Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Is change possible?

Mindy Fullilove is a psychiatrist and the author of Root Shock: How Urban Renewal Destroys Entire Communities (One World/Ballantine Books, 2005) and Urban Alchemy: Restoring Joy in America’s Sorted-Out Cities (New Village Press, 2013). Here, in a To the Best of Our Knowledge episode about eviction, “Kicked Out in America,” Fullilove tells an interviewer why she refuses to give in to the belief that “real change” is impossible:

“I know that real change is possible. Much of the real change I’m seeing is negative, but it’s real change, and it’s driven by people. So for example, I’m seeing global warming. That’s a real change. And I’m seeing growing inequality, and that’s a real change. So I know change can happen. The trick is how do I get it to happen in a way that I think will be better for the health of most people.”
Fullilove goes on to cite Myles Horton, cofounder of the Highlander Folk School, who advised setting a goal for your life that you will not accomplish in your lifetime. Rosa Parks, as Fullilove points out, attended a workshop at the Highlander School in 1955, not long before she refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama.


April 6: What did Myles Horton say or write about goals? The Internets have several versions, none of which have a clear source:
If you believe that you have a goal you can reach in your lifetime, then it’s the wrong goal.

If you believe that you have a goal that you can reach in your lifetime, then it’s the wrong goal.

If you have chosen a goal that is achievable in your lifetime, then it is the wrong goal.

If you have chosen a goal that is achievable in your lifetime, then it is the wrong goal. Choose the highest vision, and then just hack away at it.
“If . . . goal . . . , then . . . wrong goal” is memorable phrasing. But I can find no evidence that it comes from Myles Horton. The closest approximation that I have found:
Your vision will grow, but you will never be able to achieve your goals as you envision them. My vision cannot be achieved by me. You may save the whales, but the dream must push beyond that. It’s a dream which I can’t even dream. Other people will pick it up and go beyond. To put it in a simpler way, I once said that I was going to start on a life’s work. It had to be big enough to last all my life. And since I didn’t want to have to rethink and start over again, I needed to have a goal that would at least take my lifetime. After making that decision, I never thought of doing anything else, because I knew that I could just hack away on it, and what little I could do would take my lifetime.

Myles Horton, The Long Haul: An Autobiography , with Judith Kohl and Herbert Kohl (Teachers College Press, 1998).
This passage appears on page 228 of The Long Haul . An academic paper references this very page as a source for its version of the “wrong goal” aphorism. But the words aren’t there.

comments: 2

Daughter Number Three said...

Sending this to Daughter Number Three-Point-One.

Michael Leddy said...

I’m going to the library later to try to track down what Myles Horton said. The Internets don’t help. If I find it, I’ll add it.