By Sue Marie Kern
“Man did not weave the web of life. He is merely a strand in it. What he does to it, he does to himself.”—Chief Seattle, 1854
I spent a recent weekend at an Entrepreneurial Leadership Conference hosted by Earlham School of Religion in Indiana. Ministers, spiritual directors, seminarians, and others from all over the U.S. and different countries came together to discuss and explore ways to be spiritual entrepreneurs. One of the key themes that emerged from the meetings was “Shared Vision.” As we listened to the keynote speakers and participated in various workshops and small groups, we discovered that many of us held similar goals, plans, and visions. One speaker, a director who started a volunteer service nonprofit agency for youth, commented that she discovered years after her initial, failed written proposal about the agency that others had the same vision. Once she met all these people, her dream came to fruition with the support of this newfound community wanting to work toward the same goal.
Emanuel Swedenborg talks about the Universal Human in his inspired writings:
Each and every part of the human body cooperates with the others in both the overall functioning of the whole and the specific functioning of each part. It is the same in the Lord’s kingdom, which is like a single human being and is also named “the universal human”; everyone there works together, whether at close quarters or more at a distance, and by many different means. (Secrets of Heaven §550)
Since we’re all part of this Universal Human community, it’s not surprising that the director’s vision was shared by many others. It’s also encouraging, because those very others who had a similar idea found their way to her when the timing was right (“in God’s timing”) for the nonprofit to be birthed.
And so it is with us and our “individual” visions. Somewhere, somebody or somebodies also share our plan, our goal. And when the timing is just right, God will ensure that they find us and we find them so that we can work together to achieve that common vision.
Another conference attendee, a pastor from Kenya, talked about how he had a dream to start a coffee cooperative among farmers in his country. Feeling very much isolated with his idea, he visited dozens of independent coffee bean growers, all of whom were living in poverty and struggling to survive. He shared his vision of the cooperative with them, and, because of their cultural tendency to think in terms of “we” rather than “I,” they were immediately open to forming this community of farmers to help each other out. Many told him that they, too, had this vision but did not know how to develop and implement it on their own. The pastor, who held a master’s degree in economics, brought to the other farmers the financial knowledge to help make their community cooperative a reality. Each grower played his part in the project. Today, the coffee cooperative is a reality; the coffee beans are being sold internationally, directly from the cooperative. Everyone—the farmers, their families, the coffee drinkers—is benefiting from the work of this cooperative community.
As I was listening to the stories of the agency director and the Kenyan coffee growers, it struck me that by putting out to the universe what we want, what we imagine, and what we dream of, we beget witnesses to our vision who then become co-creators with us, just as we are co-creators with God. “‘Let us make a human in our image, after our likeness . . . ’” (Genesis 1:26, as translated by Swedenborg, Secrets of Heaven §5).
In this world that seems to be falling apart, where we are constantly bombarded with messages of despair, fear, and acts of hatred, let’s make sure we continue, or start, to share our vision with each other and the universe, within the Universal Human, so that God can bring us together to work for the common, useful purpose of co-creating a world that truly reflects the universal humanity of his kingdom on earth.
Sue Marie Kern is a professional writer and editor, former adjunct professor of writing, and current Swedenborgian seminarian at Earlham School of Religion.