I take it, simply a fact, and in the light of it we can see how superficial and foolish we would be to think that we could correct what is wrong merely by tinkering with the institutional machinery. The changes that are required are fundamental changes in the way we are living.
We don’t have to look very far to see the problems in our world—natural disasters, wars, economic upheaval, and the racism, poverty, and injustice in our own back yard. And most often, our response is to seek to correct the situation by tinkering with the institutional machinery. We point the figure and blame them.
But as Wendell Berry writes, we need to start by taking a hard look at ourselves. We need to ask ourselves how we are living.
I march in protests for peace, but how do I treat my children? Or the lady at the grocery store? Or my parents who don’t share my political convictions? I sit for meditation and pray for forgiveness, but do I forgive? I am saddened by the destruction of the rain forest, but what am I doing in my own home to conserve energy, honor the planet, and respect the environment? If peace, love, and reconciliation are truly what I seek, then how do these traits manifest themselves in my everyday life?
There is a time and place for naming injustice and for working toward change. We do need to come together and mobilize our efforts. But let us begin with ourselves. Let me begin by being kind, generous, and loving today, with those in my life now. By living what I profess, I see the truth of my heart—that within me there are seeds of kindness and generosity, as well as jealousy and selfishness. And with this humility and compassion toward myself, I can then go forward into the world and work for change, change in the hearts of every human being.