Spring is upon us! The days are longer; the snow is melting; the sun is shining; the temperature’s rising; and it looks like the worst of the winter weather has finally broken. As the sun and the warmth return to the land, I find my energy returning. My heart is filled with a new sense of hope, and my goals and visions and plans are returning to the forefront of my attention with a renewed sense of urgency.
Some of this rising inspiration is of a deeply personal nature. With spring in the air, my two most powerful personal drives right now are to run wild through the woods and to find a woman to join me in my search for a life filled with love and passion. But this ecstatic experience of life’s inherent beauty is also driving me forward in my visions for social, economic, and political action.
After all — if the people and the land have enough beauty and inherent worth to inspire me to poetic spiritual ecstasy, is it any wonder that they also inspire me to struggle passionately in their defense and service?
There are many ugly, terrible, horrific, almost unspeakable things in this world. But there are also many things of beauty, of wonder, of value, and of hope. At times, I let myself be stunned into despair or inaction by the former. But now, with the energy of the sun rising above me and the energy of the land rising beneath me, I feel like I’m riding on a tidal wave of passion and power, inspired by my sense of wonder to do whatever it takes to defend that which I hold dear.
Therefore, as Spring Equinox approaches, I feel inspired to issue a Call to Action.
Do you appreciate the beauty of the natural world? When you look into the eyes of your fellow human beings, do you see the potential, buried though it may be, for great freedom, great vision, great community, great harmony, great beauty? When you look out into your community, do you see the potential for people to open their minds and their hearts to the possibilities of a life of true freedom, true democracy, true harmony with each other and the land?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then I call on you to join me in taking strategic non-violent direct action in the service of creating a better life for yourself, your community, and your world. In particular, I call on you to join me in seeking out what Gandhi and others have called the Constructive Program — the effort to further the goals of nonviolence, social justice, ecological integrity, etc. by creating communities and societies that actively embody and promote these principles.
I know that this may sound like a lot of work. And really, to be perfectly honest, some of it may involve the most difficult personal and social challenges that you’ll ever experience. But think of the sense of joy, the sense of wonder, the sense of excitement, the sense of personal growth and fulfillment you’ll experience when you’re finally living your life for something more than “just getting by”! Think of the tragedies that will befall us all if we take no action on issues such as war, oppression, climate change, and dependence on fossil fuels! Think of the rewards that will be ours if we really do manage to create dramatic changes in our lives, our communities, and our world!
If you don’t feel that there’s any hope left, or if you don’t feel that there’s anything wrong with the society that you live in, then you are welcome to continue with your usual routine. But if you feel that something’s gone terribly wrong with our social/economical/political/ecological relationships, and you feel that the problems can indeed be solved, and you feel that this world is indeed a place worth fighting for, then I urge you to join me in taking strategic non-violent direct action in pursuit of a more free, more democratic, more ecological, more peaceful, more liberated world.
I know I’m not alone in what I see and what I feel. I know that there are plenty of other people right now looking for some sort of positive change. And what I’m hoping for — what I’m calling for, and struggling for — is nothing less than a Surge of citizen action in the service of this change for the better.
If we don’t act now, the moment will be lost, and the old patterns of apathy, conformity, consumerism, and complicity will reassert themselves. But if we as citizens organize in the service of our shared social, economic, political, and ecological values, then we all have a shot at creating lasting change for the better. Therefore, I’m calling on everyone, myself included, to take part in a Surge of renewed inspiration and action while the light is at its brightest this year: from the Spring Equinox (March 19-20) to the Fall Equinox (September 22), a time when days are longer than nights and most people’s energy is at its peak.
So, where do we start?
I talk a lot about high-falutin’ ideals and visions and principles. And that’s all well and good when we’re looking for inspiration and direction. But when it comes time for action, we must start where we’re at — in this moment, in our current life circumstances, in our communities as they exist today, in the world that we have inherited from our parents and their parents. So, rather than try to outline my ideals of what a perfect society might look like, I’m going to mention a few specific projects or groups that I consider to have tremendous potential for creating positive change.
