Monday 13 June 2016

"You are also bright and special like that flower."

Agents of Change October 2014

As this year has gone by, I've been wondering what it is that motivates work towards change?  What is it which makes us see the need for a transformed society?

What is it which makes us 'see' the world as it exists, and want to work towards a different reality?  I've been reading James Hillman's work on Thinking with the Heart, where he looks at the ability to see the beauty and wonder of those who stand before us.  Hillman believes that aesthetics, or the ability to see with soul is what inspires us to work towards a more humane world.

His thoughts connect with those of Carl Anthony, who explained that if we could let go of fear and see the beauty and wonder of difference, then we could enter into new dialogue and work towards a multi-cultural understanding of what it means to be a person living in this world.

Although my masters thesis looked at diversity and what it meant to be a person living in a wider social world, I found that I truly began to understand the true value of what we'd learned after listening to some of the Agents of Change share stories and insights about being a person in present day South Africa.

Listening to children speak about their dreams and experiences has opened up a new way of looking at the world.  I grew up in a western, very individual culture, which placed people on a hierarchy.  Very often, this hierarchy was based on achievement, but it also on social divisions.  I was interested in liberation psychology and in critical social theory, but it was only when I really started listening to the stories of the people who shared experiences with me that I really began to understand the beauty of different voices, and the absolute value and wonder present within each person.

Far from being an expert, I began to see how little I knew.  There have been times when children have shared insights I'd written about in my previous research (and which had made me feel quite clever at the time).  But perhaps the greatest insight I've learned has been the value of truly listening.  The wonder, beauty, insight and compassion offered up by the people I have been able to share with and listen to has been astounding.  Coming into a project where I thought I had a clue about diversity has meant having to re-view the world around me.

I've been able to learn so much.  I've learned how many different perspectives exist in the world, the value earth or sustainability has for so many different people in Cape Town, and, perhaps most importantly, the way the value of life interconnects.  As one of the children in Cape Town shared in November 2014, "Look at that bright the are also bright and special like that flower..."

 The recognition of how inner and outer world intertwine, and how we live in soul inspired me to keep learning and exploring.  But it was the wonder within the children which taught me the importance of working towards both a safe future and a safe society so that those children can be given the value and respect they really and truly deserve.

There are so many beliefs we've learned or absorbed.  If we question them continually, exploring who they benefit, and how we can work towards a world where there is dignity and respect for all, perhaps we can allow a new world to shape, one where future children are able to emerge with the dignity, freedom and opportunity they deserve in a humane and sustainable world.

(These insights were shaped while participating in Agents of Change)

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