Today, when I woke up, I had the image of an oyster in my mind.
I had no idea why – this is not what usually rouses me from slumber – but then I thought about it more. I mulled on the oyster (ooh, that sounds delicious. Moving on.) Considering the oyster, I pictured a bit of grit rubbing, irritating, scratching smooth flesh. I realized that there was a little black seed in some crevice of my mind – the residue of a dream I couldn’t remember – that was bothering me. Rubbing, irritating, scratching. I hoped that if I waited long enough (still in bed, of course) the friction would create a pearl. Some gem of insight that would have emerged from my dream, something real I could process. At the moment it just felt like mental chaffing. I was chewing on something, ruminating on it in my sleep, and upon waking I couldn’t quite put my finger on what this blacksomething was – just that it was a bother.
My attempts at rousing the grit from my deep subconscious having proved a dismal failure, I grumbled my way out of duvet paradise, sat down all crumbly-eyed at my computer, and checked Google News, the BBC homepage, and Facebook. These form the trifecta of online news for me at the moment, which I realize makes my information-gathering on par with that of a precocious thirteen year old’s. I could lie and say I read all the other publications I know I should, but honesty is key here, and this is something that I definitely want to improve through this project. An undertaking for another morning, when my brain is less raw.
On Facebook, I saw a colleague had posted this article in the New York Daily News about residents of public housing who are still without power after Sandy- meaning they are also without heat, toilets, and water. They’re largely invalids and the elderly living in poverty, which makes it that much worse.
I was so horrified reading this, so I shared it on Facebook, hoping that letting others see it, someone would do something. But then I realized that nobody would probably do anything. And so I thought to myself, “What could I do?”
For some reason, the idea of creating a petition occurred to me. If I could get hundreds of signatures, then John Rhea – who I discovered to be the Chair of the NY Housing Association, upon further googlication, obviously I had no idea who he was beforehand – might put the heat under those who are responsible for turning the heat on.
So I went to change.org and created a petition, which I then shared with a few folks on Facebook, and posted to my timeline. Let the downpour of civic engagement begin!
More like an outpouring of embarrassment on my part.
I realized when I clicked “share” that it posted about 27 times to my news feed, which must have been hugely irritating to all my friends & acquaintances – the very ones I was trying to court.
I also realized that I misunderstood a function on the petition itself, and now every time a signature was received it would send a noisy announcement to a small select group of people to whom I had thought I was sending a personal plea.
I’m also afraid it’s sent an email to anyone I’ve ever met, like LinkedIn does when, like an overzealous drunken facebook stalker, it hacks into your email and invites everyone to connect with you against your (and their) will.
Finally, after this exchange with my aunt on FB in response to the petition link, I’m reconsidering the entire thing. Perhaps this is the same as when folks scapegoat teachers for students’ problems – was I unfairly chastising and holding accountable the very folks who were working the hardest for problems that they couldn’t do a thing about? Was this civil-servant-on-civil-servant crime?
I was very proud of myself when I started this morning. I was thinking “my God, how I’ve grown in such a short time! Whereas before I would have just read an article and felt impotent and sad, now I am making change happen in the world! I’m taking action, rallying the troops, informed others, engaging!” But instead, I just feel like I had a premature civaculation.
I have good intentions. I have good ideas. But how do I direct them? There’s of course the nagging concept of doing one thing extremely well, or being mediocre at many things. Of being a specialist or a generalist. I certainly fall into the camp of the latter, but I would like to learn more about living in the ashram of the former.
Someone I just met told me about the Center for Progressive Leadership, which sounds incredibly interesting to me. Perhaps doing something like that would teach me how to focus my energy, instead of whirring about like a well-intentioned Tazmanian Devil.
Thing to mull on: what is my focus?
A particular issue?
A particular demographic?
A particular geographical area?
And how does one make this choice?
What do you think – how do you decide to engage, or not engage? How do you focus and filter your own civic actions?
I’m still not sure what that cerebral grit was that I woke up with, but I definitely feel more like I’m left with a whole bunch o’ pony bead than a pearl at this point.