A Delicate Activism
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
The Second Coming
William Butler Yeats
It is not difficult to feel deep despair as we gaze upon the world we currently inhabit. Failure is all around us – nationally and globally. Institutions, governments, international bodies are somehow failing to meet the growing world crisis at social, political, economic and environmental levels. It’s as if the unprecedented unravelling of our humanity is neither seen nor acknowledged in its enormity. Monstrous impositions of dehumanising and devivifying policies and practices rage throughout the world, and what we witness is extraordinary pictures of human suffering and growing uncertainty, where Yeats’ words take on a particular power and energy; more pertinent to these times than he ever might have imagined!
To offer examples of this massive disintegration risks the irony of numbing and trivialising the pain of this time; when we can see the problems ‘out there’, we are protected from feeling the reality ‘inside here’. It is – perhaps – our inability to feel inside what is happening outside: the suffering of the earth and all its peoples; the suffering of the earth and all its inhabitants. An eerie coldness is descending, and beneath the clutter of (self)-destruction there is a silence which is foreboding. We are in serious trouble.
Which is not to say that no one sees, and that no one is acting. There are many movements, many voices, many actors, much expression of deep concern. Yet the hegemonic forces – of increasing coldness, of immediatism, of excessive busy-ness, of a distancing corporatisation and professionalisation, of a technological dominance – hold many of our efforts at bay; serve to fragment them, to subtly disempower them so that they become part of the problem and no longer a still and deep call for clarity of insight and understanding.
Without this, we risk contributing towards the increasing coldness, alienation and violence, inadvertently amplifying the problems we set out to address. For our efforts to counter these militant forces need to come out of a place where we can see, feel, and understand differently. Acting and responding to the situation needs to come out of a noticing – that the seeming disparateness of these world events are seamlessly interconnected. If we can find a way to live intensely (and intensively) with the question: ‘what’s really going on here?’, we might begin to see the patterns, the forms, the movements and processes that are holding us captive in our own contribution towards increasing dysfunctionality. Can we constantly pause to consider, enlarge the picture, and expand our understanding? Can we find a way back to ourselves and build an understanding out of that sense of connectedness?
Perhaps an activist’s path is the path of developing the faculties needed to see, to experience, to understand the living, interconnected nature of all things (including social institutions), and ourselves as an inextricable part of this world order. Perhaps, if we can begin to experience ourselves as participant in this world order in everything we do, our actions and practices can begin to shape the world differently.
So at this time of world ‘turning and turning’: where solutions turn into problems, right turns into wrong and victims into perpetrators, where the world seems to be turning in on itself, is it possible for us to find the turning within ourselves – the turning that turns into real seeing, into a seeing that can transform coldness into warmth, fragmentation into wholeness, and indifference into love?
Perhaps the delicate activism we seek is simply this: finding the openness to rediscover ourselves as part of a complex and interconnected world; realising, therefore, that everything we do matters, and that the interest and warmth that we radiate and breathe into the world is mighty. That it is we who have to change: warming the coldness, countering the fragmentation through understanding and experiencing the interconnections, and waking up to each moment as a moment to act with integrity and intentionality towards wholeness and aliveness.
A SLEEP OF PRISONERS
The human heart can go the lengths of God...
Dark and cold we may be, but this
Is no winter now. The frozen misery
Of centuries breaks, cracks, begins to move;
The thunder is the thunder of the floes,
The thaw, the flood, the upstart Spring.
Thank God our time is now when wrong
Comes up to face us everywhere,
Never to leave us till we take
The longest stride of soul men ever took.
Affairs are now soul size.
The enterprise is exploration into God.
Where are you making for?
So many thousand years to wake...
But will you wake, for pity's sake?