It’s unlikely you will ever go to UnlikelyLand, but if you did, you would find some unlikely things there.
Reasonableness, for instance. People in UnlikelyLand are unlikely to agree on one version of the truth or to be certain, in fact, of anything. This fosters a willingness to listen to what others have to say, to judge it by whether it is reasonable in light of what seems to be true, and to be reasonable themselves in their consideration and reply.
Compromise, cooperation and good humor are the result; preaching and proselytizing are considered to be in bad taste.
Ample time is another. People in UnlikelyLand know that all things worth doing take time, so they are unlikely to rush things or run around frantically in pursuit of the latest new thing or idea. Many unlikely things follow from this: low levels of stress, low rates of chronic problems like hypertension and diabetes, fewer traffic accidents and acts of violence, and greater workplace productivity. In UnlikelyLand, people are likely to say, “What’s a few years in eternity?”
Did we mention universal health care? This is so embedded in the values and practices of UnlikelyLandians that no one gives it a second thought. Everyone has a medical home, and physicians and nurses take all the time they need to provide just-in-time quality care at a reasonable cost, since reasonableness and time are both abundant. All citizens, young and old, rich and not-so-rich (there are no poor in UnlikelyLand) are required to have insurance and pay into the system. Information on costs and quality are fully known to everyone, and no one takes advantage of the weaknesses and conditions of others to make an extra buck for themselves. That in itself is the most unlikely thing of all.
Now, some of you might be saying to yourself, “This UnlikelyLand sounds pretty good, but surely there has to be a downside. There’s a tradeoff for everything, right?”
Right. Unfettered individual freedom is unlikely in UnlikelyLand. So is unrestricted and unregulated competition. People never think about freedom without also thinking of responsibility, and what they owe to others in order to create a common place where all can prosper together. Try as you might, you just can’t go off on your own in UnlikelyLand and refuse to participate in community life, at least not for very long.
People in UnlikelyLand think of freedom first in terms of being free from hunger, pain and lack of education. Only when this kind of freedom is provided to all do they begin to think of freedom to do all those wonderful things that the first kind of freedom makes possible.
Not very likely, you say? It is in UnlikelyLand.
The obsession with perfection is also unlikely there. Not that UnlikelyLandians are never dissatisfied and don’t want to improve themselves. Not that they don’t have wants and desires, experience pain and feelings of escape, or yearn for a better life. Some things never change, even in UnlikelyLand. It’s just that they aren’t obsessed with perfection and refuse to become prisoners of its attendant culture of needs and deficits, which can only be satiated by the ravenous consumption of goods and services — and only temporarily at that.
You don’t see people in UnlikelyLand running off to the fitness center every day in search of the perfect body and perfect health. Sure, they exercise, but they take a few days off and maybe have a bowl of ice cream or an occasional martini. They aren’t perfect, but they don’t have to be to stay healthy and sane.
The obsession with growth, particularly economic growth, is also unlikely in UnlikelyLand. You can grow your business and grow in skill and knowledge, but your first concern is striking a balance between growth and stability, innovation and tradition, and not measuring progress solely by the degree to which it increases the gross domestic product.
Well, you get the point. These are just a few of the unlikely things you will find in UnlikelyLand, and reasons why it is unlikely you will ever go there. Still, that which is unlikely is not impossible, and in this season of sharing and hope, we are reminded of the imperative to slow down and celebrate the sheer mystery that connects us to each other and sustains a common life of purpose and meaning.
It’s not clear what the meaning of life is, but even in UnlikelyLand, it’s unlikely they know the answer to that.
Feedback? Send it my way: Roger.Hughes@slhi.org.
*The Drift reflects the views of the author, and does not represent the official view of SLHI’s Board of Trustees and staff.