Some months back, after reading Barbara Hannah Grufferman’s column on women using their anger to good ends, I wrote a post daring you – and myself – to stand up and speak out when faced with social injustice.
And I dared you to do more than that. To pick something, and act on it.
I’ve been trying to do the same, setting myself loose but manageable action plans that involve personal goals. But more importantly, actions that force me to look beyond myself and my children. To do with health, to do with health care, to do with education.
A few months back I also wrote Apathy Into Action, specifically directing my remarks at women because it’s my impression that we are indeed more apathetic – not by design, but by circumstance.
There is no “gender agenda” in my underlying intent; we all get caught up in the complexities of daily life, we lose sight of the bigger picture, and we need reminders to step back in order to gain perspective.
To look beyond our own complicated lives.
But there’s more to these passing thoughts on action and achievable plans. There are other players in the mix, and we aren’t always aware of them at the time, or the magnitude of their influence.
Not long after reading Barbara and reflecting on my own need to shift focus, I was asked to write an essay for an 86-year old painter. He is an extraordinary talent, and a gentleman whose work I’ve been familiar with for many years. I was honored to be asked.
When I saw his most recent paintings and drawings, I was dumbstruck. He is known for puzzling and unsettling compositions with social undercurrent, but this was something else again – more resolute, more agitated, more determined than I had ever seen him – canvases breathing an increasingly fiery message. Beneath satiny surfaces he was taunting us to look more closely, shaming us in our paralysis, insisting that we open our eyes and confront the legacies of social injustice.
Specifically, he speaks to institutional power-mongering, to human history’s abuses of power, and the absolute necessity that we see, hear, and not turn away from our responsibilities to each other. To do more. To do better. To stand up, speak out, and take action.
And isn’t this sort of reminder all the more potent when delivered by a man who is 86 years young and whose work is more vital than ever?
Earlier this week, one smart, funny, and courageous young woman, age 31, received important news. Her family stood up for what they knew was right, they fought the good fight, and they won. The “village” gathered to help them, but it was still David against Goliath. Let’s hear it for the slingshots!
There are synergies and synchronicities that we may never comprehend. I have taken certain actions in my own life in recent months, and took others a few weeks back. Not to speak up becomes unthinkable. I know that I was influenced by Barbara, a 54-year old writer whom I’ve never met. I know that I was influenced by a gentle man whose work revitalizes my conviction that we are never too old to contribute, a painter who continues to stand up for what he believes – every day that he picks up a brush.
I am inspired by those who stand up and speak out.
I am inspired by those quiet heroes who provide service daily to those they love and to others, and we never hear their stories.
I am inspired by my sons whose good hearts and thoughtful pursuits offer the contrast of yet another generation – to join with Ashley’s at 31, with Barbara’s and my own at 50-something, with the painter I mention, age 86.
Four generations of influence, still capable of looking forward, strangely and mysteriously connected, with our differing perspectives and our dramatically divergent lives, with our unique skills at the ready and our willingness to put them to use. We do not need to pick up weapons. We do need to pick our battles, choose our words, and pay attention to how fully alive we become when we reach out to each other.
Inspiration is everywhere. Seek it out, heed it, or create it. Then make a plan – however vague – and take action.