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Preface

I am amazed by this book. I find here for the first time a thesis, acceptable because supported by practical wisdom, on how to create a better life on earth. For those who dream of seeing true peace on earth someday, Hope for a Better World! offers a convincing blueprint. In a progressive series of deeply insightful analyses, J. Donald Walters examines why certain societies of the past failed, and how others in future might succeed. His reflections are the most persuasive I’ve ever encountered.

In classes that I teach at the University of Hawaii and elsewhere, I have been surprised at how many students nowadays express frustration at the absence of flexibility in their lives. They feel locked into their cultural heritage. In this respect, Honolulu is, itself, a laboratory, for in this city people from many traditions, both Eastern and Western, live together, trying to adapt to, and even evolve, a new society. Those who once came here from many countries felt a need to weave about themselves a sort of mental cocoon. That very cultural isolation now often seems artificial to their descendants, who want to spread their wings like the butterfly emerging from its cocoon, and to soar in a new reality. Naturally, they are also somewhat fearful concerning their new directions. This book may offer them the clarity they’ve been seeking. I now feel that I, too, have practical answers to give them. I recommend Hope for a Better World! unreservedly. It shows how to draw the best from every culture, and to unite those “bests” in a new future.

This book is not revolutionary. It doesn’t reject past wisdom. It is even-handed, intelligent, and respectful of the genius every culture possesses. At the same time, it repeatedly asks a very simple, indeed obvious, question: “Does it work?” It asks also, How? and, Why?

The author has taken upon himself the awesome task of creating places where his ideas could be tested and refined. Increasing numbers — hundreds, now — reside in those communities. They are developing a pattern of living that is above all, in a human sense, realistic. His book is grounded in more than one discipline: scientific, philosophical, and the humanities. He has resolved a major problem that faces anyone who would build communities: how to enable people to live together happily while at the same time challenging and inspiring them to develop their fullest potentials.

To my mind, this last feature, inspiration, is one thing that makes this book so special. Apart from the clear way it addresses real needs, Walters inspires. He actually infuses this quality into his style of writing. His ability to affect the reader’s consciousness, and not only to persuade us with clear reasoning, is to my mind an amazing feature of this book.

Among my students, what I’ve noticed is their increasing sense that business skills need to be balanced with spiritual values. Spirituality, Walters insists, means more than adhering to the religious duties prescribed by various traditions. It means striving toward joyful personal transformation. And it means also sharing one’s deeper aspirations with others. Spirituality is not a question of converting anyone to anything. True personal fulfillment requires us to feel concerned for others, and to reject the modern-day emphasis on competition.

These are simple concepts — indeed, they seem self-evident. I’ve often wondered, since reading this work, why they haven’t been proposed with such clarity before. Surely they resonate with the way all of us think during moments of calmness.

The communities Walters has established successfully have been an acid test for his ideas. Hope for a Better World! suggests that a shining future indeed awaits mankind. I consider this book to be a must read for everyone. It will be especially helpful for those who have been struggling to cope with the aftermath of 9/11. And it will help all who sincerely want to improve the quality of life on this planet.

Milton Staackmann
M.A. Cultural Anthropology (University of Hawaii)
teacher, medical researcher

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Chapter 1: The Utopian Dream