This week as the U.S. population continues to be dangerously divided on who won the presidential election, and the surging pandemic takes its devastating toll, I have been more deeply than ever contemplating the question, how can empathic communication go further out into the world to help people and the planet?
What came first were the words “critical mass,” in the sense of a tipping point. I had heard and said those words before, but this time they came with a new force. Then came the words, “in time to avoid the catastrophic and existential threats we face.” I’ve had this thought as well many times, and have written and spoken often about it. What felt different was the way these two ideas came together in my mind. But a critical mass of what exactly? The response I heard said, “a critical mass of people in the world who are practicing empathic communication.” Ok, but what is meant by “empathic communication” at this great scale? The answer that came was that it is communication based in awareness, awareness of language that shapes consciousness into a “world” of disconnection, separation, suffering and violence; and it is awareness of language that brings us into a different world or reality, the world of our natural state of empathic connection — experiencing our commonality underlying our differences, feeling part of a larger wholeness together and the natural caring, kindness and cooperation that flows from this, particularly in how we respond to conflict, fear, hate, injustice and violence. In that moment the specificity of the thought of a critical mass of people in the world being able to do this felt somehow startling.
Later, a vivid image flashed through my imagination — President John F. Kennedy’s famous speech pointing to the moon and saying we’ll be landing there by the end of the decade. Seemingly impossible. Breathtakingly bold and electrifying, to declare this vision as if it was already a reality, and then to fully commit the country’s resources to making it happen. I don’t remember ever hearing or reading the speech, but the thought of it came as clear as if I recently had. It suddenly struck me, putting all these thoughts together — a critical mass of people in the world with the ability to communicate empathically this decade. This coincides with what scientists, environmentalists, and social leaders are telling us, that we have this decade to make radical reductions in how much carbon is in the atmosphere, and more generally to reverse the collapse of Earth’s ecosystems, before we cross a potentially irreversible threshold to an unlivable planet.
I believe a critical mass of people with awareness, language, skills, and ability to communicate empathically is a missing and essential piece for humanity to be able to work together to respond to the many enormous and daunting social-environmental challenges before us. And I believe the way we get there is through seeing empathic communication as an integral part of health and wellness and creating a healthy and sustainable world for all people and the planet. Given the direction politics is now taking, this feels even more impossible than flying to the moon. But let us, this generation in this decade, discover again that soaring inspiration, imagination, and groundswell leadership to come together to make the impossible possible.
Photo Credit: Express.Co.Uk