Fourteen years ago today I awoke from a dream more vivid than any I’ve had before or since. I saw a vast network of intimate dialogue spaces where people were connecting at a level of depth that remains too rare to this day. I saw the true power of our Internet technology as a means to connect rather than separate.
A few days ago I attended the 52nd Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Remembrance & Commemoration, hosted by Reverend Clyde H. Brooks. In a mic drop moment during his brief address, Brooks shook the room by saying, “King’s dream is dead.”
Like a lot of people, I hold MLK up as a shining beacon of the vision for racial unity. My interpretation of what Brooks said isn’t that the vision and aspiration of King’s dream is dead, but rather that we have settled into a kind of complacency by continuing to focus on his dream all these decades later. I believe he was saying that by holding so tightly to one powerful vision—as inspiring as it is—we can also suffocate the room and not leave space for new visions from the next generations.
There is also a risk of avoiding deeper conversations about the lived experiences of racism and other other hard topics when we lean on historical figures rather than truly seeing and hearing the people around us to learn about their lives. Authentic relationships are critical for us to cultivate the empathy and will needed to change the countless inequitable systems that still define so much of our world.
In the same way, I don’t want the vision in my dream to overwhelm what we’re building with you at FeelReal. I rarely show the team the seven pages of notes I scribbled out that morning. I believe mine is one expression—one piece of the puzzle. It’s served as a compass for me to learn about and connect with the people who have refined countless ways to hold space for powerful experiences of connection. It helps me stay on the path when things get hard—and trust me they have.
I’ve grown a lot in these 14 years as well. Back then I was more interested in protecting the intellectual property of a dream than truly co-creating. Now, more than two years into the official FeelReal journey, I’m delighted to know that together we have hosted more than 300 spaces that deeply impact those who attend. In these “emotional hospital beds,” I’ve seen people crack open, laugh, cry, learn, grow, and move into action. To do this during a pandemic is a gift that is possible only through community.
The idea of “making space” is elusive in its simplicity. We’re trained to chase new shiny objects and pleasure chemicals. I’m not immune to this. Yet I also have the benefit of being in deep space with people much of the time, and it’s become a foundational element of my growth and joy. I want everyone to have access to spaces like this when they need them, which will happen by uplifting the Spaceholders who create them. I dream of a world where everyone has some capacity to hold space for their neighbors, family, friends, and co-workers, so that we don’t rely on a scarcity of experts to carry this for billions of people.
I’d love to hear from you and see where you are on your journey of living this new dream for our collective flourishing future, where we shift from idols and ideals to empathy and equity. Simply leave a comment if you’d like to share any ideas.