You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth.

  • Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”


Mature individuals do not resent correction, for they identify more with their long-range selves that profit from correction than with the momentary self that is being advised.

  • Huston Smith, The World’s Religions

the truth about myself

By accepting the truth about myself and my actions, I am moving towards a more honest and whole life. Though painful, it is important that I see the impact of my own choices (for example, I must understand that the clothes I just bought at the store are made by workers in developing countries who are often underpaid and working in unsafe factory environments). Once I understand this impact, I can let it hurt me and let it change me. I can let it illuminate my darkness, broaden my understanding, and deepen my love. For honesty’s sake, I need to see my own desire for material gain, and how I sometimes place it above the well-being of the world’s most vulnerable. This is the tension that, should I choose to bear it, will transform me.

when we bask in paradox

[Alumnus, Nate Petersen, is hitting the road, continuing a spiritual pilgrimage that he finds best served by hitchhiking. Recently he was interviewed on “Your Story with Melinda.” Among the nuggets he shared was this:]

When we bask in paradox, it’s an opportunity to continue learning. It’s not the end of the road. There is not that certain period at the end of the sentence. It’s more of a … and then we can continue the sentence and build and learn and grow in this wonderful, spiritual experience of life.

I think that what we’re longing for is to be taught a tradition that can help us to live in that tension.

stepping back to see what we’ve created

[the first of three posts suggesting that we need to wake up in order to see that the current path to globalization is neither life-giving nor inevitable]:

The experience of Ladakh convinced me that the primary cause of our crises is neither human nature nor evolution, but rather a relentlessly expanding economic system that is steamrolling both people and the planet. Unfortunately, this system has grown so large that it has become difficult to recognize it as human-made: the tendency is to view it instead as some kind of irresistible evolutionary force. Only by stepping back and looking at the big picture can we discern the links between the global economic system and the problems we face. This broader view makes it clear that what we need to change is policies and human institutions, not the nature of our species or evolution. We can also see that the most effective way to alleviate a whole range of seemingly disparate symptoms – from deforestation to pollution, from poverty to ethnic conflict – is to change the dominant economy. Most important of all, countering the pressures that separate us from one another and the natural world would resonate with our deeper human needs, contributing to our well-being, to our happiness.

– Helen Norberg-Hodge, Ancient Futures: Lessons from the Ladakh for a Globalizing World (2009)