Imperfect steps towards a perfect world

Most people don’t get involved with politics because they don’t feel ready yet. They don’t know enough. They aren’t sure what they think.

But I think politics is like going to bed. You can try lying on your back for a while and either you’ll fall asleep or you’ll get restless and turn over. Maybe you’ll lie on your left for a while. Maybe you’ll turn over and lie on your right. It’s all ok.

You’ve been taught to believe that what you think matters, but it’s not your thinking that matters. What matters is whether you’re following a dogma or following your heart. Are you sharing a theory or sharing your truth? All theories are lies. Are you being real? Or did you fall asleep?

I have friends on the left, right and centre of traditional politics. I’ve coached government ministers, party activists and street protestors. What all these people have in common is they take imperfect action – they don’t wait until they’re 100% ready, they don’t wait for someone else to give them permission; they just go for it. And this may seem like ego at first but really it’s the opposite. They all know they’ll be beaten. They all know they’ll get mocked and tripped up and misunderstood. Nobody wins in politics. But they take imperfect action anyway, because they’re alive and because doing nothing is a kind of death. They let themselves be moved.

There’s a smugness in pretending to be above politics. “Politicians are all the same” is one of the stupidest things you can say. People who do nothing are all the same, but people who take part are tremendously different.

What frightens people is the fear of failure. I felt this myself recently. I wrote a short article about what’s happening to gay people in Russia and I posted it on my Facebook profile. It took about ten minutes. Then I spent another two hours cringing, feeling stupid and wishing I hadn’t wasted my time. My ego had landed. I thought I’d gone over the top and people would think I was hysterical. I worried that I shouldn’t have used the word evil. Meanwhile, the article wasn’t getting many likes and the first few comments all seemed quite petty to me. I felt embarrassed. And then suddenly peace returned, just like that. I realised I’d disappeared up my own arse. That’s why it was so dark!

I wrote the article because I was moved to write the article. That’s it. I know I’m capable of writing something more sophisticated, and I could have spent longer on it and made it part of a wider strategy. But why? I did what felt right at the time. Until the thinking took over, it felt perfect.

So I went back to the perfect feeling. I surrendered to that feeling. The article was already out there. The response isn’t my business.

Over the next few days I heard from a couple of friends who’d forwarded the article to their MP, who in turn had forwarded it to the foreign secretary. I noticed my thinking begin to whirl again. What good would that do? I don’t even like the foreign secretary. He doesn’t have much hair. Seriously, I thought that! I don’t know why.

Then another friend congratulated me on the article getting 8,000 likes. 8,000 likes?? I checked and it was true. Then the next day it was up to more than 11,000. I looked at my web stats and realised that thousands of strangers had been sharing the link on their profiles, and just shy of 100,000 people had clicked through to read what I’d written.

More thinking came in. These are just numbers on a screen. Nothing has changed. The guys getting bashed in Russia won’t care that some people have read an article.

And then peace returned. It’s not my job to change the world. It’s not about me. I did what I was moved to do. I’m a drop in an ocean.

My thoughts swing like a pendulum between grandiosity and smallness. I think I’m more than I am… less than I am… more than I am… less than I am. Sometimes I feel hypnotised.

Then meditation returns me to balance. I am. I am. I am.

The simple truth is that I want people in Russia to be free. My ego’s version of that involves me riding in on a white horse and rescuing them. The wiser me laughs at that image.

I think most of us have grand ideas of what we think we’d like to do, and then we give up on them because we think they’ll never work. This is a perfect recipe for apathy. But if you are willing look at what’s behind your grand idea and take an imperfect step in that direction, then ten minutes can create a ripple. And the ripple has its own intelligence.

My ego says I haven’t done enough. My ego says I’m pathetic. But I keep taking imperfect action, and each time it gets easier.