In 2009, the UC system underwent massive budget cuts that led to a 32% rise in the cost of tuition. Fueled by my faith and a genuine drive to participate in creating a more just world, I jumped at the chance to join the protests. I was among those blocking the west entrance, trying to convince my fellow students that their voices have power and that they should join with us.
One conversation in particular sticks out in my memory. I can’t tell you what this student looked like other than that she was blonde, but I do remember what she said:
“What’s the point of all of this anyway? You know it’s going to take years to change anything, right? It’s not like tuition will be lowered tomorrow because of this so just go to class and stop bothering people.”
She pushed past me after rolling her eyes at my response, which was something along the lines of “This is for all of the future students who shouldn’t have to pay this much for a good education.” This interaction was just the first of many times in my life where I would need to reconnect to the sources of inspiration for my activism.
This memory comes up whenever I find myself protesting for cultural or systemic change during hard times. The words float to the surface of my consciousness like a phantom and my response determines what I do next. I can go about my life and stop bothering people or I can continue to fight. Most of the time, the decision to fight on is not a hard one to make, but there are times when my soul feels weary and I need additional inspiration to keep going.
Here are my 4 unusual sources of inspiration for spiritual activists:
1. Superhero cartoons
Adventure Time, Teen Titans, Batman Beyond, Gargoyles, Darkwing Duck— these a few shows from my youth that I turn to when I need inspiration now. These shows helped teach me about justice and are at the root of my drive to do what’s right. I certainly have my critiques after watching them as an adult, but I can’t deny that these shows stir something in my being, inspiring me to be and do better. For spiritual activists, reconnecting with a source of inspiration from the past can be a helpful reminder of why we are activists in the first place.
2. Snow globes
This might be the weirdest one, but trust me. Snow globes are great little sources of inspiration if you think about it. I have an absolutely garish snowglobe on my desk that a friend got for me from Washington D.C. The globe sits on top of a silver-colored plastic base made to look like the American flag. An eagle with its wings outstretched juts out of the bottom. Inside the globe, is the Capitol. I find some strange delight in the act of turning it upside down and watching the mini get covered in white globs of “snow.” It reminds me that a little bit of agitation can change a landscape dramatically.
Archdruid John Michael Greer wrote an article in 2008 explaining his theology of compost. Composting is the act of turning waste into resources to meet needs and is the diametric opposite of capitalist models of consumption that turn resources into waste. When composting, waste becomes that which nourishes the soil. With this in mind, where some might see activism as a “waste of time,” I see it as the laying of essential nutrients for something beautiful to grow. Spiritual activists are cultivating to soil for a new, more just world.
4. Our Planet: Earth
Okay, this is less of an unusual source and more of one that is taken for granted or easily forgotten. Here’s a thing about our planet: it is resilient. The pandemic has given humanity a glimpse of just how resilient nature is. Though the pandemic will likely have little to no effect on climate change in the long term, we’ve seen that it is possible for humans to change their habits and the results of those changed habits on our environment. For spiritual activists, the earth is one of the best case studies in resilience and a good source of inspiration for how to keep going when times are hard.
There’s no doubt that times are hard right now. Changemakers of all kinds need a steady flow of inspiration to keep fighting for a better tomorrow. Where are you finding the inspiration to keep fighting?