Overwhelmed by the world? Do art.

Henry David Thoreau was a weirdo. He spent several years living in the woods, away from civilized people, doing his own thing, writing books, talking about nature and ponds, and oh yeah, peace and stuff.

Gandhi read Thoreau's writings and was greatly influenced by them. His ideas of peaceful resistance became the bedrock of Gandhi’s protests in India.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was inspired by Gandhi. The civil rights movement owes it’s lineage to both Gandhi and therefore back to the weirdo living in the woods, doing his thing, Henry David Thoreau.I’m guessing that you might be feeling overwhelmed by the problems in our country and the impending Time of Trump.

Looking at the news, the social media, our families, the division, the proposed cabinet members, the erupting hate, the feeling of powerlessness.

Wow. That is enough to make me want to find a cave near the woods and come out again after four years, hoping, wishing that I can go back to my life as I want it to be. Maybe you can relate?

Instead, I urge you to take action.

But where to start???

As much as the problem is overwhelming, sometimes the solution is overwhelming too. There are so many good groups with good intentions and good ideas. And protests. And money needed. And volunteers for soup kitchens. And political calls. And refugees arriving.

Not to mention the arts! Do the arts even have a place in this world right now? Maybe we should give up our endeavors and go camp out with protesters in Standing Rock. Or just eat more leftovers from Thanksgiving and stop thinking about all of this.

No, please don’t give up your passion.

In fact, I believe that living your passion is even more important now than ever.

Here’s the catch, living your passion with integrity and intention are key in these times.

This gets back to Henry David Thoreau. If he wasn’t true to himself, then he wouldn’t have lived like a hermit and written works that influenced both Gandhi and MLK.

What to do:

  1. Now is the time to dig even deeper into who you truly are and the passions that drive you.

A few journaling prompts or questions to mull about your passion:
What do you think about all the time? What draws you into your imagination? What encourages day dreaming? What do you do on your non-working hours that connects back to passion? What makes you resonate with excitement? Where do you feel most alive? What brings that 'scary-excited' feeling?

Living fully into your passion and art is called for in these times. Not as a way to escape the grim realities, but as a way to be real in our realities. And to inspire people, to shine light in the dark places, to comfort.

This is where reflection is called for. Are you delving into you passion as a way to escape? Is that bad? Perhaps escape is what some people need in a night out at the opera or theater or dance.

Some relief from the problems at hand is not necessarily bad. Staying deep in pain is challenging, and giving ourselves a break can refresh and renew our spirits and efforts.

And while you are acting truer to yourself, are there callings to become more involved in politics, or in helping the needy? Where can you make a difference? I so easily get overwhelmed by all the choices and the finite resources of time and money. This is a growing edge for me too!

  1. What is one small step you can commit to today, this week, this month, to take action on your passions and/or helping the world? You don’t have to have all the answers. You don’t have to sign every petition, join every group, do all the things. Pick ONE thing and do it. Some action is better than no action.

It is so easy to get overwhelmed by the positive choices available and not commit to anything. The stakes are higher than ever for all of us to get involved and be active. 

For myself, I’m committing to get more involved with two politicians that I really believe in. I’m reading two books to educate myself further – Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild. Each book delves into a world I don’t know. One is growing up black in Baltimore, the other is arch-conservative Louisiana. I'm committed to making political phone calls every week. (If you're on the liberal side of the political spectrum, this google doc is a great resource, with current issues and phone numbers and scripts.) I'm writing blog posts on topics that feel scary and vulnerable to me, like this one. 

And I'm shifting all of my work to using Internal Family Systems in Inner Artist coaching. This methodology brings so much inner healing, I have hope that this will make an impact for everyone who experiences it.
Do these actions solve the problems? No. Do they contribute a drop in the bucket towards healing and progress? I hope so. 
I remind myself that this is not a sprint, this is a long marathon. Many generations moving towards justice and healing. As MLK said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

I'd love to know what actions you are inspired to take. Writing them down, telling another person, saying them out loud, makes them more real and you're more likely to follow through on your commitments. 
Keep on with the good work, friends.

With love,

Two more articles you may enjoy:
Hate, grief and a new story.
This is long, but worth the read. I've read it and reread it several times because I find it comforting and a good lens with which to view the world and the election. Basic premise - we are in a time of major change. The election is just a small part of this major change. Major change creates a vacuum and either it can be filled with more hate and division or it can be filled with empathy and compassion. So how about trying on the lens of compassion and empathy for a while? Many of us have strong feelings toward the opposite side, especially when we've been hurt or fear for our lives. But returning hate for hate does not make hate go away. 

And this from Toni Morrison on why artists must be active at times like these.