when love is the way.

Imagine business and commerce when this love is the way.

Imagine our world when love is the way.

No child would go to bed hungry in such a world as that

Poverty would become history in such a world as that.

The earth would be as a sanctuary in such a world as that.

We would treat one another as children of God, regardless of differences.

We would learn how to lay our swords and shields down by the riverside to study war no more.

There would be a new heaven, a new earth, a new world. A new and beautiful human family.

The very dream of God

Love is strong as death

It’s flashes are flashes of fire.

Many waters cannot quench love

Hope for 2017

Here is an early morning vlog to end the year – sorry, its slightly longer than usual!

Reimagining the UK post Brexit – Education

imgresI have waited a while to write this post. It follows on in the series I started on this topic. It seems clear that the Brexit vote was about three key elements: taking control (whatever that means) of our own money, our own laws and our own immigration. I hope to write another blog on those three things another time, but in this time of transition, we must ask ourselves some questions about the kind of future we want to co-create.

 

imgresI have to say that when I look at our education system, I am both heartened and dismayed. I am heartened by the amazing quality of teachers across the UK, but I am dismayed by how they are treated as a profession by our mainstream press. I am heartened by the quality of our children and young people and the hopeful possibilities they carry, but I am dismayed by the increased burden of mental health problems many of them suffer. I am heartened that there is so much great thought around education and a shared learning between nations about how to release the potential in each child, but I am dismayed by the lack of application of this learning within the UK. I am heartened that there is an increasing realisation that Ofsted reports can offer only a small snapshot of what goes on in any school and are not a fair representation of all that goes on in any one institution, but I am dismayed by our growing measurement problem. By this I mean that the constant scoring and grading of our children and young people and the comparisons made between our various schools is so detrimental to their development and achievement that we ought to seriously consider the weight it is allowed to carry in our education systems. When our children and young people are some of the least happy in Europe and live in a country where the gap between the richest and poorest, both in terms of economics and educational ‘outcomes’ is one of the worst in Europe, we have to ask ourselves some searching questions.

 

So, in reimagining education, let’s reaffirm that every child is unique, beautiful,images worthy of love and full of potential. Let’s also recognise that our education system now is one of the few things that has not evolved since the time of the Industrial Revolution and is itself in need of serious renewal and transformation. In Germany, they have managed to elevate practical skills and knowledge to that of intellect. This has given them the ability as a nation to have a much more diverse economy, especially investing in green technologies and manufacturing in a way that cares for the future. In Finland, they have a reverence for the teaching profession that we would do well to adopt here. We need to think of teaching as a sacred gift and it needs to be taken this seriously by those who pursue it as a career. A Head Teacher I know recently told me that she no longer needs teachers who see themselves as having a job, but those who understand that teaching is a vocation and a calling. It is about being willing to parent a generation, not just fill them with knowledge.

 

Our educational environments must be places where we teach our children how to think, not just what to think, how to converse, not just what to say and how to listen attentively not only hear. We must help them learn about their own personalities and gift mixes. We must help them to think about the values from which they live, speak and act, helping them therefore to shape their behaviours in line with this (Steve Peters). We must allow them to question some of the damaging ways we live (war, pollution, work-patterns) and dream of and learn to create futures of peace, sustainability and wellness.  We need a vision large enough to ensure that each generation creates a seedbed of opportunity for the next.

 

The danger of becoming more ‘in control’ (as per our Brexit wishes) is that we become more controlling. The purpose of education is not to control but to release, not to maintain the status quo but to attain a brighter future, not to perpetuate hate and violence but to breathe love and peace, not to tear down but to build up and encourage,imgres not to divide but to build community, not to prepare human beings to be fodder for the economic machine but to ensure the economy serves them to be live a life of hope-filled potential. As with healthcare, we need to de-politicise the education system, hold dear in our hearts those given to teach, caring for their wellbeing and minding how we speak of them. We must partner with them and entrust them with our precious caterpillars as they hold them through the great metamorphosis that is learning before they spread their wings and make their flight to shine like stars in a future sky that the rest of us will never see.

Northern Powerhouse or an Empowered North?

There has recently been an excellent set of programmes on radio 4 about the North and what it means to be Northern. Some parts were hilarious and others deeply moving. Although we don’t want a North-South divide, neither do we want a homogenisation that sees a loss of identity. A Northern Powerhouse, (whoever it is lead by – George Osborne, Andy Burnham or Michael Bloomberg) is the last thing the North wants or needs. We don’t want the London model of trickle down economics. Who wants to end up with a trickle? There’s nothing worse than standing under a shower that doesn’t work properly! We don’t want the social cleansing of our cities and swathes of people feeling marginalised and forgotten. No. That is not the northern way. The North has a great history of social cohesion, people movements, social change and political debate. The promise of greater power that only serves to maintain a wounded and broken economic system, widening the gap between the rich and poor is not welcome here. We do not want to build a powerhouse. The land here remembers all too well the sweat, blood and tears of the powerhouses of the industrial revolution. If the government is serious about releasing more power northwards, then the power must be given to be worked with in a generative way, motivated by love, to create a fairer society for everyone.  Life is already too fast paced, using human beings as commodities or fuel for the fire. No, we need to rediscover our humanity, to re-humanise our systems. We don’t want a pre-thought through model. We want to shape it ourselves and create the kind of society that aligns itself with our values. We are not robots or industrial machines. It is time for the fire of the North to ignite some conversations about what kind of future we might co-create rather than have something imposed on us, if it’s all the same to you, London!

