Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

My Visions for the Future

Originally posted on August 9, 2011

I am a visionary. I don’t claim to be all that great at it, but it’s what I do: I envision what could be. In terms of Jung’s theory of temperament, I’m an intuitive type, I naturally think about things in terms of future possible implications. I’ve also been exposes to a bunch of ideas that seem to me to offer a great deal of promise, and I really want to see these ideas and methods used more widely in our culture. I think if that were to happen, the world would be a better place!

First, I think that an attitude that the world could be a better place is itself an important idea, and not one that is adequately celebrated. Voices of cynicism and stories of the dramas of darkness express a wavering underlying anxiety and pessimism. I think our era faces a crisis of faith. People feel alienated and unclear as to how to proceed. What I’ll be talking about in this essay relates to a paper I posted on my website about reasons for optimism. Aside from those reasons, though, there is the life-affirming act of deciding to help the world be better, and that requires at least a tentative willingness to imagine how it might be better. The other ideas in this essay will answer that question.

Finding Out Who You Are: The World Needs You!

In fact, there is and can be no neat “answer”: Your challenge is to creatively integrate your various elements of temperament, interests, abilities, background, social resources, historical era, and continuing changes. That means that you may need to re-create your identity and path as new historical, cultural, and technological changes emerge.

So part of this is also to situate this process of co-creative becoming within a larger framework. This is your world-view, your philosophy of life, and also the worldview of your culture. That latter category—how we all imagine it—may also evolve.  My contribution is a world-view that imagines that your creative synthesis is meaningful.

So, the second theme I want to support is the idea that the world needs you! I really believe that each individual has a set of talents and temperament and interests and background that when combined offer potentials for creativity in innumerable ways. Our school systems should aim to draw these forth and not spend so much time just instilling information. We should be kindling a flame, not filling a vessel, as (I think) Plutarch said. This requires a deep shift in educational theory, which is in turn subject to politics and social consensus—which makes it no simple challenge. Common sense can easily become dominated by the more fanatic fringes of the political and religious left or right. However, my vision is that education will gradually learn to integrate the emerging realization of the inevitability and potential of individuality in every student, and to draw that individuality forth rather than to stifle it in a conformist blanket of required curriculum.

“The World Needs You” should be a monthly talk for the whole school in the auditorium, at an assembly. Someone from the community who wants to speak to this theme—from business, church, university, any community organization, various minorities, etc.—someone who might give this theme a new twist, some life-affirming juice—would be a speaker.

The eighth or ninth grade would be spent in doing a lot of vocational guidance tests and sampling a wider range of activities. Different specialists who wanted to talk about why their work was exciting would be able to give introductory lectures and perhaps create small, more experiential  classes or camp-like experiences to deepen the interest in those students whose enthusiasm was touched. I imagine in a school of 1000 students there will be ten who would explore, say, the lore of the ocean, oceanography, and its mysteries. A boat trip would be part of this adjunctive experience. And so forth for other specialties. The goal would be to heighten the sense that kids at this age have of wanting to find out “who they are,” and operationally, that best refers to answering the questions, “What is it I like to do best? What do I have some talent for? What tickles my fancy?  What evokes my enthusiasm? Not what’s currently fashionable or cool, but what taps my talents?”

This kind of a program would further validate individual differences in the face of cultural pressures to conform, to enjoy having fun in the mass cliche’—currently, according to television commercials, it’s having beer-lubricated parties. Driving fancy cars fast over country and mountain-side  roads (nobody else on these roads, curiously enough), being slim and with someone young of the opposite sex at the beach—this is happiness. It also costs lots of dough. The idea that it might be fun to read a book—who can make a buck off of that? So commercial interests often subtly suppress individuality.

What’s It All About

A third thing I want to promote is the development of philosophy. It’s not just for academic types. Philosophy involves a more conscious development and rational coordination of those ideas that can promote your highest values. This becomes a structure and measuring-stick for staying aligned to those values. It’s really rather easy to get lost—or more, distracted and seduced by an increasing number of sources—television, various habits, etc. So I want to promote more awareness about the importance of even a fairly simple philosophy that can in time be developed.

I don’t care that much what you find works for you—which symbols, stories, themes seem most compelling. I think that our own era is ready for a kind of spirituality that allows for and even supports the emergence into consciousness and development whatever images and ideals seems to fit your life story. Being a minister and /or a member of your spiritual community thus shifts into being a co-creative people-helper, a bit of a coach, vocational guidance teacher, therapist, and pal.

For me (and recognizing the limitations of my mind), I’ve provisionally boiled it down to love, faith and responsibility. Loving involves the somewhat altruistic desire to bring others forth—it’s not mere grasping to enhance the gratifications of lust or even the self. Of course, there’s a little fun and self-expansion in bringing others forth, but that’s okay.

Faith means a more positive attitude, a willingness to engage in the project of world-improvement, as alluded to above. It’s more optimism that yet acknowledges the depth of the challenges. It does not avoid negativity but affirms positive ideas as counterbalances. Faith has little to do with the contents of beliefs that support this attitude, except to acknowledge that if dogma serves to bolster faith and also love-kindness, fine.

