“The world is giving answers each day; we should be listening for them.”

~ Bonfire on the Beach ~

For the evening meal around the bonfire, Chef Lua had prepared a light tofu salad with broccoli and pineapple. She also brought out canned tuna and resealable containers of beef jerky, chips, and a great variety of cheese and crackers for those passengers who would not consider her nutritious meat-free salad a complete meal. We each found a place around the bonfire, cast and crew all mixed together, and enjoyed some quiet time staring at the mesmerizing dance of flames before us.

Tucker had brought along his own private stash of rum for such occasions, generously offering some to everyone. Jan and Captain Bob were the only ones to take him up on it, the others satisfied with water, coffee, and tea. We were enjoying a simple meal together on a pristine island beach all to ourselves under a clear night bursting with stars. I was lightly strumming some islandy music on my guitar, as one would expect to hear around a beach campfire with friends. And then, about a half-hour into our calm, carefree time together, a mildly inebriated Captain Bob lit the fuse.

“Well, seems like many of us honest, hard-working people got toasted royally in our pursuit of the good ol’ American Dream from that financial crisis. Gotta love those fat-cat ‘playas’ on Wall Street pulling all them puppet strings. Privatize the profits and socialize the losses, huh Paul?” Bob knew about Paul’s career on Wall Street and decided to do a little needling to get him going. But Paul’s response was not what he expected.

~ Virtual Wealth Casino Economy ~

Today, it is an economic reality that in ‘advanced’ economies—where cumbersome and inefficient bartering is relegated to a fringe activity—any substantial economic activity must always be matched by a financial transaction. If the financial system fails to provide the means for such transactions, the real economy cannot function. So when asset values dropped precipitously, as they did in 2007-2008—and credit dried up—the system went badly awry, resulting in a sharp decline in real economic output.

Not helping matters, ‘fractional-reserve banking’ allows ‘alchemical creation’ of money out of thin air by private banks as interest-bearing debt. But debt is not wealth. Real wealth has a physical dimension to it that limits its growth, which places obvious limits on real overall wealth—while debt can theoretically grow—forever! And modern banking requires just that: perpetual expansion.

It is also noteworthy that the historically fierce debate over interest systems and ‘usury’ was rooted in the obvious concern that money as a ‘disembodied force’ would be dangerous because if could grow out of control and, like an acid bath, dissolve deep life connections in all human economic transactions.

Combining the necessity of financial transactions in all major economic activity with fractional-reserve banking, unchecked growth in interest-bearing debt (to place bets with), and a bevy of ethically bankrupt and greedy Wall Street ‘banksters,’ is it so surprising that sleazy financial shenanigans resulted in severe economic pain for millions on ‘Main Street’—and for one ‘Captain Bob’?

“Well, captain,” Paul calmly responded. “I have to say there was a time when I was ‘all in’ with the Wall Street culture and proud to be there. We were respected financial wizards once—raising money for big projects of great genuine worth to society. Twenty years ago, I would have had a very different reaction to that characterization you just made about my professional life. But slowly, over the years, I got to see how my colleagues became ever more addicted to making easy money, gambling with any and every manner of complex ‘financial product’ they could come up with—and they could never get enough. It had become a game of rising and falling digits and graphs on a computer screen—a virtual-wealth casino economy—with little connection to reality or providing any genuine value to society. But it was the drug culture on The Street that really did me in. And now I’m kinda glad it did. I had been pulled in too deep. I had lost my way.”

Paul wasn’t proud of the years he had spent competing hard for commissions and pushing fishy fanciful financial products on gullible investors—products he knew were of very dubious value. His description of a virtual-wealth casino economy resonated with Julie. She added, “Our whole culture now reinforces this strange new model of success today, Paul. We don’t talk about earning money these days, we talk of making it. Somehow the notion of earning a living by offering products or services of genuine value to others has gone out of fashion. I just don’t get that. When did that happen? It’s like we’re just trying to dupe each other all the time; and we take pride in our ability to get away with it. We have definitely lost our way.”

“That is just such nonsense,” Tucker chimed in. He’d already had a few hits of rum and was juiced up nicely for some good verbal sparring. “The free market determines the genuine value of things quite efficiently and does a pretty good job sorting out winners and losers. People buy whatever they think will improve their lives—including ‘financial products.’ Some people make bad decisions—too bad. And by the way, the less government interference in this self-correcting process, the better. Leave Wall Street alone; the free market will iron out any wrinkles. Survival of the fittest, that is all.”

