'The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by sceptics or cynics, whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need people who can dream of things that never were and ask why not' J.F.K
When you travel and work in India, particularly within the slums, you are naturally absorbed into spirit, you are surrounded by a mentality of anything goes, omnipresence becomes one way of understanding how people who live in financial poverty are often the happiest people you meet. After a particularly moving experience at Gandhi Smiri (where Gandhiji spoke his last word Ram/God), we asked our driver a simple question, "Do you believe in God"? and he humbly answered "why not"? Imagine a world where people can answer such personal questions with impersonal responses, it is this detached form of gratitude that The Possibility Project works within.
Photo credit: Kathryn Davis
Our social justice purpose is simple, we help facilitate a mindset that nurtures a 'why not' response to solving complex problems. It was quite an awakening as an economist when I realised that every mainstream, logical and rational solution that was on offer relied on a variable that was outside of self, this is a breeding ground for small minded thinking. Solutions seemingly required money to be redistributed, governments to intervene, or someone to be made responsible for personal outcomes. It's no wonder worldwide events bear witness to the effect of this type of disempowered thinking. People obviously want change but choices are reflecting a fearful mindset, we are so caught in a belief system that our contribution is not valuable, and our choices mirror this mindset of scarcity, the rise of fast fashion is scarcity thinking of presidential proportion!
"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom" Victor Frankl
The space between our experiences and how we choose to respond is called a liminal space, it is a threshold of possibility. Kath and I deeply admire Abha Goswami, the founder of I-India, which is the Jaipur based NGO we collaborate with to create slumwear108. She explained the pivotal moment she realised the severity of the human rights abuses around her, Abha humbly recounted that she could no longer live with what she knew, so she started cooking for a handful of children outside her doorstep, 23 years on I-India feed over 2000 people each day. We recently asked I-India 'What is the most fundamental requirement that will help change the living conditions of slum dwellers'? The answer was simple, "there needs to be a change in attitudes". This affirms that it was not Abha's cooking skills that changed the lives of so many, but her attitude to do something about hunger, it's the 'why not' response in action.
Abha Goswami in red. Photo: Goswami family.
Every human is on their own 'hero's journey', each of us attempting to make peace with the greater parts of self. If you believe what's playing out in mainstream media and in our political and educational systems, you just might fool yourself into thinking that you don't have what it takes to create what you want. The Possibility Project has had the privilege of observing some of the most entrepreneurial people on earth, who also happen to be the poorest, most uneducated and under governed, yet they demonstrate an attitude of gratitude that has transformed the most chronic ills of society. We have witnessed how gratitude is the deepest expression of self worth and when embodied it turns everything into 'enough'. Imagine the possibility that stems from a culture that believes we. are. all. able? We already have what it takes to solve our problems.
Image: The Possibility Project
When navigating through life, work, family and community you are always moving between the known and the unknown and in the middle of these spaces are infinite possibilities. Our work with I-India has taught us how to nurture possibility with what you already have. Believing in self is the most powerful force to transform problems, trust us, if you are trying to solve problems without a grateful relationship to self, you will not be contributing the type of self-less change needed in our world. Gratitude is the cornerstone of possibility, whilst gratitude does not make things known or controllable, it does catalyses a belief that we have what it takes to do what we want. The essential quality of gratitude is that we are all able to choose it. It may mean you have to unhinge yourself from conditioned beliefs that you are not enough, or that there is 'not enough' time or money to do what you want to do. In the words and actions of our driver Satish and Abha or the countless creatives that have helped us widen the doors of possiblity - 'why not'?
The Possibility Project is the work of two Sydney mothers who decided to play in the field of social justice. Their purpose is to build a social enterprise on the power of gratitude. slumwear108 is a result of their collaboration with communities in Jaipur, it is a slow clothing range designed to be a we.ar.able solution to fast fashion. Gratitude has taken them everywhere and last month Flight Centre, one of Australia's most trusted travel groups, approved the slumwear108 fabric beads as an option on their uniforms. Why Not indeed!