How To Re-Imagine The World

Reading: How to Re-Imagine The World: A Pocket Guide for Practical Visionaries by Anthony Weston.

I found out about this book  through a Power books catalogue, and found a copy in gigapedia. I had hoped that the book clue me in my options for  life. This is the year things would change. I will not, for my sanity, be a teaching assistant for the third year. I need to do something different and if the department will not allow me to have my own class I will leave Ateneo, and find work elsewhere as I work on my thesis.

The writing is not as well as I hoped and, as a commentator noted,  the author presupposes that the reader subscribes to the same progressive ideals. The latter is not really a problem for me since I’m rooting for roughly the same ideals; though the scholarly side of me protests the carelessness. Nevertheless, it’s a short and inspiring book and it gives practical tips on how to expand ideas. He’s

Frequently, Weston gives incredulous suggestions that I realized I immediately shoot down. Always, another part of me asks, Why Not? I’ve been growing old  behind my back. Here’s to suspending judgment, and to letting ideas blossom. Here’s where, as Andrew Soh remarked once in a lecture, we unlearn.

Here are a notes (mostly direct quotations) from the book:

Radical Imagination. Radical imagination begins with a move beyond complaint and resistance, beyond reactive tinkering or hunkering down or cynical accommodation. The first big move is to an alternative picture of how things could be instead.

Affirmative Vision. Affirmative vision is crucial. Be emphatically, visibly, clear-headedly for something, and something that is worked out, widely compelling, and beautiful — not just against the problems or the powers-that-be of the moment.

Elaborate Vision. Elaborate the vision — paint the whole picture. Frame goals inclusively, mount a campaign across a broad front. Look for overlaps, connections, synergies: ways in which our goals are mutually implicated and mutually reinforcing.

Risk Taking and Stretching Ideas. Truly generative, inventive, new thinking requires risktaking and is itself a discipline. Mental stretching and twisting, conceptual self-provocations, going two steps too far — we need techniques, in short, to shock or seduce our ideas into unexpected and suggestive re-arrangements, freeing up space and generating raw material for the constructive imagination.

Openness and New Associations. Anything we encounter can stimulate new thinking. Be open to new suggestions from whatever source. Pick them up and run with them. Keep running. Provoke new ideas by deliberately creating unexpected and new associations of their parts. Sometimes we need to force things!

Exaggerate. When you want big ideas and big new steps, deliberately take them. Push beyond incremental changes to qualitative shifts. Extrapolate and exaggerate. Make mountains of molehills. When processes or trends seem to be inching along, imagine instead going miles.

Reverse. Thinking “in the box” has a usual, preferred or expected direction, pre-organized elements. For creative provocation, methodically reverse them. Flip the expected directions, think opposites, transpose the constituent ideas.

Problems are Opportunities. Any problem is a complex state of affairs that, however undesirable in certain terms, also creates new opportunities. Each new emergent issue or problem highlights resources and opens up possibilities that were not on the board before.

Keep on Swimming. Sustained creative rethinking takes many steps. Don’t stop with the first; keep pushing to the next. Build on your breakthroughs. If things slow down, interject new associations. Keep nudging and provoking ideas to expand, recombine, reassociate.

Work from the Inside. Deeply resistant in some directions, the system can also be surprisingly responsive in others. The world is a fluid, dynamic, intricately interconnected whole. Certain distinctive tipping points, vectors and dynamics emerge that make unexpected openings for creative change-making. Right now, inside “the system” and even right around the corner, many of the changes we want are already underway. Find ways to join and accelerate change movements already in flow. Radical change is often an inside job.

Leverage Points. Look for small interventions that can produce huge changes as the system adjusts. These are the leverage points: places where manageable (maybe even tiny) amounts of effort can have effects across a broad front. Upstream, small redirections of flow. Down-stream, everything shifts.

Weedy Social Change. Promote weedy social change. Aim for changes (new patterns, practices, institutions) that are as hardy as possible and that insistently re-emerge on their own. Self-generative, self-augmenting, readily drawing on natural desires and conditions, diffusing widely and wildly.

Wild Card Scenario. Promote imaginative preparedness. Project wild-card scenarios and develop “rapid deployment responses” from new concepts to focused demonstration projects — ready to go, conceptually and on the ground.

Leap of Faith First. Everyone and everything have enormous capacities for change and self-reorganization. The world will respond in the direction of our invitations — but we may need to make the offering, the invitation or even leap of faith, first. Overestimate everything!

Go for the Roots. Beneath the problems that often seem so“given” lie cultural norms and practices and ultimately whole worldviews. Our problems have contexts, backgrounds, roots. These in turn can be shifted and reconstructed. Problems can be circumvented or at least reshaped so that they arise in more manageable forms. Go deep. The word “radical” itself comes from the Latin “radix”, root. For the most creative leverage we sometimes need to work at the roots.

Rebuild from the Ground Up. When systemic problems are created by the ways we make or build things — quite literally — our most creative opportunity is to remake those very things. Rebuild from the ground up.

Change Norms.. When systemic problems are created by cultural norms and practices, our most creative opportunity is to reshape those practices themselves. Alongwith issue-based activism we need a culturally transformative pro-activism.

Flowing Worldviews. Systemic problems trace back in the end to worldviews. But worldviews themselves are in flux and flow. Our most creative opportunity of all may be to reshape those worldviews themselves. New ideas can change everything.

Rethink. Re-entering the struggle with creative momentum, let us rethink where and how and with whom we stand, how we take up issues, even how we speak. There is space for inventiveness and originality here too, and big moves to be made.

Open-endedness, inventiveness, community,cosmopolitanism, dialogue, inquiry, sense of humor, freedom in expression, good food, good music — since these are our forte, let them lead our change-making.

New Language. Reclaim the actual meanings of words, including more inclusive and edgier meanings latent inthe terms we are already using. Adopt new terms that match our new thinking, or terms that themselves enable new thinking.

Look for Allies. Look for commonalities and common ground. Build alliances from the areas of overlap rather than divergence. Make common cause as much as possible. Speak to underlying interests as much as to official positions, remembering that interests themselves are fluid and complex.

Let Opposition Rush Past. The wisdom of the martial arts: don’t resist the onrushing energy of opposition, but let it rush by,use what you can, and as for the rest, work cheerfully just beyond its reach.

Act now. Look for ways to make change right now, onyour own or with readily-present like-mindedothers. Do it yourself! Why not right now?Why not right here?

Go All the Way. Imagine not just two steps down the road, but allthe way. Take your vision and multiply it by itself.What unheard-of possibilities lie all around us,right here and right now?

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