Getting lost in the details

I have a strong need to do some sort of active work related to peace, something more than write this blog, but I have not yet figured out the exact form I want such work to take. The question I would like to answer is “what sort of work would make me feel like I am directly doing something for peace?” However, when I contemplate a particular activity I could do, I immediately fear that I will not feel completely satisfied by it, that once I start doing it I will find that the everyday details overshadow any sense of helping the greater good or that it won’t feel like enough because it is only affecting a small set of people. I know these fears stem in part from my strongly held ideals; I addressed this same issue in my post on “How to live as an idealist.” The question of what work to do is difficult to answer because any concrete work is not going to completely fulfill my ideals. I am only able to imagine being fully satisfied by peace work when I think about such work in the abstract.

However, I do think it is possible to participate in peace-related activities that I find meaning in, and I do not expect to answer the question of what those activities are by sitting around at home browsing non-profit websites and writing blog posts. It is important that I do take action, even though the actions feel like they fall short of my ideals, because this is the only way I can come closer to an answer. By trying a variety of activities, I will hopefully discover what sort of work feels most meaningful to me and best utilizes my skills and abilities. This is why I started volunteering in July at a food bank, and am now pursuing volunteer work in a restorative justice program. Although neither of these programs perfectly meet my ideals, my participation in them gives me new experiences and perspectives and sheds different lights on the question of what work I want to do related to peace.

As I spend time studying specific types of work I may do, I do not want to forget the larger reasons of why I am pursuing such ideas to begin with. Although thinking about my ideals can cause me to feel dissatisfied with any concrete work, I feel that remembering them is also central in helping me discover the most satisfying work possible. I need to re-center myself occasionally on my vision of a world at peace and the skills and characteristics I bring to this vision: my strong compassion, the fact that I am not desensitized to violence, my ability to listen and communicate well, and my ability to be in touch with my feelings. As I contemplate doing particular peace-related work, I do not want to lose sight of my vision for the world or of the combination of skills and experiences that is uniquely mine to contribute.

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3 Responses to Getting lost in the details

  1. Kit says:

    I came across your blogs through a somewhat circuitous route, but suffice to say I’ve just started reading.This post speaks to me particularly; I’ve often felt the need to take action, both on more general social justice issues, and peace issues specifically, but have been paralyzed by the need to make sure that whatever I do is maximally effective — and then I end up not doing anything. It’s a rut, and I hope to get out of it.Thanks.

  2. Sarah says:

    Hello kit, and welcome. Thanks for sharing; it is somewhat reassuring to hear that I am not the only person who experiences this paralyzing effect. I agree, it is a rut, one that is not at all easy to get out of. I’m trying my best to do so!

  3. Nick says:

    This post resonated with me as well. In volunteering for the Obama presidential campaign over the past couple months, I found that, as I had feared, the actual work did tend to feel somewhat boring and meaningless. Was it really worth it to talk to five or ten people on the phone and record that they intended to vote for Obama? How was that helping the greater causes I actually believe in, of ending the war in Iraq, providing universal health care, and so on? But I came to accept that I was part of a much larger effort, and that every little bit helps. While it wasn’t particularly inspiring work, the results of the election on Tuesday made every minute feel worthwhile in retrospect.But I still have the larger problem of having grand ideals and causes but no practical way to address them that feels meaningful and productive.

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