“Yeah, less government would be great, since all that the politicians do these days anyway is just take soft bribes in the form of campaign donations to tilt the playing field in favor of the rich, huh Clara?” Bob knew where to cast his next bait.

“Politicians are simply looking after the best interests of their constituents. We do what we need to do to improve our communities. We lead!” Clara responded emphatically.

~ Free-Market Myth ~

Julie wasn’t buying it. “Is that so. It seems quite obvious to me that politicians only care about getting re-elected, and that means listening to their wealthy campaign contributors. If that weren’t the case, we would be taking far more aggressive actions on climate change and other threats to the environment and moving away as fast as possible from dirty fossil fuels. This two hundred year old fossil-carbon energy experiment has got to stop or it’s game over for ecological stability on this planet. We are already experiencing a sixth great extinction from our collective impact on the natural world. Don’t politicians have a responsibility to do something about this unchecked, reckless behavior and push back on what is becoming a naked corporate takeover of the federal government by Big Oil, Big Ag, Big Pharma, and others? Isn’t that what we should demand from our political leaders?”

“The free market will tell us when it is time to make a change, and that includes telling us when it is time to move away from fossil fuels. Politicians should not get involved. The free market process is magically self-correcting. Leave it be,” Jan added.

“Magic it is, alright—black magic!” Jack stated assertively. “If the market told the truth, it would be telling the whole ecological truth, not just a feel-good, endless-growth, prosperity-for-all myth. Let’s get real here, folks! It is a profound market failure—criminal negligence, I would submit—not to include the pollution-related health care and climate-changing costs of a ‘petroculture’ economy built almost entirely on the continuous burning—for over two hundred years now—of massive quantities of fossil fuels.”
Jack explained why free-market economics has, so far, been quite successful at sustaining social order. The distribution of goods, services, and other assets is facilitated through buying and selling, supporting a dense network of exchange, that is available to everyone. It incentivizes producers to know their markets and respond to them instead of relying on top-down regulation. Learning happens organically and from experience, so processes become more effective and efficient. And a free-market economy supports a more egalitarian society than many other forms of controlled economic systems.

But Jack also argued that economic transactions desperately needed to be restructured to send both a price signal reflecting private utility and a socio-environmental score reflecting the burden of the transaction on public goods. The ‘commons’ matter. Price alone should not have the final say. The composite price-score would convey a signal about the true relationship between resources and desires—how much is given up or sacrificed, privately and publicly, for what I want right now?

“We can’t keep on powering a world coming up on eight billion people by continuing to burn ridiculous amounts of fossil carbon and expect the Earth’s biosphere not to choke and gag on the accumulated exhaust. Our planet’s climate appears innocuous enough, but make no mistake my friends, she is an ornery and temperamental beast, and we are foolishly poking at her with sticks,” Jack said. “What could possibly go wrong! It’s a stupid, reckless, and dangerous game we are playing here, folks.”

“Come on, climate change? Wasn’t it called global warming just yesterday? What happened there? Warming not scary enough? How can you claim we have anything to do with that? It’s been going on forever. And many scientists disagree with the notion that we are causing this climate change you are referring to.” Jan’s reaction was not surprising coming from a corporate attorney for Big Oil.

~ No Alternative ~

I had been playing some light, jazzy cocktail-hour music on my guitar, while listening to the others talk and thinking about the neoliberal turn we took in 1980s that brought deregulation of the corporate sphere, privatization of the public sphere, and corporate-friendly ‘free-trade deals’ on a grand scale to all regions of the world—and in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, brought severe structural adjustments in debtor nations like Ireland, Greece, Italy, and Spain.

This ‘free-market revolution’—with its veneration of greed, individualism, and competition—has starved states of revenue to support public works and the social wage, precipitated several financial crises, and hastened ecological destruction globally.

Many climate change deniers are, consciously or not, simply defending their cultural investment in this grand ideological project of extreme capitalism, which holds that ‘the market’ is always right, regulation is always wrong, private is good, public is bad, and taxes that support public services should be eliminated. To admit that the climate crisis is real and a legitimate threat to civilizational survival would deal a major body blow to this great global neoliberal experiment.

British prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s famous declaration that ‘there is no alternative’ has lodged deeply in the psyche of capitalist society. Spectacular concentration of capital in private hands driven by all-out grabs for global resources has entrenched the power of transnational capital to dictate the trade and finance policies of most countries. These policies are where democracy and oligarchy are battling for dominance.

