By Adrian Brannen-Jurgenson and Robert Rippberger
It can be said that today it is easier to imagine the end of the world than any possibility of utopia. It is understandable then that The Huffington Post would begin a section inviting writers from different walks of life to share their stories not of dystopia, but of Good News. It is important, however, to understand that the danger of this failure of imagination for utopia is not the despair of the powerless peasant, for example, in the face of political tyrannies that block the path to utopia. Rather, what this failure of imagination warns against is far more dangerous: The despair of the free, who--perhaps because of political tyrannies that proclaim the freedom of their people to choose and simultaneously allow for no choice at all, in fact threatening against any choice that is not for them--find themselves without any imagination of The Good Life, and therefore without any possibility at all. That is the real danger, the danger of losing even the freedom to imagine a better life, and without that freedom there is no possibility for positive change. Enter Visions for the Future, one piece of good news that reanimates the imagination and our possibilities for the future.
The Visions series, like HuffPost's Good News section, is an attempt to dislodge the nihilistic mentality referenced above. Visions is about visionaries, their views, and how they are getting their hands dirty to make these views a reality. These documentaries look to offer audiences not one example of a vision, because there never really is one answer, but a diverse set of ideas, reforms, interventions, and practices for keeping the idea of the Good Life alive. The series grew from a fervent interest in film and philosophy and their ability to bring about change in the world, to disclose knew possibilities, and to open windows into new worlds.
There's a sense in which if you've seen a thousand films, you've lived a thousand lives. So the question that ensues is, What then is a good life? This is, of course, not a new question, but one that is always worth asking again, and again. It is with the power of film that we can explore this question and see all its possible answers lived out.
Visions' first episode is about Harvard Law Professor and Brazilian Politician Roberto Mangabeira Unger, to be released later this Spring. Unger clearly embodies the question of action and thought, and consciously so. He writes and lectures on topics in politics, social theory, religion, economics, and philosophy, in order to create an interdisciplinary forum for redefining the purpose of each topic in terms of its contribution to the immediate question of how best to serve the human spirit in the face of humanity's increasingly dystopian fantasies. The good news Unger brings comes from this lifetime of intellectual, personal and political struggle, from his attempts to test and to live the transformative powers of the individual human imagination.
He has done this in the lecture halls at Harvard, but more publicly while running for the presidency of Brazil and serving as Minister of Strategic Affairs and Future Planning for President Lula da Silva, a position specifically created for him. His current work is focused on the Amazonian State of Rondônia, putting in place initiatives, conceived through extensive efforts to educate himself about the conditions of the poor and powerless, that might serve as examples to the rest of Brazil and the world.
"Life is the supreme good," Unger says, an idea he repeats in various ways throughout the Visions episode. For him, the apparent dichotomy of action and thought is important to understand and overcome. He talks about what happens when you "act intellectually or politically," and how both, lived together, move you toward struggle and "transformative opportunity," that is, toward the Good Life. "We can only fully live in the present through this dialectic between engagement and transcendence," through present practice and our hope for the future. This is Unger's good news.
I'm sure you're familiar with the philosophical conundrum, If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Slightly repurposed, we can phrase the same idea differently: If someone, anyone in the world, thinks a thought, if no action follows, does the thought matter at all? Let the thought not be something so base as the question, does this falling tree make a sound?, but instead let the thought be a provocation to the distinctly human, linguistic, retrospective, prospective and introspective search for what it is to be a purposeful human being alive today. So, what do you think: Does a thought without action, or an action without thought, matter? Can you imagine a good life for yourself, and more than that, can you voice it and live it?
Visions episodes to follow are with Primatologist and U.N. Ambassador for Peace, Jane Goodall, and non-profit Venture Capitalist William H. Draper III.
Visions For The Future is sponsored by Creative Visions Foundation, a publicly supported 501(c)3, which supports Creative Activists who use the power of media and the arts to affect positive change in the world. All donations are tax deductible.