"A life-long mission has been to counter the notion that political engagement is the spinach we must eat in order to have the dessert of freedom. Engagement is the good life. What could be more exciting than getting involved in something that you care about and joining with others and seeing something change? What could be more thrilling?From Walking Through Fear, 2004, an interview with Frances Moore Lappé, author of Diet for a Small Planet. The entire interview is definitely worth the read.
I read a book in the late 1990s called The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, by Erich Fromm, and it had a profound impact on me. Fromm takes Descartes' statement, "I think, therefore I am" and changes it to "I effect, therefore I am." Humans need to feel effective—to feel that we can "make a dent," as he puts it. So the art of living is to find expressions appropriate to our own uniqueness in which we can experience effectiveness.
The good life may mean doing some things that do not feel comfortable. It may mean sitting long hours just with yourself as you begin to listen to your own questions. That was the reality for me when I was 27, and it was really terrifying. I wasn't sure where I was headed. I had no identity—I was terrified that somebody would ask me what I was doing, and I would have no answer.
My path has not been smooth. But the great thing about getting to be an elder...is that you can look back and see the intense times of confusion and challenge, and see that if you keep walking through them, they can lead to times of great satisfaction and reward. The good life is not about avoiding fear. Just the opposite."