In extreme cases, pathological disregard for community in the developed world by the pure capitalist class basically says: ‘Sorry that you have to compete with the poor of the world for jobs and wages. Just because we are fellow citizens of this great country creates no obligations on our part to consider your interests.’

At its core, neoliberalism is simply a rationale for unfettered greed. So not surprisingly, intended or not, neoliberalism has restored processes of capital accumulation and wealth concentration to pre-1930s levels. If this corrosive brand of extreme capitalism goes unchallenged—and place-agnostic footloose money managers continue to recklessly create highly interdependent, brittle, unstable communities motivated only by their short-term economic interests; then ever-increasing environmental degradation, economic inequality, and community dissolution are assured.

~ Ecological and Financial Overshoot ~

The global market economy, a tsunami wave we created but cannot seem to control, is now driving humankind beyond the limits of environmental planetary boundaries. It is driven by the theoretical construct and practice of global finance. Though we are currently in ecological overshoot, we are in even greater financial overshoot. Clearly, a perpetually growing economy will at some point be in conflict with a finite biosphere, and so too will global finance.

Free trade and free capital mobility have interfered with macroeconomic stability by permitting huge international payment imbalances and capital transfers resulting in debts that are not repayable in many cases and excessive in others. Efforts to service these debts lead to unsustainable rates of exploitation or exportable resources, government budget deficits, and monetary creation with resulting inflation. Inflation then leads to currency devaluations, foreign exchange speculation, capital flight, and ultimately disruption of the macroeconomic stability of the debtor nation.

Tragically, the perceived risks in abandoning ‘gray’ and ‘brown’ economic sectors for the promise of more fulfilling jobs in an emerging ‘green’ economy remain untenable for the many workers, because their immediate financial stability is vested in the neoliberal global growth economy. In the current context of high consumer debt, low savings, high cost-of-living, and job insecurity—all the products of late capitalism—public enthusiasm for risky systemic change is understandably low.

So the material insecurity created by the current neoliberal capitalist system binds people to it. Long-term well-being and biospheric integrity are traded off in myriad daily choices—a tyranny of small, local, immediate decisions—that favor short-term individual satiation, family and household stability, and in more extreme cases, basic survival. In time, large and horrific ecological consequences may come from the aggregate effect of innumerable individual actions reflecting ‘respectability,’ good intentions, and concern for home and family.

~ Lyin’ and Delayin’ ~

At this point in the conversation, I couldn’t resist the temptation to break in with a song I had written a few years back, at a time when the debate over man-made ‘climate change’—climate destabilization, really—was peaking as a result of our unregulated, free market, ‘no-alternative’ corporate capitalist economic policies.

I struck a loud, assertive opening blues chord to interrupt the flow of conversation and then sang:

The things they be sayin’, got you down
The things they be sayin’ got you so down
But lyin’ and delayin’ ain’t no way to be playin’
When the things they be sayin’ got you down

You say that you still have so much doubt
Yeah you say that the jury is still out
But no one is buyin’, when for money, you be lyin’
The things they be sayin’ got you down

You say that the Sun is to blame
You say the Sun has rigged the game
But Sun’s been a-lazin’, while temp’s been a-raisin’
The things they be saying got you down

You say what they sayin’ ain’t so clear
You say what they sayin’ ain’t so near
But ain’t you been out
Seen them floods, storms, and droughts
The things they be sayin’ got you down

You say the time is much too late
You say that the burden is much too great
But have you no notion, ‘bout people in motion
The things they be sayin’ got you down

The things they be sayin’, got you down
The things they be sayin’ got you so down
But lyin’ and delayin’, ain’t no way to be playin’
When the things they be sayin’ got you down

“Right on, Rico,” said Jack.

Clara sneered and responded, “If we are changing the climate through our actions on this planet, then it is simply God’s will. Let it be; He’s in control.”

“I’ll drink to that!” Tucker chimed in mockingly, raising his shaky glass to the statement. “All the more reason to party hardy until the End Times. Care to party with me, Clarita?”

“There’s a special place for people like you, Tucker,” Clara fired back, clearly annoyed at his cutting sarcasm, but not altogether immune from his raw sex appeal.

