Hunger is not something impersonal, something “out there.” It exists in each of us, in all that is incomplete and unfulfilled in our own lives, in all that we have disowned in the world.
Fifteen million dead of starvation each year. Perhaps a billion hungry. The fading, failing cry of a child every moment day and night, undeniable testament to human failure. We try to place that sound on some dusty plot of ground far away – Asia, Africa, South America – anywhere but here and now. We succeed at the cost of some portion of our aliveness, our ability to marvel at the miracle of birth, to hear the hidden depths of love in a son’s or daughter’s voice.
There is land enough, and food to feed all who live on the earth. There is no shortage of practical, well-thought-out ways to end the suffering and dying. But in the refusing to make the condition of starvation our own, we allow it to continue.
We allow it to continue by taking positions that prevent us from acting: the cynicism that alleges starvation to be inevitable, the guilt and shame that go along with powerlessness. We allow it to continue by supporting doctrines that create their own opposition and solutions that produce their own new problems. We take refuge in the belief that relieving the world from hunger is impossible.
The time has come for a different approach. It has come in an age of awakening, when history and technology meet to prepare the way fro transformation. Electronic nerve fibers join once-distant continents. A famine on the Asian steppes affects the destiny of American presidents. The cry of a single hungry child reverberates around the globe at the speed of light. Every day it becomes more difficult to pretend we stand alone and unmoved while millions starve.
The urgent global messages now beating at our conscience offer external evidence of a deeper connectedness: We are in the world. The world is also n us. Each of us is a self, a whole, a context, holding all that was and is and can be. In this light, each of us has the power to create our own universe, our own heaven or hell.
We begin by taking responsibility for the hunger and starvation that exist in the world. And then we take responsibility for the end of hunger and starvation within 20 years.
A simple thing. yet nothing under the sun could be more profound. For when context changes, all that happens within that context takes on a new and different life. Not is this a private, passive matter. True personal responsibility always involves action in the world -
Action that hews to no single doctrine.
Action that does not strive to make itself right and others wrong.
Action that claims no credit for its successes.
Action that is flexible and effective and sure.
We need only open our eyes to see a path of action: contributing time aned money, fasting, influencing public policy, working with organizations, supporting those who are directly involved, offering our own skills and knowledge to starving people. The possibilities are endless. Whatever our own path toward hunger’s end, we move with the power of personal responsibility. Each of us, in our own way, is the end of starvation, each complete and fully responsible. Whether thousands of us or hundreds of thousands or millions, we act as wholes in alignment, not parts of a movement.
But no need to wait for the thousands and the millions. A moment exists for each of us in which context suddenly shifts and what has seemed impossible becomes possible, and instant in and out of time when we take responsibility for the world and what it could be.
In that instant, the end of hunger and starvation begins.
Introduction written by George Leonard to Nothing Is So Powerful As An Idea Whose Time Has Come