(originally Published in the New Hamburg Independent – June, 2008)
By Paul Weigel
The Independent is beginning a new monthly column and I am pleased to have the opportunity to communicate a fascinating aspect of our world about which I have grown to be very passionate. This new column will feature stories of local and regional forerunners.
The term forerunner isn’t used much in our culture. It has been associated with a brand of SUV and GPS, but the meaning of a forerunner has been lost in North America.
What is A Forerunner?
For the past 30 years, I have been fascinated with how individuals are gifted with certain strengths, and how all people have a unique set of talents, abilities, and motivation. It was in this quest for understanding that I discovered the forerunner. The only reference to forerunners I had heard of was in the Bible. Elijah, John the Baptist, and the forerunner, Jesus Christ, were given these titles because they went ahead of others into something new. I was to discover that the term “forerunner” was more than a title, but rather a deep motivation with which between 10 and 20% of people are born.
I also discovered that for every important technological advancement, there has been a corresponding social revolution. The printing press, for example, made books available to the common person, and the impact of that one technological advancement has sent ripples of social reform through society for centuries. Television has given us first hand experiences of events far away, and as a result people have responded and forced governments to end wars, fought for true racial equality, and been moved with compassion for tsunami victims on the other side of the earth. Television has been a tool which has changed us for good and bad, but it has changed us.
Technology has increased our ability to communicate with each other and increased communication has been a flash point for new ideas and an increase in knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. Communication has also been a powerful tool in reforming our institutions. By linking like-minded and motivated individuals, humanity has been able to tackle injustices, disease, and world issues. The book, telephone, television, and the Internet have exponentially increased our ability to communicate and because of this our government, education system, entertainment and media, the arts, and the church have been, and are being reformed from the outside in.
At the heart of technological and sociological change are the forerunners who have a very unique set of strengths, talents, and motivation. The term “forerunners” is an appropriate name for these people because they see “what can be” and fight to make it “what is”. They bring what they “see” in another dimension into the present. They are pioneers who go before the majority of society and tackle the obstacles in order to make a way for you and me.
There are many types of forerunners characterized by an array of talents and abilities but they all have the same motivation to build, create, innovate and/or reform whatever area in which they are engaged. They may be the wearing a suit in an office, marching on the street in a protest, tinkering in their backyard with an invention, or doing research in a laboratory. Some famous forerunners include Martin Luther King, Alexander Graham Bell, and Dr. Jane Goodall. They look very different but they all have one thing in common. They live with one foot in the present and the other in the future.
As important as they are to the advancement of society, they have been widely misunderstood. They have been disparagingly called “square pegs”, “boat rockers”, and “egg heads”. For those who prefer the safe and familiar path, they are “trouble-makers”.. Like them or not, it is forerunners who move us forward.
Forerunners are risk takers. They are motivated by ideas and ideals. They don’t gravitate to groups because they usually are not willing to conform in order to belong. They often reject the routine of the safe and secure because most establishments are not forerunner friendly. They have been called “outsiders” because they hold views outside of the mainstream. They are the early-early adopters of our society. They shape our culture rather than conform to it. They willingly sacrifice a piece of the present for what they see in the future. The have been called “dreamers” and “misfits” because they love change and they pursue it with tenacity, and drag us all into it, because without them, we would squander our full potential.
We have polluted and pillaged the earth and face challenges of monumental proportion. Within the hearts and minds of forerunners all over the world are the seeds of hope in the form of ideas which can be the solutions to these problems, if they are valued, nurtured, acted on, and supported by others. Commentators say there is a lack of leadership in our institutions. What they are saying is that there is a lack of innovative ideas, solutions, and creative insight that can simplify complex problems. I am convinced that it is the forerunners who have the answers we need. The question is, are our leaders willing to listen?
Through this column I hope to challenge and inspire people to better understand forerunners and to value their own ideas and encourage them to live their dreams. I plan to bring outstanding stories of forerunners who have fought their way through the resistance to new ideas and have overcome the hurdles to arrive in the victory circle. I will tell the forerunner story and honour those who make the world one little bit better for all of us. It will be an exciting journey and I invite you to come along.
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