It is Love Labour’s Lost

imgresWhat has become of the Labour Party?! At a time when there could be some really important political debate, the Labour Party has turned on itself and is in utter disarray.

 

But what is going on? What lies beneath the turmoil, the mud slinging, the coup and the disunity? Jeremy Corbyn is calling for a ‘new politics, a kinder politics’ and ‘a society where everyone matters, where everyone cares for everyone else.’ He is calling for a new kind of debate and a new style of leadership. Owen Smith on the other hand, seems to be looking for some similar things, calling himself a left-socialist, but the difference for him seems more to do with leadership style and ability. He would rather ‘smash Theresa May back on her heels’ than the sort of participatory approach of Corbyn….

 

With so much media storm, biased reporting and contradictory messages on all sides, what are we to believe. What is to be made of this mess? I am sure one William Shakespeare would have had a field day in writing this comic tragedy ‘Love Labour’s Lost’ – or would it be ‘Love, Labour’s Lost’?!

 

Our political system as a whole is a bit of a disgrace. The Westminster bubble, far too removed from normal every day life, working far too much in political theory than pragmatically in the grit and grime of every day life. And we have all believed a lie. We images-1have believed, that in the end, human beings are motivated by their own selfish needs and that the autonomous self and the desire for freedom are therefore what drives us. But this is only a shadow form of what it means to be human (Richard Rohr). To be human is far more profound than this. We have appealed to our lesser selves for far too long and we need to reclaim the deeper truth of what it means to be truly human. To be truly human is to be first and foremost about love, and not a selfish love, because love is never truly selfish. No, to be human is to be essentially loving, in the image of God. To be first motivated by a self-giving, others empowering love. And this kind of love, as preached by John Wesley is actually one of the founding true principles of the Labour Movement. Without love, socialism is just a clanging gong in the wind. Without love, it has no power to redeem, reconcile or transform society. Labour has given into fear because it sees the crumbling of the Nation State in which it has put so much of its trust and identity.

 

What motivates the Labour Party these days? Is it the need for power in order to transform? Indeed, power can be used to bring transformation. But power without love is dangerous. And what does it really mean to love? Martin Luther King had something to say about this – here is an excerpt from one of his greatest speeches:

 

In the final analysis, love is not this sentimental something that we talk about. It’s not merely an MTE5NTU2MzE2MjgwNDg5NDgzemotional something. Love is creative, understanding goodwill for all men. It is the refusal to defeat any individual. When you rise to the level of love, of its great beauty and power, you seek only to defeat evil systems. Individuals who happen to be caught up in that system, you love, but you seek to defeat the system.

 

And this is what Jesus means, I think, in this very passage when he says, “Love your enemy.” And it’s significant that he does not say, “Like your enemy.” Like is a sentimental something, an affectionate something. There are a lot of people that I find it difficult to like. I don’t like what they do to me. I don’t like what they say about me and other people. I don’t like their attitudes. I don’t like some of the things they’re doing. I don’t like them. But Jesus says love them. And love is greater than like. Love is understanding, redemptive goodwill for all men, so that you love everybody, because God loves them. You refuse to do anything that will defeat an individual, because you have agape in your soul. And here you come to the point that you love the individual who does the evil deed, while hating the deed that the person does. This is what Jesus means when he says, “Love your enemy.” This is the way to do it. When the opportunity presents itself when you can defeat your enemy, you must not do it.

 

Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. That’s why Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” Because if you hate your enemies, you have no way to redeem and to transform your enemies. But  if you love your enemies, you will discover that at the very root of love is the power of redemption. You just keep loving people and keep loving them, even though they’re mistreating you. Here’s the person who is a neighbor, and this person is doing something wrong to you and all of that. Just keep being friendly to that person. Keep loving them. Don’t do anything to embarrass them. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with bitterness because they’re mad because you love them like that. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies.

 

And our civilization must discover that. Individuals must discover that as they deal with other individuals. There is a little tree planted on a little hill and on that tree hangs the most influential character that ever came in this world. But never feel that that tree is a meaningless drama that took place on the stages of history. Oh no, it is a telescope through which we look out into the long vista of eternity, and see the love of God breaking forth into time. It is an eternal reminder to a power-drunk generation that love is the only way. It is an eternal reminder to a generation depending on nuclear and atomic energy, a generation depending on physical violence, that love is the only creative, redemptive, transforming power in the universe.”

 

(read the whole sermon here: http://mlkkpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/encyclopedia/documentsentry/doc_loving_your_enemies/)

 

imgresLabour must recover love at its core. Love is the only hope we have a new politics. The politics of how we organize ourselves and live together is either motivated by the need for autonomous freedom and control, which is actually based on fear, or it is motivated by love, but it cannot be essentially motivated by both. Love is the only way for a new and reimagined future. Love is the only way that we ever deal with the needs of our own autonomy. Love is the only way to heal the divide and bring unity. Where there is fighting and hatred, name calling, slander, vitriol, violence and selfishness it must stop.  If it does not, then the Labour movement will entirely lose its way. Some call the left ideology Socialism, some call it Humanitarianism. Without love as the essential driving force, both are dead. Love is found in the heart of the teaching of Jesus and it has the power to truly transform the world – some call this Kenarchy. The politics of Jesus is not for the faint hearted. It is rooted in love and its out-workings are utterly pragmatic and the antithesis of autonomy and self-preserving power. We must recover our humanity and rediscover our political motivation, resisting the tide of individualism and fear. Anyone can love their friends…..it is when we learn to love our enemies and speak well of those with whom we disagree or who harm us that we become truly human and can become truly politically engaged. Labour must recover the love it has lost.