Being squinters, most of us look into the future and get eyestrain. Barbara Marx Hubbard--founder of Futures Network in Washington, author of "The Hunger of Eve: A Woman's Odyssey Toward the Future," and one of the planet's unstoppable futurists--looks into it and becomes wide-eyed. She sees the whole. She is a possiblist. She sees "the evolutionary way" and believes everyone is meant to be "a part of it . . . the co-authors of creation."
The other evening, in a conference room of a Bethesda motel on upper Wisconsin Avenue, Hubbard was conducting a seminar for 45 fellow futurists seeking to increase their skills in creational co-authorship. Most had paid between $120 and $140 for the Friday-evening-through-Sunday-afternoon sessions. They were in the company of a woman described by Buckminster Fuller, who himself has been everything from 10 centuries to 10 minutes ahead of his time, as "the best informed human now alive regarding the movement and the foresights that it has produced."
A Ramada Inn about a mile from the Beltway--where the only place to glimpse the future is in the rearview mirror--is an unlikely setting for a futuristic gambol.
But Hubbard herself reverberates with the unlikely. She was born into one kind of wealth--the moneyed world created by her father Louis Marx, the late tycoon of American toymaking--and moved as an adult into another: the intellectual prosperity of marrying an idealistic artist, of friendships with Abraham Maslow, Jonas Salk, Sargent Shriver, and of owning a reserve of limitless energy to read philosophy and theology and to record her reflections in a journal, now up to 80 volumes.
Her first entry came in May 1948, the year after she graduated from Rye Country Day School near her Scarsdale, N.Y., home. "If there's a God," she wrote, "it's He who unites past with present and future, finite with infinite, truth with falsity, until all are more than a conglomeration, until all is one. . ."
At Bryn Mawr, with a junior year in Paris, she was a book-hungry self-searching student who mastered the course work so easily that she gave herself a private reading program ranging from St. Paul to Andre Gide. In her senior year she married Earl Hubbard whom she had met in a cafe on the Left Bank. It was an elegant Episcopalian wedding in Manhattan followed by a glittering reception at the Waldorf.
It would be five grown children, two decades of living comfortably in northwest Connecticut and an amicable marital separation before Hubbard came to Washington to begin the New Worlds Center. The site she chose was decidedly part of the old world: Greystones, a chunky four-story, white-columned mansion on the rim of Rock Creek Park, which is owned by her sister Jacqueline. It has been from Greystones that Hubbard has been traveling the country to talk about a "choiceful future"--in seminars open to the public, in private counseling sessions with other futurists, in meetings with politicians.
In 1977, one of those moved to action by Hubbard was a then-obscure Michigan congressman, David Stockman. He, along with Rep. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and the late Rep. Olin Teague (D-Tex.), cosponsored a resolution calling for a new national goal in space. "David came to dinner several times at Greystones," Hubbard recalls, "and we discussed ideas for a 'positive future,' including the development of outer space with the emphasis on the free enterprise system rather than the government." Stockman invited Hubbard to speak in his district. He accompanied her on the trip and introduced her to the local audience.
Recently, Richard P. Cimenelli, the director of the federal office of personnel management, said that Hubbard "forces government managers to the outer limits of their imagination with new ideas on alternative public policy decisions . . . She brings hope."
In the Bethesda seminar, Hubbard invited her audience to "fuse the intellectual understanding of the evolutionary process without personal experience of it. It is that fusion of intellect and intuition which makes for the real understanding of what's going on. None of us can just get it purely experientially or purely intellectually."
As with all futurists, Hubbard has a glossary of futureworld phrases: quantum transformation (the leap from the past condition to the new condition), the evolutionary personality, the flame of expectancy, a choiceful future. It can get spacey. But Hubbard is anything but a dabbler playing sight-games with the telescope to tomorrow.
The threat of nuclear war, overpopulation and environmental pollution has created "a systems crisis," she says. "That is why I am an activist. If we do nothing . . . we are going into social chaos. If we activate our new capacity and our potentials from the local level and the personal growth level, all the way up to the exploration and industrialization of space, we can make a graceful transition with no collapse."
For more information about Barbara Marx Hubbard's seminars: Futures Network, 2325 Porter St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20008 (966-8776).