Thursday, January 26, 2017

Getting Our Gandhi On: Which Wolf Will We Feed?

‘You cannot be at home with something that you feel is wrong… We cannot be silent.”
 –Rep. John Lewis, GA

The day immediately following the 2016 election, as more than half of the voters in the nation stood appalled, the first Facebook post announcing plans for a demonstration to be held in Washington D.C. on Inauguration Day appeared in my newsfeed. Knowing the overt, at times violent conflict that had beset the campaign, my initial, heartfelt response to this news was: “Better get your Gandhi on.”

As the weeks between the election and the inauguration wound out, certainly no qualms were settled by any presidential-elect words or behavior. On the contrary, in this modern rendition of The Emperor’s New Clothes that we are currently witnessing, the need for increased vigilance and the call for more active and vocal participation in our democracy have only been made more apparent. The extent of the response to this call to rise up has now been displayed in the number of and attendance at the various marches, in Washington D.C., throughout the nation, and all over the world. When a group of people in Antarctica comes together in solidarity for justice and equality, there can be no blithe dismissal of the amount of impact this election has had and is having.

That our current events have the possibility of serving as a catalyst for a greater awakening to social and spiritual consciousness is a truth that I remind myself to focus on. Because our focus is a vital ingredient to the outcome; it is key to what our future and our children’s future and the future of the planet holds. While ‘resistance’ may be what our political strategy is called, while it may be our means to an end, I suggest that we aim our focus higher. Most of us have already learned by our own experience (and continue to learn) that what we resist... persists.

In the arena of non-violent dissent for the twin causes of equality and justice, we have been given some powerful examples of how to go about the work with integrity. These few come to mind: Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Congressman John Lewis, Nelson Mandela, Thich Nhat Hanh. The native Hawaiian protectors of Mauna Kea. The water protectors at Standing Rock. There are more. We would do well to learn from them.

I also remind myself to be conscious not only in my selection of the sources of my news, especially online, but of the amount of time I invest in following stories or online comments. It is essential to be informed. It is not necessary and perhaps more than a little unhealthy to allow the poison of fear mongering, cynicism, sarcastic one-upmanship, and essential rudeness to be the reinforcement of our attitudes and opinions. Certainly political humor and satire have their place, and a little laughter lightens the weight of these times. But I believe we must be careful not to return like with like. It behooves us to be careful, because, as the well known story of the two wolves that are at war within each of us goes, which one wins is a matter of which one we feed. Kindness, bravery and love, or greed, hatred and fear. When I turn on the radio or sit down at the computer and check in to social media, I ask myself: “Now which wolf are you going to feed?”

Photo Courtesy of Claire Cummings/Maine Young Democrats
As the flip side to what we take in, I believe that it also behooves us to own and cultivate the sovereign power that inherently belongs to each of us as thinking, intelligent individuals with hearts and souls, and that is to consciously choose the words we will speak, the thoughts we will think, and the actions we will take. To choose with intention, and to remember to ask ourselves before we speak, or post, or forward, or act, or paint the message on our sign if our intention is worthy: Which wolf does it feed?

These are turbulent times that we are navigating. Let us endeavor to bring only our very best to the challenge.

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