Responsibility is the attitude of willingness to step up to the plate, to engage, realizing that beyond a modest degree, none of us can be “in control.” Yet that is no reason to lapse back into excessive passivity or copping out. There’s an optimal middle ground and we should strive to be involved at that level. This also means being willing to develop skills that would empower us further to help the world become a better place.

Actually, I see these as actions, expressed as gerunds—words ending in –ing  such as Loving, Faith-ing, Responsible-ing —meaning, you don’t have these qualities, you don’t achieve this as a status, you either do it or you stop doing it. If you’re not doing it, well, then, you don’t “have” them.


Another quality I want to support in the world is cheerfulness and its impact, sharing feelings of welcome and positivity. (Again, a gerund-form, something you do, not something you are or have.) When I grew up a background sense was that we should not smile unless we had good reason, but what I’ve learned is that radiating good cheer is itself a positive source of energy in the social field. It’s also fun to do. Even if parts of you aren’t warmed up yet, other parts can get you aligned with playfulness and youthful exuberance, appreciating in the moment the good things that may be happening that can offset the bad things.

Wholesome Activities

People need to feel empowered and to know about the joys of more wholesome forms of recreation, folk dancing, square dancing, round dancing, ballroom dancing, folk singing, song fests simple acts of feeling your own vitality, in contrast to vicarious enjoyment through television and video games. These also offer more authentic socialization.

Some other activities have this moderate degree of connection in some ways while requiring a greater congeniality in other ways—e.g., a church or spiritual community, various clubs.

Interestingly, such activities need not require a higher degree of rapport regarding intellectual, political, religious, congeniality. Many of these activities allow for a mixture of a little intimacy  mixed with a little anonymity.

Other activities require more rapport—discussion groups, for example.

My point is to note that some activities balance other roles in life, work (paid employment), family duties, caretaking, life maintenance, etc.

Psychological Mindedness

I want to promote a new skill set that I think people are ready to gain—thinking about thinking, and feelings, and other more subtle personal reactions. One becomes more interested in empathy rather than gossipy judgment, and in fostering others’ development—kids, friends, others. The idea forms that you yourself may continue to develop throughout adulthood, that some qualities that you consider faults may be addressed even in old age as a part of “cleaning up your act.” You don’t get to old for continued efforts at maturity and spiritual development.

Perhaps this skill set is a bit like learning to drive or use the computer—we now know enough to make the learning “user-friendly.” (Fifty years ago learning psychology was immersed in mystifying jargon and burdened by counter-intuitive theories such as psychoanalysis; it was far from counter-intuitive.) There are ways of distilling the best insights from that and other theories and presenting them in ways that ordinary folks can enjoy and use together.

Another reason why it is appropriate to make use of this knowledge is that it is no longer so taboo. Even fifty years ago many people—perhaps most—were burdened by a heavy message from their parents that they mustn’t think certain thoughts, they mustn’t feel certain feelings. The culture still believed that bad things were done because people felt or thought bad things. People hadn’t yet come to understand that everyone feels and thinks thoughts that are immature and at times wicked, but most people learn to contain and channel those thoughts into good actions. What they didn’t know is that simply bottling up negative thoughts doesn’t work and the negativity comes out indirectly one way or another. Best thing is to face these and make them less dangerous by understanding how they work, where they come from, and how to fix them. It’s sort of like understanding germs and vitamin deficiency as the cause of widespread disease and the effects of hygiene in managing such problems. Once psychological dynamics are better understood, they can be managed.

This in fact has been happening a bit each generation, so that young people are ready to learn about their minds and how thoughts and feelings can be helped to mature. Next we have to teach the teachers and then make it a priority to weave the development of emotional intelligence into  the school curriculum. Today there is less taboo about thinking what used to be forbidden; I emphasize the word, “less” as relative, acknowledging that there are still a lot of factors supporting the avoidance of insight. But on the whole, I think it has become more possible and more pressing to include practical psychology in the curriculum and to make talking about how we think and feel part of the mainstream. I call this endeavor “psychological literacy.”

Another thing I want to support is the idea that we have tools to make it easier to learn about psychology. One of these is “role talk”—using the role concept as a basic user-friendly tool for thinking about our minds and our relations to each other. I have scores of reasons for why this is a great idea—but this isn’t the place to present all of them. (I write about it on my website.)

Spontaneity Development

I think another thing that has changed in our culture is the place of spontaneity, imaginativeness, and creativity. During the industrial era in which human labor was frequently repetitive and strenuous, before automation, such qualities distracted people from their jobs. They were also subversive, generating doubt and the roots of critical thinking towards established dogmas of religion, social stratification, racism and colonialist exploitation, the subjugation of women, authoritarian politics and so forth. Thinking about things generates discontent and worse, it liberates ideas that the status quo might not be the best of all possible worlds.

