I’ve been a bit absent lately. I apologize for that. Mahatma Gandhi once advised that we should speak only if it improves upon silence, and I simply haven’t felt that I’ve had words to offer over these last weeks that could meet that criteria.
Things have felt quite bleak lately. The nastiness and vitriol of a markedly ugly campaign season. The blatant disregard shown by the general media and most Americans toward the Lakota Sioux at Standing Rock in their fight to save their sacred land and the water so many depend upon from molestation by oil companies in the form of the Dakota Access Pipeline (made even more egregious given the violence toward the peaceful protesters by militarized police on Sunday night). The recent escalation of hate crimes across the nation. It’s all overwhelming and heartbreaking and I find myself constantly jumping back and forth between my outrage and the desire to take action on behalf of my fellow humans, and turning inward both in search of quiet sanctuary and also to take stock of my own culpability and responsibility for how our nation has found itself in this dark hour.
There is much work to be done on many fronts and I don’t want to understate or overlook that fact. But I keep coming back to the idea that action that is rooted in fear or anger isn’t sustainable over the long haul. At least not for me. These weeks have left me feeling exhausted and powerless and woefully inadequate. While understandable, I just keep thinking about how generally useless it is to be caught in that cycle, and how little actual movement is generated from that space.
There must be a better way.
As hokey and “kumbaya” as it may seem, I’ve reached the conclusion that my action MUST be rooted in ideas greater than anger or fear. I need more power than those emotions that leave me feeling so puny can offer. I need my action to be rooted in love and gratitude and the inherent belief that we are all truly interconnected.
It may seem like semantics, but my anger at the injustice of what is going on at Standing Rock isn’t nearly as powerful over time as my inspiration at the strength and commitment of the protesters who call themselves Water Protectors…because they recognize that they are operating on behalf of all of us, human as well as animal as well as the greater earth. Working on behalf of the environment out of fear of our collective suffering at the hands of climate change isn’t as powerful as my love for the children in my life and my investment in their future, or the life-altering experiences I’ve had and have witnessed in others in the midst of the staggering beauty of our wild places. My solidarity with the many groups being targeted by the proposed policies of the new administration is strongest when it grows out of my utter empathy for our universal desires to safely live out our lives with the partners of our choosing, to succeed or fail based on our work and our merit, to send our children to school free from bullying or violence, to be able to make the best decisions for our health without terror of legal or financial ruin.
In this week of Thanksgiving, I am searching for my greatest voice and my greatest strength. As I dive deep into the gratitude I feel for the gifts in my own life this week, I am discovering wells of energy and commitment to extend those gifts outward, to contribute to the collective well-being of all humanity. I believe, to the deepest recesses of my being, that "a rising tide lifts all ships." And I am discovering the (perhaps obvious) truth that I can only bring my best and most powerful self to contribute to that rising tide when I operate from love, from gratitude, from empathy, from beauty, from openness, from kindness.
To operate from compassion and love does not mean to stand by silently nor to normalize the marginalization of others or the destruction of our natural world. The image I hold in my mind is the famous 1967 photograph by Marc Riboud of 17-year-old Jan Rose Kasmir holding up a flower in the face of a wall of bayonet wielding soldiers during the March on the Pentagon to protest the war in Vietnam. She offered peace in the form of a flower and in that moment demonstrated love and compassion without surrender.
It is through love and empathy and kindness and gratitude that I find my own flower to hold up in the face of seemingly insurmountable injustices and the strength to stay when fear or anger would have me weaken or even go.
If you would like to take action on behalf of Standing Rock and #NoDAPL, this site provides some places to begin.
If you would like to learn more about how you can take action against hate, begin here or here or here.
If you have additional suggestions or resources, please leave them in the comments...the more paths to action and love, the better!
I've been diving into my gratitude a bit on Instagram this week...please feel free to join me there, I'd love to hear what you are feeling particularly grateful for right now!
We had our first snow of the season on Monday...it was so peaceful and quiet as I took a little bit of time to wander outside and soak in the beauty...I just had to share...