By Ruth Conniff
The world is an echo of wounds. The fascists in France want it to be Arizona. We wake to a social media newsfeed hyper-consolidating statistics of buried loved ones at speeds unparalleled in human society, yet our ability to process that information emotionally remains the same. An editor asked me where I find the courage to continually wake up in a world that devours children, much less hold forums on growing our dreams, souls, and spines. I have no profound answers, only the simple truth taught to me by my mother's suicide: We cannot heal what we will not face.
The world is an echo of dreams. We are here today because there were people before us who refused to die, and lived long enough to have children who did the same. At some point in our existence, we have to choose between viewing our genetic inheritance either as a cycle of tragedy or pedagogy of resiliency. Our dreams will be in the genes of our children one day, and they will make the same choice with us.
When we are elders in the cemetery, those who visit us will call our current time "The Era of Assassinated Imaginations." As they reflect, they will speak on what we do not: that in this time, not only were our bodies wounded, but also our dreams. What most people call apathy would be better defined as intergenerational shell shock. Our cultural DNA has been so historically traumatized from witnessing the theft of everything we love that it has resulted in chronic numbness. The grave has become more attractive than the streets or the refugee camps, or any other place where feelings of helplessness weigh down on our hearts.
Have you ever envisioned yourself in a healed world? There are places where emotional physics overrules physical science. To get there, we must reintroduce imagination as the essential skill set if people are to fall deeply in love with dreaming the world anew. What we envision for ourselves affects what becomes of the universe. A people will not attempt what they believe is not possible.
This is why spaces for vision development are crucial in this moment of shifting human trajectory. Our purpose on this planet is not to fight back as much as to fight forward -- to not only exist and resist, but to grow. Resistance without purpose is resiliency with amnesia, the absence of affirmation. A people who define themselves only in opposition to an enemy are people who have given up the belief that sovereignty is possible.
The people I cross paths with speak increasingly not only about reclaiming resources but cultivating relationships. We are remembering as a species that growth is simultaneously structural and personal -- that limiting our models for transformation to current concepts of identity is boring. Our genetic geography is shaped more by our stories than our exterior. By placing imagination and relationships at the center of reshaping our sense of shared self, we start the healing process, and with our collective dreams, lay the foundation for a new form of tribe.
This shift is not possible without the creativists: those who dance, dream, and write. Today, a generation of cultural visionaries is changing the philosophical framework with which they engage the arts. It is far less interested in only entertaining, more in engaging with the intangible part of being human. They are speaking to the human heart in ways that dare to make feeling more desirable than numbness.
The two primary energies on this planet that propel change are love and frustration. While the latter is far easier to introduce, it is far more limiting. People guided by frustration have a limited amount of emotional capital. They will eventually burn out, as we have witnessed countless times before. People who grow visions from love dare to view their movement as an act of beauty instead of war, psychologically shifting the axis of their energy. The purpose of engagement no longer becomes primarily the destruction of the enemy, but the blossoming of the world we deserve. Our gente, buried and breathing, are allies on this Earth and in the afterlife. There is a power that comes when we remember this world does not turn without us, for in the physics of people, refugees and love make the world go round.
Hold up your heart like a hand grenade. Let the world see how resiliently fierce and beautifully dangerous a militant sunflower can be. This Empire is but a blink in the eye of our ancestors. We center it too much in our stories and value systems. We have been told that gravity is real and unicorns are not. We believe we deserve the bruises and beatings and thus stay in this abusive relationship with the streets and the state.
There is an art to growing dreams.
There is a psychology to poetry.
There is a blueprint that butterflies carry in the memory of the cocoons they've survived.
Hummingbirds are asking us to fall deeply in love with imagining the world.
Infants are reminding us to hold social systems to the same standards as five-year-olds: to expect what has been stolen to be returned, and what has been wronged to be made right.
How will we grow a society if we do not push forth questions that excite the human soul to ask and answer?
A few for you to inquire:
How do we repair our dreams?
In what ways will human society organize identity and emotions in the future?
Why are bigots so painfully unimaginative?
What would you do if gravity was an illusion?
Who defines love and prayer?
How do we grow a right to not only return but remain?
In what key do we exhale?
What will the world look like the day after the last prison has closed?
Defeat is not a possibility when you are the one who defines victory. We must live as we speak: with love and sovereignty.
Mark Gonzales is a world-recognized innovator in using culture to leverage social power and heal trauma. His residence and engagements have spanned fifteen countries, ranging from refugee camps to Stanford University, TED talks, and the United Nations. He is often found speaking on dreams via twitter: @wagebeauty.com.