Friday, August 15, 2008

Everyday Influence

Sometimes the doomsday prognostications of peak oil and climate change and the end of civilization as we know it make me crazy, not because I don’t believe them, but because I do, and I don’t know how to act in light of so many seemingly intractable problems.

So I’m grateful to Chris Corrigan at Parking Lot for posting a thoughtful what-to-do list for those of us who are sometimes unsure of our relevance – let alone our influence – in the world beyond our doorstep. And for reminding me that how I respond to everyday things is at least as important as any other single influence I might have.

Do I freak out when the power goes out (to use Chris's example)? I don’t. I'm actually good in a crisis, and I handle most inconveniences pretty well. But when the grass keeps growing and I have to mow yet again, when the food gets eaten and I have to grocery shop and cook once more, when the house won’t stay clean and the laundry won’t stay done, I can get a little testy. Yes, I can. And getting testy does me no good and doesn’t get the mowing, the cleaning, or the laundry any closer to done. Plus it makes those around me testy, and that’s no fun.

So I guess there are a few things I need to work on.

I’m grateful, too, for the link in Chris’s post to an essay by George Monbiot that just about sums up the arc of my entire life as a working girl: do what you love, but don’t expect the money – or the power, or the prestige – to follow. Because it probably won’t. And you have to be okay with that.

If your dreams are leading you down an unconventional path, by all means pursue them. They are leading you toward what makes you come alive, and as Howard Thurman famously said, the world needs people who have come alive. Ignore the advice of those who try to steer you along a more acceptable path. Most of all, beware the velvet handcuffs of the corporate job. Never forget that no matter how loyal you may be to a corporation, a corporation can never be loyal to you in return. It exists to serve its shareholders, and if you work for it, so do you.

So follow your heart. Just be prepared to live frugally. Our society desperately needs radicals and activists and artists and dreamers – it always has – but it doesn’t reward them, financially or otherwise – and it never did. Those of us who are devoted to doing what makes us come alive have to find our rewards elsewhere. We have to recognize our “nested spheres of influence and connection,” to use Corrigan’s lovely phrase, and serve those connections, and draw our strength, and our rewards, from them.

There is great and good work to be done. Yours, mine, and ours. I'll do what's in front of me. And whatever it may be -- writing this essay, folding the clothes -- I have to trust that it will be enough, at least for today.

Credit: Dragonstar in a t-shirt from our old coffeehouse.


  1. A fine post. Philosophy and action are not mutually exclusive! 'Think globally, act locally', as the activist Satish Kumar says sums it up well enough.

  2. Thank you, Dick, and thanks for introducing me to Satish Kumar, who I had not heard of but am now curious about!


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