For the last three months I worked with 12 aspiring authors who wanted to write and publish books that would inspire readers to create change in their lives, in organizations or in the world. All of them felt it was their soul purpose to “author change.” In the publishing industry, we definitely feel books can change lives and the world.
There are other ways to become a change agent if you feel inclined to become one. This post is not meant to discuss all those ways. Rather, it is meant to have you inquire of yourself if you feel the push to fix even a small bit of what is wrong in the world. Do you?
In Judaism, we have a strong belief that each and every person should get involved in tikkun olam, repair of the world. In Kabbalah, this term refers to Isaac Luria, the sixteenth century Kabbalist, and his description of the creation of the world. He used the phrase “tikkun olam,” to explain how God created the world by forming vessels of light to hold the Divine Light. As God poured the Light into the vessels, they shattered, causing the light to scatter over the physical world. The light, however, is trapped, and our task is to free and raise the sparks back to Divinity, thus restoring the broken world.
How do we repair the world? We do this with good deeds…which could be supporting positive change.
Yet, change begins at with each and every one of us. As Ghandi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Actually, Ghandi didn’t say that. He said something like that. The closest verifiable quotation we have from Gandhi that comes close to this bumper-sticker version is actually: “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him.”
What Ghandi is telling us is that we must each change first. As we do that, the world around us changes–first in the way it responds to us. We will also change in our response to the world.
The world is our mirror. Just like in relationships, whatever we see in the world that we do not like or that frustrates us, angers us or saddens us must be a part of us–either we lack it or we have too much of that quality. When we criticize our significant other, children or boss, we can usually find that same quality we dislike or that we find annoying within ourselves. We either wish we had it or wish we didn’t–or we’ve been covering it up so no one would know it is part of who we are.
If you feel pushed to repair the world, begin with yourself–with a small bit of the world. Then work outward on a larger, and larger scale. This is how I worked with my writing students. Yes, they wanted to author books about change, but first we looked at what they needed to change, how comfortable they were with change and if they handled change well. We also looked at why they wanted to create change–what that change meant to them or reflected to them. Through this understanding, and the personal changes they made, they could become better authors of change, more effective change agents.
I know I have many things I need to change about myself and in my own life. This does not remove my responsibility for repairing the world at large. I hope I do that through my work, even if I don’t always have time for more. Day-to-day, I keep chipping away at my own personal changes and hope to embody that bumper sticker, which summarizes Ghandi’s sentiment well: Be the change you wish to see in the world.
In the process, I hope I release a few sparks up to God as well.
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