The topic below was originally posted on my blog, the Intrepid Liberal Journal, as well as The Wild Wild Left, The Peace Tree, Independent Bloggers Alliance and Worldwide Sawdust.
Effective change agents and activists must blend their cognitive skills and passions with deep reservoirs of inner strength. It’s a life path requiring self-sacrifice, discipline, a tough hide combined with empathy, idealism joined with pragmatism, a willingness to put ego aside, resiliency and a perspective beyond the moment of immediate conflict.
Alas, many of us dedicated to pursuing the cause of peace, justice and economic fairness are demoralized by setbacks and criticisms overtime. Personal lives are also easily consumed by the flames of devotion to causes larger than ourselves, such as reversing global warming or stopping genocide. It’s so easy to lose our balance as we stand apart from professional colleagues, friends and relatives who don’t share our passions or devotion to change the world for the better.
Lifetime activist and social entrepreneur Charles Halpern provides a life road map in his inspiring memoir, Making Waves and Riding The Currents: Activism and the Practice of Wisdom (Berrett-Kohler). In an accessible and compelling narrative, Halpern describes his journey starting as an ambitious young Washington corporate lawyer to becoming a crusading advocate on behalf of the public interest.
It’s also the story of a man who learned to lead, listen and follow. On his unique journey, Halpern realized his cognitive and adversarial skills were by themselves insufficient. Hence, Halpern developed “inner resources” that complimented his professional abilities and led him to what he calls “the practice of wisdom.”
With humility and self-deprecating wit, Halpern conveys revealing anecdotes about the remarkable cast of characters he encountered along the way such as Barney Frank, Ralph Nader, Ram Dass and even the Dalai Lama in his pursuit of justice and self-knowledge. Overall, Halpern’s book is a compelling read for veteran activists or anyone who has struggled to enhance the quality and meaning of their daily lives.