Imagine Institute

"A journey of 1,000 miles does not begin with a
single step.  It begins with a Dream."

~ Eric Kasum, founder of the Imagine Institute

Welcome to the The Imagine Institute!

The Imagine Institute is a think tank.  It's a place where YOU create the future.  It's a home for ideas that have the power to change everything.  We encourage you to Dream Big, and help you to make noble ideas practical.  Our Mission is to empower everybody to change the world... one idea at a time.

Question:  If you could change ONE thing in the world... what would it be?

A New Story for Humanity

We must create a new story for Humanity.

When you look at all the problems in the world today - endless wars, gun violence, extreme poverty, global warming - it can seem hopeless.  "How can I fix all these things?" you may ask.  But the truth may surprise you:  You don't have to change everything.  You only have to change ONE thing...

A Reverence for Life.

At the Imagine Institute, our guiding principle is a Reverence for Life.  What is a Reverence for Life?  The dictionary defines "reverence" as a feeling of profound respect, tinged with awe, adoring, often love.  To revere or to have a reverence for life is to hold it up as your highest value - spiritually, morally, and ethically.

The idea of a Reverence for Life was first made popular by Dr. Albert Schweitzer, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.  He claimed that a Reverence for Life is the most powerful idea ever conceived by the mind of man or woman.  Why?  Because from this one idea, everything changes.  A whole new future not only becomes possible - it becomes inevitable.

Albert Schweitzer has an amazing story.  As a young boy, he was heartbroken about slavery.  He wanted to apologize to black people for how white men had treated them.  So he became a doctor and traveled to Africa where he started a hospital and gave medical treatment to the native people for free.  Schweitzer had a reverence for all living creatures; he treated animals with the same loving kindness as humans.  He once saved the life of a pelican that had a broken wing, and that pelican was so grateful that it followed him around like a dog for the rest of its life.  (On our home page we have a picture of Dr. Albert Schweitzer and by his side is his faithful friend, the pelican).

An Idea That Changes Everything

Once you have a Reverence for Life as your guiding principle - your gold standard, your Golden Rule, so to speak - everything in the world looks different.  It's like putting on a new pair of glasses:  Instantly, everything changes.  Once a Reverence for Life becomes your moral, ethical, and spiritual compass, war becomes impossible.  Starving children become unthinkable.  Children dying from easily-preventable diseases... this becomes absolutely unacceptable.  Extreme poverty disappears overnight because no one is willing to look the other way and say:  "That's not my problem." Terrorism and war itself dwindle because recruitment becomes impossible.  Suddenly, we no longer live and breathe an atmosphere full of anger, fear, and hatred.

Am I a dreamer, or a realist?  My answer:  I not only believe such a world is possible, many of us are already creating it.  As John Lennon said in his song Imagine:  "You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one."

Think about this:  What if our political leaders threw a war... and nobody came?  What if every single one of us was a "conscientious objector?" Our whole world would change in a heartbeat.  Our leaders would have to solve their problems with nonviolence, like Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

Kindness has No Borders

Do you know what the first astronauts saw from outer space?  They saw a world without borders.  They say it changed the way they saw everything.

Kindness has no borders.  Compassion is a universal language that everybody speaks and everyone understands - regardless of their religion, skin color, or nationality.

We will never have Homeland Security until we realize that the whole world is our homeland.

We human beings are an amazing race, capable of putting a man on the moon (but sadly, no women) and building an atomic bomb - both astonishing feats of science.  The problem is:  We are caught up in an endless cycle of violence.  We use science to make war on each other.  We have our finger poised over a button that launches nuclear bombs.  We have the power to destroy ourselves - in the blink of an eye.

We have the scientific genius of gods - and the brains of cavemen.  Until we elevate our thinking, and elect political leaders who truly care about our future, the survival of our species - and the fate of all life on Earth - hangs precariously by a thin thread.

"When the power of love overcomes the love of power, we will know peace." ~ Bob Marley

I have been to Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona memorial, and stood at on the site where, from the US point of view, World War 2 began.  And I have journeyed to Hiroshima, the spot where World War 2 ended.  I have stood at the A-Bomb Dome, the exact spot where 200,000 men, women, and children were killed in an instant by an atomic bomb - many of them vaporized in a blinding flash of light hotter than the surface of the sun.  Standing in Hiroshima at ground zero, I have never felt such a deep sadness in my entire life.

I asked myself:  What have we learned?

The answer:  Absolutely nothing.

This is why we need the Imagine Institute.  To create a new story for Humanity.

Evolution = Survival of the Fittest?

It's mistakenly believed that Charles Darwin meant "Survival of the Fittest" to mean the survival of the most brutal, dominant, and violent.  In the poet Tennyson's words:  "Nature, red in tooth and claw."  But experts now say this may not have been Darwin's intent at all.  He often wrote about species that helped each other, collaborated, and created synergy.  Thus, "Survival of the Fittest" may in fact mean survival of the most kind, the most compassionate, the most helpful.

Charles Darwin, in the age of nuclear bombs, might point out that our "superior" human intelligence is a dubious survival benefit.  We're so smart we might just destroy ourselves.  After all, if we nuke ourselves or destroy the Earth, so that only cockroaches and mushrooms (which love radioactivity) survive, of what value will our superior intelligence be?  Are we going to turn our future over to the corporate executives and politicos?  What happens when the "smartest guys in the room" destroy the Earth, our home, with toxic pollution, Global Warming, or nuclear destruction?  Are we going to sit helplessly by and watch?

Or are we going to take action?

The Peace Dividend

My religion is a Reverence for Life.  I believe miracles are everywhere around us if we only have eyes to see them.  All of life - from the lowliest worm to the mightiest Sequoia tree - is intelligent in ways we can barely imagine.

