Another World is Possible Toolkit
by Jens Braun
Old Chatham Meeting
For years now, I have been collecting “nuts and bolts” to help make another world possible.
This is a request for YOU to share “aha!” moments that:
lead to understandings you cannot unsee once seen,
offer tools that are easier to incorporate in one’s life than is massive social change.
Here are three examples of categories and some items on my list, which I view as tools in a toolbelt.
Language: Words give permission and shape thought or perception as an outgrowth of culture.
Many native languages use personal pronouns for most everything other than items made by humans. When you mine a mountain, you are mining HER. As you cut down a tree, you are ending HIS life. In those languages, everything on the planet is a person in their own right.
English has numerous phrases like natural/human resources and environmental regulations. The first unconsciously leads us to look at the world from an economic vantage. We expand this with words like “timber” and “wild game.” The second, regulations, conveys we know the process is dangerous or poisonous, but we can do it anyway, just up to a government-negotiated limit.
English lacks words like the Japanese “wabi-sabi” that means “beautiful because it is broken, impermanent, or incomplete.”
Garbage, waste, rubbish, and trash are four words for a concept that hasn’t needed to even exist in some cultures.
Personal responses to events: Culture teaches “normal” responses, but many normal approaches can be abandoned for better, abnormal ones.
Recognize punishment as an inherently flawed deterrent to misbehavior. We are blessed that Quakers are deeply involved in developing alternative responses to actions that go against social and legal norms!
Invest in dignity. Our culture features shame, competition, ridicule, generating low self-esteem. Seek to uphold the dignity of everyone in all interactions.
Choose to play infinite rather than finite games.* Finite games are bounded by time and place, depend on third-party recognition, and involve competition that generates winners and losers. Infinite games have the objective of keeping the game going. Friendships, marriages, the depth of meeting for worship, living with more environmental consciousness, singing often — these are all infinite games.
Seek out the non-traditional skills and abilities in every person. While schools and society in general value a short list of what all should know, it is often the little-noticed skills that brighten life, spark imagination, and offer value-added living. Defusing tension, unusual hobbies, on-target compliments, seeing what makes a place more beautiful, and expressing the important lessons of an experience are all examples.
Time: Time is often a source of anxiety. It is a resource. It is money. It is fleeting. It points towards death. It flows past and is gone. We don’t have enough of it.
But try this other view: Time is cyclical. Time is a friend that comes around again, as the earth circles the sun. Time links us to ancestors and future generations. Time gives space to grow, learn, teach and share. Mercifully, it brings understanding, adaptation, evolution, and change. It allows us to look back to our roots, forward with imagination, and around us at the role wisdom plays in our midst.
Please write to me with some of your tools and concepts of cultural change that are all about how to live into that other world which is possible.
It is easier to not use a word or to make someone feel valued than it is to stop using fossil fuels. Perhaps we won’t stop drilling for oil until our language changes.
— Jens Braun
*see James P. Carse, Finite and Infinite Games