Times When We Were Flourishing.
When speaking of a sustainable lifestyle on a personal as well as a societal level, one descriptor that is used quite frequently is "flourishing." This seems very appropriate for a vision about sustainability. It helps open up the vision to what each of us believes would be conducive for our human fulfillment in a very deep way. What will truly lead to our wellbeing?
This does require us to let go of what society has convinced us to believe is important for our wellbeing. It requires us to let go of the constant messaging of commercial advertisements and of peer pressure. It requires us to extricate ourselves from the limitations of our current economic system and begin to explore other options.
My belief is that deep down, each of us knows what has brought us fulfillment and delight in the past. There are times that each of us remembers quite fondly when we were flourishing - with our family, friends, work associates or being out in Nature. We may have thought at the time, wouldn't it be wonderful if this is how all of life could be. Then we move on back to the world given to us, assuming that such a constant state is unattainable. The hope here is that such fulfillment may be more possible than we have believed.
An important step to creating a vision is to reflect back on those times when we were flourishing in the past. What was going on? What were we doing, what were others doing, how were we feeling, what support was being provided that enabled us to flourish? These are personal stories about the times when we were flourishing. This is an important part of a vision. It is something that could be built in and expanded upon.
While this is a particularly personal reflection, it can be shared with others. We often find important commonalities when we do share these reflections. We also gain respect for how each of us is unique.
Principles for Life in the 21st Century
Many people have been thinking about this recently - what it takes for us to flourish. People have been coming up with what I call "Principles" that describe what is needed for this flourishing. You may or may not feel that these apply for you. In the end, each of us needs to derive our own principles. However, I have found these helpful. Here are some of the principles that I have encountered in the writings of others.
- Living well. Based on a happiness dependent not on possessions, but on harmony and generosity. A flowering of volunteerism and creativity. The deep, abiding happiness that comes from living life in full harmony with the natural world, with our communities and fellow beings, and with our culture and spiritual heritage - in short, from feeling totally connected with our world.
- Cooperative behavior. Mutual altruism, feelings and empathy for people and other species.
- Integrating development with growth. Invest optimally in strategies that promote both development and growth. Economic policy emphasis will shift from efficiency and quantitative growth (getting bigger faster) toward equity and qualitative development (getting truly better.) Development rather than growth may be more conducive to human happiness and welfare.
- Renewed sense of community. Cooperative relationships, generosity and a sense of sufficiency.
- Implementing an equity-oriented planned economic contraction. This will require that the underpinning values of society shift from competitive individualism, greed and narrow self-interest toward community, cooperation and our common interest in surviving with dignity.
- Member economic participation. Members contribute equitably to and democratically control the capital of their cooperative enterprises.
- Conserver values. A sustainable society will cultivate investment and conserver values over spending and consumption.
- Maintaining effective organizational and societal learning to maximize the health of the whole system, not the wealth of a few people.
- Be resource efficient (material and energy). Skillfully and conservatively take advantage of resources and opportunities.
- Optimize rather than maximize.
There are many books that one can read and articles that can be found on the Internet that discuss what a flourishing life could be.
Tim Jackson in his book "Prosperity Without Growth" has the following to say on the topic of prosperity.
The biggest dilemma of our times is reconciling our aspirations for the good life with the limitations and constraints of a finite planet....Living well on a finite planet cannot simply be about consuming more and more stuff....The task of the economy is to deliver and to enable prosperity. But prosperity is not synonymous with material wealth and its requirements go beyond material sustenance.
Prosperity goes beyond material pleasures. It transcends material concerns. It resides in the quality of our lives and in the health and happiness of our families. It is present in the strength of our relationships and our trust in the community. It is evidenced by our satisfaction at work and our sense of shared meaning and purpose. It hangs on our potential to participate fully in the life of society.
In the end, we, individually and collectively, will arrive at our own sense of what a flourishing life of wellbeing could be.