~ The Great Burning ~

“You know the pope just put out an important church teaching in his recent encyclical about caring for the environment and the poor. He says that our planet is beginning to look more and more like an ‘immense pile of filth,’” Julie added. “Isn’t he telling us that it is our responsibility to care for the environment, Clara?”

“Yeah, Pope Francis’s words really rocked the boat for many Catholics,” Paul added. “He’s saying that we have come to see ourselves as lords and masters of the Earth, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence and callousness we have in our hearts is directly reflected in the sickness of our soils, our water, our air and in all forms of life. I tend to agree with that. We are really pushing limits here.”

“Well, don’t assume this pope is not being manipulated by the devil!” Clara fired back. “Who knows what the real agenda is here—perhaps this very influential pope is in on a grand conspiracy to pave the way for a One-World tyrannical government that will surely take away all our God-given freedoms—and our guns!”

“There is no devil, Clara, only ignorance,” said Jack. “Anthropogenic climate change is being ridiculed … and denied … and violently opposed, just like what happened with the theory of gravity, the heliocentric solar system, the theory of relativity, quantum physics, … you name it. Sure enough, soon it will be described as obvious and ‘self-evident.’ We’ve been here many times before. And the longer we keep lyin’ and delayin’—courtesy of the well-funded ‘disinformation’ campaigns of the real devils in our society—the worse our predicament is going to get. We are becoming ever more ‘productive’ at burning fossil fuels to convert high-value natural resources into low-value waste in manic pursuit of continuous economic growth. We pat ourselves on the back for our cleverness and ingenuity. But we are only moving ever closer, at an accelerating rate, toward a global ecological disaster. It’s collective insanity. This Great Burning has to end.”

“Oh you’re just bitter because you Earth-huggin’ scientists will never get rich from the work you do. Society rewards with great wealth that which it values. Scaring people with disaster scenarios ain’t going to change that. Fire made us human. Fossil fuels made us modern, wealthy, and powerful. Deal with it like a man.” Tucker couldn’t resist the chance to school the naive treehugger on the realities of the bloody shark-tank corporate capitalist world he circled around in so naturally.

~ A New Fire ~

“Yes, Mister Tucker, but now we need a new ‘fire’ that keeps us—and future generations of all species on this Good Earth—safe, healthy, and secure,” Lua responded. ‘Business As Usual’—continuing to pursue the relentless growth paradigm that has dominated economic policy since the end of World War II, or a slightly more environmentally sensitive version of the model promising ‘green growth’—will surely take us over an ecological cliff, with the second option only moving us along toward that tragic fate at a more relaxed, feel-good pace. Our management of energy resources has been based too much upon short-term market considerations, excessive discounting of the interests of future generations—a sort of ‘slow violence’ or intergenerational theft—and too little sensitivity to either intergenerational equity or intragenerational justice.”

“We must not let appetites for excessive material consumption today blur our sensitivity to the conditions essential for moral and sustainable development,” Lua continued. “Industrial technology has more than succeeded in addressing the core desires of what are proving to be insatiable human appetites for consumption. This process generates flows of materials and energy far in excess of the capacity of the Earth’s ecosystems to assimilate the outflows sustainably. Brakes are needed. Economic incentives must be applied to limit these flows and keep them at sustainable levels.”

Lua cited mounting evidence of the futility and harmfulness of high-consumption lifestyles. For example, there is little correlation between income level and happiness beyond a relatively low income threshold. And increased stress related to work and debt, and diseases related to diet and lifestyle, make consumer culture problematic.

Material consumption beyond practical need is effectively a ‘sugar high’ that only satisfies for the moment and ultimately leads to depression. It doesn’t take long for ‘hedonistic adaptation’ and social comparison to kick in and erase any momentary gains in feelings of happiness, status, brand membership, and success.

High income levels also exhibit similar characteristics of diminishing return. Recent studies suggest well-being tends to correlate strongly with health, level of education, family time, time in Nature, and engagement in community. Happiness does not increase appreciably with increasing income beyond a fairly low threshold. The added stress of high-income lifestyles erases many gains and even results, in some cases, in dramatically lower levels of overall health and well-being.

Lua believed that any new economic system must resurrect ancestral wisdom from the past and blend in the multidisciplinary systems sciences of today in order to provide the next generation with a realistic democratically generated shared vision and plan for a just, desirable, and sustainable future for all. But to envision effectively, it is necessary to accurately identify genuine deep desires, not what we tend to settle for—for example: settling for a fancy car when one really wants self-esteem, settling for drugs when one really wants serenity, settling for medicine when one really wants health, settling for GDP growth when a society really wants sustained well-being.

