I’ve been thinking more about our latest gathering, Monday, in support of the water protectors. I felt so inspired for a number of reasons. But what first came to mind was, once again, the question Alvin Sangsuwangul, my friend from the Kheprw Institute, often raises. “What actually changed as a result?” Because it does seem that too often things we do with the intention of working for peace and justice make us feel good, but don’t seem to have an effect beyond that.
As I’ve been thinking and writing more about activism lately, I think there may be several things that did change. Being inspired myself, and experiencing the reactions of others gathered which showed they, too, were inspired, may be one of the most important this time. As the Dalai Lama said, “We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.” If we allow ourselves to become discouraged by the apparent futility of our peacemaking efforts, we will not be able to build peace. So occasions that inspire us counteract that.
That was one of the reasons I was so happy to see so many of my friends who have been working on peace and justice issues in so many different ways over the years, come to the rally. It is a sign that an activist community with common ideals is building. But I was also happy for them to also have this chance to be inspired, too.
What was so inspiring? It was the songs and prayers that Native Americans shared with us. It was their humbly asking Grandfather to help us. Saying we are in a difficult situation regarding environmental injustice and we don’t know the way forward. It was clear they had faith that answers would come.
It was also knowing they have always lived their lives with respect for the Earth and all living things. As Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world”
The course of my life was profoundly influenced by Quakers who went to prison for refusing to participate in the military. In an Epistle to Friends Concerning Military Conscription, they wrote “It matters little what men say they believe when their actions are inconsistent with their words. Thus we Friends may say that all war is wrong, but as long as Friends continue to collaborate in a system that forces men into war, our Peace Testimony will fail to speak to mankind. Let our lives speak for our convictions.”
I recently tried to use those words to apply to our environmental crisis today. “It matters little what people say they believe when their actions are inconsistent with their words. Thus we Friends may say that we care for our environment, but as long as Friends continue to consume fossil fuels, our Peace and Environmental Justice Testimonies will fail to speak to humankind.”
The lives and actions of the water protectors have always been consistent with their words.