What can I do?

In a world experiencing unprecedented climatic, ecological, and societal change, many in the Religious Society of Friends are coming to know our own need for newness. We thirst to find and share a clearer sense of the relevance of our beloved tradition to the challenges we face. We yearn to come more fully alive together, to speak and serve today in the Life and Power that generations of our spiritual ancestors knew. Across North America and beyond, Friends are recognizing a shared calling to rediscover and reclaim traditional understandings of who we are and how we are as Friends that will help us continue to travel this Way of Love.

Prophets, Midwives, and Thieves: Reclaiming the Ministry of the Whole, Noah Baker Merrill

Yesterday’s post, “who are you?” was difficult to write. I know, for example, some of us have ancestors who taught in a Quaker Indian Boarding School. I’m sure they did their best to nurture the children in their care.

This gets to what I have found to be a fundamental error in approaches to justice work. Too often the approach was that a justice organization or individual thought they needed to come up with a plan to solve the problems they observed. And then tried to implement that plan. Often with less success than hoped for.

The American Friends Service Committee’s (AFSC) Quaker Social Change Ministry program taught me instead, it is essential to listen deeply to hear what the impacted community feels their needs are, and follow their leadership.

It is important to wait to be asked to do something. It can take a long time for that to happen, but your continued presence allows for developing friendships, which will then make it possible for the community to know who you are, and feel comfortable asking something of you. It took two years of spending time at the Kheprw Institute (KI) before I was asked to provide a photography workshop during summer camp. During those two years I got to know the community members, and they got to know me, including my love of photography. But that time was also needed for me to understand it is a different thing to take children of color out into public to take photos. I was honored by the trust, that I would be aware of what was going on to protect the children.

“If you have come here to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” 

Lilla Watson

I was blessed to hear Arkan Lushwala speak about “Indigenous Ways of Restoring the World” during a call sponsored by the Pachamama Alliance.  “Arkan Lushwala is a rare indigenous bridge of the global north and south, carrying spiritual traditions from the Andes in his native Peru as well as being adopted and initiated by the Lakota people of North America.”

I was very excited when I heard the title of his talk. As I’ve been saying the solutions for our environmental chaos must come from a spiritual center.

Everywhere people ask, “what can we do?”
The question, what can we do, is the second question.
The first question is “what can we be?”
Because what you can do is a consequence of who you are.
Once you know what you can be, you know what you can do.

Arkan Lushwala

This is why we need Spiritual Warriors.  Because we ask ourselves the first question, “what can we be?”  Knowing that,  “our actions are precise, our actions are in harmony with the movement, the sacred movement, of that force that wants to renew life here on Earth and make it better for the following generations.”

The answer to “what can I do?”

Speaking about what is happening on Earth right now,
many of the conditions of life that we used to take for granted,
now are really out of balance.
Hopefully we still have time to get back into balance
so life may continue.
I travel around the world and meet people and talk to people
from all different cultures.
And everywhere people ask, “what can we do?”
The question, what can we do, is the second question.
The first question is “what can we be?”
Because what you can do is a consequence of who you are.
Once you know what you can be, you know what you can do,
and we cannot afford wasting time;
we have little time.
We need to be precise now.
When someone sincerely asks, “what can I do?”
my humble answer,
the only answer that I find in my heart to be sincere is,
“First find out what you can be.”
Action is extremely necessary at this time.
This is not a time just to talk about it.
The most spiritual thing now is action.
To do something about what’s happening.
To go help where help is needed.
To stand up when we need to stand up,
and protect what is being damaged.
And still, this action needs to be born
from a place in ourselves that has real talent,
real intelligence, real power,
real connection to the heart of the Earth,
to universal wisdom,
so our actions are not a waste of time.
So our actions are precise,
our actions are in harmony with the movement,
the sacred movement,
of that force that wants to renew life here on Earth
and make it better for the following generations.

Arkan Lushwala
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