We live in an era where creative thinking has moved to the mainstream. It’s needed to be economically competitive. And democracy and freedom have become powerful values, while oppression is condemned. (These cultural trends by no means have been fully reversed: Forces that support traditional values are prevalent and feed vested interests. Authoritarian systems hide personal corruption and sexual exploitation—but they deny this as an inevitable side effect of non-transparency, secrecy, and other requirements of artificial hierarchy.)

Also, as culture evolves, recreation, leisure, vitality-enhancement all become more valued, and these, too, support the emergence of practices that lead to these worthy goals. Spontaneity and imagination development are part of these practices.

Another reason such development is needed is to counter the commercialized powers who offer to do this for people; they offer vicarious enjoyment that allows people to forget how to create their own vitality, imagination, and spontaneity. If you let television and other media stimulate your mind more than, say, fifty per cent, your own capacity to imagine and make up stuff will start to wither. It’s sort of like physical exercise. Some is needed to remain optimally fit. Too much non-exercise and you “get out of shape.”

People often come to think of themselves as unable to make up stuff, unable to create ideas. They’ll say this often with little or no shame: “Oh, I can’t be spontaneous.” Public speaking, extemporaneous self-expression, making toasts, expressive reading aloud, such skills are becoming rare! Folks are afraid of performing lest they be judged harshly.

Play and Recreation

This leads to another change I want to see: More involvement in non-competitive activities. More inclusion of non-competitive or hardly-competitive activities in recreational programs. Our culture has become caught up on games of winning and losing, but there are other ways of generating a sense of challenge—and that is part of what makes an activity “fun.”  The gradient of challenge can be very mild, though. In improvised drama, for example,  just finding out what isn’t known or  thought of yet can be part of the adventure.

I confess that my wife and I have developed a form of play that works with improvised drama, using sociodramatic techniques to facilitate the fun for grown-ups in continuing to imagine, to discover the spontaneity of imagination. (We call this form, “The Art of Play.”) This, again, has too many benefits to list here.

More specifically, we’ve written the book titled The Art of Play: Adults Reclaiming Imagination & Spontaneity, and had it published and are presently revising it for re-publication.

Role Playing in Everyday Life

Another group of skills derive from my having learned about psychodrama during my training. I’ve become aware that these techniques have applications well beyond the context of psychotherapy, in schools, in recreation, in religion, in business, etc. Psychodrama is a mixture of role playing and group therapy, and apart from therapy, it recognizes that learning and planning and other activities happen better in other group settings. If people could learn the component skills of role reversal (for empathy); multiple parts of self (for self-awareness and more authentic communication); the mirror technique (for becoming more aware of nonverbal communications); doubling (to become mores sensitive to and aware of pre-conscious thoughts and feelings), and other functions, psychological-mindedness, depth, and flexibility would be enhanced significantly. Indeed, I go so far as to suggest that these kinds of skills, when they become widespread, will significantly add to the foundation that leads to the evolution of consciousness.

A valuing of peacemaking through negotiation is another spin-off from the development of the infrastructure alluded to above. I envision people valuing conflict-resolution through negotiations, compromise, and dialogue rather than intimidation, self-righteous justification, and the subconscious belief in physical force and at least the threat of violence. Alas, the latter complex is closer to what modern culture has become accustomed to as necessary, the way life is. Alternative world-views take time to be developed.

I’ve written a monograph that I’m turning into a book, “Creating Your Living,” about how role playing methods can also be applied to the many challenges of ordinary life, marriage, parenting, friendships, self-re-creation, and so forth. So that’s another vision.

Witnessing to the Creative Insights of Others

I have enjoyed telling people in lectures about a number of other visionaries, from Maria Montessori, an early 20th century educator, to Ken Wilber, a contemporary philosopher. Teilhard de Chardin, Matthew Fox, Roger Walsh, Abe Maslow, J. L. Moreno, Wayne Teasdale, Rowena Kryder, and many others have also developed ideas that I think are particularly useful. I like to explain and demystify the ideas of Alfred North Whitehead and Charles Hartshorne, especially relating to the evolution of how we think about God and religion. Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow and others have been pioneering the ideas that weave together consciousness transformation and cosmic and biological evolution—this resonates with Teilhard’s work, too.  And so forth. It’s fun to find those who are spokespersons for optimism and tell others about their work.

Methods of Consciousness-Evolution

I don’t doubt that there are many methods for helping the world be better; those with which I am more familiar also offer many promises. I mentioned new forms of recreation, and new forms of life-enhancement. Readers will realize that I have some alignment with activities related to drama, but interestingly my sympathy is more of those approaches that are interactive and improvised rather than scripted and rehearsed, and I’ve described this in a 2007 anthology, Interactive & Improvisational Drama (see my website ).


This list describes many of the elements of purpose in my life. Of course I also make a major priority the support of my wife, Allee, and allowing myself the full pleasure of her love for me. Family relations are also given their due, as are friendships. Thus, having just passed my 74th birthday, I am grateful in many ways. I have been vouchsafed to help God be born more in this cosmos, to help Spirit manifest more plentifully, through a variety of ways that I’ve been training for all my life.

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