The Heart of Activism

The Heart of Activism
by Rhio

I had just arrived at the Creative Health Institute to spend a few weeks of quiet retreat. No one had warned me of any dangers in taking a walk. So, off I went. It was a beautiful day and I didn’t have much on my mind except getting some fresh air and exercise. I was walking down a country road in the rural town of Union City, Michigan.

About a mile into the walk, all of a sudden, a vicious, snarling black Labrador dog rushed towards me, looking like he was going to attack — and he did attack, but his bite only ripped my pants and grazed me. I screamed. He retreated a little, still snarling, while I stood shocked and frozen with fear. I saw that he was going to rush me again. But just then, another dog, this one a collie, came running out and jumped on top of the Labrador, trying to keep him down. But the Lab was too big and muscular for the collie, although the collie did succeed in causing him to retreat again.

Then the collie came up to me and sat in front of me and just looked at me. I seemed to be paralyzed. What was I thinking? Again the Labrador started to charge me and the collie intervened by jumping on top of him. This scenario occurred a couple of times with everything taking place very fast. Each time the collie came up to me, as if to say “What are you still doing here!?” I finally got the message and half walked, half ran out of there. But I will never forget the eyes of that collie or how s/he looked at me.

This, for me, is the heart of activism. If you see, hear or sense that something is wrong, if you know that something is wrong – you have the heart to do something about it. That collie was no match for the heavily muscled Lab, yet s/he did something for which I have no words of gratitude. S/he was active in my behalf and saved my ass. (I still walk down country roads, but now I’m armed with pepper spray and a more cautious attitude.)*

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Most of us want to be involved in something good to move humanity forward into the age of enlightenment. What can we do to be of real service? We can sign endless petitions, and I’m not saying that they are not effective. But what can we do on a more personal level? What project can we undertake that can have a real impact and influence on changing things in favor of the interests of our fellow humans, the people of the world, the animals, peace and our EarthMother. Any project you take on personally and work towards a successful conclusion with fellow activists will be more rewarding in the long run than doing bits and pieces of service here and there. (But let me be clear; bits and pieces of service are also valuable and appreciated.)

First, we have to find the issue that means something to us, the issue that resonates within our being, the issue that we personally find worth fighting for. This, of course, will be different for different people. Once you find that issue, figure out how much time you can reasonably give to it without sacrificing your family life, your work and your other personal goals.

Next, learn as much as you can about your issue. Become informed. Share the information that you have with others who are interested. Find and join another group working on the issue. If there is no group in your area, form a group yourself. Every issue has many facets to it. One could not possibly work on them all. Choose 1 or 2 clearly stated goals and work in small incremental steps towards an end result.

Do not forget the power of the mind, and your own thoughts and emotions, on the process of reaching a successful result. I have known many activists who did not believe that their activism would ultimately change anything. They had defeated themselves at the outset, although their work was still valuable to the cause because of the help they rendered in its behalf. I don’t know if these activists started out with a defeatist attitude or acquired it by experiencing the many disappointments inherent in activism. They may also have burnt out by activating for too many hours or for too many causes.

Aside from the satisfaction of achieving specific goals, some of the rewards of activism are:

*A feeling of psychological well-being, confidence and even euphoria from doing something or being a part of something worthwhile.

*Meeting many interesting and dynamic people (as well as a few strange ones), that you couldn’t possibly meet any other way.

*Having many colorful and interesting experiences to recount to your great, great, great, great, great grandchildren. (As a raw food enthusiast, I do not consider that this is very far-fetched).

*Becoming knowledgeable in the area of your choice and learning to hone new skills to further the cause.

*You will have done your small, but irreplaceable, part to restore sanity and order to the universe, so that all people everywhere will have a better world to live in; a consciously envisioned future world where all people matter, animals matter, our divine EarthMother matters… and in which out of control corporations and governments, and corruption and greed are no longer tolerated.

In today’s world there are thousands of issues worth working on and activating for. We could drive ourselves crazy trying to help in every area. But what good are we if we allow ourselves to get burnt out? I believe Thomas Merton describes it best in the quote below.

“…there is a contemporary form of violence to which the idealist
fighting for peace {or any other issue} by nonviolent methods most
easily succumbs: activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of
modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its
innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude
of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands,
to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone
in everything is to succumb to violence. More than that, it is
cooperation in violence. The frenzy of the activist neutralizes
his or her work for peace. It destroys one’s own inner capacity
for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of one’s own work,
because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.”

—Thomas Merton
contemporary author and theologist

So dear readers, thank you for listening to me and I hope that I have been able to convince you to donate part of your valuable time to the cause that is closest to your heart.

Be blessed.

Rhio

*So that I would not continue to fear black Labrador Retrievers, apparently, fate stepped in. The very next day after I was attacked by the Labrador, I went on a walk with a group from the institute and I made the acquaintance of another black Labrador Retriever who was a very gentle, loving, sweet dog. The first time I saw him, he was running across a field (from his home) to join the group. Other members of the group knew him and did not fear him.

On many subsequent walks, it was just me and this gentle black Labrador called Jake. My fear of dogs, which did not exist before the incident, disappeared again, except that now I do carry red pepper spray with me and am more cautious.


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