If we hold a Reverence for Life as our guiding principal, nations will stop wasting 50% of their discretionary income on military campaigns that kill innocent women and children and chalk it up to so-called "collateral damage."  Instead, they will invest their incredible wealth into education, health care, creating prosperity and new jobs, and reviving the middle class.  We could provide free university education to our young people and remove crushing student loan debts.  If Europe can do it, why can't we?

Dean Kamen, inventor of the revolutionary Segway, says that if we took just 10% of the annual US military budget, we could give clean drinking water to every person on the planet, thus saving thousands of lives each day.  If we repurpose 50% of our military to humanitarian causes instead of wars, terrorists will struggle to recruit new members because the US may very well become the most beloved country on the planet.  The peace dividend would cause a boom in our economy.  We could give every American family a tax refund check.  We could afford to raise the minimum wage to an income people can actually live on.  We would no longer be at war with our planet, but would instead gladly share it with all living creatures.  If we held a Reverence for Life as our greatest value, Global Warming would be reversed quickly.

A Miracle in New Zealand

A life-changing benefit:  The 70 billion farm animals that are now imprisoned in horrible living conditions and condemned to death would have the ability to live out their lives in safety and happiness.  In fact, if a Reverence for Life is our guiding principle, all living creatures - yes, even spiders and other creatures we don't like - would have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  New Zealand declared a river - which was sacred to the Maori people but was being poisoned by industrial waste - to be a human.  This means it has a legal right to protection.  This river - and the animals that live in it - have a right to life.  Wow!

If New Zealand can do it, why can't we?

The Worst Form of Violence

War is the most obvious and visible form of violence.  But there are other forms of violence that cause even more human suffering.  Mahatma Gandhi said, "Poverty is the worst form of violence." Is it possible that extreme poverty causes even more deaths than war?

Consider this:  Almost three billion people live on less than $2 a day.  About 16,000 children die each day from starvation.  Let's do the math:  That's 6 million children a year - the equivalent of the Nazi Holocaust - and nobody's even talking about it.  Shockingly, another 17,000 children die each day from easily preventable diseases - diseases that can be treated for only pennies a day.  How is this possible in a civilized world?

Our political leaders - awash in machismo and wrapped in a love affair with the ideas of power, domination, and violence - are deeply committed to the status quo.  Not surprising, since the status quo keeps them in power.  But a quick glance at the news headlines proves that the status quo isn't working.

Instead of living into the future by default, why don't we create...

A Future by Design

We must create a new story for Humanity.  I call this: the Future by Design.  Here's how it works:  We imagine the future we really want and then we create it.

There was a time when people dreamed of ending slavery.  It seemed hopeless, but they didn't give up.  They kept a vision in their of minds of all men and women being treated with dignity.  There was a time when people dreamed of women getting the right to vote.  It seemed impossible, but they didn't give up.  Finally, they made this dream a reality too.  We already know how to change the world.  We don't have to reinvent the wheel.  All we have to do is follow the blueprint of those courageous people who came before us.  All we need to do is Dream Big and step into our greatness.

We stand at a turning point.  As Robert Frost so beautifully said, we must take "the road less traveled."

A future by design.  That's what the Imagine Institute is all about.

Good vs. Evil

"No man chooses evil because it is evil.  He only mistakes it for happiness." ~ Mary Wollstonecraft

Is there really a battle between good and evil?

Surprisingly, most of the problems in our world today can be traced not to evil, but to something very simple: incentives.  The incentives of our society are upside down.  They do not reflect our moral, ethical, and spiritual values.  Incentives simply mean that people do things that get rewarded.  One way to look at incentives is like the scientist who studies a rat in a maze.  To get a new behavior, he simply has to move the cheese.  In short, to create earth-shaking change, all we have to do is change the things that we reward.

Terrorists get rewarded by headlines.  Politicians who declare wars get rewarded because their public approval rating goes up in the polls.  Nonprofits, political parties, and even religions that preach fear, anger and hatred receive millions of dollars in contributions.

The old model of looking at the world as a battleground between good and evil is not very helpful here.  It's better to look at it as a matter of economics, as incentives that reward certain behaviors.  Change the incentive, change the behavior.

When we make health more profitable than illness, when we make happiness more profitable than misery, when we make peace more profitable than war - on that day we will have health, happiness, and peace.

Henry Ford once said:  "Show me who is making a profit, and I'll show you how to stop a war."

Here's the good news:  We can change incentives.  They are man-made and therefore they can be changed by man (or woman).

Right now our political leaders like the incentives just the way they are.  The status quo.  Not surprisingly, they are leading us into the future by default - more wars, more hunger, more poverty.  Perhaps they think they can make new wars and march us off the cliff like lemmings.

But I have a better idea: a future by design.

The Challenge

"Never before in history has it been easier to change the planet." ~ Seth Godin

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." ~ Margaret Mead

Our motto at the Imagine Institute is:  Ideas that change the world.

Here's my challenge to you.  Let's be visionary like Apple's Steve Jobs and Elon Musk (founder of Tesla Motors, SpaceX, and SolarCity).  Let's create a future by design.  Imagine what you really want for the future and then let's go out and create it.

We need people like you with bright ideas, a bold vision for the future, and the courage to step into their greatness.  Never doubt that you were born at this epic moment in human history for a purpose; you have a special destiny.

Let's make this vow:  Together we will create for our children a planet that's safe and healthy to live in.  This is our gift to our children's children.

Be the change you want to see in the world.  I hope you will join me on this bold adventure.

Let's create a new story for Humanity.

Eric Kasum

About the author

Eric Kasum is the Founder and CEO of the Imagine Institute.