Action is not necessary for change

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One of the core criticisms of Kindling – from others and even me – is its lack of tangible action. Yes, it feels learn about new ideas and possibilities, but unless we are really doing something tangible, it’s all meaningless, right?

Part of me agrees with this. Many of us, myself included, have ways of tricking ourselves into ways of being that are comfortable, don’t require a risk. I can just sit here at my keyboard typing a good game without putting anything real on the line.

But more and more, I wonder if our focus on action is misguided.

Most of what we do in life is simply reaction. Without consciously acting, we respond to a situation based on our beliefs and mental models. As a white man, I don’t mean to shrink away from a black man walking down the street, but honestly, sometimes I react that way. I’ve been raised in a culture that encourages and teaches me to do that. I don’t mean to act like I know more than women simply as a matter of being male, but sometimes I show up that way.

These reactions and behaviors are inside of me and have been from a very young age.

It is helpful for me to take action to fight racism and patriarchy. I need to show up at protests and say call it out in myself and others when I see these systems at play. I’m committed to that.

But more than anything, my work is in rewiring the connections in my brain to see the world differently. If I dismantle the idea in myself that black men are associated with crime and violence, for example, then I create change without “acting” per se. I don’t have to do anything consciously. I’m just genuinely showing up in the world differently. I won’t react in ways that create racism and patriarchy.

That’s real change.

I accept the challenge for Kindling to have more tangible components. But let’s not discount the profound transformation that takes place when we see simply the world differently. Let’s not forget to create a new and more intentional set of beliefs for ourselves.

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