I’ve been avoiding writing here.
That’s something I often do when awful things happen in the world. I get overwhelmed. I retreat. I hide.
One reason I do this is that the kind of work I do — embracing your creative self, reconnecting with your inner child — can feel light and inconsequential in the face of systemic violence or, I don’t know, hundreds of years of white supremacy.
At least, that’s what I was thinking last week. I was thinking, the world needs real change, not my little musings about how to feel good about yourself.
I was thinking that if I want to help change the world, I need to do something Big and Important and Real. Like Activism.
Do you see how my mind was creating a false opposition there?
When you catch yourself in a false opposition, here’s a simple thing you can ask yourself: can they both be true?
In this case: can something be real & practical AND intangible & imaginary?
I asked this of myself, and immediately was like: oh. YES.
Why do I love science fiction? Why do I love The Wire? Why did I devote 15 years of my life to making theater?
Because I believe activating our imaginations can change the world. Because I believe imagining a new world helps bring that world to pass. Because I believe racism feeds on subconscious images that arise unbidden in our minds. Because I believe changing our inner reality changes the actions, assumptions and reactions that flow from it. Because I believe the WAY you change your inner reality is through engaging the imagination.
A world of magical creative activism, where activism and creative inner work co-exist.
Oh yeah! That’s what I am working on and what I’m most passionate about. It’s incredibly worthwhile!
So why did I get stuck in a thought pattern that said it wasn’t, that said activism and creative work can’t coexist?
I was thinking something like: doing this kind of ‘inner creative work’ is self-indulgent, a way to hide from the world instead of engaging with it.
So let’s go deeper with this. Again, when you catch yourself in a false thought, you can question it gently and lovingly. I’m going to walk you through my questioning process around this thought.
- Is inner creative work self indulgent?
- Am I hiding from the world?
- How would I like to engage with the world?
Let’s start with the first one: is inner work self indulgent?
If I break down my associations with the word “self-indulgent”, here’s what comes up (I encourage you to do your own excavating of this word, to see what your associations are):
= Marie Antoinette
= cake for breakfast
= no boundaries
= not picking up on social cues
= being easy on yourself when you should be tough
= rich white lady
= trust fund kid
= bubble of specialness = delusion = privilege
Here’s the question that arises when I look at this list. If what I don’t like about self-indulgence is the bubble of cluelessness, why would I think that doing creative inner work causes or perpetuates it? Isn’t the reason I do inner self work to burst that bubble — or expand it to bring more ideas and people in? To question my own assumptions and connect with my true self, to help me be more real with myself? And when I do this, doesn’t it make it easier to connect with the outside world?
I mean: yes. So why do I think doing inner creative work would lead me to hide from the outside world?
Let’s look at that second question: am I hiding from the world?
What does hiding from the world mean?
Retreating. Distracting myself. Staying in the house instead of going outside. Not going to a rally or an event because I’m tired or busy or it’s too hard, all of which are excuses to cover up a harder truth I don’t want to look at, which is that I’m scared.
So a question is: could I use my inner creative work to look at this fear without flinching, and to overcome it?
Let’s look at the third question: how would I like to engage with the world?
If I weren’t scared or busy or tired, what would I be doing out in the world that is different from what I’m doing now?
I would be attending more events. I would be talking to more people. I would be starting more conversations.
Who is someone I know who is engaging in the world in this way? Can I imitate them?
- What exactly are they doing, on a day to day basis?
- Am I sure they are actually doing it better – or am I basing this assumption off of what I see in facebook?
- Could I get to know them in the real world?
- Could I ask them for advice?
So in conclusion: I can use my inner creative work to find out why I’m hiding, to brainstorm ways to step out, and to come up with ways to make it as easy as possible to do it.
That’s the opposite of self-indulgent!
It’s pro-active, patient and thoughtful. It’s taking time to question myself and question the situation. That’s what I would like to see more people doing in the world — so isn’t doing it myself the best way to support that change?
Yes! So there you have it. A world where activism and inner creative work co-exist. Or as I am going to start calling it, Magical Creative Activism.