The grief we carry is part of the grief of the world.
Hold it gently. Let it be honored.
—Jack Kornfield, The Art of Forgiveness, 2002: 58.
Grief is the work of mature men and women.
It is our responsibility to be available to this emotion
and offer it back to our struggling world.
—Francis Weller, The Wild Edge of Sorrow and “Drinking the Tears of the Earth,” 2015.
When we can listen deeply and give freely, there is a natural evolution from the exploration of an inner self to the practice of care between self and other. Ultimately, the work of community is the practice of care stitching the world together.
—Mark Nepo, “We Can Find Each Other,” Three Intentions Weekly Reflection, 2018.
Engagement is the fourth Gateway of Wisdom.
It is what Lucy Hone calls “getting out and about” — taking our grief into our broader community so that, in confronting it, sharing it, and attempting to heal it, we honor our loved one’s legacy and can contribute to a broader social benefit. It’s about service.
In my experience, we are not likely to encounter this Gateway very early in our healing journey. Our approach to this Gateway will probably occur later when we’ve been journeying “inside” for a while.
Encountering the Engagement Gateway can be highly challenging for some of us. (Even for me, despite spending a long career in community engagement.) Some grieving people may find it formidable and even shy away from it. Yet if we can stand in front of the Engagement Gateway, fully realizing our pain and bewilderment, and find the support and courage to pass through it into its healing territory, we can transform the dynamics of our grieving. Literally, we can move on.
Imagining Karl’s “activist” voice
The examples of my engagement activities in this chapter relate almost solely to road safety activism (an utterly unfamiliar realm to me before Karl’s death). In the previous three chapters, I rely heavily on my recording of conversations with Karl. Karl’s voice in this chapter sounds a bit more like what I imagine he would say about bringing my grief into community activism than what he actually said. Karl was an activist — through and through — so I can confidently predict his response in a given situation that called for an activist response.
Stirring the pot
Karl loved to “stir the pot” politically. Often, when we worked together as consultants in community engagement contexts, I had to keep a close eye on him, or I’d find him in a corner “fomenting revolution” with the locals (which might not be our brief as social planners).
He’d cheekily retort that he was “building social capital.”
Karl’s “Giveaway”: environmental and social activism
Rachel Naomi Remen (in Kitchen Table Wisdom, 1996) introduced into common parlance the word “Giveaway”, used by Native American Indigenous people to describe what we alone have to contribute to life, our reason for being, which must be discovered throughout our life. Our Giveaway imbues our life with a sense of meaning, belonging, and direction.
Karl and I fully understand what a Giveaway is.
In our wider Australian rural community, the Northern Rivers of New South Wales, Karl and I, as eco-village residents and owner-builders, are proud “Protectors” of the land at the nearby Bentley Blockade, a powerful residential protest against fracking and coal seam gas mining on prime agricultural land. We also “lock the gate” on our rural Nimbin property against coal seam gas mining (Lock the Gate Alliance: http://www.lockthegate.org.au/).
I blog about the Bentley Blockade throughout 2014, with Karl acting as my research assistant (https://www.thebentleyeffect.com/; https://sarkissian.com.au/emboldened-bentley-blockade/).
So, I know that part of Karl’s Giveaway is to be an environmental activist. On 15 May 2014, as we are driving to the small town of Casino near Nimbin to buy a tent so that Karl could move to live at the Bentley Blockade encampment, we learn that Metgasco, the coal seam gas mining company, has had their license suspended.
Skilled activism triumphs in that battle — a battle close to Karl’s heart.
This book’s cover photograph shows Karl standing at sunrise at the Bentley Blockade in May 2014.