An Activist's Life
Asking for Help

One of the things I want to accomplish with this tumblelog is I want it to create more pathways for two-way and multi-way communication.  Vegan.com is my soapbox.  I want this site, by contrast, to be a source of dialog.

And I can’t begin to tell you how scared I am of having dialog.  There are vegans who seem to exist for the sole purpose of giving other vegans ulcers.

One of the best ways to start connecting with someone new is to ask for help.  I’m totally new to Tumblr.  I’d like to allow for forum posts, ideally restricted to people who take public accountability for what they write and are motivated to communicate with kindness.

I just discovered that if a Tumblr post ends with a question mark, you’re automatically given the option to enable comments.  So I’ll do that for this post.  But who can tell me more about creating the sort of community here that I’ve described?

What are you doing right now to lift yourself beyond your comfort zone, and take action without further delay?
Distillation of my past few tumblelog posts.
Acting, Not Planning

One of the big changes in the world that the Internet has made possible over the past few years is that it rewards people who take action today, rather than sit back and plan, and plan, and plan.

I’ve been turning over the idea of doing some sort of blog for the past couple of months.  But until a few hours ago, I hadn’t even decided what platform to use.  WordPress was the natural way to go.  I built Vegan.com in WordPress and know its feature set really well.

Tumblr, by contrast, I’d hardly even heard of.  But I knew Gary Vaynerchuk was into it, and I trust his judgement.  And I knew it would give me opportunities and constraints that are quite different than those offered by WordPress.

I could have spent massive amounts of time researching the comparative advantages of WordPress vs. Tumblr.  But I sensed that in the end I’d realize that one’s an apple, another’s an orange —- that neither was objectively better.

I think we do our best work when we’re faced with new contraints.  So I’m trying on this Tumblr straightjacket to discover the sort of work this platform inspires me to do.

The Climbing Gym

Almost exactly a month ago, I joined a climbing gym.

I doubt there’s ever been anything that’s ever attracted me less than climbing.  But the place is $45 a month and just a few blocks from my house.  I knew if I joined, I’d go every day, and quickly get in better shape.  And I figure my being healthy and mentally fit is easily worth $45 a month to the animal protection movement.

I hate heights the same way I hate raw beets.  I’ll tolerate either, but not happily.  Being high off the ground and having any possibility of falling sucks.  And I don’t trust me or my partner enough to not screw up in some way.

As a result, I “boulder” rather than “top rope.”  When bouldering, you can only climb about twelve feet or so, and you can jump off anytime onto soft mats.  Bouldering demands this wonderful combination of mental focus, technique, and strength.  I’ve got very little of each.  I’m soft, unskilled, and weak.  I like the humbling I get each time I climb, and the fact that I’m gradually filing away at my inabilities.  I’ll never become anything like an expert at bouldering, but I like the route I’m slowly, very slowly, taking towards becoming an intermediate climber.

Anyway, this brings me to the point of what I’m trying to do with this Tumblelog.  I’m currently one of the very worst climbers at the gym, and will be for some time.  So I spend a lot of time watching other climbers and trying to figure out how I can improve.  But here’s the interesting thing: the best climbers in the gym have absolutely nothing to teach me.  Between their strength and their technique, it’s like they’re in a different universe from mine.  Even if I paid absolute attention to each micro-movement they do, I don’t begin to have the strength or expertise required to execute.

The people I can learn from are not the elite climbers, but rather just the better climbers in the gym. They’ll do routes that are beyond my ability, but I watch them and learn a thing here, another thing there.  I can’t follow their routes, but I can follow portions of what they’re doing — and over time build up my strength and technique to follow ever-larger segments of their lead.

In the world of activism, that’s what I’m going to try to offer with this blog.  There are some amazing activists in the animal protection world, people who are doing things I could never aspire to equal.  People like Wayne Pacelle, Paul Shapiro, Nathan Runkle, and John and Jack with Vegan Outreach.  I assert that these people are working at a level so complex that the things they do are far beyond what a beginning or intermediate activist can aspire to.

I don’t consider myself an elite activist.  In activist terms, as somebody who’s had animal protection at the center of his life for thirteen years or so, I consider myself to be one of the better climbers in the gym.  I think there’s a lot that I do that newcomers could learn from.  And that’s really the point of this blog: to show you, day by day, what my activist life is like —- and to give you the ideas and techniques that will help you to expand your animal protection efforts.

Being in animal rights, it’s easy to focus entirely on the animals and forget to take care of yourself.  Life offers all sorts of ways where you can lose touch with your heart.  Becoming a drug addict is one way; putting activism above all other things is another.  There’s something about this photo set that pulls me in.

Beginnings

Beginnings are terrifying.

You lie in bed knowing what you want to do, but time keeps rolling by and you keep waiting for things to take shape.  Maybe they take shape, or maybe they won’t.  But the clock keeps ticking and you keep dying a bit with each day that passes.  Unless you jump in, overcome your fears and hesitation, and begin.

For me, this beginning will be different.  See, my previous major projects were carefully considered before work began.  My first book, Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating, for instance, came to me like a thunderbolt while I was fasting in a Costa Rican cloudforest.  I knew the vegan world needed a simple, well-researched, and current book on why veganism made sense.  And in a flash I knew I should write it.

There’s comfort in starting a project where you already understand its ultimate shape.  But this time around I have only the vaguest idea.  But I’m committed to beginning in a new kind of way; one where I am deliberately clueless about where I’ll end up.  It’s going to be like walking the tightrope without a net.  And if I fall, you get to watch.

All I know is I have book-like things to say, things I think are new and important, but this time around I want it to happen in real time, sloppy and unedited.  And with profanity.  I fucking love profanity, but not for its own sake.  More that it captures the the three things that keep my life revolving: terror, disgust, and compassion.  When I write books I always cut the filth out, which is as much fun as auto-castration.  I stopped cutting out the nasty bits at Vegan.com, and I won’t do it here either.

But anyway, I do have an overarching idea of where I’m going with all this, even if I have no idea about this project’s ultimate form.  I’ll explain in my next entry.