It was 4 a.m. on a Monday and most of the water protectors were gathered around a bonfire near the foot of a bridge in Standing Rock, North Dakota.
But not Sophia.
The 21-year old woman was up on the bridge with a friend when she was hit in the forearm with what folks think was a grenade.
That grenade exploded and took with it most of the muscle, both arteries, and even some bone in her arm.
She would later return home after days in the hospital, with many more months — probably years — of recovery ahead of her. Not to mention huge medical bills. (You can help offset some of those here, if you feel so moved.)
Her devotion to social justice and her passion for changing the world was definitely tested that day.
What are you willing to risk injury for?
As a writer — at least in most places — you don’t risk bodily injury when you publish something.
But there are other risks: rejection, scorn, internet trolls, or simply disappointment when all you hear is crickets.
Don’t let those risks stop you. The outcome(s) aren’t why you write. (Right?)
When I heard in early December that the Obama administration had put a halt to the DAPL construction, my initial reaction (maybe yours too?) was thrill and elation.
Could it be true? Did our president really and finally shut down the project?
For a tiny moment, I celebrated. Closed my eyes, lit a candle in my mind, and gave thanks to the Universe.
Within the hour, I saw the statements from the pipeline owners. “This news doesn’t change our plans.”
Of course they would say this, Of course they won’t back down. They’ve got too much invested to give up now.
Plus, the incoming administration is part of that investment. All they need to do is wait until January 20th and they’re good to go.
Or are they?
Maybe. Maybe not.
Even their single-minded commitment won’t guarantee results in their favor.
Because there are people willing to put their bodies and lives on the line to stop it.
Until there aren’t.
What’s true is that it’s not the function of devotion to ensure outcomes.
Devotion is simply an energy that keeps us moving forward.
The Power of Devotion
“Art is a representation of our devotion to life.” — Agnes Martin
Devotion to a cause, a person, or an idea is a beautiful thing all on its own. In fact, it’s what drives us.
The love and attention we give to something – without expectation of winning – is what makes us fiercely human, right?
We can HOPE for a win. We can STRIVE for a win. But when attempt something ONLY from that place of THIS MUST HAPPEN, then we give up the beauty of the journey.
And the journey is nearly everything.
Because in the end, our best efforts might very well fade away into oblivion.
Every blog post you write, every project you create, will at some point become just more ephemera.
When you “arrive” at your destination — whether it’s publishing a book, or hitting a revenue goal — that moment in time is NOT the end.
There’s always something else to do or chase.
This is why your devotion matters.
Your work might be nothing more than quiet murmurs against a raging storm. But it may also touch people — inspire them, even — in ways you never see.
Can you devote yourself to your message without knowing the outcome? Without being attached to a specific win?
If you can, you are wholly and divinely human.
Every day, people just like you and I keep going when things look bleak.
Even when the world looks to be crashing down around us.
We get up and feed the kids. We walk the dog. And we recommit ourselves every morning to that which we love.
Because what matters is our relationships — to each other and to the world.
What do you love? What are you devoted to?
Whether it’s your family, your business, or a particular world-changing cause, your devotion helps the rest of us remember ours.
When you pull yourself out of bed in the morning and face the day not just with commitment but with adoration for something outside yourself, that energy feeds an interlocking field of positivity.
Your actions give voice to something that helps other voices find and join you. Like a tuning fork, your energy pulls in other like-minded and like-hearted humans.
So is your devotion simply ephemeral?
Yes and no.
In the scheme of this great universe, everything we are, everything we do, think, and believe, is fleeting.
Here today, gone tomorrow, yeah?
What we do (or choose not to do) is also our lasting legacy.
Such a crazy paradox.
As the world’s challenges swirl around you, consider (and re-consider) your devotion.
Believe in the meaning you’re making each minute of every day.
Take heart that your actions are more than just a whisper.
And lift your voice with the knowledge that your presence and love mean something to others.
I know the truth of this because your presence here and devotion to your work mean a great deal to me.
Thank you for sharing yourself with me this year. For responding to my never-ending questions and joining in conversations both deep and silly.
If you’re a subscriber to the Newsyletter, you know I send out goodies and ephemera from time to time. (If you’re not on the list, you can fix that here.)
The next time you get something little and small — from me or someone else — hold it in your hand for a few moments and think about all the people involved in its creation.
Close your eyes and see if you can feel the object’s kindness. Wonder about its history, its significance.
Use it as you will. Or not. Save it. Give it away. Or toss it out with the day’s trash.
The meaning is there when you stop to see it.
The same is true for your writing.
People will read your words, or not. They will consider them. Be inspired by them. Or ignore them.
Don’t let any of that be what drives your devotion.
Whether your cause/message is stopping the Dakota Access Pipeline, ending racism, or building a business, share your message often.
It’s not just noise. Your message and your stories DO have meaning. And if they only reach one person, let that be enough.
Sophia Wilansky isn’t done with her social justice plans. Don’t you be done with yours.
p.s. – If you’d like some community and support with your writing project, come take a peek at my new Writer’s Devotion Circle. We start the last week of January.