Activism

I don’t try to change the world–not ever. It changes by itself, and I’m a part of that change. I’m absolutely, totally a lover of what is. When people ask me for help, I say yes. We inquire, and they begin to end their suffering, and in that they begin to end the suffering of the world.

Violence teaches only violence. Stress teaches stress. If you clean up your mental environment, we’ll clean up our physical one much more quickly…And if you do that genuinely, without violence in your heart, without anger, without pointing at corporations as the enemy, then people begin to notice. We begin to listen and notice that change through peace is possible. It has to begin with one person. If you’re not the one, who is?  ~Stephen Mitchell

For years I’ve had an ambivalence about social activism because I’ve seen so much of it further polarize people. Who am I to know what is best for the planet? Righteousness is no good; if we are to make a difference in the world, we must speak authentically, lovingly from the heart. Accusations and anger simply raise defenses. The world is perfect as it is, according to Mitchell (and his wife Byron Katie), but that’s no excuse for withdrawal or separation.

May I clear my mind, understand that the world is perfect just as it is, but stay connected with my heart to those who are suffering. May I question for the love of truth, not in order to save the world. And may I speak always, even to power, with honesty and kindness and without fear or anger.

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6 Responses to Activism

  1. donna says:

    Sure, the world is perfect as it is — but it could be better. ;^)

    Yes, the only true change you can make is in yourself and what you do. And that does begin to reflect in those around you.

    I think to speak for change is important, though. To let others know change is possible instead of just waiting for them to ask. It gives hope and creates possibilities. Just to plant the seed of a truth in someone else’s mind – that is important, too.

    I don’t feel fear much anymore these days, but anger – yeah, I can still go there when necessary. But it’s a choice now.

  2. Dancing rabbit says:

    A couple three quotes:

    Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
    Martin Luther King Jr.

    From a Unitarian blog:

    Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act. Dietrich Bonhoeffer

    We have to repent . . . not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Martin Luther King, Jr.

    All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
    Edmund Burke (1729 – 1797)

    One rule one should apply to any action is to be sure it brings about more good than harm.

    A useful thing to remember is that with effort, perserverence, and luck one might make a little difference. However, a little difference is a big deal.

    Some little time ago there was a discussion in the popular press and NPR about the nature of evil and whether there were people and nations that were evil. I prefer to think of people or groups behaving badly, sometimes very badly. This allows one to possibly influence outcomes in a positive way. To demonize, as the present administration has with Iran, may benefit the very groups you oppose. Of course, those with Orwellian conspiracy theories might suggest this was the intended outcome.

  3. quotesqueen says:

    Thanks for the quotes–I will add to my collection! I belonged to UU congregations for about 15 years. And I do believe that a little difference is important, in speaking up, and in continuing to strive for social justice. What I have yet to find is something beyond my personal transformation and interactions that I know will do more good than harm.

  4. […] with the author in the March issue of Shambhala Sun, and was reminded of my earlier post on Activism, as well as the one on New […]

  5. […] It matters what we do, day in and day out, on the smallest scale. In fact, that is where it matters most. I have always had a bit of guilt that I was not more politically active on a grand scale. My introverted nature was a big factor, as was the personal work I needed to do, but also it was hard to know whether the “movements” of my day were really helping or further polarizing people (more on this idea in an earlier post). […]

  6. […] I can make it better, and to have the courage to foster change. As Donna said in the comments to another post, “Sure, the world is perfect as it is–but it could be better.” I just love […]

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