Sometimes You Will Fall, But Most of the Time, You Will Fly

Published on September 28, 2020.

Whether or not we’re actively engaged with social justice work, most of us know what’s wrong with our world. Yet often we don’t know what we want instead. We just don’t want more of what we’re seeing every day on the news.

Some of us are exploring questions of equity and social justice by working to build alternative models. Some of us are working for reform, changing laws and policies. Some of us focus on human services, providing food for the hungry and shelter for the houseless. There are absolutely no organizers (and I count myself among them) who have all the answers.

The current way social justice organizations work to create change in the world is not enough. We must continue to learn new ways of doing things, leave behind models that aren’t working, and keep exploring with each other how we can become stronger collectively rather than in our silos. We must take time to work collaboratively, be bold, and try new and sometimes scary things. Our real strength lies in creating solutions together. That means dreamers, front-line activists, reformers and social service workers.

As you know, my favorite saying is, “I’m ready to jump off the cliff without a parachute, and learn to fly on the way down!” This takes courage and the willingness to know that sometimes you will crash. But when you fly, you can reach new levels that you never believed possible.

How do we begin to take this scary step? How do we have the nerve to do it? We jump off the cliff together, holding hands, trusting each other fully not to let go. We learn to fly together.

It’s not as hard as it sounds. You become a “we” and not an “I.” Each one of us brings a different piece of knowledge, brilliance, experience – and all of it is needed. We have different education, skills, understanding, etc., but the truth is we have to value all of our experiences and knowledge to create a sustainable, winning movement for change.

Together we can figure it out. We can ask strategic questions and begin to dream rather than feel panic. What would a just and sustainable world look like? How would a fair and equitable economic system take shape?

We can create a collective vision that is inclusive, where everyone contributes to create the solutions that will work for all of us. It takes into account each person’s ideas, and brings us together across our differences to articulate what we’re standing for. This is the essence of collective visioning.

Collective visioning is a simple process. Sometimes I ask people to imagine they have traveled in a time machine to the future. I ask them to see the future of their dreams; to think of a child now, experiencing the world as an adult; to focus on the world they want to create in 10 years, 20 years or even 50 years. In a sustainable, just society, I ask them what community life looks like, feels like and sounds like. In silence, each person has an opportunity to experience it as though it were real. We then bring all their ideas together through art. We create a shared, concrete picture of what’s most important to us.

Let’s begin by asking ourselves the positive and strategic questions we need to ask in order to move forward and find the answers together. We can work from a place of hope to create a more just and equitable tomorrow. My own hope is that we use our amazing energy to find what we are for so it can bring us together to explore these questions and co-create solutions.

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Voringfossen Falls, Hardangervidda National Park, Norway, 2015, photo courtesy Blue Rock Farm Productions

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