Anna Barnett is an EcoFaith Leader from Multnomah Friends Meeting.
On May 15, 2013, Jay O Hara (member of the Religious Society of Friends, Quaker) and his friend Ken Ward (a Congregationalist) aboard their 32 wooden lobster boat the Henry David T, blockaded 40,000 tons of Appalachian coal from being unloaded at the Brayton Point Power Station in Somerset, Massachusetts, for over 10 hours. The pair are set to stand trial September 8 and 9, 2014 in Fall River, Massachusetts, on four state charges, calling Bill McKibben and Dr. James Hansen as expert witnesses. More information on the action and trial can be found at LobsterBoatBlockade.org. Jay is member of the New England Yearly Meeting (Quaker) Young Adult Friends Climate Working Group, and after the action had an extended conversation with fellow working group member Anna Barnett. The following is an excerpt of their conversation.
Activism vs. Faithfulness
A: So, I wonder if you might say a little bit about how your perspective on this is different than it would be if you were just being a secular activist. For example, I’m guessing that the outcome doesn’t really matter to you.
J: Yeah. I think it’s back to the control thing. Someone I took a class with has this phrase “you have to let go of the illusion of control in order to grasp the reality of power.” And that is true with outcomes of things. If we get caught up in what it’s supposed to look like or it’s supposed to achieve then we’re not putting the proper focus on the actual voice. I don’t think the voice tells us what its supposed to look like, the voice tells us what we need to do, and it doesn’t forecast the future, it merely illuminates your conscience and allows you to follow that conscience, so you have to follow that conscience.
A: What are some other differences you notice when you’re acting like an activist versus a person of faith?
J: I am STRESSED OUT! I’m stressed out when I’m in activist mode. I am wound up tight, I get small and bitter and judgmental and angry.
A: What other differences do you notice between you when you’re acting like an activist and when you’re more spirit led?
J: I see actual people with needs and with, I’m forgiving of them, you know because I’m not trying to shove anyone into a box of what they’re supposed to be doing in order to fit into my grand plan of how everything is going to work and turn out awesome. Because when I’m in that space I know that treating them in a way, and meeting people on the spiritual level is going to open them to being more powerful people. And we need more powerful people.
A: Taking a moment being in touch with those people as people.
J: I think the big thing is that there is something inside of you that is more powerful than you are, and if you give yourself over to that, whatever name you want to give to it, you will enable love, peace, and transformation to break into the world in a way that will transform yourself and the world around you. And the world desperately needs people who are able to do that right now. Because it’s better, you’re going to have a better life, you’re going to be happier, you’re going to be more joyful, you’re going to feel more free. It’s never an end state, because you never get to the plateau. But once you’ve been up the top of the mountain, you understand what the valley actually is. You can see the path.
A: Well, it’s interesting hearing that because I completely know what you’re talking about, and then there’s something in me that’s frustrated, like “Well I know, and what am I supposed to do other than like keep going to Meeting,” keep reading stuff that says this in order to remind me of that, I find that helpful but, it’s such a process though isn’t it? Like I can’t just like make a week long program of transforming my life into a faithful life, right? That would be great. Or it could be, like “30 days to a faithful life!”
J: All it takes is 20 seconds. You just have to be faithful next time you’re prompted. You don’t have to do anything now, you don’t have to make a plan, you just have to be faithful. Next time you hear the voice you have to respond to it. And that doesn’t have to be a big thing. Maybe it’s a big thing. But the more you listen and act upon your listening, the better your listening will be, the more you’ll be able to trust that the voice you’re hearing is the right voice, because you’ll be able to judge your choices by the fruits.
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