When I was a kid in 2nd grade we had a teacher who would have us draw pictures and gift them to an assigned buddy in our classroom. I would always draw a scene with a tree. It would look like a green cloud balanced on top of a brown shaft sticking out of a semi-circle hill. Flowers would bloom out of the ground, and m-shaped birds would fly into the distance the light blue sky.
The other boys in my class would regularly give me drawings of intricate war scenes drawn in pencil on lined paper. Stick figures, planes and tanks would be aiming dashed lines of bullets at one another. I would receive these gifts of crumbling buildings and black and white carnage, and I would accept and treasure them as the gifts that they were.
One day I remember finding my tree in the waste basket by the door of the classroom. I ached at the injustice. My idyllic nature scene in the trash and the war scene tucked carefully into my Trapper Keeper.
I share this because now, thirty years later, I seem to be engaging in the same effort. I'm trying to point towards a vision for the world that can inspire all of us, and the world keeps responding with "Yes, but..." They point to war, injustice, hatred and environmental destruction. This focus on intractable problems seems to hold for people across the political spectrum. It's seems universally cool to highlight hopelessness and to scapegoat someone (the racists or the other races, the government or the people, the young or the old, technology or tradition) for our social problems. So few people seem to even be interested in taking what we have and using it to build a new vision and find a new direction. Or they've given up on dreaming.
This a roundabout way to admit that I'm afraid that I'm faking it. I'm terrified that I might be making it all up. What if everyone is right?
The vision that I have for a society where we recognize our common humanity is a dream, a fantasy. My proposal that we're all in this together seems to be a reality that I've constructed in my head. I worry that it may only exist here inside of my head, because the world around me is so eager to push back against it, to doubt its validity and/or to prove it wrong.
A Cloud Cult song called "Armor and Calla Lilies" comes to mind. One verse sings, "I came to them with a treehouse full of flowers, and they came to me with shotguns and bulldozers. We're made of armor and calla lilies, and they're closing in so fast around us."
It feels almost insane to keep clamoring for peace in a world that people want to organize into a battle of good vs. evil, but I don't feel like I have a choice. I'm guided by the chorus of the song:
"So we'll dance all day on the shooting range and well make love all night while the bombs fall."
And so against all odds I choose to continue this effort. I'm going to keep amplifying my voice. I've picked up the microphone and going to keep finding and sharing inspiring voices. I've picked up the paint brush and I'm going to continue to make trees. I've picked up the ukulele and I'm learning to sing of the treehouse I offer to the world. And I'm going to keep dancing and making love, and I welcome y'all to join me in the dream.