Expanding Awareness for a Change of Heart
There are many things about the world which apparently need to be changed - to protect the vulnerable from abuse, to prevent gross injustice, to provide for better lives.
It seems reasonable that sometimes force is required to make needed change. Yet forced change creates counter-forces which bubble and boil beneath the surface until they burst out again in violence.
Although the use of anger, aggression or force to bring social change may seem justified, are the underlying causes ever addressed? Or does the use of force to plug one hole in the dam just open another?
"The old saw is that 'violence doesn't solve anything.' Maybe not, but it can sure transform existing problems into different ones," Doc Snow says.
Is that what we, the human race, want - just to transform existing problems into different ones?
Or would most of us go to the root of issues and at least explore how peaceful, lasting changes can be accomplished?
Be the Change You Wish to See in the World
The saying, “be the change you wish to see in the world” is attributed to Gandhi but seems to have been written by a marketing person to fit onto a bumper sticker. The closest documented quote from Gandhi is “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”
As the writer of a NY Times commentary pointed out, there is no suggestion in Gandhi's words that personal transformation is enough to change the world. Rather, it goes hand-in-hand with social transformation. Either one without the other is empty and futile.
Social transformation without personal transformation will always be trading one problem for another. However, the evidence of personal transformation is in social transformation. That is, the "ordinary" actions of a transformed individual will expand social awareness in the natural course of events.
Falser Words Were Never Spoken by Brian Morton
Aesthetic Creativity and Noble Virtues
Sure, there are things I would change in human behavior to make a more nurturing environment for aesthetic creativity and noble virtues.
Seeing the suffering in the world around me, I wonder why there has not been more spiritual evolution in the 50,000 or more years of humanity's walk on the earth. The light of the world is constantly present, yet veiled by the untransformed human ego.
No one can make another person grow in strength and maturity to go through the challenges of an unripened ego. It can only come from within each individual.
This hub was originally sparked by a question on Hubpages about what changes one would make if their words had 'absolute sway.'
To 'make another person' change would not respect that everyone has their own path and timing. I would not overrule the beliefs and choices of another even if I had the power -- except in situations where guided by intuition to do so, in the moment.
I have learned to not attempt to sway others, rather to go through my own processes of growing in spiritual maturity and writing from the heart. That also happens to be the best I can do 'for the world.'
No More War
One day a few years ago, as Kati and I walked through the town of Ojai, California, we saw war protesters dressed in black and holding signs stating "No More War!"
I engaged a demonstrator in conversation. She was full of bitter anger towards her world and the nation.
I said to her, "Have you considered that your anger feeds the same energy that you protest against?"
She put down her sign, looked me in the eyes and said, "Thank you."
She is one person who grew into greater awareness and made a shift in herself to not use bitterness and anger to make a stand against what feels wrong to her.
When I look back over my life, there are three events which stand out as examples of how one person following his heart and passions can make changes for the better without even trying. Each time it happened through writing that brought greater awareness. They were shifts of awareness in local settings, but the same principle of expanding awareness applies to a larger scale. In those early years, though, I had not yet learned to shift my own energy from protest and feeling important to wisdom and understanding. I will tell one of the stories here.
A Story of Expanding Awareness
As a teenager, I was generally a loner. After my older brother died in a car accident, I became more withdrawn in my own world. Dad let go of his resistance to my having a dog, and she became my closest friend and constant companion.
I often "skipped school" and spent the day with Kiche, walking in an area of gravel pits fed by a creek of clear mountain water. It was private land, corporately owned and leased by farmers, and we were trespassing (I later obtained permission.) We watched muskrats swimming across the ponds, turtles sunning themselves on the warm rocks and caught glimpses of red foxes and bull snakes. Red-tailed hawks hunted for field mice and the trills of songbirds played like background music of an unfolding drama. The stately forms of great blue herons glided across the sky and landed in the shallows to feed on the fish and frogs.
Kiche may not have noticed that I mused towards the peaks of the Rockies in the distance and felt nourished by the harmony of nature. We camped overnight at times, lying together on a bedroll under the brilliant starry sky.
It seemed that the farmers, who made their living from the resources of nature, were not aware of nature as a living being. They dumped their garbage into one of the ponds, leaving it in piles along the banks. Somehow I avoided seeing the farmers, and they me, over the years as I continued to walk amongst the ponds through my middle and high school years. Sometimes Kiche and I met sheep grazing, but there were no other signs of humans than the barbed wire fences and piles of trash.
One springtime, a pair of Canada geese nested on an island in one of the ponds. Seeing the nesting geese and the trash heap polluting their pond, I was moved to write about the gravel pits and submit the story to the city newspaper, the Fort Collins Coloradoan.
It was more than forty years ago, but the part I remember most clearly is pulling the Sunday paper from the stand and seeing my story with a photo of the nesting geese, on the front page.
A few weeks later, I was invited to attend a meeting on the campus of Colorado State University. The men asked me what I felt should be done about the gravel pits. With passion, I shared a vision for protecting the wildlife and making the area accessible to the public.
I did not hear about the gravel pits again until....
Years later, on a visit to my hometown, I stopped by the ponds east of town. All around the old gravel pits there are now office buildings. To my pleasure, though, a bicycle and pedestrian path circles them. The entire area of hilly fields and cattail ponds was purchased by the city and has been set aside as a nature preserve.
The exact date of the article publication is foggy in my memory. A friend in Fort Collins has been diligently searching through the microfilm archives of the city museum whenever she has free time. When the article is found, a scanned image will become part of this hub.
Foot-footnote: Yvonne found the article and it is posted above. I had forgotten some of the details of the Coloradoan article, such that I researched the ownership of the land, met with owners, and had encounters with farmers. It was a delight to browse the article again after 42 years.
Another example of social change that was sparked by the written word comes from a story heard when Kati and I were houseparents for individuals with developmental disabilities. In a time of ignorance, when this population was removed from sight in America and housed in institutions, a visiting European outraged by the inhumane living conditions wrote in a letter to the editor, "We give better care to our animals than the Americans give to their own people."
According to what we were told, this set in motion major changes and resulted in bringing these individuals out of institutions and into residential communities across the country. Some of our experiences as houseparents are written in Autism Spectrum Disorder: Allow the Unexpected to Happen.
A hub on how the written word sparked an unparalleled wilderness adventure and life-shaping events: Return to the River of No Return.