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Discoveries From A Retired Activist

Discoveries from a Retired Activist

I once believed in the potential for a collective shift in consciousness, a shift that would propel us as a species from our centuries-old belief in patriarchal superiority to a remembrance of our deeper, more life-affirming nature of non-separation. I inherently knew that the mindless brutality perpetrated in every aspect of our dominant civilization was an inauthentic expression of human potential that was never allowed to be. Although I didn’t have the language for this awareness early on, the depth of this knowing has been with me since childhood.

For most of my life, I didn’t understand the “why” behind the conditioning that motivated billions of humans to intentionally forget their connection to the web of Life. To this day, I’ve failed to understand the persistent global teachings of human superiority. Because I understood our potential as a species, I truly believed we could change—that we could remember. I couldn’t bear it to be otherwise.

Although I was not raised in a religious or spiritual household, I’ve always related more to the non-separate nature of what I am as a spiritual being in a physical world than I ever did to the mortal human aspect. I innately knew that I was so much more than what I was being taught to become. I questioned everything and refused to be silenced when things didn’t feel right. I learned how to fight for what I intuitively knew was true. For some unknown reason, I could see through the cruel, unquestioned lies of our world. As a result, I’ve never been able to relate to the unnatural civilization of brutality into which I was born.

I was a natural activist, a radical critical thinker with no fear of calling out the lies. I was outspoken and angry. Very angry. I dedicated much of my life to animal rights and environmental activism, impassioned to awaken everyone—anyone—to see beyond the dark, ugly veil. I was desperate for the global madness to end.

My activism was often, if not always motivated by grief. While many people fear the anger that accompanies grief, this did not apply to me. In grief, I could access the fury required to channel my energies toward something more powerful than the sheer helplessness I felt living in such a mindless, brutal world. When I look back on my lifetime of activism from a purely authentic perspective, however, I can see how it was less about inspiring a more awakened world “out there” than it was about saving myself from the powerlessness I felt in a world intent on ruin.

Over the years I discovered that grief is often an outcome of powerlessness. Powerlessness to prevent suffering. Powerlessness to prevent brutality. Powerlessness to prevent misery and death. Powerlessness to change a cruel, violent world. In hindsight, my activism was less about changing the world than it was about claiming more of my Self and living accordingly. The truth is, I’m powerless to change anyone else, let alone an overpowering collective mindset. The power I do have is in changing myself. It took me decades to figure this out.

When I look back on my activist days, especially in the company of so many other similarly motivated activists, I wonder, at what point was grief no longer an evolving process, but instead, a comfortable state I had chosen to remain trapped in? A state that comforted me with its familiarity and motivated me to keep on fighting a battle that was never meant to be won.

There is a pull for many people—particularly activists—to live in the depth of their despair and angst. It’s almost as if its the only way they can feel intensely. While they know the intensity of grief and anger, they often don’t know what it is to feel freedom intensely, or joy intensely. There is no peace in this.

When we weave all the threads in the inventory of collapse together (ecosystem collapse, biosphere collapse, mass extinction, mass animal slaughter, breakdown of the cryosphere, ocean warming, plastic pollution, ceaseless wars, gun violence, misogyny, patriarchy, artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, ubiquitous pesticide use, rapacious development, geoengineering, rampant overpopulation, compulsive consumption, indifferent collective consciousness, and so on), it is impossible for anyone to deal with it all. We have to be different instead of making any of these things different. We cannot solve today’s problems with who we’ve always been. We have to become radically different people to deal with what we are now facing. It’s not enough to be who we’ve always been while trying to stop the unstoppable.

Let’s face it, nobody can stop the collapse of the web of life. Nobody can stop the technosphere from forever altering the face of the planet. Nobody can stop the death of the oceans, melting glaciers, accelerated warming, raging wildfires, incessant floods, extreme heatwaves, droughts, tornadoes, crop failures, water shortages, climate-provoked migrations (I know this one personally), or the breakdown of the Arctic. Nobody can stop the violent slaughter of 150 million land animals for “food” around the world every single day. Nobody can stop the trillions of fish murdered by humans every year. Nobody can change the minds of almost 8 billion human beings hell-bent on breeding themselves into oblivion. Nobody can change the insatiable consumptive patterns of a species with little capacity to care. The planet is in a state of accelerating decay because of us.

Because of the civilization into which we were born, we are all to blame for the state of the world. Nobody can change this. I can change how I choose to respond to this, however. I can change how I choose to live in the face of it all. I can choose to be so much more than I’ve ever known. But this can only happen with the willingness to accept that there is no way out of our terminal predicament. This can only happen with a deep connection to my Self. If we don’t have a relationship with our inner Self, we will always be a victim to the finite nature of the physical world believing it to be all there is. This can only lead to denial, delusion, helplessness, grief, and despair.

I cannot fully claim my powerlessness until I fully trust my Self and the intelligent living organism that Earth is. In accepting this, I can claim my powerlessness and allow the course that we, as a species have charted, to unfold. From there I can make meaningful choices that ensure the perpetuation of Life in my own world. For me, Life does not end when the physical body dies. In fact, I believe that’s when it actually begins.

