October 21, 2013

We Have The Power To Change The World

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What is the issue?

If I told you that you matter, would you even believe me?

What if I told you that your piece in this global puzzle is significant — essential even? Would you believe me?

Really think about it.

Would my words ring true behind proud and deceptive facades, in the most intimate depths of your mind?

I ask, somewhat, under false pretenses; my guess, for most of you, is no.

Apologies for my blatancy, but I think the questions are valid. In a moment of sincere, unadulterated honesty, would you believe me when I told you that you can make a difference? Or that you’re genuinely loved? Or that you’re beautiful? That you’re worth it?

I think the majority of us, whether or not we’re aware, live in a state of debilitating fear.

We’ve gone numb, blind to our potential — unable to see the world that awaits us.

That’s why I have chosen to write not about issues but about this paralysis that plagues us — this disease that prevents us from a just and fruitful action.

There’s a vast discrepancy between our talk and our walk.

Admittedly, this might come off as somewhat ironic being read as an Internet post – originally written as a speech. But I assure you, I wouldn’t dare write this hypocritically, or if I didn’t feel I was doing quite a bit of walking myself.

A wise mentor and peer once told me that the world cannot change until the people who occupy it want it to be changed. I believe that, in a general sense, we desire this change — but how badly do we seek it? Can we truthfully say that we are prepared to do what it takes?

We celebrate lives of justice, while simultaneously falling short of our own. We uphold King’s dream, Gandhi’s teachings, and Mandela’s wise discernment, but we overlook their calls. Their visions, each uniquely virtuous and sacred, were not solely paths to be held high, but commands to create our own — paths valiant and intrepid, fearlessly defiant of all that stands in the way of just human progress.

But as Nelson Mandela once said, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.”

Ironically, we fear the very potential that gives us the capacity to change the world.

Our own greatness is our biggest inhibition; we fear that which makes us special and prosperous.

We are afraid to visit the most intimate part of our core, where unexplored potential sits idly, waiting for our feet to take their courageous first steps. We are afraid to dig deep and look within, because we are afraid of what we might find – that we are the one’s we’ve been looking for. All of us.

And so we return to these prominent leaders that came before us. Take the example of Dr. King. Here was a man willing to die for what he believed — a fate tragically fulfilled by the fragile dichotomy between his intimidating, unconditional love for the human race, and a fear predatory upon the country he sought to change.

Here was a man so enthralled by justice, that he accepted his likely death as a mere sacrifice for the people and the country for which he cared so passionately.

And so I ask, for what are we willing to die? Are we prepared to make sacrifices, to take steps that violate our comfort, to move in ways and directions that have not yet been explored?

If we are to celebrate these powerful leaders, we must also follow in their footsteps. We must comprehend that what made them special was not just their ability to speak, their ability to engage and captivate — a skill our generation has undoubtedly mastered. What made them special was their ability to act — to boldly, fearlessly, and lovingly act.

Are we prepared for that kind of action? Because the world demands nothing less.

And so I ask again, do you believe me? Do you believe that you matter?

If so, are you prepared to act? Nobody ever said this would be easy. It may, in fact, be the most difficult thing we ever do. But it is possible.

The moment we lose sight of that possibility is the same the moment we surrender our potential.

It’s tough because we often can’t acknowledge (or perhaps just choose not to) what lays right before us. My only wish is that you all could see yourselves the way I see you: young vibrant spirits, rich in beauty, passion, and possibility. I am inspired, daily, by those I call my peers, friends, and family. I wish we were all aware of just how significant we are, and just how powerful we are. We are our own biggest enemies, but so too are we our biggest assets.

Gravity tried to keep us grounded, but we chose to fly. The atmosphere pulls us downwards, but still we stand erected. Let us stand, then, for something. Let us walk with dignity and purpose.

The road to justice is steep and often petrifying, but it is not futile. There is love in each progressive step forwards. As MLK stated, “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

His steps, likely vulnerable and timid at their origin, marked a global change that drastically altered the course of human history. How many speeches do you think Martin Luther King Jr. listened to before he took a step?

If we move, collectively, we carry the potential to unlock a world otherwise unimaginable. But only if we move. TC mark

Matthew Manning

Matthew Manning is a recent graduate of DePaul University, having received a bachelors degree in the History of Art …

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