Letting the Light In

There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.

Leonard Cohen

We know many organizations have been feeling overwhelmed by the seeming endless news rolling in: the now obvious shifts in the US, the abandonment of Indigenous women in Val d’Or, the drastic cuts to welfare at the same time as a budgetary surplus is announced, the approval of the Kinder-Morgan pipeline. Many of us are also watching as Indigenous people, holding the front lines of change in Standing Rock and elsewhere, are met with extreme resistance and force. The road ahead seems long, and we are challenged to rise to the occasion amidst our existing work, deadlines, and the end of the year approaching.

Community workers and activists have many good reasons to be tired, angry and discouraged.

As this long and challenging year comes to a close, we have found nourishment and guidance in turning to the words of others to remind us about our purpose– and how to move with that purpose without exhausting ourselves. In The Activists Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Participatory Democracy, Aidan Ricketts reminds us that it’s important  to be realistic about the task ahead, positive but also forgiving of oneself“.

To do this work, Ricketts describes what he calls the spirituality of activism:

We need to be able to see ourselves as small, but yet as capable of choice, agency and effect…We need to have the humility to accept the diversity of the world and its people, yet to be sure enough of our position to pursue our goal with dignity and persistence. Above all we need to understand that we are a natural, valid and relevant part of the universe, just as we are, that we have nothing to prove” 

For Ricketts, this “spirituality of activism” lives concretely in the way our organizations are structured and the ways we work with people in our movements. He asks us: how can we build organizations that empower people, that build networks and strength between groups of people, and that deal with dissent and conflict in affirming ways? As we move into 2017, these questions seem especially pertinent: how can we build power together, in ways that give us strength and capacity?

We have also been reflecting on the words of the late, great, Montrealer Leonard Cohen. As this year comes to a close, and we are awakened to the way that power is working around us, we wonder: how can we take Ricketts’ reminder that we are small, but capable of effect, and Cohen’s words, together? How can we find the crack we can work from, in order to let the light in?

We hope that you can spend whatever holiday time you have spending time with people who feed your soul, laughing, connecting with the natural world, and finding moments to be quiet and alone. Together, we can be ready for the New Year and the challenges it will bring. Wishing everyone a well deserved holiday time,

– Frances, on behalf of the COCo team