Extending the idea of what’s possible – a rebuttal to Margaret Thatcher’s “There is no alternative”.

Written by: Terry Link

Primary Source: Possibilitator

That phrase, ‘we can do better’ has been finding its way into my consciousness more and more of late. I believe it can be applied to every social ill facing the human family. It can be the starting palce for conversations around any issue that divides us. For who doesn’t want their situation to be better? The tricky part is understanding how we all define better in our shared boundaries (however defined). And then, of course, even if the direction is agreed upon, the path to get there will conjure up different ideas.

But the thought alone ‘we can do better’,  is only an unfulfilled aspiration. Perhaps, but I believe that it is a primary and necessary intention that must proceed any positive change. Well maybe MUST is too strong, as we might occasionally stumble into positive change.

Without that essential conscious thought, there is little impetus to change anything in our life or world. Yet, I sense around us a wet blanket of dis-empowerment that snuffs out such consciousness and therefore our aspirations. Now the flip side of this thinking of course is the Pollyanna approach — that things will just be OK, no matter what I do or don’t do. But that too is dis-empowering in the sense that it removes any responsibility for change from our shoulders.

These observations seem just as true to me, whether we’re talking about climate change, war, poverty, or any other social ill facing our human family as well as to our own individual aspirations for self-improvement. Thus the linking of the ‘can do’ with the ‘can be’ in the title of this blog. I keep wondering that if I could make this a daily, if not hourly, mantra in my own life, how that might transform how I live – aligning myself more closely with aspirations that I have failed to achieve, as well as how those changes might then reverberate beyond the boundaries of self?

Everything I know tells me this is true. Yet, I know I often let myself off the hook of ‘being’ better by excusing my shortcomings on personal weakness or hardened habits, or that the change is just so insignificant it won’t matter to anyone if I don’t make it. Who will notice besides me? And with a memory and attention span as short as mine, it will be removed from consciousness shortly anyway.

But we know there are memories that are not conscious that our body/mind uses without thinking – consider walking, driving a car, putting a fork of food into our mouths, etc. These were all learned. We now do them without much thought. So if we could simply start the day with that simple thought ‘we can do better, we can be better’, and we practiced it daily, and maybe eventually hourly, would after some length of time, maybe a year, could we shift not only our disposition, but ultimately our actions, both personally and socially?

Lord knows there is so much that needs improvement around us and in us. Surrendering to the forces that are driving selfishness, winning at all costs, concentrating power, etc. is not an aspiration I have ever been inclined to follow. I doubt if anyone else has either. So starting now, let’s do better. We can.

See you on the path…

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Terry Link
Terry Link is a retired MSU librarian, former founding director of the MSU Office of Campus Sustainability, and co-founder and former chair of the American Library Association’s Task Force on the Environment. He recently served as associate editor for the two-volume encyclopedia, Achieving Sustainability: Visions, Principles, and Practices(Gale/Cengage 2014). He has also served as executive director of a regional food bank and as a county commissioner. Currently he is president of Starting Now, LLC, a sustainability consulting firm, a Senior Fellow for the U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development and serves on numerous non-profit organization boards.
Terry Link

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