I’ve been wrestling with something since I published this blog site last week. A familiar struggle, and one I know I share with some of you.
The struggle is this:
I look at the world around me and I see breathtaking beauty, moments of bliss that come through watching the rain fall or my child paddling gleefully barefoot upstream through the woods. Moments that move me to tears. And I see also the places where I and my fellow human beings fall short of kindness, and worse – for whatever twisted reason, choose to oppress, hurt and even kill each other.
I know, through the work I’ve done, that people only act unkindly because they are at heart wounded, themselves. And so every step taken to heal ourselves and each other creates a movement beyond our small world – the ripples curve out, perhaps beyond our own furthest vision. This I know.
I know also that this inner work has a twin call to action. Whether it’s signing petitions or locking oneself to a gate to stop an arms fair, this world in which we live demands tangible acts to bring love, hope and courage where there is greed, or violence or oppression. Inner work feeds the roots of resistance – we burn out or fall prey to despair if we come at it from a place of un-balance in ourselves.
I’ve been told it’s best not to look at distressing situations, at wars or acts of violence, not to read the news. That it’s somehow polluting my space, or dwelling on the negative. I get it. It’s important to keep a balance, because despair rarely helps anyone.
I also wholeheartedly believe in the power of bearing witness. If I and my family were at the mercy of a despotic regime, subject to random ‘disappearances’ and violence, I’d want the world to know about it. Even if those I told were powerless to change my situation in any immediate way, there is healing in simply having a story heard, in knowing it has landed somewhere beyond your immediate world.
So, here I am, in my comfortable British home, with all the blessings of living in a country that, for all the wrongs and injustices, is at least not at active war with itself or with other lands. I have the freedom to state and act on my dissent from the government.
I know others don’t have such a privilege.
So, I have words to share about the beauty of yesterday’s autumn equinox on a South Devon beach. About a day where I fell into a space between the edges of time for a while, and the light played on the water while my children carved sand-mermaids. But later, because what’s calling more urgently today is to share with you the discomfort I’ve been feeling about living a privileged (and frankly, blessed) life.
It’s perhaps that old chestnut – the guilt of a middle-class white woman. Whatever the name of that uncomfortable edge I’m feeling, I welcome it as a spur to action. And so I made a decision yesterday that once a week I want to research a writer whose freedom, perhaps whose life, has been taken because they spoke out. A writer who committed no crime, but spoke from her heart about the injustices seen in the world around her. A writer who knew as he was striking the words on his keyboard that he could be signing away his life. Yet he or she did it anyway, and for all its faults, the gift of our digitally-connected world means the words fly past the barbed-wire borders and the prison gates.
Because truth and love have an undeniable power to them, an insistent call to be heard.
And I consider it an act of love to bear witness to those stories and to share them on this blog.