There was a time that I was convinced that my life would only have meaning if I could help bring about world peace, the end of pollution, and justice and equality for all. As a child of the 60’s, it was only logical that this had to happen in my lifetime. And I had to play a part in it.
I went from protest marches to neighborhood empowerment action and eventually found myself involved in local politics. I became more and more disillusioned about the possibility of anything changing. It seemed as if, for every problem solved, at least two new problems would arise. The media seemed to overexpose us to all the drama in the world and if I took them all seriously, I would simply get overwhelmed.
As time went on, I started building a family and a career. I started closing my eyes to world problems. Small scale problems were challenging enough. In The Netherlands, my adopted homeland, environmental issues are usually tackled by new government rules, regulations, and taxes. Not only does it often seem ineffective, it’s also often very bureaucratic.
But at the very core of me, the idealist will not die. I love the world too much for that. And I want my great-grandchildren and their grandchildren to be able to love the world as well.
And this is the point where writers/teachers like Joanna Macy provide the inspiration and courage to continue to do that which I can do, that which each of us can do. I just finished reading her book Active Hope – How to Face the Mess We’re in without Going Crazy. I recognized my own journey in her description of the three stories of our time. I try to hide from my own despair by believing in Business As Usual. Otherwise I might be overwhelmed by the Great Unraveling. But, more and more, I can start believing and actively participating in the Great Turning.
This is something I can do with my own unique gifts, in my own unique way. Each of us feels called in a different way. Some people feel called to participate in actions to defend life on earth. Some feel called to develop new economic and social structures. And some are suited to helping us change our perceptions, thinking, and values.
But the most important thing, and Joanna Macy’s call resonates strongly with me, is to find and connect to others who also feel this calling. Every little thing we do, alone but especially with others, is a step in the right direction. And so I recycle and work in my garden and find ways to exchange knowledge, inspiration, ideas, and vegetable seeds with others. I organize gatherings of people to see how we can use our talents and create synergy on a small scale. And I devote my counseling practice to helping others find their own, unique way of being in the world in these troubled times.
I may never see the fruits of my labor in this lifetime. I will not let that discourage me. I’m not doing it for myself.