Operate From Love

This weekend marked the 15th anniversary of the death of Dana Meadows one of Cobb Hill's founders. I was reminded, by her friend and collaborator, John Richardson of this beautiful passage that she wrote, and thought it would be nice to share here. It's from a 1992 newspaper column.

OPERATE FROM LOVE. One is not allowed to say that seriously any more. Anyone who calls upon the human capacity for love, generosity, wisdom, will be met with a hail of cynicism. “Of all scarce resources, love is the scarcest,” I have heard people say.

I just don’t believe that. Love is not a scarce resource, it is an untapped one. Our jazzed-up, hustling, quantitative culture does not know how to tap it, how to discuss it, or even what it means.

I am a child of that culture myself, and worse, a scientifically trained one. I have been educated to trust in rationality, not in love. But I have also been trained to see whole systems, and the more I do that, the more I see that rationality and love are in fact the same thing. What is love, but the ability to identify with someone or something beyond your own skin? Love is the expansion of boundaries, the realization that another person, or family, or piece of land, or nation, or the whole earth is so intimately connected to you that your welfare and his, her, or its welfare are one and the same.

In truth, of course, we are all intimately interconnected with each other and with the earth. We have always been. Love has always been a practical idea, as well as a moral one. Now it is not only practical but urgent. It is time to accept the astonishing notion that to be rational, to ensure our own self-preservation, what is required of us is to be GOOD. We have to look far into the future, care for and share the resources of the earth, and moderate our numbers and desires. We have to — and we can — create a culture that draws out of us not only our technical creativity and our entrepreneurial cleverness, but also our morality.

Nothing is more difficult than to practice goodness within a system whose rules, goals, and information streams are geared to individualism, competitiveness, and cynicism. But it can be done. We can be patient with ourselves and others as we all confront a changing world. We can empathize with resistance to change; there is some clinging to the ways of unsustainability within each of us. We can include everyone in the challenge; everyone will be needed. We can listen to the cynicism around us and pity those who indulge in it, but refuse to indulge in it ourselves.

The world can never pass safely through the adventure of bringing itself to sustainability if people do not view themselves and others with compassion. That compassion is there, within all of us, just waiting to be used, the greatest resource of all, and one with no limits.