Thursday, October 13, 2011

Occupy Your Life

Early on in my blog career, I promised I would try not to get too ranty. This post might break the promise a bit. But I need to say these things for my own peace of mind, and I hope that you'll come along for the ride.

Activism consists of intentional efforts to bring about social, political, economic, or environmental change.

Intend (verb)
- to have in mind as something to be done or brought about; plan
- to design to express or indicate, as by one's words
- (archaic) to direct (the eyes, mind, etc.)

I do a lot of thinking.

I was almost a philosophy major, but didn't think I had enough black turtlenecks to make a go of it. Still, I try to live a life that's aligned with my beliefs, and that means thinking - sometimes a little too much.

When I'm thinking deeply about a concept, I often go to the dictionary to find out exactly how that concept is defined. When I do this, it seems like a lot of the fuzz in my thoughts simply drifts away, and I get clear on how my actions and my beliefs should come into harmony.

I've been doing a lot of that thinking lately as the Occupy Wall Street movement turns into Occupy Main Streets All Over. I've been doing this thinking because even though the occupiers should be my people, my heart doesn't resonate to this movement.

You see, I try to live an activist life.

If my life was a diorama in the natural history museum of the future, the guide might say: here we have a post-hippie progressive ca. 2011. You see that she's eating organic lentils and petting a cat; on her smartphone, she is Tweeting; there was once a time when Tweets were not automatically uploaded from your brains to the thought-net. The diorama of my life wouldn't look very activist. I don't march unless I'm doing aerobics, and most of the signs I've created in my life are related to selling Girl Scout cookies.

But when I look at the definition of activist above, I feel a sort of calm. I feel like my actions and my beliefs are in harmony.

"Intentional efforts to bring about ... change."

That's what I've been trying to do. I don't succeed all the time, especially in the "intentional" part. But I love the archaic meaning of intend - to direct one's eyes, one's mind.

I intend my eyes, my heart, and my mind on a simple phrase: Good for people, good for the planet.

There's a lot more to my life philosophy (a large part of which is derived from the St. Francis Prayer) but in making decisions, I try to zero in on that simplified phrase: Good for people, good for the planet.

This means I have to really think: is this purchase good for people? is it good for the planet?
Is the job I work at every day good for people and the planet?
Are the candidates I vote for ... the car I drive ... the TV shows I watch... is every decision that I make good for people and the planet?

As you might imagine, I fail a lot. And I have a ton of questions. I mean, I love Eminem. As a truth-teller, I think he's good for people and the planet, but as a potential role model for kids who hear "Love the Way You Lie" 15 times a day on the radio? Probably not. There's no yes, no in the realm of making intentional decisions. It's all maybe so.

So when I think about what comes next, when Zuccotti Park is empty once again, I hope the message that lingers is this: activism isn't holding a sign for a day or a month. Activism is intending your heart and mind and action to something larger, to a set of beliefs (whatever they are) that bring about change.

Occupy your life. Every moment. And I have to believe that change will come.

Photos courtesy of buzzfeed.

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