Commusings: A Call to a Committed Life by Lynne TwistMar 18, 2023
Dear Commune Community,
We all experience the knock-on impacts of our myriad commitments.
I commit to writing this missive every Sunday. I make a pledge to my team, to you and to myself to do it, irrespective of the circumstances. Oh, there are plenty of legitimate excuses that I might leverage to wiggle out of it. The cat chewed through my ethernet cable rendering my house Internet-free. This unfortunate circumstance is both true and exculpatory. But, alas, I will schlep down to the coffee shop (here I am) and pilfer their wi-fi to send this letter.
Of course, despite the hassle, following through on commitments does more than generate karma points. Commitment fosters camaraderie, trust, caring and continuity — the stuff a community needs to keep it going for the long run.
It’s akin to forgiveness which, on the surface, appears as a gift bestowed to another but, in the end, benefits the donor as much as the recipient. Commitment connects us to the world outside of the ego — to the true self entangled in the net of the universe.
Commitment requires discipline: a discipleship to your highest principles. This alignment of your life with your values scaffolds an authentic and meaningful life. And, as our brilliant essayist Lynne Twist points out, our modern human condition pines for your commitment.
In her marvelous book, Lynne quotes the author and activist Howard Thurman, “Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
Lynne inspires me come alive. Her exemplary life motivates me to go do it — to live a committed life. And I pray she has the same impact on you.
Here at [email protected] and committed on IG @jeffkrasno.
In love, include me,
A Call to a Committed Life
By Lynne Twist
Excerpted from Living a Committed Life: Finding Freedom and Fulfillment in a Purpose Larger Than Yourself
It’s February 1977. I remember everything about that moment in time: a generic meeting room; sitting in the back row, dressed up in a green plaid shirt and what I thought were some really cool pants.
In the front of the room was Werner Erhard, the founder of the Erhard Seminars Training, known as est, and between us were about 60 VIPs, including members of the est Advisory Board. I was assisting at this event, which meant taking care of the room and hosting the attendees, who included international business leaders, top university professors, and celebrities like John Denver.
Werner announced to the group, “I’m committing myself to ending world hunger and to generating an environment where millions of people can make that commitment. I’m going to make it part of what the est graduates have the opportunity to participate in. This will be a focus of the est organization, and because we don’t have a name for it, we’ll call it, temporarily, The Hunger Project.”
There was a stunned silence in the room as Werner continued. He held up his hand as he described what he called the front and the back side of the hand of hunger.
“The front side of the hand of hunger is the physical hunger—the starvation, the malnutrition, the malabsorptive hunger—but the back side of the hand of hunger is the hunger for meaning in the well-fed world, the hunger to make a difference with our lives. These two are related, and we’re going to end that whole hunger, both the front and the back side of the hand of hunger. That’s what The Hunger Project will do.”
All of a sudden, I was in tears; I could barely catch my breath. At that moment, I knew that I was going to be involved in this project. I thought, “This is why I’m on this planet now; this is my life’s work.”
Then the pushback began, and there were strong objections: “What are you talking about, Werner? Have you lost your mind? You can’t end hunger. You can’t say that publicly; this is completely too much. We’ve put our reputations on the line to legitimize the est training, and this is going to completely blow it for all of us.”
As the objections and outrage continued, I found myself remembering when I was a little girl of five with my family barbecuing in the backyard of our home. My mom said (as so many mothers have said), “Eat your hamburger, clean your plate. There are children starving in Korea.”
I asked her about Korea, because she had grown up there, and she told me, “Yes, there are children like you, your age, who don’t eat for days. They don’t have food or sometimes even water.” I couldn’t believe it; I was just incredulous that there were children going hungry.
And I said to myself then, “When I grow up, I’m going to do something about that.”
So, sitting there in that est meeting amid the noise and rancor, I felt a strange peace: “This is why I’m sitting here. This is who I am. Ending hunger is what my life is about.”
