Viktor Frankel once said, “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”
We all represent a cause, no matter how deeply buried it may be. Through introspection, we can find and define it. Once defined, the ‘why’ can bubble to the surface like hot lava. When ‘why’ becomes collectively defined, you have an eruption and movements rise from the earth. Beauty can also emerge as destruction, a volcano can give rise to island paradise in an empty sea, or reveal devastation burying a civilisation in ash.
Inner alignment of the soul and a life of action upon it moves mountains – even if just being for ourselves, it will have been worth it – a conduit to finding our meaningfulness in a world devoid of it.
The world is a divided place, there’s neither two ways about it. Existing behavioural patterns and social customs are thick set in the grey muzzle of societies. It takes showing clear value to the naysayers for a tipping point of acceptance to be breached, before any self-sustaining momentum can reach mass approval for a movement.
Elizabeth Gilbert conceptualised creativity saying inspiration is a force distinct from us that we can’t rely upon showing up for us. What we can do is show it we are worth showing up for by diligently showing up and doing the work we do every day. Understanding that our creative ideas and innovations we put out into the world came through us, but not necessarily from us, is an exquisitely liberating notion.
One hopes as a writer that their musings stimulate thought, and that thoughts can become discussions which blossom into debates. These discourses can then bridge divides between camps that see the world as black and white contrasting poles. To move us beyond this world that bends our perspectives, helping us see straighter.
The most significant aspect for a writer is whether they achieve any of the above. This holds for artists across the board, be they entrepreneur or musician. Whatever the ambition or momentum, they want to influence the world in some meaningful fashion. The trouble is, that creativity and drive, without introspection and vision, leaves us taking shots in the dark. Purpose isn’t the answer, it’s intent.
You may well know starting a project with grand designs on changing the world. They may tell you they’re building a movement. The frequency which this word gets thrashed about, you’d be forgiven everyone was starting a movement. Whether your nan’s knitting brigade, to the new vegan infusions café-cum-library in town, or the micro-brewery started in your neighbour’s garage, and the funk-soul-reggae band ranting and raving over the legalisation of cannabis, at long last. But these are not truly movements because they rarely take off. Without that firmly established destination or cause, they lack the purpose to transcend ‘fad’ status.
They may make the latest, albeit transient, fashion statement. They could be a brand with a following. But a movement is what happens when the curtain comes down. What comes after? Do they accept your mailing list requests, like posts and share amusing content? Or do they pull themselves up by the braces on their three-quarter length jeans and step up to the mantle as volunteers?
The difference is as much motivation as it is communication. Let’s be under no pretences. Mindset is everything – changing your own is hard, influencing others is harder yet. Why expect them to stick around if you don’t have a coherent idea of the change you want to make? A cause is fundamentally detached from any old brand. Brands are seen, manipulated and cultivated to create the appearance of being noticed for how they wish to present themselves to the world. There’s not much legroom in the opacity of pretence. You can try to reinvent yourself, sure, but most will see through the façade. Causes, however, are built on emotion – driven by feeling. There’s something innately raw and genuine when gut feeling, heart, and passion collide. What they want to do and be because of you inspire in them.
Many movements are not generally rooted in one streamlined process of thought, but separate entities with lives of their own – they may stand distinct, but they are rooted in similar cause and intent.
It may be standing up for the rights of oppressed minorities; a maligned individual igniting debates on the rule of law, crime and punishment, such as the fierce discussions and suits surrounding capital punishment; admiration for disciplined crafts or skills, such as new glass blowing or cocktail making. It could be standing resolute for the arts in a world driven by science. The common theme between all of these is in the doing, rather than specifically in what I am creating. In establishing a following, it’s not about where one leads you, but about where you lead yourself. It’s “do as they do”, as opposed to the coercive “do as I say.” This leaves the culture of a movement malleable and its cause intentional. Why is it that nobody likes it when vegans raid factories and plaster it all over social media as “meat is murder”? Or, take animal cruelty activists breaking up a fox and hound hunt in the Home Counties. The problem with these actions is they alter what we see, not how we feel. Constant announcements detract from the desire to leave the world a better place. Causes are built and pursued, but it is on the rest to choose whether they follow.
This is easily overlooked. Not least because of a globalised, background static makes it appear raising awareness comes from talking. To simply put a like, comment or share and think “well then, that’s my job done. Little slice of goodness for the day. Give yourself a pat on the back”, does little to pressure organisations, drum up meaningful volunteers, activists or following. It bores down to actively doing things worth talking about.
This is easier said than done. We all procrastinate in our own fashions. The danger is when it compounds. The author Steven Pressfield calls procrastination “resistance” in his book The War of Art. He refers to it as the main antagonist between you and the great work you are meant to achieve, a force of nature. The way universal entropy expresses itself in human life.
Resistance is real and if we let it, it will take over everything. In one way or another we are all working to defeat resistance in some area of our life.
Whether just getting started on the immediate, most important task in hand, through to the long-term slog – we are all human, all susceptible to the same weaknesses and quirks. Albeit in modulating levels of excusing and concealing them.
Let alone those leaders in their solitary ventures, holing fast day-in, day-out. The ebb and flow of criticism, waning loyalties, fickle followers and the often-thankless efforts fighting against them.
It Really Is Lonely At The Top
Take Martin Luther King and his movement for civil rights, fighting thick and thin through the slurry of oppressive structures and a society unwilling to admit its failings. Jackie Chan’s intent in nearly breaking every bone in his body emanated his resilience, motivation and boundless energy, turning a “useless” stuntman into reinventing the Bruce Lee era of martial arts with comedic Kung Fu. Take J.K. Rowling going through twelve publishers just to find one that would publish The Philosopher’s Stone, after having gone through severe depression as a broke, divorced and single mother to the point of contemplating suicide after her mum died. She was in a very dark place indeed. Her only refuge was in this world of wizarding and make-believe, so she dragged her daughter around cafes to tire her out so she could write and share with the world. She’s since become one of England’s largest philanthropists since establishing the Volant Charitable Trust to alleviate social inequality in 2000 with the words “I think you have a moral responsibility when you’ve been given far more than you need, to do wise things with it and give intelligently.” Even if the first Harry Potter book failed, she would have continued writing and fighting to publish the rest anyway. It must be terrifying to accept life is outside our control yet fight for it tooth and nail regardless.
“To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order;
to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order;
to put the family in order; we must first cultivate our personal life;
we must first set our hearts right.” – Confucius
For many of us, we may not reach such heights. But this doesn’t matter. What does is choosing our cause and acting on it with intent. From changing our mentality and providing for family and friends, this is a noble act on our little corner of the world. It’s often the getting started that is the hardest. But once you find yourself doing, rather than waxing lyrical on some problem or issue in your life or the world that gets your back up, plant your feet and hold your ground. Others may stand with you, some may fall by the wayside. And when you eventually bring yourself to reflect, you’ll see the positive impact you have paved for in the world. As Confucius once conceptualised what it would take for a harmonious society, he sought to define a rigid social structure that would promote social order, moral behaviour and filial piety. A protocol specialist of the highest order, wherein everyone knows who they are, their position and can relate to everyone else. It follows in his Analects of Confucius [475-221 BC] (quote above)