As we wander together through the maelstrom of our world today, trying to keep our eyes open, our voices firm and truthful, our feet bravely taking one step and then another, may we reclaim our gift of future-envisioning boldly, outrageously, and together as a global community. In perilous times we may think that envisioning a future that may never be is a waste of time and energy. When we look into the future and see only uncertainty, we may no longer be sure that the kind of world we have been working towards for decades could ever exist.
However, it is precisely when we think we are too weary or that all attempts at progress are futile that our visions are the most important because the stakes are highest. If we have no guide towards where we want to go and do not even start on the journey, we are guaranteed to never get there.
Envisioning the future we would like to live in does not, of course, in itself make that future happen. However, our capacity to imagine ourselves living better lives is a powerful tool for personal and societal transformation. The words “I have a dream” still change lives 50 years after they were spoken, as do current speeches by women like Sr. Simone Campbell whose faith in working for a better future is infectious. The supremely well envisioned peaceful and joyful communities created during women’s festivals inspire me to think they could one day be year-round models. What are your memories of experiencing someone’s vision that was so compelling, so real, that you found yourself willing to fight for it?
In the past, it seems, future-seeing was a well-established role in society, culture, and religion. Women who had this talent, like the oracles at Delphi and elsewhere, were revered, and sacred stories of foreseeing goddesses and spirit beings like the Norns, abounded. Yet, the kind of vision-making I am thinking of is more like that done by the many creator goddesses who molded all we know out of clay or song or her own body. I can imagine them sitting in the midst of unformed chaos, envisioning what kind of world to make and then forming each landscape, natural law, right relationship, and more.
I can see ourselves doing the same. If we consider our present situation to be a kind of chaos, as it so often seems to be, what kind of a world would we create out of it for ourselves and all those we love? What exactly would it look like, sound like, feel like, move forward with grace and justice and peace like, nurture and love like?
Women of spiritual power, both of the past and of today, are well suited to this task of envisioning. From a long history of feminist utopian literature of various kinds to the many more ancient stories of islands inhabited by women to real women’s communities like the Beguines, we have already dreamed of and made places where we are safe, strong, and valued. For years modern spiritual feminists have chosen to study ancient and modern societies of peace across the globe and say “why can our lives not be the same?”
Many of the best envisioners of today are, of course, our artists. Whenever they express in deeds, words, song, drama, dance or paintings a healthy, joyful, just world so detailed that we feel as if we could step right onto the streets, move into the houses, rise in the morning to breathe the pure air and love the diverse, abundant plant and animal life, when they allow us to dwell in that world for even just a second, they take a giant step towards making it a reality by making us want to strive for it.
Still, each of us can have a hand in imagining and defining a better future. We need just be intentional about what we do. Will this action, these words, promote or discourage a society I want to be part of? Am I willing to try a new way of being, even if it may not work? Am I making the choices that I would if I already lived in the world I envision?
The task of envisioning a future for us all to strive for is hard. From birth we have all been surrounded by assumptions about who we should be and what we are capable of because we are women. They have shaped how we perceive of ourselves and the world. To create a truly transformational vision, we need to look beyond those blinders, see ourselves as we truly are.
Then, we have the even greater challenge of putting away what we know of the tragedies of the past and have faith that what has been does not determine what will be, believing that humans can make different choices than the history of recent millennia shows. We have to be willing to be truthful about our current situation but dream powerfully about what we expect for the future because to do otherwise is to give up and guarantee that nothing will change.
However, we have something that those from the past who envisioned our future with the freedoms and gifts that we have today did not have — we have each other. Through the internet and social media, our circles and local groups, our friendships and partnerships, we can create interlocking webs of our visions that complete, enrich, and inspire each other.
Winter is the time for seeding what we will bring forth in the spring. It is a perfect time for thinking more deeply about the future, for making a whole planet in our visions that is loving and compassionate, bright and beautiful, peaceful and healthy and therefore showing others what the world can be like if we choose it to be and work hard for it. Let us not waste this season.
Carolyn Lee Boyd is a writer whose work focuses on the sacred in the everyday lives of women. Her essays, short stories, memoirs, reviews and more have been published in numerous print and online publications. You can read more of her work at her blog, www.goddessinateapot.com.