Magazine article Tikkun

Where the Heart Takes You

Magazine article Tikkun

Where the Heart Takes You

Article excerpt

I have just started speaking publicly about my own activism in the last year, in my role as one of the leaders of the Tikkun Community. Standing on a stage (or occasionally a milk crate) and sharing my vision of the world with a crowd of strangers is scary and sometimes difficult. But I know that the inner conflicts and insecurities that are present in me are also present in most other people. I know it's vital that we address this vulnerability of heart and mind that we all share, because only when we address our insecurities and allow ourselves to be who we are can we take the leap into the unknown that activism requires. As Ram Dass says, "To acknowledge our humanness, with its mixture of empathy and fear, strengthens our helping hand."

As a society, we are hemmed in on so many levels, most of them unconscious. The world is an emotionally dangerous place. Many of us carry around shame of some sort-we feel we aren't smart enough, witty enough, funny enough, beautiful enough, whatever enough, to warrant the esteem of those around us. We try to prove our worthiness by making lots of money, climbing the professional ladder, filling our schedules-by trying to look like we've got it all together, like we are popular, loved, desired. We are afraid of ending up alone.

These little seeds of doubt were implanted in us long ago. I look back to the seeds of my own identity: the place was my particular split-apart family in my particular uppity suburb of L.A.; the time was the 1980s-a Ronald Reagan, nuclear proliferation, corporatization kind of decade. They called us Generation X, which means nothing; it means the generation about nothing. I feel sure we will be the subject of history book ridicule. We tucked our pants into our socks and had stupid hairdos, but more than that, my adolescence coincided with the 1960s backlash, when society began to view social change movements with a kind of cynical thatwas-then-this-is-now attitude. It was difficult to grow up in the shadow of the radical hippie folks and experience their disillusionment as free love turned into free commerce and suburban disengagement set in. Madonna made up for a lot, bless her virgin soul, but it was beyond even the great pop icon to redeem the Eighties.

It wasn't until college that I began to step outside of myself and my depressed worldview. I entered Harvard in 1991 and moved into Dudley Co-op, the only co-op on campus, and it was a sweet little haven. There were thirty-- five of us living in two old Victorians and there was a big meal on the table every morning and night, fresh bread baked every day, a garden, cats; and what I loved most was that at anytime of day or night I could go into the kitchen and shmooze. The bread came out of the oven late in the evening most days, and people would descend upon it with greedy joy and pats of butter and sit around and chat or watch TV. For the first time I felt what it would be like to have a real safety net in life. To feel part of a family, to never be alone, to live with a degree of intention.

I was already somewhat politicized by the environmental movement, whose second wave began to shift public consciousness in a tangible way in the late 1980s and early 1990s. At age fourteen I read Diet for a New America by John Robbins and immediately became a vegan. I wasn't a very good vegan, subsisting on vegan candy bars and vegan potato chips for a few years before becoming a raging carnivore again, until I finally settled where I am now, which is a lawless vegetarian. What I learned at fourteen, however, changed the course of my life-that our voracious appetite for animals and animal products was starving the rest of the world and destroying the ecology of the planet. The revelation that eating certain things, using certain products, leaving the lights on, driving cars, flushing the toilet, disposing of everything as if there were unlimited space actually impacts the natural order-that I really was connected to the world in some cosmic way-cracked my head wide open and affirmed something deep in me that yearned for more meaning and connection. …

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