Finding Activism In Art

Friday 15 May, 2020

For the third assignment (after The Space Between Stories and Make Peace With Your Truth) we were asked to seek the activism in the art we produce: ‘Describe an event where you took inspired action, and that created a result beyond anything you could have forced… not necessarily knowing how or whether it would “work,” but nonetheless operating from a feeling of inspiration, purpose, guidance — and maybe a bit of humour.

The session itself introduced me to the work, energy, and commitment of Jodie Evans, co-founder of CODEPINK: Women for Peace. To write any assignment after hearing her speak required some time to pass in order for me to think I might share anything like the same stage as her. But rather than feel daunted by her level of activism, what the session and the assignment ultimately invited me to do is to find the power in whatever it is I have done, no matter how insignificant it may seem in comparison to those who occupy the front line so relentlessly.

How We See Ourselves

My art is my writing, which is simultaneously a record of my own work and progress, and a source of support and inspiration for others seeking the truth of human behaviour. But the greater lesson of this assignment is how we see ourselves. I will never do what Jodie Evans does, and I will never have the impact she does. And that is often where our problems lie. We make internal assessments and give up before we’ve even started. More significantly, we overlook our own achievements and contribution.

However, if we venture to look, we will find something we have done which is ‘out of the ordinary… from a feeling of inspiration, purpose and guidance…’. Focus on that one thing, no matter how small it may appear, and we will eventually see the truth it carries. We will see ourselves in a way we have probably not seen before, and instead of being apart from the great activists of our time, we will see ourselves intimately connected with them, all of us supporting each other in making the world a better, richer, more beautiful place. With that in mind, here is my story:

Look For The Activism

My old training journals sat on my shelf for seven years before I began posting them retrospectively, day by day, on my new blog. The project took four years. Each day I read the corresponding day’s entry from 11 years earlier, distilling the experience as much as possible before posting what I thought would be helpful for others. During that whole time I wrote new pieces, updating the reader on my progress since those intense days with Karaj, and explaining the theory behind his interventions. Three years in, the idea of writing a book resurfaced; something he and I had spoken about for the first time in 2000.

Before I’d even begun, someone asked me: ‘Isn’t that a bit personal?!’. Their question gave me the opportunity to hear myself say out loud: ‘Yes, but that’s what my work is about.’ Looking back now, in the context of this assignment, that declaration takes on a greater emphasis. It signifies a determination to do what I believed to be right, and to this day the most common feedback I receive is gratitude for sharing my story.

That’s where the activism lies. In doing something I believe in; in taking action despite the reservations of others; and in pursuing my goal day after day, never knowing where it might lead. The activism lies in the courage to overcome my own doubts about sharing my work, and being determined to continue long after the initial project ended, carried by the conviction that what I was doing was worthwhile.

The Aliveness Of Writing

15 years after the very first journal entry, the book was finished. The final creation went way beyond any expectations I’d had when I started. Even now, five years on I still marvel at its contents, detail, scope and structure. In the end, I felt I had wrung everything out of those journals and the experiences they recorded. I saw more clearly who I had been, the work I did, and who I have become.

I continue to write and explore. The result so far is an intimate collection of writings covering 20 years. It’s an anthology which feels vast and alive. A cosmos of labyrinthine connections creating complexity and beauty in equal measure, it generates a weight and density which exert an inevitable gravitational effect on my world. Enough to change it? Yes, absolutely.

Related post: The List (A further distillation of my work into the 100+ most valuable pieces from the past 20 years.)

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