Quite often first-time readers of this blog, or who hear that I have a blog called “How to Save the World” ask me to sum up, in one sentence, the answer to the question implied by this blog’s name. My response has generally been to smile and shrug off the question, and then explain what this blog is about:
- Understanding how the world really works (not the oversimplified crap the education system, corporatists, politicians, and mainstream media feed us, but not a conspiracy either — it’s very complex, evolved as it has for understandable and well-intentioned reasons, and no one is in control), and
- Exploring models of better ways to live and make a living, both in the short-term (through experiments like the Transition, Permaculture, Intentional Community, Gift/Generosity/Relationship Economy, and Unschooling movements) and more fully in the longer term, when our civilization collapses, which I believe will occur through a protracted series of cascading crises, in this century.
And of course, if we’re going to “save the world” we need to build our own connections, capacities and competencies, and we need to work to undermine and defeat the worst aspects of industrial civilization.
So I didn’t expect I’d ever be able to provide a one-line answer to “how to save the world”.
But I was re-reading some of my recent creative works (since I intend to do more poetry, short story, speculative fiction, music and art composition this year) and I came across this line in a recent story I’d written:
The hard part is finding people who care.
And I thought: That’s what I should say when people ask me “how to save the world”. For a whole series of reasons:
- In our individualistic western society, we try to do far too much alone. We need to organize, to cooperate, to collaborate. But we’re all so busy, so distracted, we don’t (most of us) have time or energy to learn what needs to be done, or to help get that work done. Finding others who can help, and know and care to do so, is even harder.
- Enthusiasm drives a huge proportion of human endeavour. If we don’t really care, we will be hesitant to act, and we’ll give up easily in the face of adversity.
- In my book Finding the Sweet Spot two of my key points are: (a) never start an enterprise alone; first find partners who share your passion and have complementary skills, and (b) the work you’re meant to do lies at the intersection of what you do uniquely well, what is needed in the world that no one else is precisely meeting, and what you have passion for.
- We all need love to keep us going. Finding love is all about finding people who care.
- Before we can care about something, we need to know about it. The important issues in the world today are complex, and it takes a lot of work to really know about them. So finding people who know, and who also care, is really hard.
I have no answer to “How do we find people who care?” and so, I admit, answering the question “How do we save the world” by saying “The hard part is finding people who care” is kinda like answering a question with a question. But I think it’s an honest answer, and one that can lead to a very important conversation on the huge challenges we face connecting, organizing, adapting, and collaborating to address the daunting and intractable problems of our time, problems which have us wondering “how to save the world”.
While I have no answers on how to find people who care, I have a few thoughts:
First, perhaps instead of asking people we’ve just met what they “do” (usually “for a living”), we should ask them what they care about. What keeps them awake at night. What they would die for. And likewise when others ask us what we “do” we should deflect the question and instead tell them what we really care about. If there’s an obvious disconnect between what we/they do and what we/they care about, that in itself should be the basis for an interesting and soul-searching conversation: Why the disconnect, and what can we do about it? And if the conversation resolves that you and the other(s) you’re speaking with care about the same things, then so much more will have been accomplished than in you had merely exchanged data on your current employment.
My sense is that many of us are so disconnected from our feelings and so busy doing what we must that we don’t really know what we care about ourselves. So perhaps our ‘homework’ before seeking people who care about the same things we do is to explore inside and outside ourselves to discover what we really care about. Not what we’ve been told we should care about, not what we’ve imagined we would care about, but, when we really know ourselves, intellectually, emotionally, erotically, intuitively, sensually, somatically, what we really care about, at heart.
Another realization I’m coming to is that in order to discover if someone cares about the things you do, you first must establish a relationship with them, to give them context to understand what the issues are you care about, and why, and vice versa, and to establish a basis of trust, since talking about what you really care about isn’t something you’re going to do comfortably and easily with strangers. This investment in relationship building is expensive — it requires a major investment of time.
Most of us try to “filter” the people in our lives to hone in on those who care about the same things we do. But those filters (especially the online ones, including our blogs and other social networking media) are pretty rough, and they can filter out the wrong people. Perhaps instead of looking so far afield, casting a global net, we should instead be looking closer to home, looking in the place that, for whatever reason, we have selected as our “place”, to see if the people who care about the same things we care about have been drawn to this “place” for the same reasons we have. Perhaps the “filter” of chosen place to live is a better, simpler one than the ones our online social networks employ? And while the anonymity of the web is a safer, more comfortable place from which to assess possible partners for projects of passion, for relationships and collaborations that matter, maybe we need to put ourselves out there, raw, in the physical place in which we’ve chosen to live, and dare to tell the people right there what we care about, and why, if we really want to find the people who care about those things, too.
The people we’re meant to love, and live with, and make a living with. The people we’d give our lives for.