I read an article today that nicely sums up something I’ve been feeling for a while now. It’s taken from the introduction to the book Stories of the Great Turning which celebrates the ever-growing movement of individual action through a collection of stories about grass-roots activism taking place around the world. This isn’t merely a message of hope. Neither it is a call to action. It’s telling us something we deeply suspect but desperately need to know– that all over the world, in hidden corners and small enclaves, people from all walks of life are already creating lasting positive change.
Because these thinkers and doers of seemingly small acts are not celebrities, politicians or industry giants, we may not hear about them in the mainstream media. In fact the gentle propagation of these tales usually gets done the old fashioned way–by word of mouth, or as my daughter says, “on the wings of dragonflys”–which is testament itself to the “remarkable expansion of allegiance beyond personal or group advantage.” In other words, we lead, or participate, or engage, or invent or inspire without caring if we ever get recognition or reward. We do it because we feel in our very soul that it’s the right thing to do, even if our efforts ultimately fail. The lesson lies in the attempt.
Joanne Macy writes in her introduction,
“This wider sense of identity is a moral capacity more often associated with heroes and saints; but it now manifests everywhere on a practical and workaday plane. From children restoring streams for salmon spawning, to inner-city neighbours planting community gardens, from forest defenders perched high in trees marked for illegal logging, to countless climate actions to limit greenhouse-gas emissions, an undreamt-of wave of human endeavour is under way . . .(The Great Turning’s) three main dimensions include actions to slow down the destruction wrought by our political economy and its wars against humanity and Nature; new structures and ways of doing things, from holding land to growing food to generating energy; and a shift in consciousness to new ways of knowing, a new paradigm of our relation to each other and to the sacred living body of Earth.”
All this just makes me want to run outside and whoot with joy! But for most of us it’s hard to really dig our teeth into the potential collective outcome of all these scattered individual efforts. Especially when we are bombarded on a daily basis with (mostly) mindless listicles on one hand and horrific world news on the other. At any moment the global bubble of doom and fear might pop right over our heads. Or maybe we’ll finally get the bubble gum off the sofa with papaya juice and a little dish soap. Can we really make a difference? Well, yes, especially when “we” becomes “WE”, which happens quite naturally when individuals come together to provide support, collaborate and share resources and work as a unity while maintaining individuality.
The paradigm of positive change taking place isn’t just about the environment. It’s about accepting the notion that in anything in life that’s worthwhile, there exists polarity. It’s about accepting each other’s differences. It’s about mutual respect and compassion. It’s about taking risks and daring to think differently. And it’s about learning differently. I can’t help making this leap because it’s really only a small stepping stone from one to the other. How can we distinguish between the consciousness we hope to awaken on behalf of a suffering planet and the world we want to open up for our children? They are the same.
Which is why those of us who foster interest-led learning, who have lived through learning and learned through living, need to keep sharing our individual and collective tales as part of this Great Turning. And we don’t need to shout. As it is, many of these stories naturally intertwine children’s exploration with a love and respect for nature. They demonstrate the innate consciousness that children have toward creatures and the compassion they hold for others. Many unschooling families are already living with “our sacred living body of Earth” in mind through lifestyle choices. Sharing these tales is not about bashing the institution of school or judging parents and children who choose to attend, and it’s not about imposing or insisting on change. If I understand it correctly, this movement, which Macy calls, “the essential adventure of our time,” is about individuals inspiring change through positive action and example. And sharing our stories of gratitude. The shift may come about slowly. But it’s coming. I can hear the wings beating.