Harambee is a Swahili word that means “all pull together”. Many community organizations use it in their name. I understand this concept very clearly, being the linear thinker that I am. I visualize a load at the end of a rope. The object is to move the load in one direction, so everyone grabs the rope and pulls together in that direction. I would love to figure out how to jump onto that rope line and move the planet back from the brink of disaster. Problem solved, “ta-dah”, now we party. However, our interconnected web of global systems presents a more complicated “load”. If you start pulling in one direction, something else will be effected and will move. How will that effect everything else? That’s something to take into consideration. In fact, the whole thing has to be considered at the same time, holistically. So how do you visualize that? Steve was talking about a gyroscope-type model, with himself as the hub. He mentioned staying balanced and grounded in that center. I thought that sounded rather egocentric, but then he spoke about the Buddhist idea that “no one can be at peace until we’re all at peace”. Then, I visualized a round tabletop that was balanced on top of a ball at the center. With all of life on the tabletop, we would have to arrange ourselves simultaneously and evenly around the table so that it doesn’t tip in any one direction. Nature sort of works like this. Take populations: when one gets too large, the food web makes a sort of correction to bring it back in balance. Human beings are way out of balance on that tabletop. We have tipped everything in our direction; we are way too heavy in many different ways. How do we pull back in toward the center and make room for all the rest of life to be in balance? How do we look at the entire tabletop at once?
Steve has often pointed out to me that I am “not an athlete” (for example, when I’m getting in his way while he’s carrying a heavy box of books). He talks about how really good athletes have a way of anticipating how and where to move in just the right way to be in the right place at the right time. Think of soccer goalies or basketball rebounders. They seem to have eyes in the back of their head or peripheral vision and electromagnetic sensors that enable them to assess the total situation far better than the average person. There’s a grace and an instinct that gives them that special edge over the merely agile and strong. We need to have that kind of sense about our global situation. How do we move to counteract the imbalances in our systems?
I wish I were more of a visionary and that I had an answer for you. I am a freight train in many ways. I pull slowly and persistently, but I’m not the leader you’re looking for. I may be the droid, though. : ) But I believe that leadership is out there. There must be athletes in global perspective somewhere on this planet. Let’s start a forum. Let’s get together to work on sustainability. Let’s balance this tabletop before we all go crashing over the edge.