The Shore

December 14, 2012 § 4 Comments

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A recurring argument (well,not really argument, more like “debate”) I have with my friend Erik is whether or not it is enough to live a life of quiet-but-purposeful intent. In other words, whether or not we should feel obligated to raise our voices – and perhaps more – in opposition to forces that prey on nature, the environment, the disadvantaged. On us.

Erik’s view is that it is not enough, although I think he occasionally finds himself caught between his belief that he must do something, and his desire to live simply and simply live. “I wish I could just live a kick-ass life connected to the land,” he once told me. To be clear, Erik does life a kick-ass life connected to the land; his point is that there is something compelling him to do more, and that this is not always entirely comfortable. Part of what compels him to be more active – to remain uncomfortable – is his belief that the institutions perpetrating so many of our contemporary ills have simply become too powerful to change by mere lifestyle choice. “My fear is that I’m part of a subculture, and that subculture isn’t going to slow anything down,” he says.

I don’t know if Erik is right or wrong to believe it’s not enough to live the quiet activism of turning our backs on the particularly rapacious elements of contemporary American life, at least to the extent we are able. But I do know that in so many small, positive ways, Erik has influenced those around him to make simple “lifestyle” choices that might, when taken as a whole, and when the influence of these choices is felt by others, be more powerful than he currently understands.

I leave you with the image – however cliched it might be – of a pebble dropped into a pond, with first one wave, and then another, and then another radiating outward. But I encourage you to consider not just the pebbles you drop and the waves you send out into your community and the world at large, but also the shore onto which these waves ultimately lap. Because the truth is, we are all shores, we are all constantly bombarded by waves of influence.

The trick, I think, is to discern which of these waves we should erect barricades against. And which we should absorb.

§ 4 Responses to The Shore

  • tokyobling says:

    I really recognize that debate. I have it with my self constantly. It is a never ending battle. On good day, I lean back and think of myself as that pebble in the pond that you describe, that changes everything around him by just being. Little by little, but on bad day I feel that I am not doing nearly enough. Usually when I get two enthusiastic about changing the world, something happens to knock you back to your proper place, and the cycle starts again. Sometimes I feel like the only way we are ever going to be able to create a sustainable, proper movement is by hijacking the trappings (and psychology) or organized religion. If first century christians could, why can’t we create our own “religion” which makes the full use of that almost super human ability most of mankind possesses – faith.

  • Dena says:

    I’ve never thought about the shore. Or of being one. I like this way of thinking…

  • I am constantly deciding which waves to allow and absorb and which to hold firm against and barricade myself and my family from. Thank you.

  • Jim M says:

    Ben-
    I read your post yesterday before the full impact of Sandy Hook Elementary School. I read it again this morning, and it really hit me. We need to consider the change that is needed to control guns in the American Culture. This event is so sad. The long list of these type of events are “shores” of us not speaking up to make meaningful change. I don’t know what the answer is (Is it the gun? vs, Is it the mentally disturbed?), but “waves” must be made. Hopefully we can all become “pebbles” in our communities to affect this change. Jim

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