The Transformative Power of our Collective Dreaming

January 07, 2023

Written by Jeff Koetje, MD, AMSA Reproductive Health Programming Strategist

The Transformative Power of our Collective Dreaming

Here we are, at the end of the first week of 2023. Many of us, myself included, are approaching the new year trepidatiously.

Yeah, happy new year…but, can I see the preview first?

– a meme I came across the other day that made me smile and feel seen. In truth, I am anxious about what the year ahead will bring: whether related to the ongoing pandemic, the existential threats posed by white supremacy and climate destabilization, the regressive attacks against human and civil rights (such as the right to abortion care), and the genocidal attacks against trans and nonbinary people. It’s all enough to tempt me to retreat under my bed covers and stay as still as possible. Tempting, but what good would that accomplish?

I am anxious, and perhaps you are too. I’m not going to tell you to shake off that feeling; I’m not going to tell you (or myself) to deny feeling anxious about the many hard things that this year, and the next, and the next may – or likely will – bring. Instead, I want to invite you (and myself) to sit with this feeling – let’s sit with all our feelings – and feel them together. And, in our feelings, let’s come together to face what we need to face. James Baldwin famously said, in an essay he penned in January 1962 entitled, As Much Truth As One Can Bear

Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” 

Two paragraphs prior, Baldwin wrote, “We are the generation that must throw everything into the endeavor to remake America into what we say we want it to be. Without this endeavor, we will perish.”

Even though 61 years have passed since James Baldwin wrote these words, his words are no less relevant now than then. When he said, “we are the generation” he was of course speaking to his contemporaries, but he also was speaking to a future “we”. 

As we find ourselves at the start of 2023, the question for us is,
will we choose to be a part of this generation that throws everything into the endeavor of remaking America,
remaking this society, remaking the world into what we say we want it to be?

What do we say we want the world to be like? What do we imagine when we dream of the world as we desire it to be? What does that world look like, sound like, taste like, feel like?

Dream with me, for a moment, of a world where,

  • everyone has access to the resources and opportunities they need to thrive and flourish;
  • healthcare is recognized and guaranteed as a human right;
  • nutritious food, clean water, and clean air are for everyone, not just the wealthy;
  • comprehensive reproductive healthcare, including abortion care and family planning, is universally accessible in recognition of each person’s bodily autonomy;
  • the sacredness of all who are and all this is, is honored
  • the purpose of living is figuring out how to be better with and for each other
  • the goal of our pursuits is meaning-making
  • the ultimate truth of the interconnectedness of all guides everything we do

To state the obvious, none of these describe America, this society, this world as they are today. Not even close. And in fact, just as James Baldwin warned, so many have perished, and so many more will perish, if America, this society, this world is allowed to remain shaped, as it has been, by the forces of systemic oppression motivated by supremacist ideologies.

So, if this present-day world is not the world we say that we want it to be, what are we going to do about it? Pulling the metaphorical (or literal) bed covers over ourselves is not going to get us any closer to the world we imagine, the life we desire, the flourishing we dream of. So, what will? The answer is right there, in the words, “imagine”, “desire”, and “dream”. These are not fluffy, insubstantial, cotton-candy words. To the contrary, they have the weight and force necessary to transform the world, to give shape to a new reality. For it is only through our imagining, desiring, and dreaming together that we will be bold enough to finally remake the world – including our healthcare system – into what we say we want it to be.

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