The 50-year vision

Tom Schade is musing on the idea, projected by outgoing UUA moderator Gini Courter, of a fifty-year vision for the UUA. Frankly, I can’t think of anything more oppressive. Well, perhaps a hundred-year vision.

Today’s my birthday, and so I can’t help but first thinking a 50-year vision would outlive me. And it would push young people into retirement. Is there anything about our internal self-conception of Unitarian Universalism, the role of the independent sector, the influence of religion, theories of change or organizational theory that is likely to make sense twenty years from now, much less fifty?

Even the desire simply to exist may be out of our hands. We often confess that goals and plans change; why not our goals and dreams? (The final stanza of “Rank by Rank” notwithstanding.) Or do we think this generation is as good as it gets? And that the identified leadership is as good as it gets?

Some years ago, I quoted Jane Jacobs on her view of a particular town planner. The words applies here:

His aim was the creation of self-sufficient small towns, really nice small towns if you were docile and had no plans of your own and did not mind spending your life among others with no plans of their own. As in all Utopias, the right to have plans of any significance belonged only to the planners in charge.

No single vision will work; it puts bottlenecks our imagination and demands a level of conformity ill fitting a free people. Consider this: perhaps one reason so many Unitarian Universalist Association initiatives fall flat is they are too monolithic. Take it or leave it, and the body leaves it. If this is true, no centrally-cast vision of any duration will prosper.


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