Their Courage Becomes our Courage

As I mentioned in a previous post, I recently devoured Frances Moore Lappe’s brilliant new book EcoMind. I now have a clearer sense of the risk people are taking when they first begin to step off Status Quo Railways and change the way they live.

It’s deeply ingrained in each of us as humans to to look and act like everyone else in our tribe. This has been a matter of survival since Day One of our species: Stay with the pack, or perish!

No wonder so many are hesitant to follow a different drumbeat than the dominant culture’s. Lappe cites experiments showing that subjects went along with the wider group’s opinion–even when it went against what they could see with their own eyes.

It can be quite powerful to join a movement, but what if the movement looks fringy and wrong to the people closest to us? It’s a big risk.

That’s where the power of relationship comes in.

Because those same experiments showed that “all it took was one truth-teller to enable people to be true to themselves.”

“Knowing this,” Lappe writes, “we can choose to seek out those who share our passion, those who encourage us to risk for what we believe in.”

In fact, there are neurological changes that take place when we observe others’ actions. “Mirror neurons” in our brains start firing–as if we ourselves were taking those same actions!

In this way the courage of others becomes our courage.

I have had several such exemplars in my life, people who showed me what it means to live a life of passion and integrity, with the lightest of footprints. Here is a photo of one of them, Keith Johnson of Renaissance Farm.

Keith Johnson, sharing the beauty and abundance of Renaissance Farm

Keith Johnson, sharing the beauty and abundance of Renaissance Farm

Keith and his partner Peter Bane (who gave me my introduction to Permaculture) model a generous, resourceful, earth-sustaining way of life. It’s a way of life that will be ever more essential as we face the uncertainties of the future.

The photo above was taken in May when a friend and I drove down to Bloomington for Renaissance Farm’s plant sale. Though it was raining, Keith delighted in showing us the glories of spring on the suburban farmstead. The unveiling of a fig tree was particularly thrilling. As I recall, Keith insisted we take some of his surplus bok choy harvest, and when I swooned over the taste of chocolate mint, he pulled a clump right out of the ground and gave it to me to plant at home.

People like Peter and Keith give us all more faith in our own ability to heal the earth, to live in such abundance that we just have to share.

They offer me (and others like me) the assurance that Deepak Chopra talks about in this quote:

The famous adage is wrong: The journey of a thousand miles doesn’t begin with the first step. It begins with the assurance that you can take the first step.