What is particularly important is the clarity of values in the vision and acknowledging the very real biophysical constraints of a limited biosphere. This values-based vision must bridge racial, ethnic, religious, and gender divides; acknowledge social injustices past and present, such as stolen Indigenous lands and stolen African people; and radically re-direct our efforts to begin the long process of healing the planet rather than perpetuating destabilizing wars and obscene outflows of life-choking industrial waste.

Any new economic system must offer navigational instruments and policies to achieve balanced living of the human economy within Earth’s ecological capacities without destroying the global ecosystem—in which we are embedded and on which we depend.

~ De Science Mon Say ~

“Oh, Mister Ri-co,” Lua called out in her soft melodic way across the bonfire preemptively cutting off Jack from what would surely have been an escalating and nasty war of words with Tucker, “want to hear my version of ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy?’” She probably figured it was time for a ‘lifeline of humor’ to relieve some tension in the group, and I was always thrilled to listen to her lyrical improvisations.

“Sure, Lua!” I responded.

She took out her ukulele and sang with a most engaging islandy accent:

De businessmon say, Oh come now, get off it
De planet is fine. (while he gets de profit)
Don’t worry; be happy

De politician say, No need to be sour
De world is just fine.”(while he gots de power)
Don’t worry; be happy

De preacher mon say, No need for despair
De Good Lord take care of de land, sea, and air
Don’t worry; be happy

De science mon say, I do dis for you
I look and I wonder to see what is true
Don’t’ worry mon, soon you see it too

“Clever, Lua,” I responded. “Like!” Jack said, nodding his head in approval. Some of the others offered half-hearted applause.

Captain Bob suggested that everyone turn in early for the night to get some rest for an early morning departure the next day—a good night’s sleep is one of the best natural defenses against seasickness. We would have three long days at sea ahead of us before reaching our next island destination.

To wind down the evening and lighten the mood, I sang a few Jimmy Buffet tunes and commented on the fine meal Lua had prepared for us. We finished eating and the passengers headed back to their cabins for the night.

Paul and Julie walked back together, as did Tucker and Clara—arguing about something yet playfully bumping into each other on occasion as they made their way across the soft, uneven beach sand.

Bob, Lua, and I broke down the canopy tent and packed up the supplies to bring them back to the boat. Bob retrieved the video camera from behind the trees.

Would SlimC like the footage from this evening? Things were certainly heating up, but not with the love, romance, or emotional drama he was hoping for.

Tomorrow we would leave this comfortable beach behind and spend three days together at sea. Bob and I both shared a mild anxiety about what might happen on this next leg of the journey.

There would be nowhere to go if things got out of hand between angry, stressed, or panicking passengers—no island forests to escape into, no secluded beach coves for some wind-down alone time.

Lua, a seasoned crew member with plenty of experience aboard cruising boats with ‘green’ passengers, also knew how difficult and tense these long ocean passages could be, yet she was remarkably relaxed and buoyant. She did not seem the least concerned about the next few days at sea. Hmm …

~ Culture of Personality ~

“That was a fascinating conversation on the beach. Don’t you think so, Mister Rico?” Lua asked as we slowly walked back to Kalea.

“Yeah, sure was,” I replied.

“You were listening, weren’t you? You know, there is a big difference between listening and just waiting for your turn to speak,” Lua said. “Tucker is a natural extrovert and big talker, a personality type that is well-suited for success in a society dominated by a pervasive ‘culture of personality,’ excessive celebrity worship, and where one’s ‘brand,’ hollow though it may be, exerts a strong gravitational pull of tribal identity. It is an operating mode that has infected many of the institutions today. But I’ve always preferred to listen more than talk.

One learns more from listening than speaking. A bit of wisdom and understanding is the reward you get for more listening and less talking. Most people do not listen very well. Either their minds are a constant whirlwind of their own thoughts, beliefs, ideas, opinions, and conclusions, or they think talking is somehow strong while listening is weak.”

I understood. From my own experiences, I had observed that almost every problem within a family always seems to start with bad communication. Someone simply isn’t listening.

“Listening is such an important act,” Lua went on to say. “It requires us to be present, and that takes practice, but listening doesn’t have to involve anything else at that moment. We don’t have to advise, or coach, or sound wise. We just have to be willing to sit there and listen. Listening to somebody, completely, attentively, is more than just hearing and processing the words they say. When you are truly listening, you are also paying attention to the feeling of what is being conveyed, to the whole of it, not just the verbal part of it.”

