It occurred to me recently that I’ve been preparing a rather cushy bed from which to carry out my life, padding it with comforts that make it a difficult place to leave. And it’s okay, I tell myself, because I’m not causing harm to anyone from here, I’m being conscious of my impact, I’m working and contributing—I’m doing good. I’ve got my values in check and so I’m going to stay in my cushy bed because it’s frankly very nice and, most importantly, it’s safe.
But over time, safety and comfort brings a kind of stagnancy and familiarity that dulls the human spirit. We enter a humdrum state where we’re no longer hearing (let alone responding to) the impulses that emerge from within—impulses that might invite us to try something new, challenge assumptions or look at things differently. In the humdrum state, the world becomes smaller, more insular and disconnected. Fear is pervasive, and many will fight in order to uphold what they have come to believe is their world.
I’ve been missing the rush of aliveness that comes from acting on these impulses or yearnings of the heart. For the storytellers in this issue, that rush comes from actively defying the systems we live in and creating new ones. It comes from speaking out to social and environmental injustices; from responding to something hateful with compassion; from resisting normalised behaviours that feel destructive and de-humanising. It comes, ultimately, from some kind of shift or transformation—be it in the broader culture or the individual psyche.
I’ve loved hearing the myriad ways in which people are called to be courageous in their lives. The call depends, of course, on one’s unique set of qualities and circumstances, but all the responses are important. It is our collective courageous responses, or lack thereof, that make the world.
Someone said to me recently that courage might actually be the reward of going into the unknown, rather than the thing we need to act. I think it’s both. I think that emboldening feeling we get after doing something challenging is the same quality we need to turn these impulses of the heart into action. Courageous responses create courageous responses—in us and also in those who bear witness.
It’s time to get uncomfortable.
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