No Spectators

Across our country and around the world there are burning crises that must be addressed right now. That is what Dr. King meant when he demanded we pay attention to The Fierce Urgency of Now. Sitting by the sidelines and watching life pass us by is the work of the dead who don’t have a choice. Luckily, we all have a choice. The question is whether we are engaged in making that choice.

Personal engagement insists that each of us take hold of our personal capacity to become engaged within and around ourselves. We must face our lives as they are right now, name them for what they are, and if necessary dig into where they came from (which is most likely not necessary). Then we must push forward and continue to move. The fierce urgency of now demands it’s due, and right now you are due for a change.

Paulo Freire once wrote, “I cannot permit myself to be a mere spectator. On the contrary, I must demand my place in the process of change.” This can feel really uncomfortable, especially when we really want to change but don’t feel like we can. We get into ruts where we feel incapable or stuck. Luckily, these are just illusions, slights of the hand. There is a force that would have us believe that we cannot do anything to make a difference. This is simply untrue. Personal engagement calls us to actively engage within our own lives and in the world around us, allowing personal engagement and community engagement to take center stage in making the world a better place.

One day Bruce Lee pushed an older friend to run further with him, saying, “…if you always put limits on what you can do, physical or anything else, it’ll spread over into the rest of your life. It’ll spread into your work, into your morality, into your entire being. There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.” This is true.

The expansive nature of community engagement calls for each of us to become actively, passionately aware of what we’re engaged to within ourselves. It is only through personal engagement that we can be engaged in our communities. If you see something in the world around you that is askew, name the roots of that concern within you. Once you have named those roots, you can change your own life. If you’re still concerned with the world around you afterwards, become engaged in the community and work to change it. Working through your personal engagement this way will draw you nearer to yourself, and strengthen your capacity to change the world.

2 responses to “No Spectators”

  1. Any post that combines Bruce Lee, Paolo Freire, and Martin Luther King is sure to get my attention! What words of wisdom, though, might you share with those who are passionately engaged, have been working on the fierce urgency of now for a number of years, and are feeling somewhat frustrated? At the moment, I’m in need of a little push to keep going!

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  2. Hey Craig, thanks for commenting. I wrote another entry in response to your question- hope you read it and let me know what you think. http://commonaction.blogspot.com/2012/03/getting-tired-keep-hope-alive.html

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