Why Am I an Activist? (part II)

Isn’t it neat the way we keep learning more & more about ourselves as we get older? I’m 56 & still getting to know myself – having insights about myself all the time. I guess it’s a life-long deal, hmm??

I sort of put something together for myself the other day (I ought to add too that this was twigged as the result of something someone had said to me; in other words, as a result of conversation – that great unpredictable, uncontrollable but magical phenomenon that ties us all together & makes us all ever so so much smarter than we are all on our own…).

Now, the “reasons” for my becoming an environmental activist are numerous, & there are some “smoking guns” or rather obvious things (e.g., the way the lake I lived on & swam in as a small child became “polluted” & un-swimmable by the time I was 6).

There may even be things in my genetic make-up that added to the inevitability of my becoming an activist.

But I think what happened to me as a child (in addition to what’s already been mentioned) is that I always felt kind of like an alien – an outsider. My family was a tad…dysfunctional, shall we just politely say – & I of course assumed (as we children of the 50’s & 60’s did) that all the other families had it all together. We were the only oddballs – imposters, essentially – & between that & the other things (genetic endowment, my father’s composting & abhorrence of waste, plus a pivotal experience I had as a 14-year old in Barbados) – what grew up in me was a very potent “save the world” complex.

In the first part of my life, this took the form of wanting to do social work – social service-type work. Once I’d had my children (with whom I stayed home as a full-time wife/homemaker in the early 1980’s) & spent several years focused on motherhood & locally-focused community (volunteer) work, I seemed to hear a “call” to environmental work.

What came to me the other day was simply that my “save the world” complex was nothing more than some sort of powerful pull out of myself – my own puny little life – into work that was/is a whole lot bigger than myself.

In other words, years & years before I read & then really understood that human beings spent most of our history living in small groups(1), highly tied to our fellow tribe members, I discovered in a not-really-conscious way that I needed to be part of something “bigger than myself.”

For whatever reason, I never wanted to have a job or career just for the sake of making money. I wanted to help – to be immersed in work/a career that “mattered.”

And of course, you see, I’ve had such utterly fantastic experiences all the way along! I always-always-always get far more out of my volunteer (& paid work) endeavours than I put in, or than I anticipate at the start. So the energy to keep on with them just keeps recycling itself, over & over & over…

It also simultaneously brings new friends, experiences & a sense of community – & so, while the path of my life has detoured way off any “plans” I had made for it, it’s all been quite surprisingly grand & wondrous!

I guess I just want to share with readers the insight that it may often be the lives lived outside the “lines” – or out at the borders – or off the 9-5 treadmill – that may provide the biggest rewards & satisfactions.

Feeling part of something vastly bigger than ourselves is what we all crave, if I’m not very much mistaken…

Janet

p.s. Why Am I an Activist, Part I was posted on March 29/09.

p.p.s. I've been saying for years now that activism is its own reward. Because it is!

p.p.p.s. Nietzsche said, Sin is that which separates,” & I think that’s an assertion worth pondering on….


(1) which I learned by reading In the Absence of the Sacred – The Failure of Technology & the Survival of the Indian Nations, Jerry Mander, Sierra Club Books, 1992 & Ishmael – An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit, Daniel Quinn, Bantam/Turner, 1992; 2 books I highly recommend to any & everyone!! The book People of the Lake – Mankind & Its Beginnings, by Richard E. Leakey & Roger Lewin (Avon, 1978) was also useful to me in understanding why early human beings lived in social groups.