Changing the World

Or, thoughts while shovelling the driveway this morning… So, I’m shovelling the driveway at my house-sitting spot at 7 am, little country-mouse-recently-moved-to-the-Big City me, & it’s a shared driveway (my own car sits in the garage 99.9% of the time, as I love to walk & make use of public transportation), & I’ve been told there is no real need to shovel it (Torontonians are not really into winter, you see, & truthfully, winters here are a bit of a joke…)

But snow had fallen overnight

& freezing rain was predicted

& I’d rather have the freezing rain fall on bare pavement than make a great big snowy icy mixed-up mess

So I’m out there rather enjoying myself (to be honest) – it’s fresh air & exercise & also thinking time

& I remember how I used to have a shared driveway in my Deep River daze, & being frugally-living me, fully expected to be shovelling the driveway myself, but the couple with whom I shared the driveway (who didn’t actually live there; they were living down in Toronto at that point, & only visiting their Deep River house once in a blue moon), paid some guy to plow the driveway, & were very generous-minded & told him to just plow the whole durn thing

& so their generosity & their shall we say “paying it forward” gesture is popping up in my brain today

& I’m thinking about how we change the world (admittedly I have given up trying to “save” it), & I’ve got a conversation in my head about the deep, deep very long-standing systemic problems Canada’s First Nations people have had visited upon them for oh, the past 500 years or so (the conversation was on Michael Enright’s Sunday morning show; podcast of ‘First Nations Governance’ here), & a truth (or what sounded like one to me) was spoken, & it was this:

Nobody can wave a magic wand over really seriously, deeply entrenched problems from the outside only – people must take leadership themselves to find solutions (with, presumably, plenty of practical help from appropriate agencies, of course!)

& as I shovel the driveway I think we need (always) the right tools for the job (even shovelling snow requires the right tools – a plow-y kind of shovel & a lift-&-heave kind of shovel, or so it is in my world, anyway) & strategy too of course (in a big city it takes strategy even to find a place to put the snow one is shovelling!?)

& some of the right tools for world-changing are

  • appreciation of diversity in people & methods & solutions
  • cooperation
  • courage
  • energy
  • heart; lots & lots of heart. More heart, less mind
  • leadership
  • neighbourliness
  • paying it forward
  • resilience, resourcefulness

 

& some of what we need to lose, in world-changing activities, are

  • a need for hero worship
  • an “oh poor me” mindset
  • ego
  • hierarchy
  • thinking one’s way to do things is the only way to do things (that "It's my way or the highway" kind of thinking)

 

‘cos even my snow-shovelling gig is an example of how there is always more than one way to do things

I’m a very sort of anarchic snow-shoveller – I’m kind of here, there & everywhere, unpredictable & sort of sloppy as opposed to working in a neat orderly predictable fashion, & I can just hear all the men I know saying patronizingly “Oh no, Janet, that is NOT the way to do it, you see, you have to do it THIS way” (all the women I know would just say “Oh Janet THANK YOU for doing this," & wouldn't give a darn how I went about it)

& you see I think there are as many ways to shovel a driveway as there are people prepared to shovel it, & as many ways to change the world as there are people prepared to work on changing it

& finally, a big thing I think way too many people don’t GET about work (or what you might call service) is that doing it FEELS SO GOOD, & it feels even better when it’s shared with others in a spirit of cooperation, & better still when one feels appreciated for one’s efforts, & I think overall it just can’t be said any better than this:

“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” (Rabindranath Tagore, philosopher, author, songwriter, painter, educator, composer, Nobel laureate, 1861-1941)

Janet

p.s. & I thank the delightful writer Anne Lamott for reminding me of this amazing, inspiring quotation, which she includes in her lovely book Help Thanks Wow – The Three Essential Prayers, on page 23.

p.p.s. & thinking all these thoughts reminded me of the wonderful Mary O’Brien, & her 15 always-useful & really quite awesome campaign tips, which are posted here

p.p.p.s. & if you want to be totally totally totally blown away by a passionate & articulate plea for help, for Heaven’s sake go & read this amazing letter by the incomparable Dr. Sandra Steingraber.     What a woman!!!!!!!

Quote of the day with this post: “For every nine people who denounce innovation, only one will encourage it… For every nine people who do things the way they have always been done, only one will ever wonder if there is a better way. For every nine people who stand in line in front of a locked building, only one will ever come around and check the back door. Our progress as a species rests squarely on the shoulders of that tenth person. The nine are satisfied with things they are told are valuable. Person 10 determines for himself what has value.” – Za Rinpoche & Ashley Nebelsieck in The Backdoor to Enlightenment (Three Leaves) – quoted in Oprah Magazine Jan. 2008