In his foreword, Tim Shriver writes that we get belonging by giving it, becoming more whole in the process. In conceiving the event and book The Call to Unite, he asked how we can move from a culture that divides us to a culture that unites us, the choice at every crisis point: ‘Divide or unite. Blaming the other or become the other.’ He continues: ‘We’re tired of hostility. We’re starving for unity. We’re telling a new story of who we are. We are all connected as one people. We find joy in each other’s joy. We find purpose in each other’s happiness. We find belonging without excluding. We seek forgiveness through forgiving. We find our identity without othering. We feel called to unite.’ This is a universal call that is now resonating through the planet in many forms, one of which is a trend towards empathy and kindness.

The Call to Unite consists of many short chapters and poignant photos in six parts: love in the madness – stories of the pandemic; pain always leaves a gift – insightful personal change; magic enters the room – stories and practices of transformation; no boundaries are real – seeing unity in humanity; our only chance to triumph – love in action; and finally, renew the face of the Earth – a call to love. Contributors speak from the heart and from their direct experience, which conveys many essential messages about life and living. In a conversation between physicist Alan Lightman and Oprah Winfrey, Lightman describes his mystical experience when he felt connected to all time, all life, and lost track of his ego. The lesson was to slow down, to live a less frenzied life and to reconnect with stillness. There are many examples of good people sacrificing for the common good, and Rick Warren observes that ‘people respond with their best when the best is asked of them’ – he himself starts and ends his day with refuelling his soul. Marianne Williamson focuses on the loveless way in which we have organised society over many decades, resulting in widespread mental distress. She writes that we were created to love each other, but only fierce love is up to the mark since ‘a loveless world order will not give up its power easily.’ (p. 39) Eckhart Tolle sees the possibility of awakening out of chaos, emphasising the centrality of our state of consciousness that needs to be rooted in being.

Dr Stefali Tsabary and Maria Shriver talk about the soul of the parent, describing how ‘we have been fast-tracking children on this endless conveyor belt towards a false utopia of happiness and success, and it’s failed. Children are not feeling successful. They’re not feeling happy. They’re feeling angst ridden. They are stressed out with record levels of anxiety, suicidality, and disconnection.’ This linear track towards success is a toxic path of the ego driven by the projection of unmet needs of parents onto children and lacking any authentic contact with the depth dimension. In his last piece before his death, Sir Ken Robinson identifies a long-term crisis in our way of life and a lack of fulfilment. He draws fascinating parallels between industrial agriculture and our education system, both of which are based on yield and output, on the plant rather than cultivating the soil. He feels that humans flourish under certain conditions, and wither in others, and that school ethos or culture is the soil to tend with compassion, collaboration and empathy.

THE CALL TO UNITE
Edited by Tim Shriver and Tom Rosshirt
The Open Field, 2021, 254 pp., $25, h/b – ISBN 978-0-593-29823-7

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