Recently at dinner with two old friends/colleagues, we plumbed the depths (and heights) of our reactions and feelings about recent events in the political landscape. The following reflections are inspired by this rich conversation with my longtime social change companions, Mark and Teresa.
A World in Trouble
Our current political turmoil is turning up the heat and sparking the kinds of conversations we have not been having. People are scared. We are feeling pressure to keep our country, even our world together.
In these un-United States, our guiding vision of ‘one nation’ that is ‘indivisible with liberty and justice for all’ has gone off the rails. We are experiencing an onslaught of ‘othering’, with the harshest impacts falling on those who are already the most vulnerable. In relation to other nations, our government is contracting into a self-absorbed xenophobic crouch. Lady Liberty weeps.
Navigating the Unknowns
Given these huge rips in the social fabric of our country and world, how do we tackle the serious challenges that humanity and all of life are facing? Can we sink our roots deep into the soil of interconnection within these times of such disconnection?
There’s much that we cannot know about how events may unfold. Yet to sit back and watch passively in horror is not a fruitful strategy, either for us personally or for the world. So…
Discover What is Yours to Do
Within the current unsettling landscape of fear and division, here are five ways you can chart your own path of authentic social change engagement, guided by the true north of your deepest-held values.
1. Metabolize Your Despair
To metabolize your despair into action, give loving attention to it. Notice whatever ways all of these unsettling realities are landing in you. Accept, accept, !accept! what you are feeling and struggling with about these threats to the fabric of our lives and our world. Make peace with the swirling unknowns, the fear, the numbness, the overwhelm, the paralysis of “I don’t know how to respond.”
There’s power in embracing the unknown—a power that can take you to new places beyond your familiar terrain of being. Stay with your experience and allow it all to alchemize in you. In time your inner landscape may shift, opening into a wider view.
2. Discern Your Unique Contribution
After you make this turn: then, knowing yourself to be part of the sacred whole, open to sensing an aspect of this work to which you feel particularly called. No one person can do it all, but we each have a role to play. As you follow your inner voice, values, gifts and passions, your social change voice and vision will reveal itself.
3. Root Your Activism in Love
In growing your activism, cultivate its roots of love. These times are calling forth non-violence and non-separation from some deeper root place in us. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr.: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
When you find yourself in situations that are fraught with fear-based other-izing, you don’t have to be an accomplice in co-creating the polarity. Stand tall in your core values, meet the situation with an open and loving heart, and reach across differences to connect from our common humanity. When you do this, you are helping to knit our fraying world back together.
4. Reweave Meaning and Connection
Get to know other people who are actively exploring how to meet these challenging times with their full selves and gifts. Here’s a fun fact: in the course of doing social change work, you’ll meet fascinating people who will enrich your life. Having companions in this journey adds connection and meaning to our lives, as well as keeping us energized and engaged for the long haul.
5. Ride the Mysterious Currents of Change
Just as the Renaissance wasn’t named as such until many years afterwards, we don’t have a word for what we’re in the middle of. Change is mysterious and history is not a smooth, steady unfolding. Although we can’t control the outcome, we can contribute our small part.
It is healing and soul-satisfying to be engaged in the effort to improve the world. Go deep into your own truth, then emerge with a fierceness of purpose that is unstoppable.
Mark Dubois is a longtime lover and protector of rivers and the Earth. Teresa McGlashan is a licensed marriage and family therapist who supports people, especially couples and families, to live more peaceful and satisfying lives. Teresa and Mark were the international coordinators, and I was international communications coordinator, for Earth Day 1990. Their friendship continues to inspire me and fertilize my social change seedbed.
Note about the Images: Source of the “Weeping Lady Liberty” image is unknown. The “Radiating Heart” block print is by me.