[This post, is the second of two (Sacred Activism, Part One, posted 8/1/2013). Together, they form a homily I delivered at the ChI Interfaith Community monthly interfaith service on July 20, 2013.]
We need to ask not whether it is realistic or practical or viable but whether it is imaginable. We need to ask if our consciousness and imagination have been so assaulted and co-opted by the royal consciousness that we have been robbed of the courage or power to think an alternative thought…
– Walter Brueggemann
In Sacred Activism, Part One, I asked us to check-in with ourselves about the ideas we currently hold around the word, “activism.” We scrolled through a short list of some of today’s local and global issues inviting change, justice or transformation. Then, just before going numb, spitting fire or admitting hopelessness, I suggested that there is NEW activist at work in our world; an activist who, standing on the shoulders of activist ancestry, has cultivated 3 unique characteristics – sacred practices, we might say – to meet life fully engaged, moving beyond anger, beyond avoidance. We began with Practice One: Begin with Love, Return to Love. And now, I would like to describe two more.
Practice Two: Regenerative Humility, Rippling Faith
Back in 2004, there were some Americans – myself among them – who really wanted a different president. In Northern California, the tone of the election was wiry and frantic. In a last-ditch effort, I volunteered at a phone bank, calling residents in swing states. One night, I spoke woman in her 60s. She lived in Ohio and I asked her if she would be voting in the election. She said, “Oh, I sort of stopped doing that.” “Really,” I pushed on, “When did you stop voting?” “Well, the year I turned 21 was an election year and I was very excited to go to the polls. The Daylight Savings Time measure was on the ballot and it didn’t pass the way I wanted it to, so I stopped.” My jaw dropped. There was nothing on my phone bank script that seemed a suitable response. I took a deep breath, “That must have been disappointing for you. Sometimes we don’t get the measures we vote for, but I do think it’s still really valuable to ask for what we want. I really hope you’ll go to the polls next week.”
Because the starting point and returning point is always love, Regenerative Humility and Rippling Faith work in tandem for the New Activist. This practice is about healing the whole by healing one’s self. If that woman in Ohio had had some tools for being with her own disappointment, is it possible she wouldn’t have burnt-out so quickly? In 2013, the very notion of Activism implies the Long-haul.
Humility keeps us curious and from becoming overly focused on the outcomes. What do I mean by Regenerative Humility? I’m describing something that is less interested in changing the world (outside in) and more aware of how the world is changing me (inside out).
Humility becomes regenerative, when it believes in real transformation, at a pace that can sustain the inevitable set-backs or disappointments along the way.
To find this staying power, humility is in symbiotic relationship with Faith. The New Activist has faith that just he or she is doing does his or her own work, others are doing their work also. Rippling Faith is where these two meet. It’s where our mutual efforts co-mingle and inspire one another, neither angry, nor avoidant. Rippling Faith is Shamanic; it’s a deep knowing that what is above is also below; that we can move forward with receptivity, steadiness and compassion toward what is happening and what will be.
Practice Three: Prophetic Imagination
The last practice I want to highlight, for now, is Prophetic Imagination. If this is a new term for you, please explore it. The New Activist looks to Prophetic Imagination as a North Star, and also as an unwavering source of inspiration. It is the North Star because, when we consider how we got here, at all, we have the holiest of all Imaginations to thank. In the words of Thomas Berry,
“If the dynamics of the universe from the beginning shaped the course of the heavens, lighted the sun, and formed the earth….(with) seas and the atmosphere, if it awakened life in the primordial cell…and finally brought us into being and guided us through the turbulent centuries, there is reason to believe that this same guiding process is precisely what has awakened in us our present understanding of ourselves and our relations to this stupendous process.”
Who are the prophets? They are the visionaries, the restless ones. Prophets are the historians who tell our story using paint, poetry, dreams and dance.
The prophetic imagination puts treasure immediately at our fingertips. And it is also our prophetic imagination that brings fresh eyes to see the issues that have been cleverly avoided or brushed aside as “a thing of the past.”
And so now my closing question, who is this New Activist?
This activist is moving in you (yes, you…and you, too), and in every single one of us.
The Sacred Activist, is US.
We create the world we imagine and there is a time-sensitive invitation at stake for us all. What story is our history t0 tell, with our poetry, our visions, our first-hand account of living life fully right now? What do you love? Where can curiosity provide renewed energy?
Lean into it; make art (click that!); tell a story; see what happens…
Bibliography and Photo Credits:
Stanford SIQSS Studywww-cs-faculty.stanford.edu