A wise friend of mine posts thought-provoking “questions of the week” on Facebook. Last week’s question provoked an answer from me, and it’s got me thinking again about the difference I can and can’t make in the world. Because this feels so right for the blog, I’ve reproduced it here (with slight edits). I’d love to hear what you think of this.
My friend’s question:
What’s the thing you feel most powerless or helpless about?
I'm getting to a point where I feel powerless about the things I AM powerless about--specifically, things where my one-person's best contribution cannot begin to address the scale of the problem. Climate change. The rush to AI without proper reflection. The horrific state of polarization in the U.S. The resurgence of totalitarianism.
I look at these problems and think, (a) I cannot change their course by myself, and (b) as a species or nation, etc., we're probably screwed—or at least headed for a worse place than we inhabited several decades ago.
This sounds like despair but it is emphatically not. I THINK it's coming from a deep place in my Zen practice. What it does is liberate me to set the big problems aside and be my best self, do my best work, to serve the people and causes I can actually make a difference with. As an older nonbinary person, for instance, I can model what that's like to the world. As a writer, I can address issues that sit deep in my heart, without a thought of whether my writing will change the world. As a bireligious person (Christian and Zen), I can model interfaith bridge building by BEING interfaith bridge building. Etc.
Bottom line, I feel powerless over a lot of things, because I am. And seeing that fact releases what power I do have.
My question to you, dear reader:
What do you think? Feel free to email me, post your thoughts in the Comments section, or put them on Facebook.