Being able to paraphrase Michael Franti in a blog post title is awesome. And even better, this post is relevant to one way of interpreting the song. For those unfamiliar with his work, google ‘If ever I would stop thinking about music and politics’, ‘Disposable heroes of hiphoprisy’ (yes it’s an old song by now), and ‘Michal Franti and Spearhead’ (and probably more). It’s a song that has stuck with me for decades now – but really, the message has taken a really long time to start sinking in. Let’s look at one small part:
If ever I would stop thinking about music and politics
I would tell you that the personal revolution
is far more difficult
and is the first step in any revolution
What does that mean? And where does it fit into the context of a web page which is ostensibly about bikes (so far)? And why am I writing about this now?
To answer the first question, Michael Franti echoes an ancient anecdote to speak about the difficulty of evolving oneself to look inward from the outside. To see ourselves as active agents in our destiny, rather than passive drifters on the seas of chance. The second question is easy – we’re also talking about evolution here. As for the third? It follows from the recent US election, which on the surface is the tip of an iceberg of ignorance.
I care about this, although I’m half a world away, because it represents an enormous challenge and an even more enormous opportunity. I’m certain many analysts will dissect the reasons for Trump, brexit, successive conservative governments in Australia, the rise of nationalist right wing movements elsewhere, the retreat from humane, empathetic approaches to refugees, the almost-frenzied destruction of our living planet.
I’m going to simplify it a lot, and boil many essays down to one word: Fear.
Specifically, fear of the future, fear of uncertainty, fear of the other.
…and fear of our own selves. How can this be so? How can we be afraid of ourselves? Look again, consider – what holds you back? Why do you get angry about stuff? If you believe that other people are somehow different from you, what drives that belief?
Consider the words quoted above. The hardest step is an internal revolution, which must be undertaken before external change can thrive. We must first evolve ourselves, our attitudes and outlooks, before the change we wish to see can take root and thrive.
Speaking for myself, yes, I’m awash with fears of various things.. and my journey to evolve is only proceeding slowly. Fatherhood has helped. So has passing through the eye of a needle in terms of the unemployment/stability/PhD/family/reemployment matrix. Growing older, and of course, spending time in the wild, breathing the air, being with the wind.
So why is this internal revolution the hardest? Ever been rock climbing? How hard do you try to hang on to that hold, realising you’re about to fall, before you let go, relax, and fall into the safety of the rope. That’s why. It’s that same kind of hardness – the difficulty of letting go, of shedding the old. I’ve fought many unnecessary battles for precisely this reason. I could not just relax and let go.
Back to politics – viewed one way, things look pretty grim. Viewed another, these times may just be the motivating spark that we need to start our internal revolutions!
How can we make change? Start in ourselves. Taking from another great source of inspiration:
A warrior trusts other people because, first and foremost, he trusts himself.
– Paulo Coelho, the manual of the Warrior of Light
This is actually really difficult. To trust that everything will be as it is meant to be, and to trust wholly that we are here for a purpose even if we never gain any form of conscious knowledge of what that is. There’s always something we are here to do.
For now, my task is to shine a light within, find my fears and let them pass through me – so that I can shine a light for others too! To trust myself, and the universe. To speak out honestly, kindly, and firmly. And encourage everyone I can to do the same. I might never become a politician, or a billionaire, but that doesn’t mean I have no power. I have more power than I can imagine! My question is: what is stopping me from using it?
And the same goes for you. We are made from exploded stars. What could possibly be more awesome?
We are the best and most powerful tools for our own evolution. So right now, in these crazy times, take courage. Change will come, and we will bring it – so long as we can begin first with ourselves.
I hope this kind of potted philosophy has lightened your day. Go listen to some of Michael Franti’s songs – or some other awesome music. Treat your soul! Ride a bike too. Catch some wilderness time, go see what really matters. And then come back, refuelled and ready to see a different world take shape.
Oh – I never answered the second question. Why write about this now? No idea – seemed like the right time…