Chris Corrigan writes about Passion, patience and action as enlightenment. It’s a very good read but if you’re in a hurry, I guess this is the nub:
Glassman argues that in terms of “doing” that we do what we can with what we have. To work on a problem you just begin to attack what is immediately in front of you. If you want to reduce greenhouse gases, start by driving less. Then find other things you can do, like inviting others to do the same. By assuming that the problem is too big for one person to solve, you abdicate your responsibility for being a part of the solution. Problems that are too big need multiple actors to contribute to emergent solutions. There is no top down way to solve world hunger or climate change or the perils of colonization. By being patient though, and directed to the work at hand, you add to what becomes the emergent solution.
After reading this, I picked up The 8th Habit, and found the story of Grameen Bank. A great example of what Chris talks about. The founder didn’t set out to build a bank, but to see if he could do something useful in the village next to his university; he went from the world of grand theory to that of small practice. He realised how lending a few pennies to one woman could make a real change in her life, and then that lending a few dollars could change a village. From this humble start, a bank grew that changed the lives of thousands and inpired thousands more. (There’s an account of it here.)
There seems a profound truth here. We can tell the story of organisations as if they result from grand strategy or we can see how they grow from the moment-to-moment choices of individuals.
I know which stories I find easier to believe. I know which ones allow me to feel I can be useful in the world. I know which ones have more life.