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Why Do We Do the Things We Do?

The other evening I was part of a conversation that is dear to my heart.  Why do we do what we do?  We might say that when we engage in political action our intention is to “save the world” or to “create a better world”, a place where all of life can thrive.  But is it sustainable?

Certainly this intention is central for many of us.  But what happens after we have been doing the work for years or for decades and we burn out?  How do we keep on keepin’ on in the face of the harsh and painful realities our culture dishes up on a regular basis?

What I loved about this conversation was our willingness to face our inconsistencies, our ability to inquire with wonder and ask ourselves, why DO we do it?  Our conversation moved from disillusionment to vigor; from sharing the daily practices that keep us going to confusion to curiosity to gratitude and round again. 

We wondered if hope for a pre-determined outcome was just another word for expectation.  Experience tells us that expectation is all too often a set-up for disappointment.  What if our actions were fueled by our deepest desires instead of the hope for a result?  How might our lives be different if each action stemmed from the simple pleasure of doing it? 

We approached this conversation with generosity, offering our thoughts in the spirit of learning about ourselves and each other.  We moved from thinking we might be “right” to wondering if there was a “right”.

Years ago I learned a chant that lives in my heart.  Sometimes I think that my blood flows in rhythm with its message.  The chorus goes “If my soul says so, I do what my soul says!”* 

Sometimes I think that we do the things we do simply because we are called to do them.

* This chant was co-written by Alphonsus, Suzanne, and Thorn.


  1. You have hit the nail right on the head. Humans have stopped listening to instinct and reason and fell to listening to wishful thinking and selfish greed. There seems to be this propensity of thought that everything should come easy. My personal experience has been that what comes hard is usually worthwhile, has true value, and is worthy of the struggle. It is during these struggles that our mind becomes most analytic, most fruitful, and takes us back to "listening" to our inner selves. All worth considering, don't you think? Nice piece of thinking and writing here!

  2. Yes! Thanks for your thoughts, Bill.
    When we look within, speak honestly and listen carefully we begin to connect deeply. And this gives us courage.


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