Year of activism #17

The relationship between action and reflection has already been mentioned this year and I want to revisit in the context of creativity. Our reflection may unsettle us, we may wriggle around in our discomfort until we unearth what response is being called for, and how we might use our time and talents to respond. There is always the pitch and the catch, the call and response. Reflecting is not enough and nor acting enough – this is a two-step process that is a continuous and virtuous circle. Sometimes we might be called to rest, to lie fallow, but as we all experience, it is in these spaces creativity stirs and new responses are born.

Using a theory in a practical way, of finding there is a theory to describe what you have been doing all along, was the relief I got when I first learnt about systems theory in my social work studies and then more deeply in my introduction to Salvador Minuchin‘s work back in 1980. All of a sudden everything made sense and I had a framework to see and do, what I was already seeing and doing. This is at the heart of praxis and it is revealed in the learning moment as it is plumbed and aligned with practice and theory. His description of what he called mutual accommodation seemed to me to embody at a personal level what I yearned for politically and culturally. My aversion for doing one on one counselling as a practitioner finally had found voice.  I took this approach to my parenting, my presence in the world as a social worker and it developed over time with more learning and experience, growing particularly through the influence of the early days of narrative therapy. While was called to continue to pursue that direction it is still my bedrock.

“I describe family values as responsibility towards others, increase of tolerance, compromise, support, flexibility. And essentially the things I call the silent song of life -the continuous process of mutual accommodation without which life is impossible.”  Salvador Minuchin   

One of the things I learnt and applied, learnt and applied, learnt and applied, was the interconnectedness of all things, and that is one part of the system changes then other parts of the system are called to adapt to that change.  This too had strong foundations in Piagetian developmental cognitive psychology which was already familiar to me by the time I came across Minuchin’s work.  I am referencing their work and influence to bring to mind how theory doesn’t always come first, and how it might though give language, an ability to transfer ideas in short-hand and add layers of learning to the experience. It is an example of the the reflection – action – reflection cycle.

Activism has its developmental steps too and as we go along the way, we deepen our creativity. It may get more sophisticated, and it may get more generous and precise. It is the practice that matters, as activists are no different to meditators, each time we start, we begin as if it is for the first time, and having a regular practice, maybe only ten minutes a day.  Imagine what you can do in ten minutes though!  As in meditation, relaxing into the practice before doing it and then coming out of it slowly and resetting your optic nerve to the light, after your eyes have been closed.; so too making time to relax, reset and reflect will improve your activist practice.  But you can’t have one without the other or expect that by doing just one, you are doing it all. Your activism need not be laying in front of a bulldozer or going to gaol, it might need to be having the hard conversation with a loved one about the changes you are making to your purchasing, your diet or how you are spending your time. These sometimes might make the bulldozer an easier alternative!

The creativity kicks in with humour, delight and shows up to help shift, teach and invite others to join you. This creativity can be a policy innovation, a cleverly worded slogan, a new way of doing something that historically worked, an alliance bringing together new parties to share the load. Creativity translates imagination and brings visibility to ideas for change. No more silent songs from the past for me though, the queer, black woman, slam poet is saying it best. Thank you Sonya Renee Taylor

And my question is: What kind of garment are you going to stitch?


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