WHY I PERSEVERE
WHY I PERSEVERE
The Talmud says, “You are not required to finish the work, but neither are you at liberty to desist from it.” (Pirkei Avot 2:21)
I’ve been watching a lot of Netflix videos on social activism lately. One of these was a documentary by Harry Belafonte about himself called “Sing Your Song.” For those who only know Belafonte as a singer or actor, you are missing the most important thing about him. He has been a human rights activist all of his life. He is now 86 years old. Belafonte says he would love to take his money and settle in on a nice beach house somewhere with his wife to live out his life in comfort. His soul will not allow that. There is still too much wrong in the world.
This is basically how I feel. I have all the makings of a quiet retirement with Phyllis who has endured me for going on 45 years. We have a very nice life in a beautiful place. We have friends and the amenities of an area people who visit sometimes fall in love with as we did. I suppose, after half a century of activism (I started at age 15) I could decide I deserve to let others take over and rest on whatever laurels I have earned.
To do that I would have to cut myself off from the world. The injustices and other evils that continue to plague our world and our nation still get under my skin and inspire me to write, speak, and be active. Of course, since leaving NYC my approach has become “act locally but think globally.” I know the world will go on without me if I opt out. I know there are others, including people much younger than I am, who will continue the great work of bringing peace and justice to the world. My contributions are very small compared with those of some of the people I have met and worked with. I was once teased because I’ve never been arrested. According to an FOIA request I have no FBI file.
Nonetheless I feel a powerful urge not to stand by and stop working for the world I want to come into being. Even after all of these years I might still have something to contribute. I cannot stop now. I probably will never stop until I leave this world.
It is in that spirit that I tell you, my readers, that I hope you can see and feel what is wrong in the world and will feel compelled to do something about it. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” (Margaret Mead) The same applies to each of us as individuals.
I’ll close with another quote from Pirkei Avot in the Talmud. “The day is short, the labor vast, the toilers idle, the reward great, and the Master of the house is insistent.” (2:20)