“And you are also paying attention to the motivation behind what is being said?” she said. “De businessmon say, oh come now get off it, de planet is fine, (while he gets de profit!). It is important to pay attention to the whole of what is being communicated, which includes the motivations of the messenger.”

“Yes. I was listening to the words of your song about the businessman, the politician, the preacher, and the scientist each having very different motivations for what they were saying. They are each offering a very different story.”

~ Storytellers for the Masses ~

Stories matter,” Lua stated firmly. “They have real power. Think about it; to control society, you don’t need to control its courts or armies, all you need to do is control its stories.”

And television and Madison Avenue are telling most of the stories most of the time to most of the people, I thought to myself. Mass media organizations are essentially the culture producers in modern society.

The increasingly monopolized private sphere of the media—effectively a ‘consciousness industry’—diverts and distracts attention away from important political and social issues, insulating existing networks of power and domination from any serious challenges.

The post-war creation of mass consumer culture—consumerism—as a response to overproduction from cheap fossil fuels and innovation and fueled by a global annual advertising budget in the hundreds of billions of dollars, along with the expansion of easy credit, has been a boon to many and thus shielded the dominant growth-based political economy from meaningful social criticism.

Consumerism, unlike the ordinary consumption levels humans beings require to live well, is a deliberate organizing principle of a take-make-waste society based on abundant cheap fossil fuels and overcapacity of production. Sadly, even mainstream environmental discourse has been seduced by the siren song of consumerism, proffering ‘green consumption’ and recycling (a.k.a., Garbage 2.0) as legitimate, feel-good responses to ecological crises.

Media exposure, much of which reinforces consumer culture norms and economic growth narratives, occupies from one-third to one-half of people’s waking hours. Clearly, any program of transformative culture change must confront the substantial role of the media in reinforcing dominant discourses of economic growth and consumerism. It must generate and disseminate an alternative story.

For example, the size of human society defined by the boundary between the economy and the ecosphere has an optimum, and the energy and material throughput provided by the ecosphere to physically maintain and replenish the human economic subsystem must be ecologically sustainable.

The goal of an economy should be to minimize natural inputs to attain a sufficient standard of living. This can be done by slowly and carefully evaluating and applying efficient technologies aimed at genuinely valuable purposes.

The ultimate purpose of an economy, after all, is the maintenance and enjoyment of life for a long time at a sufficient level of wealth for a good life. The economy should not simply be an ‘idiot machine’ that maximizes waste in an attempt to satiate what are obviously insatiable human desires for material wealth and extremes of comfort, convenience, and security.

~ Culture of Character ~

I understood what Lua was saying about extroverts and ‘culture of personality’ because, like her, I am among that group of one-third to one-half of people who would be classified as introverts. We are good at listening because it is natural for us. But asking us to go to a social gathering of strangers ‘just for fun’ is like asking a risk-averse person to take up skydiving just for fun. It isn’t.

Today’s hyper-competitive mainland culture in the U.S. is a culture for extroverts. Many introverts have to fake it, costing them energy, authenticity and even physical health.

Lua was from an island culture that recognized the value of introverts with its ‘culture of character.’ Its citizens are fully aware that the quiet ones are those that read, write, cook, fish, surf. They are the artists, engineers, thinkers, and solvers of complex problems. They have real power just as extroverts do, but theirs is soft power, quiet power—power that feels no need to dominate, intimidate, or control others.

Back in the eighteenth century, delegates at the Continental Congress said that George Washington was the quietest man in the room and the best listener. He was mindfully tuning in to the emergent desires of the group as they debated and deliberated and came to realize that independence from Great Britain was the genuine will of his ‘tribe.’

By becoming an advocate for what the group wanted to do after listening to everyone, he naturally became its leader. ‘In a gentle way, you can shake the world,’ Gandhi once said.

Lua explained that listening also means listening to yourself, which requires solitude. And solitude is the catalyst for innovation and creativity and is necessary for the deeper thinking required to solve problems at their roots—and to create beautiful art.

“To listen carefully, or observe something with the utmost attention, is the purest form of love,” Lua counseled. “And love is no less essential for human happiness and well-being than food, water, and shelter.”

“You know, Mister Rico, the world is giving answers each day,” Lua whispered to me. “We should be listening for them.”