Ardent Eden

Ardent Eden is a place to explore my thoughts about the interdependence of life - humanity and nature - and to engage with others for collective problem-solving.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Baby Steps

After throwing the "e" word around yesterday, I woke up with a refreshed perspective today: still distraught over the direction that our country continues to head in, but also renewed in my commitment to do what I can -- even if it seems like a drop in a bucket. Am I a glutton for punishment? Why do I continue to worry about getting a drying rack to use the clothes dryer less often (speaking of gluttons, the dryer is one of those greedy electricity gobblers that Roger was talking about the other day) in the face of a political process that can make citizens feel helpless? Why walk to the post office when our last American wildernesses could be opened for oil drilling anyway? Why shop for foods with the organic label when food industry representatives make the decisions about organic standards? In short, why do I continue to sweat the small stuff?

There are three main reasons why I continue to focus on the little things. First, I'm convinced that they will add up. Call it a tipping point, a ripple effect, the boiling point, the power of numbers or whatever other metaphor speaks to you. The idea is that we don't know when our actions will collectively start a tidal wave of change. We don't know if our asking for a cup of Fair Trade coffee for the 100th (1,000th? 1,ooo,oooth?) time at Starbucks will finally make the corporation realize that there is a consumer demand for it and decide to brew it everyday. While there still would be a lot of people drinking coffee that isn't Fair Trade, there also would be tangible effects in the lives of farmers. Real change for real people. That alone should make taking a small action worth it. I've read so many inspiring stories that don't make it to our mainstream media (see Ode magazine, the essays in The Impossible Will Take a Little While, the stories in Hope's Edge and You Have the Power, and the examples in Visionaries for starters). The root of these stories and why I keep coming back to doing whatever I can do on any given day - and that varies depending on what is going on my life, my mind, and my heart - is that we'll never know what is possible if we don't try. Paul Rogat Loeb reminds me why cynicism, while a natural response to the overwhelming problems before us, is not the way forward:
But as understandable as such moments of doubt and apparent impotence may be, especially in a culture that too often rewards cynicism and mocks idealism, they aren't inevitable. If tackling critical common problems seems a fool's errand, it's only because we're looking at life through too narrow a lens. History shows that the proverbial rock can be rolled, if not to the top of the mountain, then at least to successive plateaus. And, more important, simply pushing the rock in the right direction is cause for celebration. History also shows that even seemingly miraculous advances are in fact the result of many people taking small steps together over a long period of time.
The second reason that I refuse to give up on the small steps as a way to fight the larger battle of winning back democracy is simple: it's empowering. When I read the headlines in the corporate-controlled media, my head starts to spin at times. I risk not engaging in the struggle for a better democracy--that necessary underpinning that connects many of the issues that concern us most. But if I can walk into my kitchen and find organic ingredients from a local farm for a soup, serve a meal with cloth napkins rather than disposable ones, and buy Christmas presents from a local bookstore rather than the big box alternative, then I feel like I am doing something. However small, I am contributing. I am trying. I feel better and, on a good day, I feel ready to try to do more. To try to reach someone else and encourage them to take a similiar step, to build community, to vote with my dollars, to make a difference in the life of someone who lacks the means to choose to take these steps on their own.

Finally, the third reason for marching on is sitting on my lap right now. My daughter deserves it. Siel asked yesterday if being a parent makes one desperate to make the world a happier place. I was pretty desperate for a better world before I became a parent. But now I have the most beautiful reminder of all of the reasons why. You don't have to be a parent, though. You just have to care about the world that we are creating for others --young and old. And put one foot in front of the other.


  • At 3:10 PM, Blogger Siel said…

    Such cute feet! Do you knit?

  • At 3:17 PM, Blogger lauren said…

    No, but I wish that I did! If you or Andrea were close by, I'd be hitting you up for some lessons. :)

  • At 9:14 AM, Blogger breadchick said…


    The Cambridge Public Library knitting group that meets at Collins Branch! It meets in the evening. I haven't gone but always wanted to. They welcome new knitters as when I go in to pick up our books (Collins is our home branch) there is always a large group of folks there with their needles and the librarians always have a pot of tea hot and at the ready.


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