Feeling the impermanence of everything is an invitation to experience Life more fully. If there was ever a time that invited the “release of attachment to outcome”, we are now there. Awareness of the finite amount of time we have on Earth gives more power to the choices we make in our lives and in the world. It also inspires a beautiful desire to savor every moment of Life.

Speaking from decades of personal experience, I know the effects of activism to change the world are minimal at best. As a strategy for transformation, activism has been rather ineffective for creating lasting change “out there”. Activism instead is about bringing to life something within that awakens a deeper connection to a resonant, life-affirming cause. This inner awakening then creates shifts in one’s behavior that are more aligned with their internal moral compass. The illusion is that this change must occur “out there” on a much bigger scale through effort, resistance and fighting to expand its impact. This is where we tend to lose ourselves.

We are well trained to either be victims or resisters of the system. Neither one is helpful, however. Both are trapped within the confines of the box that created the problems in the first place. Our power lies not in blaming, fighting, marching, petitioning, resisting, or in being a victim to the plethora of problems on this planet; it’s in the realization that whenever and wherever the problems began, and whomever is to blame is irrelevant. The madness of the world can only stop when consciousness evolves beyond it. But to rail against it, whine about it or beat it up only ends up perpetuating the insanity, and the invisible process that allows it to be, persists. If only I’d known this all those years ago.

As the saying goes, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” As well intended as my externally motivated actions were, I realize that all the effort, resistance and fighting through my activism was only prolonging the inevitable while also increasing my stress, despair and outrage.

When we finally decide to choose a more internally connected, authentic way, the perpetuation of the problem(s) stops with each individual. It matters not when, where and with whom the problems began. It just stops. From there, we can choose differently and create our lives accordingly. Despise animal cruelty and planetary degradation? Choose a conscious vegan lifestyle. The ripple effect from this single choice is limitless—for animals, the planet, your physical health, and your Soul. Despise consumer culture? Purchase your minimal needs at thrift stores, yard sales, or Craigslist. Despise the fossil fuel economy? Grow your own food, support farmers markets, ride your bike, run, or walk. Despise living on a filthy, overcrowded, intolerant planet? Don’t procreate. While it certainly seems like humans have little purpose on the planet other than a mindless determination to exist at all cost, we are expendable. Less humans means less misery all around. I could go on, but you get my point. Ultimately it comes down to Gandhi’s great words, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” And I feel I must add, “…and you will see that change in your own world.” After all, that really is all we have.

The brutality of this civilization is boundless. We do have our own moral compass to direct the choices we make in our Self-expression, however. The sheer enormity of mindless habituation on the planet ensures that one person’s actions will not change the world, but it will change our own world. Every one of our choices matters, even in the face of terminal biosphere collapse. It’s not about fixing or saving anything; it’s about evolving our own individual consciousness. The great paradox is that the more we claim of our Selves and live it out loud, the greater our impact “out there”. No placards. No marching. No effort. No resistance. No fighting. No struggle.

Once I finally allowed myself to realize the sheer magnitude of what I was up against with my activism, I could see that externally motivated behavioral change would never be enough. Only a massive shift in collective consciousness could have ever been our salvation. This is not new information. For thousands of years there have been many before me who have said similar things. They too have attempted to inspire a shift in consciousness on a grand scale to no avail. As a global collective, we have definitively proven that our resistance to meaningful change is far greater than the need for thriving longevity as a species. So be it. To save myself from the unremitting grief and despair that accompanies attachment to an outcome that will never be, I’ve let go.

Once I dropped from my shoulders the self-imposed burden of having to “save the world”, I could breathe a sigh of relief and ask myself, “What can I still do?” For me it comes down to the work I continue to do on myself to reconnect with the non-separate aspect of what I have been all along. It’s all about the personal evolution required to reunite myself with the interconnected Self—the Soul—that knows no superiority and separation from any living being. It is a reconnection to the “god-self” still found in the natural world, trees, plants, animals, birds, fish, reptiles, and so on. Unless domesticated and oppressed by man, they never lost their way. Even then, they have a much easier time finding their way back to remembrance. What wonderful mentors to model.

By letting go of my activism and my “fight” to change the world, I used to believe it meant I no longer cared. But what I’ve come to realize is that I actually care more because I trust in the natural—and far superior—intelligence of Earth. Without the persistent haze of grief clouding my inner vision, I experience the natural world with more clarity. I feel much more connected as a result.

To quote my wise friend Louise LeBrun, “It is so clear to me that potential lies in the pause… the willingness to consider that how we think it is may not be so. Perhaps most difficult to free ourselves from is a long and deep commitment to our most righteous cause; those long held as evidence of our need to find within the courage and the determination to dare… to rise up against…. and to evoke, from self and other, a reason to BE. In the dawning light of a new perspective, we come to recognize and deeply love the small yet magnificent Being we are intended to be. In that, the rest can unfold differently and evocation surrenders to evolution.” Such beautiful, potent words.

I’m no longer here to save a world I’ve never believed in. I’m here to save myself from the world and reunite myself with the web of Life. Personally, I believe the planet needs this more than anything else. In fact, this is the Revolution I have craved all along. Indeed, the time really has arrived.

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