Bridging the value-action gap

I recently had the opportunity to go to Stockholm for an international meeting on education for responsible lifestyles, talking about ways of bridging the ‘value-action gap’ – the gap between what matters to us in life, and what we actually do.

To get there, I took my first short-haul flight in five years.  Ah, the irony…

It’s taken me a while to get around to writing this blog post.  I wrote the poem the day after I got back, but I wanted to create a piece of art work to illustrate it, and put out a call to action, and start building a network… and I couldn’t decide what sort of art work to create, or what the call to action should be.  Then I started feeling like the poem wasn’t even finished, and I couldn’t think of a good title.  So, overwhelmed with too many possibilities and unmade decisions, I didn’t even get started… then I laughed at myself, when I realised I wasn’t making the value-action gap any smaller by doing nothing at all!

I remembered a quote from Helen Keller: “I am only one, but I am still one.  I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.  And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.

So, on that note… trusting that doing something is better than doing nothing… enjoy this unfinished poem 🙂


we the parents

we the teachers

we the elders

we have to wake up from this trance

we have to leap off this conveyor

before it conveys us to somewhere

we never even imagined


we have to somehow give ourselves time

create time

become time


and just

stop buying it

stop swallowing it


and (with the deepest love

and compassion and empathy

for all that we are and all we have been

and all that we wanted to be

and tried to be and failed

and failed again and again…)

we have to find a place on the lake shore

or in the forest or by the ocean

to hold each other

as we wake up

and realise what we’ve bought into

and what we’ve been swallowing

for all these years


I don’t think I can be the only one

who travels by plane to international meetings

to talk about saving the planet


I don’t think i can be the only one

who teaches all day about values

and then gets home to their children

and it’s bye bye values

buy buy buy


we need to wake up to the fact

that the politicians are not going to create change

and the boss of Apple is not going to create change

and we can’t even call our parents

and ask them to create change


arggh…how did we get to be the generation

that’s in charge of making the decisions

and fixing it up and making it better?


we’re starting to realise

that WE are the ones who can envision change

and WE are the people who can create change

together with our friends and our brothers

and our children and our sisters

and together with all the people we mentor

and awaken and inspire


I tell myself again:

we need to be gentle with ourselves

and each other.

we’ve been in this collective trance so long

that waking up is going to hurt…

a lot.


the problem is not that we’ve made mistakes:

it’s that we keep making the same mistakes

over and over again (year in year out)

and teaching other people

to make them too


we need to make new mistakes now,

not the mistake of swallowing the stuff

that keeps us quiet and compliant

(junk food to make us sick

and junk medicine to make us sicker

and junk entertainment to distract us from asking

why we’re sick in the first place)


not the mistake of swallowing the huge lie

that all that matters is economic growth

and that the best way

to make the world better

is to go shopping


not the mistake of swallowing the huge myth

that we’re alone and unloved and unlovable

and that the best way

to make ourselves better

is to go shopping


we had the best of intentions

we did what we could at the time

on the basis of what we thought then

and what we knew then

and what we believed then


but now we can do something else

we can stop buying it and swallowing it

we can stop making the same mistakes

and try making new ones


we can arise, and go now, and keep walking

out beyond the edge of the city, until we find

that safe space on the lake shore (or in the forest,

or by the ocean) and go with Yeats to Innisfree

in-is-free…to enter in is free, and in here

(and in the wide sky above us,

and in the warmth of love between us,

and in the deep truth within us,

and in the patient earth beneath us,

and in the silent mystery around us)

there is freedom…


we can choose, as of today, to wake up

and make new mistakes:

the try again, fail again, fail better

type of mistakes…

the I don’t have a clue how to be

a different kind of teacher / parent / elder

but I’m going to try this anyway

type of mistakes


gem pics aug 2012 377


and I don’t know how to finish this poem

maybe there is no way to finish it

except to get up

and do something else