Yesterday, I read this quote from Joseph Campbell in Elephant Journal:
“The world without spirit is a wasteland. People have the notion of saving the world by shifting things around, changing the rules, and who’s on top, and so forth. No, no! Any world is a valid world if it’s alive. The thing to do is to bring life to it, and the only way to do that is to find in your own case where the life is and become alive yourself.”
It reminded me of an old parable I’ve heard many times. A young man wants to create change, so he sets out to change the world. After a few years, he finds he has made little progress, so he focuses on changing his country. By the time he is middle-aged, he realizes he must first change his town. And by the time he is an old man, he realizes that he must first focus on changing himself.
For those of us who are progressives and activists, it is important to remember this. We should, I believe, try to change the world. We should set our sights high and not settle for social and political structures that do not serve us. But we must first walk the walk. If you are opposed to corporate food systems, shop at farmers’ markets or local grocery stores whenever possible. If you are angry about banking practices, move your money to a credit union.
I know I do not always succeed in doing this, but it is something I am working on, and something I am very aware of. None of us is perfect, but if we truly want to change social structures – and we certainly should strive to do just that – it is important to try to live according to the values we hope to promote.