I’ve met a lot of people who called themselves activists, people who are championing every cause from protecting the environment to education reform. I find myself asking the question, “ What does it mean to be an activist?”
“That which we are, we shall teach,
not voluntarily, but involuntarily.
…Character teachers over our head…”
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Over-Soul
How exactly does one define what it means to be an activist? An activist is someone who takes action, usually with a message or cause in mind. But, if Emerson is right, that we teach by who we are, then aren’t we all activists? In other words, if in each moment, we have even the slightest amount of free will to choose our actions, we subconsciously share an unspoken message of what we think is important.
Each morning you wake up with a series of choices; you are a bundle of potential energy and you are free. If you are reading this, chances are you are one of the fortunate who choose how you will spend your day, whether you will go to work, what you will eat, how you will interact with others, who you will be. You choose your actions according to what you value, and in turn your choices, each moment and each day, are your message to the world.
We often hear the phrase about being mindful consumers, “You vote with your dollar”. True- we vote on what we value by how we spend our money… if we are again child labor for example, we choose not to spend money at stores or on products that support child labor. If we are against GMO’s, we don’t buy those either.
However, expressing our values extends a lot further than how we spend our money, we vote each day by how we spend our time. We choose in each moment what we believe and what we stand for by how we direct our energy. The way we live our lives is how we shout out to the world, “Here is what I think it’s all about!” In the words of musician Dan Wilson, what are you going to spend your free life on? (Dan Wilson- Free Life With Lyrics)
I often forget to ask myself that question, but I’ve had a pretty amazing source of inspiration lately; my uncle. I was honored that he chose to share his mission statement with me recently; “ to change the world, one radical at a time”. He told me he’d like to become a full time activist when my cousin graduates high school. Become an activist? If anyone already is an activist, it’s him. His words and way of being inspire those around him… in fact, they inspired today’s blog. His action? Living honestly and courageously sharing his ideas of positive societal change with others with the hope of creating change. If that isn’t activism, I don’t know what is.
So, as you choose the actions that fill your day, your week, and your years, you too are an activist; deciding what you do and who you choose to be. All of you are wise and wonderful accidental activists…. and I challenge you to ask yourself, and ask often:
If my life is my message, what am I choosing to say?…What am I going to spend my free life on?