Tuesday, July 10, 2018

A Unique Angle on Activism

We are in the midst of a cultural awakening.

It seems like everyone is an activist these days.  Perhaps moreso than ever before.  It's like we've just woken up on a massive scale to the fact that things are being done in our name, and it's our responsibility to speak out for what we believe, or against what we cannot condone.

But there can be a problem in here:  Even the most experienced social action leaders can experience burn-out, frustration, fatigue, and crippling despair - and they've been taught how to deal with it!  How much more challenging is it, then for us normies to handle the intense desire to make the world a better place - while being met with an onslaught of defeats, new problems, complexities, and our own emotions?

One powerful notion that arose in me today is the remembering that we do not have to do it all ourselves.  No one person has all the answers, skills, time, energy, or resources to solve the world's problems.  I mean, maybe that's the problem - why it gets so stressful.  We look at the next crisis, whether it's in our neighborhood or across the globe and we think "what do I do about this?!"  And sadly, the truth is that there are some of those problems about which we can do nothing at this time.

I believe it's healthy to grieve for our lack of power here, to long for the day when we have the resources to make the lives of others better in many, many ways, and to work toward that day.  But while that grief is present, I also think there is another vision we could hold.

Imagine a world where each of us inventoried our real resources right now, and we asked, "what can I practically do with what I've got to help?"  What I imagine (and maybe I'm just a dreamer here) is a global community of people feeling empowered and dedicated, and drilling down on the work that calls their hearts to their fullest radiance.  What if, instead of seeing the problems arrayed against us and feeling overwhelmed by their immensity and number, our mental filters rather honed in on the place where we could be of most service, just as we are.

When I can find this flow state, I know I'm more effective - just like anyone who's made a good to-do list can tell you.  Even Lao Tzu, the Chinese sage of 2500 years ago knew that "the journey of 1,000 miles begins with the step beneath your foot."  It's not that we're forgetting the rest of the journey, it's that we're focusing in a way that empowers us to begin it!

Thi is alive for me because I know that we all have different capacities, and sometimes that brings us guilt.  Maybe your kids require all your time and you can't do the research or community building you want.  Maybe your social anxiety is not conducive to attending rallies and demonstrations.  It can be painful to get the message from within and without that "we're not doing enough."

Today I'd like to share a different message, perhaps just for counterpoint:  That when you focus on what you can do, and what inspires you, then your inspiration and ability will grow.  We magnify what we focus on in our lives.  You don't have all the answers, but I believe that you have at least one very specific answer, and when you contribute that, it empowers the rest of us to contribute ours.

Perhaps just for today, walk forth guilt-free and ask: "Honestly assessing my resources, what's the best thing I can contribute to the world today?"  You might be surprised at how profound your impact is!