The way I know when a book has been truly life-changing is when my behaviour starts to change.
Pivotal books in my life have shattered certain perceptions, as if a wall in my brain had come down, letting certain concepts out of their box. For awhile it is a muddle in there until all the material reconfigures to a new view.
For me, to fully integrate the changes a key book has initiated, can take as long as two years.
Life-changing books first change consciousness which then leads to taking different actions.
Several of these kinds of books have come into my life in recent years, but the one I want to focus on here is Walk Out, Walk On (WOWO).
Start anywhere and follow everywhere, was an operating concept in my life long before I read the book. It is key to every creative process. If I am uninspired, pushing myself to start on a large painting is ineffective. I either balk, or ruin it. Rather than demand inspiration where there is none, I start somewhere by cleaning my brushes or looking through resource material. Often this will be enough to at least get me sketching some new ideas.
In the WOWO context, the authors say that no one in the book started by saying,’We are going to tackle the big problems like world hunger or homelessness’. Rather, one person saw a way right in front of them to solve a little problem. When this joined with the surrounding community’s wisdom, then the act became viral and catalysed system-wide changes. Microcredit is an example of this. But there are also less known acts, like the ones in Joubert Park (see previous post), or a woman planting a tree over a compost toilet pit.
In the light of these stories, I doubt I’d want to start an initiative all on my own. After 40 years of living a fairly traditional visual artist’s existence (aside from my years of art healthcare work) , the emphasis was on me and my career, and less on collaborations.
But to be effective, I need community. For my own well being at this phase of my life, I need community. And the world is also at the point where cooperation, collaboration, and community building are the buzz words- not in a trendy way,but because that is where we are in our development.
My personal mini-drama is that the community I find myself in in northern Holland has never been that kind of place for me. But…….
Starting anywhere, I wrote my transition story on the WOWO site. That led to contact with other women in a similar place, which led to more conversations with some of them, a guest blog at Cat’s, and finally starting Tending Time here.And by the responses to Tending Time, I feel to be part of a new community.
And by some bizarre synchronicity, I’ve been invited to participate in a work group here in the village to improve a dangerous traffic situation. And it appears that finally, contrary to previous experiences here, there is some promise of a truly collaborative and friendly group effort.
So go figure!
But looking at it again, if I hadn’t been so moved by the stories in WOWO maybe I’d not have identified my own longing for community action quite so clearly, and perhaps I wouldn’t have been so open to joining the work group. And if I’d not had such positive contacts with my new community online, I might have not had the confidence to expect the same here where I live.
Hopefully, what I’ve learned from the examples of working together in the WOWO stories, will help me avoid common pitfalls and enable me to work optimally in this situation.
Books really can change lives.