Upstream

Flow: Nikon D3s

Flow: Nikon D3s

“Any circumstance hitting a limit will begin to change. Change will in turn lead to an unimpeded state, and then lead to continuity.”

I-Ching (Book of Changes)

While strongly I admire the conviction of activists, marchers, protestors, rebels and even (some of) the politicians, who throw themselves into the conflicts we face, I won’t be gluing myself to the Houses of Parliament anytime soon. And though I don’t really understand the views of those who seem to so vehemently disagree with my perspectives, I try to remain curious about how the flows of our meaning-making have diverged and the different decisions we make as a consequence.

But when I’m challenged to offer a view on what we should be doing in the face of climate change, political strife or ecological collapse, my best offer is often, “Well, I wouldn’t start from here…”

The inadequacy of my response leaves me to reflect on how change happens and how I could intervene in ways that bring the best of my capabilities to bear.

These days, like many of us, I feel battle-weary. Perhaps I am hitting my own limit.

Which is a difficult conclusion when my average workday efforts are focused on helping folk make change for the better.

Yet the slow-healing scars I carry tell me to avoid the turbulent white water of direct action or attempts to swim against the exhausting currents of conflict. So, what might my activism look like?

I need to work upstream.

I’m realising that I can have most impact and influence when I am helping thoughts form, working with ideas as they take shape and, rather than battering myself against the rocks of hard action, I can encourage attentive reflection as small rivulets of creativity begin to flow.

I think we can each find streams of artful activism that prompt reflection and transition towards a different world.

Activism that bubbles through our thinking and seeps through our skin.

And if we can encourage small adjustments in our thinking upstream then maybe we will find more peaceful continuity and reconciliation in our actions downstream.

Notes:

David Bohm speaks of the nature of thinking and thought in ‘On Dialogue’; a great primer to the work of an incredible mind.

I love the legend of the Shambala Warriors (who I first read about in Joanna Macy’s Widening Circles). The first weapon of the Shambala Warrior is compassion - to help us deal with the pain of the world. The second weapon is insight - to help us see our interconnectedness and mutual belonging.

And, shifting gear, I just loved Fat Boy Slim’s mash up of ‘Right Hear, Right Now’ with Greta Thunberg’s speech to work leaders: “We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not.”

Finally, don’t forget Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s ‘Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life’ which is one of the definitive books for finding the joy of total engagement.

Steve MarshallComment