The Distinctions for the Possibility ConversationBen Roberts: Occupy cafe
The challenge with possibility is it gets confused with goals, prediction,
and optimism. Possibility is not about what we plan to happen, or what we
think will happen, or whether things will get better. Goals, prediction, and
optimism don’t create anything; they just might make things a little better
and cheer us up in the process. Nor is possibility simply a dream. Dreaming
leaves us bystanders or observers of our lives. Possibility creates something
new. It is a declaration of a future that has the quality of being and aliveness
that we choose to live into. It is framed as a declaration of the world that I
want to inhabit. It is a statement of who I am that transcends our history,
our story, our usual demographics. The power is in the act of declaring.
The distinction between possibility and problem solving is worth dwelling
on for a moment. As I have said, surely too many times, we traditionally
start with problem solving and talk about goals, targets, resources, and how
to persuade others. Even the creation of a vision is part of the problem solving
mentality. A vision is something we must wait for to realize and is
most often followed by an effort to make it concrete and practical. Even a
vision, which is a more imaginative form of problem solving, needs to be
postponed and replaced with possibility. The future is created through a
declaration of what is the possibility we stand for. Out of this declaration,
each time we enter a room, the possibility enters with us.
The communal possibility comes into being through individual public
declarations of possibility. Much the same as witnessing in religious gatherings.
Though every possibility begins as an individual declaration, it gains
power and impacts community when made public. The community possibility
is not the aggregation of individual possibilities. Nor is it a negotiation or
agreement on common possibility. The communal possibility is that space
or porous container where a collective exists for the realization of all the possibilities
of its members. This is the real meaning of a restorative community.
It is that place where all possibilities can come alive, and they come alive at
the moment they are announced.
• • •The possibility conversation gives form to one way the gifts of those in the
margin get brought into the center. Each person’s possibility counts, especially
those whose voices are quieted or marginalized by the drumbeat of
retribution. In fact, what distinguishes those on the margin in communities
is they tragically live without real possibility. For many youth on the
margin, the future is narrow, perhaps death or prison. They have trouble
imagining a future distinct from the past or present. This is the real tragedy:
not only that life is difficult, but that it is a life that holds no possibility for
a different future. (pp.125-6)
There is, I believe, a purity and simplicity in this kind of a declaration. It is not a detailed prescription. It is more like a meme. The original call to occupy Wall Street had this quality, I believe. It inspired people all around the world into action around a very basic idea of possibility. What might we call people into next that would have that universal, meme-like quality? Something that is tangible and compelling, avoids being prescriptive and powerfully invites people into a place of creativity? Something that will call them to live into the New Economy?