Communication and collaboration—the ability to listen, understand, then do something meaningful with the information provided through openness and exchange—has been fundamental to the growth and development of the individual, societies, and humanity. It still remains.
This reality is at the center of the Conference on Dialogue of Asian Civilizations (CDAC), their histories, cultural interactions, challenges and opportunities as Asian nations. Under the auspices of President Xi Jinping, China seeks to build a community with a shared future for humanity. Xi in his opening address captured the inherent challenge and opportunity for the many heads of state and high-level government representatives in attendance to harness the power of diversity while finding common ground. He focused on four main points: mutual respect and equality; appreciating the beauty of all civilizations; openness and mutual learning; and keeping pace with the times through innovation.
At the heart of all of this is communication and collaboration, which has at its center listening and learning. And at the center of all listening and learning, a respect for all representation and the willingness to trust.
Trust is no easy action. Trusting strangers—those who look, speak, act, believe and behave differently than we do—is at times a difficult step to take, yet an essential one if one is to have the social capital required to go with the human capital and societal progress we desire. In order to trust someone, whether an individual or a nation, we must have a working understanding of who they are and where they come from. That is, their history, their story.
This is where so often we fall short in our attempts to build a community with a shared future for humanity. To do so requires a shared consideration of key issues.
First, we must understand the histories, the storylines of those with whom we seek to build such a community, to appreciate the beauty of each, as Xi said. Asia is filled with variations, along with diverse pathways to degrees of peace and prosperity. We must learn from each, be a borrower of what is best and share what we know so that we may see and then be a greater version of ourselves—as nations, as Asia and as a world.
Second, a shared future requires that we all have a valued voice in the dialogue on what a shared future may look like, seen as equals in this exchange. This is of particular importance given the immense disparities between the haves, have nots and seemingly will never haves. The world is carved unevenly today. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, in 2012, 5 percent of the world's population held 71.6 percent of the world's wealth. And a 2013 study by the Colorado-based Climate Accountability Institute suggests a mere 90 companies account for nearly two thirds of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, the primary contributor to climate change.
Leading economists and scientists have identified that the most marginalized in society will be those most affected by the resulting effect of global warming. A shared future that is worthy of living must be shared proportionately, in input and outcome, in obstacle and opportunity. Otherwise, it is not really shared. Such interacting is the only way civilizations—and humanity for that matter—can maintain a strong vitality.
A third consideration for humanity involves what kind of human being we foresee. And how kind this human being will be. Wise masters have historically spoken to us about the need for kindness. Confucius once reminded, "To practice five things under all circumstances constitutes perfect virtue; these five are gravity, generosity of soul, sincerity, earnestness and kindness."
We will be tested as to our capacity for kindness in the coming age. I refer to the future of work and its relationship to our ability to support our basic needs and those of our families and communities. Current trends indicate a "perfect storm" approaching, a change in global dynamics that will require a redefining of what it means to be human, our relationship to life and to one another. It will bring gravity to our level of soul generosity.
Strength in diversity
As the CDAC seeks to highlight, diversity is our strength as nations, as civilizations and as human beings. Maintaining our cultural diversity while promoting our commonality is requisite to mutual peace, prosperity and our collective viability. If it were intended to be different, either through divine invention or through natural selection, then diversity would have yielded to will. Yet it has not. This is due to the indisputable reality that diversity is our opportunity, maybe even our savior when faced with the global issues of today.
How to harness the power and richness of the variation across Asia, its varied civilizations, remains the key to a greater consciousness and activity for each individual, nation and society. And for all humanity and the world that we call home. There is but one Earth and it is shared by but one humanity. And Asian civilizations can be a model for such consideration and understanding.
China's story—its history and its people—is a shared story as well and as compelling as any nation's narrative. Its dynastic chapters reveal a civilization that has endured time and tests, provided some of the greatest innovations the world has ever known and been beneficial to the region and the world without any historical tendency for domination.
Many other Asian civilizations could lay similar claims. All have a history, heritage, a sense of self and pride. All have experienced dark chapters in their storied past and grown by learning from it. Asian civilizations have enjoyed long periods of peace amid global turmoil in times past. And they must draw from these experiences in anchoring greater peace and prosperity in this century, one that holds much promise for the region and the world.
We are entering a new period in human evolution. It is a period where only the collective may survive and thrive. It is a consciousness forged through inclusiveness, adaptiveness, innovation and cooperation. An ability to change, and to do so together. Through this, unprecedented growth awaits.
But to experience this, diverse civilizations such as those in Asia must embrace not only the value of dialogue, but its virtues. Anything good, anything meaningful in life and any relationship that may endure and reap the greatest benefit begins with a conversation and evolves through an awareness, understanding and a set of subsequent actions.
There is no other way if one is to consider the pathway to a brighter future. For all requires the valued contributions of each, like distinct rays of light forging the rainbow, reflected in the rainbow of humanity.
Any attempt at any other way has been transient in nature. For nature has its own plan for the future, for humanity and all living things. Human nature, while seemingly attempting to thwart change at every corner, is aligned with nature and the natural order of all things. We are given a choice as to how to experience it, but not whether. And not alone.
The world's future is guaranteed. That is, until it has fulfilled its own destiny. Humanity's future is not. It is dependent upon our ability to move our consciousness ever upward, to evolve our thinking and to recognize our strength in diversity while working together from our common core to our shared end.
Nature will have it no other way. Certain natural truths are beyond national boundaries. We live in the same world, breathe the same air, and share the same water and food supply. We feel the same pain and awaken to the same opportunity to know greater joy. That is, if we stick to the plan that includes everyone.
How can Asian civilizations manifest greater health, wealth and vitality? And prosperity, by measures most meaningful? And do so collectively?
This is the dialogue for Asian civilizations and for all civilizations. It is a dialogue worth having, a worthy dialogue if we intend to succeed as a humanity of shared destiny.
The author is vice chair of the U.S.-China Youth Education Solutions Foundation and founder of UNITE Education