When you hold a candle you need both hands. you have to guard the flame…you can’t hold a club or stone at the same time.

Inspired by reading in Eco Mind, (Frances Moore Lappé) we tap into the thought that breaking from the pack is terrifying for humans.

Read this excerpt, a journal entry from then 14 year-old Markuz Leagel, writing of his parents and his experience, just four weeks ahead of the November 9th, 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall.

 

Thousands of people gather. They’re here to pray. They’re praying for peace. The prayer is set to start at 6 p.m. The idea is to use the Nicolai church, but that’s already full and it’s still only four o’clock. We go down to the church of St. Thomas. That’s full too, but we manage to find a space. Mum, dad, and me. We’re a family. Not just us, but everyone. Everyone in EVERy church at the moment. (186-188, Lappé, 2011)

He continues on quoting a minister as saying, ” When you hold a candle you need both hands. You have to guard the flame…. You can’t hold a stone or a club at the same time…. The army fighting patrols and police were drawn in, started conversations and retreated.”

And then he continued:

 

“Thousands of people…lay their candles at the feet of the armed soldiers and police. The steps of the Stasi (state security) building – the organization that spied on, abused and sold people out- are now awash with candles. It looks like a river of peace and light.”

As we have evolved by responding to nature, to cooperate, to empathize, to feel useful- so much so that we evolved in tribes.

Valuing the success of the pack over all else, we have at times lost backbone when testing ideas that aren’t congruent with the whole.

A mere four weeks following Markus account, the Berlin Wall fell, and soon thereafter a leader in the collapsed East German regime, Horst Sindermann, acknowledged, “We had planned everything. We were prepared for any eventuality. Any except for candles and prayers.”

How may we apply this lesson when thinking of how to live more sustainably? In these current times when group-think maybe leading us over an ecological edge, amongst other perils- again, how do we break free?

We choose to be different. We must believe in ourselves and have courage to act differently, to stand up prodding, and pushing back against a global culture of intimidation, and centralized corporate dominance.

Now is the time for civic courage. We must re-frame not only our ecological worldview, but our natural fear response as well. To act prudently. To act with our planets interest at heart will take courage.

Surely you have seen the now famous Youtube video of the guy who starts dance party at a rave. It takes courage to act differently. It takes courage to stand out, and be viewed as weird or separate from the pack.

And as illustrated in that scene, one person inspired two, which in turn inspired the pack to realize how similar they were, and that when aligning their spirit of fun, dance, and community – the pack simply reemerged together as one, in unity for the greater good.

This lone dancer showed courage (or at least knew how to let loose, and pay no mind to being viewed as different), and you too can show your civic courage by engaging in activities that may be viewed as different from the outset, yet are in alignment with your values. The rest of the pack will show up.

Be brave.

If you’d like to engage your civic courage muscles with us, please sign-up for our newsletter, and join us for our next Earth Element Day as we engage in service for a more sustainable future.

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Brandon Vondera, is an event professional and creative director with Pineapple House Platforms. His interest in sustainability led him to want to host a Party with a Purpose. After meeting with Chris of Re-Mat Recycle, the two decided to join forces to bring you Elementz Fest.

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