|(from NASA.gov, and while I have questions about exploring other worlds when we aren't treating this one and all the life on it with respect, it is still a beautiful picture.)|
Sometimes, like today, when the sun is shining and I have yet to hear any truly horrible news for the day, it begins to seem that we are going to win. We, to me, are the loose collective of people working across all continents and disciplines to make the world a better and cleaner and more just place for all living things. Some of us are working in offices, filing papers and lawsuits against unjust entities and laws. Some of us are artists, stretching the materials of this world into shapes and sounds and stories that make other believe in our wildest imaginings of better. Some are teachers, are builders and farmers and activists and researchers and scientists and mentors and all the wide range of hues that it takes to sustain and build this necessary revolution that we hope and hunger and act for.
Too often when we speak of doing enough, of doing all that we can, there is a thread of guilt weaving it all together, that more must be done on both the individual level and the global level. Somehow, between dire news reports and a culture of multi-tasking absurdity, there is a pervasive sense that we must each be passionately able and willing to chain ourselves to a coal mine, participate in the somewhat damaged political system we could still salvage, march in the streets for racial justice, procure food from local sources that do no harm, see the world, maintain loving and supportive relationships, remain financially solvent and constantly informed on the issues of the world, and keep the carbon footprint of a sparrow. Trying to balance all of those pieces will make a person crazy. I regularly worry that I am not hitting the right balance between all the things I try to and would love to do. And I know that I am not the only one who feels stymied in resisting, in being part of a revolution, in living the life I believe possible.
My real worry is this: that some bright day I’ll wake up and the world will be better, that the need and chance to resist and revolt and rebuild will have passed, a new era dawned, and the further shore will have been reached and I will have not done what I most wanted to. That Walt Whitman’s powerful play will have gone on and I will have not contributed my verse. It is not the contribution itself that matters as much, I think, as the personal act of contributing to this amorphous revolution for a better way of life on Earth for the planet and all people. The revolution will happen without me, of course, but out of love and celebration for all that is at stake, I do not want to let my verse go unsung.
I spend a lot of time thinking about Mary Oliver’s question of what I plan to do with my one wild and precious life. Again, I know I am not alone in this—my life is full of brilliant people trying to find the best home for their gifts and love of the world and to live the lives we want and believe in. Sometimes it seems like there is a divide in how we each live—that one can either live change on a large or small scale. In the large scale are the standard-bearers and martyrs and the public figures who we all follow, who’s words and example drive a great deal of inspiration and change. They act and speak for causes that live deep in the hearts of many, and become the names and faces of change and resistance and revolution.
And then there are the people who cannot attend marches because they have to tend their loved ones, who cannot afford to get arrested for civil disobedience because of the responsibilities they bear to others. Or the people who are beautifully suited for the rigors of research, or who delight in the arcane details of law and policy and find ways to weave justice back into our world’s systems. Or people who shun the spotlight but can grow anything on a patch of land. Or who repair bicycles or run thrift stores or wait tables in the cafés where revolutionaries plot their deeds. Or people who are able to shift out of the structures and shoulds of the mainstream world and go off the grid.
There are so many right answers of how to live. Our verses, and we all have them, come in as many tunes and lengths as we like. The important thing is to listen, hard and close, for your own. I believe that we all know, intuitively, the difference between what is right, authentic, and true, and what is not. Perhaps delivering your verse—in whatever form—to the world will make a splash, perhaps everyone will stop and see the fury and love behind your contribution, and this will be the pivot that turns the world in that direction. More likely, the world will absorb your verse as gently as a rising tide. It will matter most to yourself what you said or did, what the action clarified in your soul, and what truths you now know as well as your bones.
The reasons that we are winning, will win, are because more and more people of the seven billion of us are contributing our verses. The play becomes more powerful, and goes on in a different direction than had no one lived in faith and action of a better world. The world needs your verse exactly as desperately, as sweetly, as you hunger to contribute it—whatever form it takes.