“A World that Works” is the central project of our time — and will indeed be that of any foreseeable future. Science has brought us enormous realms of understanding, but none more important than an awareness of our actual impact on the planet and its unsustainability. We may regard this as fact: our Earth, which is at this point our only habitat, is in the process of becoming increasingly inhospitable to life. Climate change, mass extinction, ocean acidification and the loss of biodiversity are each capable of becoming massive and in some cases overwhelming disruptors, each capable of passing a point of no return.
Given such a reality, it is critical that we marshal all of our resources to the task of avoiding these outcomes. Whether or not there are any paid experts who want to debate whether these are real threats, the reality is that we cannot afford to not take them seriously, any more than we can afford to be casual about the handling of nuclear materials, the crisis of clean water, the spreading conflict in the Middle East, or other challenges. Certainly the insurance companies see it this way: like the military, they’re preparing for the worst, because humans don’t seem to be waking up in a hurry. But they’re operating on the model that there will be some kind of future, just as there would be after a nuclear war. If so, maybe we can all have something to say about how we think it should turn out.
Expanding our awareness of ourselves and of the planet means more than simply experiencing the richness of nature or the peak experience of “flow,” as Csikszentmihalyi calls it, the ultimate in enjoyment. It also means taking action to ensure an emergent human future with more choices, a more sustainable global society, and a more regenerative ecosphere. Without this we are simply watching our species and many others die out, and with them the loss of all that humanity has thus far accomplished and understood and experienced. We will know that humanity has reached a new level of maturity when its activities are aligned with the needs of the planet and of all its interdependent living creatures.
Our goal with this project is to align ourselves with others in order to engage a conversation for a genuine transformation of the world as we know it. We invite you to join us on this journey, in whatever form it makes sense for you, and at whatever point we happen to be engaged in it ourselves. Join us at WorldThatWorks.org to see what we think is now possible and within humanity’s reach, though by no means guaranteed to be within its grasp.
- A course — and eventually a series of courses
- A book
- A KickStarter/Indiegogo project
- A membership organization
- A community
- An idea loosed upon the world
From a transformational standpoint, it’s not enough to recognize that all of life is really one, that we are all interconnected. It’s also necessary to awaken people to the realities of our collective existence; to liberate people from the ignorance and deceptions of the past; and to empower people to engage fully with life, to create meaning and purpose and sufficiency.
“If you live your life to the fullest, you’ll never need to regret it when you’re dead.”
The worst that can happen is that you won’t get to regret it when you’re dead — but you also won’t need to regret it when you’re dying either.
How we do this is, remarkably, through conversation. It’s a carefully designed, guided, and tested conversation that produces breakthroughs in human awareness, freedom, and capacity for action. It can be delivered as a one-on-one session, a group training program, a book, a video, a web site; and it can generate a network, a community, and ultimately the unleashing of an idea upon the world.
Once the idea is free it can and will live for as long as it is needed. The idea of “a world that works” is such an idea. Once it is realized, if it ever is, it will disappear. Until then it’s both the central challenge and the central opportunity of the times: to make the world work for all of us, for life itself, and for the future.
It’s possible to think of the population of the Earth as a collection of societies, a set of interconnected ecosystems, or as cohorts or generations. However you choose to think of it, however, it’s ultimately the actions of unique individuals that govern the outcomes of history. These actions are in turn shaped by the language, culture, history, and level of awareness of the person. By awakening within each of us that fundamental inter-existence of all of life, we can begin to shift the paradigm or the mindset within which the person’s action takes place. Through this humanity can reach a new level of “enlightenment” which is not only consistent with our scientific and historical knowledge of reality but also provides a new way of being and a new level of meaning.
The book can provide a narrative glimpse of this enlightenment, and the tools, resources, concepts, and concrete information needed to make this a new reality at the forefront of consciousness. Each person will, of necessity, respond to this differently. We’re not talking about an ideology or belief system: rather, we’re illuminating aspects of reality that have until now, seemingly, remained hidden, though often hidden “in plain sight.” But like a blind spot, until we see what’s in it we’re completely oblivious to it — until it runs into us.
(Not necessarily chapter headings but topics that need to be included)
- Introductory Notes
- Historical development
- Werner Erhard & Personal Transformation
- Buckminster Fuller & a Technological Utopia
- Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi & Flow in Life and Work
- Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, and Bill McKibben on Ecological Economics
- Thomas Berry & the Great Work
- The Old and the New Cosmology
- Why Are We Here?
