Dreamer of dreams

March 6, 2011

I continue to struggle with something I have written about on this blog before, which is how to take actions that uphold my ideals. I have not written much here recently, in part because I have not felt particularly inspired in the past few months. In fact, I have at times felt quite hopeless and powerless, such as when I read about the flurry of reactionary bills in Congress or budget cuts to K-12 education in Colorado.

I encounter many demands – through my church and on the blogs and websites I read – to be a political activist, to write yet again to my congressperson, sign yet another petition, or attend yet another rally. Even though I know there is evidence of such things actually having an impact, I find it difficult to gather the motivation to partake in these actions myself. I remain unconvinced at a visceral level that doing so actually makes a difference.

However, the constant bombardment of demands to act combined with my lack of motivation to do so results in guilt. Am I not doing my part to make this world a better place because I do not partake in political activism? When I am feeling neither completely hopeless about the world nor guilty about my political inaction, I remember that there are many ways of being in and contributing to the world. Political activism is only one such way, and it is not for everyone. Politics have always sickened me and made me feel hopeless and powerless, and I don’t think this is likely to change.

As I search for my way of acting towards peace and a better world, I take inspiration from the first stanza of the poem “Ode” by Arthur O’Shaughnessy:

We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;—
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.

I am a dreamer of dreams. I am a music maker. It is through being these things that I will move and shake the world. My way of acting is not in political activism, but in waking people up, shaking them out of their sleep and shifting their perspective on life, on the world, on their community, on their meaning. I believe that my way in the world is as a “quiet leader”: I am not out to be the next senator but as a dreamer of dreams I am a leader nonetheless.

Therefore, I must learn not to feel guilty in the face of demands for political action that I do not fulfill. For I am a dreamer of dreams, a music maker, and a mover and a shaker of the world.


A quote from… Lady Gaga

June 5, 2010

Lady Gaga on hatred and love:

I’m not trying to create and generate more hatred in the world… I just want to generate awareness. It’s always wrong to hate, but it’s never wrong to love.

I don’t believe in any hatred or any war-like behavior. I believe in commitment and love and positivity.

Awesome, go Lady Gaga!

These quotes (and a bit more) are from about 5:30 to 6:51 in this interview:

Restorative activism

April 17, 2010

Today I attended a workshop on Restorative Activism, offered by Scott Brown and John Ehrhart of Open Path Trainings. It was a beautiful, inspiring, and renewing experience.

Below is a short summary of what restorative activism is, but I recommend Scott Brown’s blog post on it if you want to learn more.

The fundamental premise of restorative activism is that we must prioritize relationship, recognizing that we are all connected. A quote from Neem Karoli Baba captures the essence of this philosophy:

Do what you must with people,
but never let anyone out of your heart,
not even for a moment.

Engaging in restorative activism requires engaging with oneself, by cultivating mindfulness and self-awareness. Through connecting with our inner self and paying attention to what is deepest in our heart, we can then reach the place from which we can be out in the world. Being authentic with ourselves is the only way in which we can be authentic in the world. True activism stems not from anger and hatred, but from love, compassion, and recognition of our interconnectedness. This form of activism is not divisive and does not lead to shaming or blaming. Instead, it leads to healing and repair of relationships.

The atmosphere at the workshop was calm, safe, and accepting. Everyone spoke authentically and we all went deep in our self-exploration. Much of the content resonated deeply with me, and I came away feeling connected and less alone in my beliefs in peace and compassion. I also feel that I gained some small bit of clarity about how I need to engage with the world, in part through the many mindfulness exercises we did. I found these exercises both challenging and renewing, and I am contemplating finding a mindfulness practice to incorporate into my routine life.

The workshop was a beautiful experience and I will hold it in my heart as a source of inspiration.

A little reminder

April 15, 2010

There is nothing like looking at the homepage of my local paper after a long day and finding some inspiring words:

Speaking to several hundred people at the University of Colorado, Jordan’s Queen Noor said the path to peace — and solving other daunting problems such as global warming — lies in understanding and humanizing people who are different than we are.

Yes! Exactly! It is important to be reminded from time to time of the fundamental importance of humanizing “the other.” It is possible and we need more people like Queen Noor out there making a strong call for it.

Read the full article: Jordan’s Queen Noor at CU-Boulder: Better understanding will bring peace – Boulder Daily Camera.

A week of workshops

April 11, 2010

Hello friends! I did not mean to take such a long break away from this blog. I have not recently been actively doing or reading anything related to peace or mediation and my attention has been on other things. However, this coming week I will be attending two workshops on these topics. The first is a three-hour training for mediators called “Conversations on Bias,” led by Bill De La Cruz. It is being hosted by the mediation program with which I volunteer and is specifically for the volunteer mediators. The second workshop is an all-day workshop next Saturday titled “Restorative Activism.” It is being offered by Open Path Trainings and is described on the flyer as follows:

RESTORATIVE ACTIVISM is an integrated approach to work in the world with the power to heal the personal and the planetary. It works at the intersection of body,mind, spirit, and action with openness and honesty. Supporting the willingness to look courageously at ourselves, Restorative Activism helps you move beyond the ineffective tactics of blame, shame, and fear, and cultivate the understanding and compassion needed to foster peace and nonviolence as away of life.

I am looking forward to learning, stretching my mind, and being reinspired at these two workshops this week!

Playing for Change: Peace Through Music

August 14, 2009

These videos from Playing for Change: Peace Through Music are beautiful and inspiring:

To see more, go to their website or their youtube channel.

What a wonderful movement. As they say on their website, “No matter whether people come from different geographic, political, economic, spiritual or ideological backgrounds, music has the universal power to transcend and unite us as one human race.”

Regaining inspiration

May 24, 2009

For the past few weeks my desires to take positive action towards making a difference in the world have become somewhat dormant (hence my unplanned break from posting for the past month or so). In February I participated in a 40-hour training to be a mediator, after which I felt inspired and eager to pursue a way to develop my mediation skills. At the end of March, I sent an application to be a volunteer mediator to the community mediation program in a neighboring city. I was eager and excited, but as the weeks passed and I continued to not hear anything back about my application, I have become frustrated and my eagerness has gone dormant. I finally reached someone working for the mediation program last week who told me that they did receive my application and the woman in charge would get to it within two weeks, but I am still quite frustrated that it has taken them this long.

However, I have regained a little inspiration from a speaker I heard this morning. She told us, among other things, about a book titled Getting a Grip: Clarity, Creativity, and Courage in a World Gone Mad, by Frances Moore Lappe. I did not recognize the name of the author until the speaker mentioned that she wrote Diet for a Small Planet, which I have heard of and I believe my parents own. The book sounds incredibly inspiring, and just what I need to regain my motivation and inspiration. From the introduction on the website:

So this little book is about learning to see the killer ideas that trap us and letting them go. It’s about people in all walks of life interrupting the spiral of despair and reversing it with new ideas, ingenious innovation?and courage. It’s about finding that mixture of anger and hope to energize us for this do-or-die effort. Why not go for it?

As I listened to the speaker this morning, I realized something. I often say to myself and others, “I want to make a difference in the world.” I realized that, while this is true, I can say something else, something that is more powerful: “I will make a difference in the world.” I don’t know right now what that difference will be, how small or big it will be, where or when or how I will do it, or even whether I will be aware at the time that what I am doing is making a difference. But as I live my life deliberately, caring most of all about people, I know that one way or another, I will make a difference in the world.