I’ve just spent seven days at Chautauqua, New York where the lecture theme for the week was “Radicalism.” There was discussion of both the gifts and the horrors that can come from radicalism in its many forms. The week left me with a great mix of emotions to be sure, and stirred up many thoughts about the role of radical thought and action in Transformational Presence work – first for our personal lives, and then for the impact our personal presence might have on society.
Many people equate radicalism with violent extremism. However, if violent acts of extremism are at one end of the “radical” spectrum, the constructive power of radicalism lies at the other end. Religious movements as well as great social and scientific advances started out because someone was willing to take a radical stance. Consider Martin Luther King, Einstein, Gandhi, Rosa Parks, Mother Teresa, Gautama Buddha, Jesus, Frederick Douglas, Susan B. Anthony, to name only a few. Kosmos Journal and Ode Magazine regularly report the incredible work of people who are making a major difference in the world because they refuse to accept the status quo – ordinary people who have chosen to do extraordinary things – to take a “radical” step.
The word “radical” comes from the Latin radix meaning “root”. A radical thought, position, or act is born out of a powerful root belief or value. It is the outward expression of a conviction rooted in the core of one’s being. Conviction turns to action when it can no longer be held silent. A voice inside demands to be heard, a step towards a new way of being and doing in the world demands to be taken. We consider that expression to be “radical” when it goes against the accepted convention of the time or against the tradition or practice of a particular group or culture.
Giving voice to the truth at the core of your being and taking a step towards a new way of being and doing can be incredibly liberating and empowering. And it can be really scary. In fact, many would say that if there is not some level of fear, then it’s probably not really a radical act. “Radical” implies that there is something big at stake.
If you are committed to living a transformational life, chances are that you, too, have committed radical acts. Perhaps you said “no” to a faith tradition or set of beliefs in which you were raised. Maybe at some point you recognized deep in the heart of your being that you were not the person you had been groomed to be and walked away from a “promising future.” Or maybe you stood up to a practice or value within your company, community, or government that you could no longer be silent to.
Commitment to making a difference in the world and to serving a greater good sometimes demands radical presence – challenging the status quo. It may mean breaking some rules and patterns, whether they are society’s rules or unspoken family rules or personal rules we’ve created for whatever reasons. Often it is the unspoken rules or the patterns not openly acknowledged that have the greatest grip on how we live and lead.
David Robinson writes in The Ground Truth, “In mythic stories, the main character must always go where they have been warned never to go. They must break a rule to save themselves and their community.”
Chances are you have broken at least a few rules in your life, taken at least one big risk, maybe even taken a bold and radical step. You’ve gone against the conventional wisdom, challenged an accepted view, or broken a family tradition. And chances are, even though it may be have painful or difficult at the time, if you were truly honoring your soul and deep inner wisdom, it helped you take a step forward. In that moment, you were the “radical.”
So where are you now? Things may be humming along very well and you are in a great flow. On the other hand, it may be time for a radical step. Just check in with yourself. Tap into the root of your being. Is there something beyond what you are currently living that is calling out from deep inside of you now – a truth that yearns to be lived? Is there a shift waiting to happen if you will just take the first step? Is there a rule or practice you are going to have to break?
Whatever it is, answer that calling now. Step into the radical you. Make the difference you are here to make. Living your greatness may itself be a radical act. This is the kind of radicalism the world needs. And the truth is, the world can’t afford for you to wait any longer.
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