We'll thrilled to have a new blog post to share with you from the delightful Zoe Weil, author of Most Good, Least Harm.
You’re making all the right choices. You’re an organic locavore. Whenever possible, you bike, take public transportation, or walk instead of drive, and when you drive it’s a hybrid. You choose cruelty-free, toxin-free personal care products. You’re a member of a dozen different organizations all with missions you wholeheartedly support. Compact fluorescents? Of course. Bottled water? Never. Yoga and exercise? Regularly. A positive attitude? Absolutely.
But perhaps you, like me, have those dark nights of the despairing soul when you worry whether we really can turn things around on our beleaguered planet. You present a sunny disposition, but deep inside, you sometimes struggle with your own hopelessness. And then you head to your Zumba or Pilates class to sweat away your anxieties and have a shot of wheatgrass to give yourself a boost. You focus on your good choices to stave off any bad feelings lurking below the surface.
But there’s a way to truly lighten your soul, and that is to take all that passion that drives your healthy, humane and sustainable choices and put it not only toward your daily decision-making but also toward your active participation in affecting change.
Mahatma Gandhi was once asked by a reporter, “What is your message?” Gandhi had a big message, of course. He was trying to free his country from British rule using only nonviolent methods, and he was rarely averse to sharing his beliefs with others. But on this particular day, he responded to the reporter by jotting down on a piece of paper, “My life is my message.”
When I first read this, I was stunned by the universal truth of Gandhi’s statement. If Gandhi’s life is his message, I surmised, then my life is my message. Each one of our lives is our message, whether we like it or not. The real question then becomes, “Am I modeling the message I most want to model?” “My life is my message” became a mantra for me, and I sought to make sure that the choices I was making modeled the message I wanted to spread. Readers of this blog know all about this because you do it every day. And that’s fantastic.
But, and this is the hard (gelatin-free) pill to swallow: in today’s world with the huge problems we face, from global warming to escalating worldwide slavery to the horrifying rates of species extinction to unimaginable institutionalized animal cruelty, etc., modeling one’s message isn’t enough. We must also work for change.
There are myriad systems that need transformation: food production, electronics production, energy, schooling, conflict resolution (can’t we come up with an alternative to war?!), architecture, suburban sprawl, transportation, and so on. Even if our individual daily choices do have a positive impact, that isn’t enough to fully transform unsustainable, destructive, and inhumane systems into ones that are restorative, healthy, and just.
But here’s the great news: when we not only harness our energies toward making healthy daily choices, but also uncover our most creative and viable solutions to solve systemic problems, we discover that we have never felt more alive, joyful, and purposeful.
So, what issues do you care about most? What skills and talents do you have? What great ideas do you carry around inside of you that, if enacted, could actually help change an unhealthy system and create a wonderful new avenue for peace? Here are some ideas others have enacted:
Dara O’Rourke got to thinking as he rubbed sunscreen on his 5-year-old daughter that he should look into what’s in it. When he found out that he was smearing toxins on his daughter, he decided that more people needed to know what he knew. With a team of scientists and researchers he launched www.goodguide.com
, creating a business that now allows each of us to learn all sorts of important information about our products. His work enables us to make more conscious choices aligned with our beliefs.
When Katie Redford was in law school, she visited Burma and discovered the horrifying human rights violations perpetrated on the Burmese by a military dictatorship in cahoots with a U.S. oil company. She then wrote a paper invoking an obscure law, the Alien Tort Claims Act, arguing that U.S. citizens have the right to sue American companies for their human rights violations abroad. It took nine years and a group of fellow lawyers to win her case, which set a precedent and thereby changed a system.
Mohammad Yunus was an economics professor in Bangladesh during his country’s terrible famine in the 1970s. He wondered what all his education was for if he couldn’t help his own people, so he went into the village and asked 42 people what they needed. Their answer? A combined $27 to bring rice to market. This launched the microcredit movement, which has since lifted millions of people out of poverty. Yunus created a new banking system so that people with no collateral at all could borrow small amounts of money. He has since won the Nobel Peace Prize. (Notice he didn’t win the Nobel Prize for Economics, but rather for Peace, because lifting people out of poverty creates peace.)
Joan Baez once said, “Action is the antidote to despair.” If ever those dark nights of the soul threaten your peace of mind, remember that your efforts to harness your imagination and creativity on behalf of meaningful, systemic change will not only make a powerful, positive difference in the world but will also bring you incredible satisfaction and sense of accomplishment.
What a wonderful combination: model your message and work for change, two sides of the same coin, one that will fund a peaceful, healthy world for all. This was first posted on Kris Carr's blog "" Crazy Sexy Life."" Zoe Weil is the president of the Institute for Humane Education where the world becomes what you teach. She is the author of “Most Good, Least Harm: A Simple Principle for a Better World and Meaningful Life,” “Above All, Be Kind: Raising a Humane Child in Challenging Times,” and “The Power and Promise of Humane Education.” Visit her blog.