The authors of my favorite college textbook, The Search for Personal Freedom, declare the following (I’ve paraphrased here):

Men and women, to have freedom, must exercise their powers of intellect and emotion toward the accomplishment of their purposes. We have never known and probably do not now know the true nature of the world in which we live. Human institutions are the crystallizations of our ways of living at any given time, and usually the following groups within a population are primarily responsible for change:

* The pure thinkers who give us our concepts of reality.
* The philosophers in each of the great areas of learning.
* The artists who perform a great and important function by revealing meanings for life in times of confusion and chaos.
* The intellectuals who build the institutions by which we regulate many of the affairs of our modern-day existence.

As 2014 winds down, I think it’s important to become aware of who represents these four groups right now…and whether we’re giving them a fair hearing. Are we truly listening to what people are expressing, or just making quick assumptions based on what we think we understand about them?

The more these four groups can seek to understand, find common ground, and synergize their efforts, the more just and sustainable our civilization can become.