Tag Archives: contemplation

Year of activism #51

This is the last blog post for this year of activism and typically by now I have started to discern what the next year’s blog theme will be … and I can feel something emerging …but not yet arrived. To enable something to emerge requires some things to fall away and others to become more clear as fog lifts, or clouds part. The word comes from Latin meaning become known, come to light. The idea of something coming to light holds an interesting movement – the light already being and a hint that the light might be stationary, and the coming a travelling towards what is already there but only visible when the movement of going forward to burn off ignorance or spark the new insight. The whole process may often be quite painful, it can equally be liberating as if a load has been lifted, either way once you come into the light there is a shift of arriving at a new threshold. For the activist this brings an invitation to be tested and practiced in the glow of a new vantage point.

A leading activist is often in the role of mid-wife helping to bring out of the dark what was emerging into the light something new, something challenging, something that will support the system taking its next steps. Once the midwifery is done, this kind of activist may well be no longer needed and the work naturally transfers to others to make the laws, codify behaviours, institute processes and mechanisms to keep necessary evolution flowing. You have come to a place where you are no longer needed, and the hard prophetic walk of making a path is ready for others tread and make strong. Just as ideas begin on virgin synapses so the trajectory towards justice needs to be thought more than once and consolidated by action, reflection and more action and more reflection.

Contemplation and action, the practice of being still and still moving, is central to the life of an activist and the season that arrives at the end of each year, spilling over into a new year is a gift. It is the integration of both contemplation and action that matters. The practice is the integration and to recognize when the pendulum has swung too much one way and to correct that so the emergent can keep emerging. When you notice you are staying in one place more than the other, it is quite likely your ego is inviting you to get into check – too much navel gazing, too much action – both states are not good for you. I am often intrigued how introverts and extroverts name themselves as reflectors or actors – but this is a cop out. Introverts who hide behind reflection and extroverts who hide as busy prophets – both need to get their egos out of the way. Both states are ringing warning bells and if you notice these in your activism, be compassionate to yourself and then make a corrective tilt towards integration.

I am going to be reflecting over the next few days how to keep my pendulum swinging in even time, because there are always bursts of activism and reflection, constantly integrating and finding their way inside of me to stillness and movement. Acts of compassion rising from reflection start with each of us and together all those acts birth movements towards justice when they are grounded in a critical and structural assessment of causes, blocks and barriers. And then in the next cycle of reflection those same acts, causes, blocks and barriers are evaluated to help the path to justice become more visible. I find in the fields I am often working, there is an over emphasis on the evaluation component and not enough on the assessment. I notice this in particular, when the practitioners are professionals and not grassroots activists or coming from lived experience. Helping to correct this imbalance, I know has been a feature of my practice and one that will trip me up from time to time. When I want to stay a little longer, it is usually my ego getting in the way. As this year ends I will be relinquishing some roles and responsibilities, taking up others and finding myself looking to horizons which I can’t quite clearly see and while there is some discomfort, it is a reminder of the calibration of integration, a never ending process of renewal.

Thank you for reading and travelling with me in this year’s blog and I wonder what will emerge before the new year begins?

The Journey

One day you finally knew
What you had to do, and began,
Though the voices around you
Kept shouting
Their bad advice‚
Though the whole house
Began to tremble
And you felt the old tug
At your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
Each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
Though the wind pried
With its stiff fingers
At the very foundations‚
Though their melancholy
Was terrible.
It was already late
Enough, and a wild night,
And the road full of fallen
Branches and stones.
But little by little,
As you left their voices behind,
The stars began to burn
Through the sheets of clouds,
And there was a new voice,
Which you slowly
Recognized as your own,
That kept you company
As you strode deeper and deeper
Into the world,
Determined to do
The only thing you could do‚
Determined to save
The only life you could save.

from Dream Work by Mary Oliver

Silver Sands, April 2020 – Remains of the Day