Work is love made visible.
—Ama Ata Aidoo
Honor the work, and the work will honor you.
According to writer Annie Dillard “the way we live our days is the way we live our lives.” Those small details of each moment can tell a larger story about who we are, what we value and where we are going. However, in the rush of our lives, it can often be difficult to align our actions with our vision for our work in the world.
In the process creating a more sustainable society, all we have is the daily work we do tied to a broader vision for success. The prospect transformation within our lifetime is deeply alluring, and many changes are already occurring which illustrate the need to shift the ways in which we live. Although the promise of change feels like a horizon drawing closer, it is always coupled with the awareness of ongoing suffering and the need to craft a more humane world. We must be prepared for what legendary activist Myles Horton referred to as “the long haul.”
How this is reflected in our work and in our daily choices is critical.
I’ve been doing a lot of traveling for my work this summer. It’s been said that a single cross-country flight uses up an entire year of one person’s ‘carbon budget’. From my own travel this summer along, I am years ahead of where I should be in terms of my ‘allowance’ of pollution and climate change-causing emissions. How can this justify my own commitment to supporting greater sustainability? I suspect many of us face similar challenges of how to align our vision and passion for creating change with the day-to-day reality of our current world.
We are in a transitional era which presents many contradictions of this kind. There may be temporary and insufficient, yet evolving answers such as carbon offsets which allow us to find peace within compromise. And we also must acknowledge that small changes are simply a bridge to something larger to address, as we exist within cultural, political and economic structures that place particular expectations upon us and challenge a new set of values as they emerge. We privilege the global over the local and the immediate over the long-term , two of many values which have implications for our personal, community and planetary sustainability.
Ultimately, the responsibility and accountability for our actions returns to each of us. As we move toward a more sustainable, humane society it is essential to be thoughtful about how we are living in alignment with what we believe, and seeing where we are not. Then, how do we revisit what it is that is most important to us and recommit to living our values—not only in our work, but in all aspects of our daily life?
A vision is something that is challenging, sometimes even unreachable. But it can serve as a proving ground in our lives, inspiring us to question what is and to seek a different path, to look deeply at what holds meaning and how we can best affect positive change as we move through the world.