- What Is To Be Done
- Leadership, Relationship, and Teamwork
- The Power of Ideas Whose Time Has Come
- The Ecological Conditions of a World that Works
- The Socio-Economic Conditions of a World that Works
- The Political Conditions for a World that Works
- Human Rights, Needs, and Aspirations
- Differentiation and Reintegration
- What Choice Do We Have?
- Language and the Three Laws
- Possibility, Opportunity, and Action
- Inscribing the Vision
- Engaging in the Practice
- The Emergent Future
A Note on the Inclusion of Werner Erhard
For some people, Werner is a charlatan, a sort of latter day L. Ron Hubbard, not someone to be taken seriously. But increasingly Werner is being recognized as a serious, original, and profound thinker about the human condition. Whatever one thinks of est, or its evolving expression as the Landmark Forum, it’s now possible to view the man’s work and ideas as a body of thought, and it stands out as uniquely important to the historical transition we are now entering.
What is equally remarkable is the impact that his ideas and techniques have had upon several million people, and through them have seeped into the culture that we now think of as our natural way of thinking and being. The ideas themselves, taken individually, all have important antecedents and histories; his genius, however, was to combine them in an intense, life-altering educational experience.
Werner was also among the first, along with his close friend and colleague Buckminster Fuller, to introduce the idea of a “a world that works for everyone, with no one and nothing left out,” as a possibility for living, as opposed to an idealized Utopia or intellectual conceit. What he said was
“We can choose to be audacious enough to take responsibility for the entire human family. We can choose to make our love for the world what our lives are really about. Each of us has the opportunity, the privilege, to make a difference in creating a world that works for all of us. It will require courage, audacity and heart. It is much more radical than a revolution – it is the beginning of a transformation in the quality of life on our planet. What we create together is a relationship in which our work can show up as making a difference in people’s lives. I welcome the unprecedented opportunity for us to work globally on that which concerns us all as human beings.”
This project could not have existed without Werner’s work, and that of the many course leaders he trained — who interrupted our own and our culture’s assumptions about what it means to be human.
In the chapter on Werner and personal transformation, I think we need to go deeply into why his vision, his methodology, and the community of graduates he his work created are so pivotal, so key to the collective mindshift that needs to occur in our times. At the same time, I think we need to see Werner in a larger context, both historically and philosophically; and be objective about Landmark and its role in the world. Werner went on from these very large public events in 1980 to founding the Hunger Project, to spending time on other courses, and ultimately into exile after a 60 Minutes exposé of his somewhat imperious private behavior by several immediate family members.
Whatever the truth of the “revelations,” some of which were later retracted, this clearly shifted the trajectory of Werner’s life, and created Landmark as a separate “educational corporation” from his own subsequent consulting, writing, and scholarship, much of which is now freely available on the web.
Talking about Werner is, however, likely to be somewhat confronting, both for his friends and his critics. Since he separated himself from Landmark in the midst of a personal scandal, which suggested more of an authoritarian personality than he was even willing to admit in his public role, in some ways there was a deliberate effort to “erase” his personal imprint from the organization. At the same time, this was simply a continuation of the effort he himself had encouraged, of keeping any hero-worship out of the courses. When I did the Communication Workshop he was acknowledged as “the source of the work,” but not a “guru” or even a particularly public personality. Werner’s brush with Scientology may have taught him the dangers of creating a personal cult; and unlike L. Ron Hubbard he wasn’t interested in being a successful fake. He saw that what he had learned for himself was real, helpful to others, and worth devoting his life to sharing.
For these reasons I don’t want to be reticent about him, or pretend that somehow he is not the principal source of the “world that works” concept. At the same time, I think that if we are to take the concept seriously we must go beyond the level of personal transformation to the alteration of our global values and behavior. Without this we risk the possibility of liberating the individual molecules of humanity to chaotic disintegration, rather than achieving the cosmic harmony and reintegration that is necessary to keep the planet going.
The Open Conspiracy
Several years ago I played with the idea of an “open conspiracy,” an “army of lovers” to bring about transformative change at a societal level without creating a violent reaction against it. I still think this is what we need: a network of friends and co-conspirators for the future of life on this planet. This is not exactly a new idea — as Margaret Meade famously pointed out, never doubt the power of a small group to transform the planet; nothing else ever has. But it does suggest a sort of clandestine mission — which paradoxically is one of total transparency in transforming the world — that demands a personal commitment, a willingness to be a part of something larger than oneself.