Your own way to create change for the better will be unique to you and will depend on your personal circumstances, beliefs, desires, dreams, skills, and so on. But the following list will show you where I’ve been looking to for inspiration and action, and where you may want to look for a starting point in your search for ways to make a difference. Even if you only devote an hour or two a week to one of these efforts, you will be a part of the Surge — and together, we can create a better world.
Free Soil. This is the latest incarnation of a project that I’ve wanted to jump start for several years now. I’ve talked it over with numerous people, but currently there is no set working group. The basic premise is to create an “ecovillage” or “intentional community” here in Southern Illinois. This community will contain a small number of long-term members (about 4 to 15) who live and/or work together on a regular basis; a significant number of people (10 to 20) who play a fairly active role in leading workshops, doing community service projects, etc; and a large number of people (20 or more) who stay in touch with each other to a degree and occasionally show up for events such as potlucks, workshops, games, parties, movie showings, field trips, etc. The goal of this project would be to gather social and economic resources together into a community of like-minded individuals where people could support each other in finding the inspiration, information, skills, and resources they need to create change in their lives and their community.
Project X. I’m working with two other people on a project that will combine computer technology with social activism in order to create a specific type of online resource that will be fun, dynamic, interactive, social, creative, and supportive of various social and ecological causes. This is currently a private project, though, until we get a bit further along with the details, at which point we’ll be looking for many people to participate. If you’d like to know more, let me know, and I’ll talk to my partners about it and see what I can do… 🙂 In the meantime, know that if I’m spending time on the computer rather than participating in an event, this may (or may not) be the reason why.
Student Environmental Center. SEC here at SIUC is doing some very important and exciting work right now. Among other things, they’re struggling to implement an ecological sustainability project called Eco-Dawgs on the SIUC campus. They’re also working on other issues such as addressing global climate change, exposing the myths of “clean coal,” and expanding the Saluki Cycles program. Perhaps most importantly of all, they are learning (and teaching) the basics principles and practices of strategic action that will ensure that their efforts are as effective as possible. This is a good group to work with right now, especially if you’re an SIUC student.
Gaia House. University Christian Ministries (UCM), the group that runs the Interfaith Center, has come up with the most innovative, promising, and inspiring eco-social project that I have ever seen in Southern Illinois. They are planning on creating “an environmentally sustainable living-learning community that is intentional, spiritually based, wholistically health oriented, globally multicultural, and fully supportive of academic and personal development.” Contact them to find out how you can get involved.
Southern Sustainability is a group that works on sustainability issues in Carbondale and Southern Illinois. Among other things, they are the hosts of the regional Heartland Bioneers conference. I am a member of their board, and I encourage anyone in Southern Illinois with an interest in ecological issues to check them out and see how they may be inspired to get involved.
Beyond the Heartland. If you don’t live in Southern Illinois, you may be wondering what places in your region are hubs of social and ecological activism. Well, to be honest, I really don’t know much of the political landscape beyond Southern Illinois. But luckily, there are plenty of ways that a resourceful person such as yourself can find these groups and projects. For example, try doing an internet search for any of the following terms that catch your eye, adding the name of your city, state, or region if you’d like to narrow it down a bit: permaculture, bioneers, nonviolence, renewable energy, independent media, direct democracy, feminism, reproductive justice, GLBT, co-op, intentional community, ecovillage, forest defense, culture jamming, cohousing.
There’s a lot of apathy, suffering, and oppression in this world that will fill us with doubt, despair, and defeatism if we let it get to us. But remember — action is the antidote to despair. And whether you are the wealthiest person in the world with infinite free time or an exhausted poor person on the verge of collapse, there is always some action you can take, big or small, that will improve your lot in life and help others to do the same.
So, I encourage you — nay, urge you — to do what I did today. Go outside, take in the warmth and the light for a few moments, talk to someone who you love and respect, and use these positive outward experiences to rekindle and reawaken the inner spark that fills you with renewed inspiration and vision. No matter how good or bad you think you have it, once you reconnect with this inner spark, you will slowly but surely feel a shift in your life and find yourself awakening to the dawning of a new day.