Engaging in the Larger Conversation Beyond Meaningful to Transcendent

January 2010

Have you ever wondered if the debates, discussions and general conversations that occupy our consciousness most of the time are all essentially “small talk” when it comes to what’s really important? I’m not saying that constructive discussion about the crises facing us today – the economy, climate change, population growth, terrorism, environmental sustainability, and other such things – are not important. But don’t you have a nagging feeling that these situations – serious as they are – are simply symptoms of some larger crisis?

To put it into popular colloquialism, are we all passengers on the Titanic arguing over the arrangement of the deck chairs, or the menu for dinner, or which promenade has the best views when there’s a larger conversation to be had?

Each of these crises is the result of human behavior driven by an immature consciousness – a consciousness that once was sufficient but we have now outgrown. The consciousness that created all these problems is outmoded, either uncaring or unaware of the long -term impact we will have on future generations. This consciousness is adolescent and, like modern day teenagers, it often pretends to be mature.

As with most unchecked adolescent behavior there are consequences which often show up as surprises to the unaware or uncaring. The crises we face today are the consequences we didn’t think about before. It is time to grow up, clean up our messes and start having “the larger conversation” about consciously evolving to a level of collective maturity that is capable of generating a sustainable, just and fulfilling human presence on this planet. There’s an old standard popularized by several singers, including Willis Nelson, called “Who’s Sorry Now?” Two lines in the refrain are “you had your way, now you must pay.” It is time to own the consequences of our past actions and start acting in ways required to have a sustainable human presence on planet Earth.

It isn’t about solving problems, although many problems require solutions. It’s about generating a future we can bring into being consciously – a future we actually want for our descendants instead of a default future that will devolve from the wreckage of our past actions and inactions.

Peter Drucker, the father of modern management theory, once said that the best way to predict the future was to create it. So let’s do it – not from solving one problem after another (which will take forever given our present consciousness) but from focusing on what is best in the common interest.

“What?” you ask. “How do we do that?” Does that question come from a place of hopelessness, powerlessness and victimhood? Does the future occur to you as unchangeable, set on a course of degeneration? Does it appear that the best we can do is try to solve a problem or two and make the best of what we have? Or can you envision the future as something totally new to be created – setting a new context that generates new conditions and new behaviors and demands new rules of engagement, new maturity and levels of responsibility?

The Larger Conversation requires people who see the latter – not incrementally improved but newly generated from an entirely different worldview or paradigm. These people see a possibility even if they don’t see exactly how to bring it about. They have a deep intuitive knowing that this reality in which we all find ourselves is not the ultimate destiny for human beings. They know something very different is within our grasp if we can shift our consciousness from one that generates scarcity, consumption and fear to a consciousness grounded in connection, sufficiency and caring for all.

Those of us engaging in the Larger Conversation, seeing possibility where others may not, feeling hope rather than despair, interconnectedness instead of separation and isolation are risking being seen as “the crazy ones.” Cynics may see us as idealists, Pollyannaish, and wasting our time and theirs. They once tried idealism and really got burned. So they pulled the blanket of cynicism over their heads and swore never again to imagine more ideal realities. Cynics will most likely not be attracted to the Larger Conversation.

Those of us in the Larger Conversation can evoke possibility for a world we dream, a reality based on what we want, not on the past. Future-based language will replace past-based thinking and the language which follows.

Would you like to be part of this Larger Conversation? The cost of entry is low – simply a willingness to envision a world that works for everyone, a world that is environmentally sustainable, socially just and spiritually fulfilling for all human beings. This Conversation is going on all over the world, maybe not in the mainstream but it can be found whenever two or more people are willing to engage in such an unfettered exploration. It is going on in small coffee houses, people’s living rooms and kitchens, retreat centers, and certainly on the Internet.

Are you engaged in one of these Larger Conversations? If not, locate one and introduce yourself. You may be surprised by the welcome you receive! Once you are engaged in the exploration set aside all the reasons your mind conjures up for why this is folly. Tell your mind to leave you be, with strong emphasis if necessary. Disengage the egoic rationale that tells you such a conversation is a waste of time and allow yourself to dream without restraint about what is truly possible for an awakened human society, one which transcends the crises and circumstances we are facing today.

Is there a conversation more worth having at this time? If there is I’d like to know what it might be.

*”Having the Larger Conversation” is John’s most recent keynote talk.

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John Renesch

John is a seasoned businessman-turned-futurist who has published 14 books and hundreds of articles on social and organizational transformation.

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