I was turning 32 years old, and I had discovered a path I had never imagined: a commitment so huge it would completely transform my life. I gave up being a comfortable full-time wife and mother to devote myself to the end of hunger and starvation by the end of the century. This mission completely captivated me for two decades as I traveled the world and raised many millions of dollars for The Hunger Project. I realized that the purpose of my life is to make a difference: to leave the planet better than I found it.
I came to see that I could live what I call “a committed life,” which is a life governed not by my desires, by my wants, or even by my needs, but rather by what I’m committed to. And I discovered that commitment is not a burden but a liberation.
I was actually liberated by having a purpose larger than my own life. I was freed from my petty thoughts of not being worthy and from my doubts and fears about whether or not people liked me. All that fell away, and my commitment really took me over. By turning over my life to service, I found that I didn’t have to make a lot of decisions and try to figure out if I was doing things right or wrong. Somehow, I could feel in my body what to do and how to be.
• • •
For the purposes of this essay, “commitment” means dedication to a cause or purpose larger than yourself. As we well know, people can be committed primarily to themselves and their own causes—a business, the family, a sport or hobby. In fact, that is where most people place their devotion and loyalty. You can live a life dedicated to mothering or gardening or making money, but I am asking that you consider a commitment to the common good: to something that takes you out of yourself and into the realm of service.
Living a committed life is not about doing good so that you can feel good about yourself or look good to others. It is about answering a call that creates a new context for your life.
Living this way is guided by taking a stand and giving your word that you will live into that stand and have it shape your life. It requires keeping that commitment in the face of challenges by creating a context of possibility and transformation. You learn to pay attention, to train yourself to navigate the upsets and challenges and to learn from and be nourished by them.
I offer my vision of a committed life because the times we live in are calling for it. We are in a new era where the very survival of humanity and myriad other life forms is called into question. Having altered the composition of the planet’s atmosphere with ever-growing concentrations of greenhouse gases, having warmed the oceans and poisoned them with pollutants and plastics, having caused the extinction of unknown numbers of plants and animals—we have to admit that we as a species are pretty darn powerful. If we can create these massive changes, we can also stop them. But to do so will take many millions of us living purposeful lives: lives of commitment to the future rather than to our own comfort and desires.
Our dreams of a future where we could have meaningful work and also relax, play, and maybe even roam this beautiful planet now seem elusive. The existential nature of our global crises (worldwide pandemics, global warming, species extinction, runaway inequality) means that much more is required of us.
We can transform our fear and anxiety into commitment and action. That transformation is what interrupts and heals the fear, and it moves the dial on what is causing it.
In facing the dark shadows showing up in our polarized politics (racism, sexism, militarism), we have to confront our own darkness and heal our own hearts. So, in committing to a vision, a purpose larger than our own lives, we are freed from the smallness and pettiness of our own minds and catapulted out of anxiety and fear into inspired action. Rather than putting all of our energy into trying to protect what we have, we can focus our imagination and our efforts on re-creating and regenerating all of our human systems for the next phase of our evolution.
There’s never been a time when we needed inspired action more than now.
If you are looking for where to focus your talent and energy, consider taking on ending hunger and poverty, changing the destructive dream of the modern world, generating effective action on reversing global warming, empowering women and girls, or contributing to creating a more inclusive, fair, and ecological economy. There’s so much to be done, urgently, but there is still time, and we can do it.
It is easy to slip into denial, depression, or hopelessness about the future. Yes, we face an uncertain future: yet what a time to be alive!
What we do collectively in the coming years will determine the future of the planet for perhaps thousands of years to come. That may sound daunting, overwhelming, or even burdensome. But my experience is that this view ennobles our lives and gives us the opportunity to live the most meaningful lives any generation has ever had.
My deepest intention is to inspire and motivate you to look inside yourself for your own commitments—to ponder your own role in creating the future you want for yourself and for future generations. What is your role to play? It may be a big role, or it may be a small role, but if you play it, your life can have a meaning beyond what you have dreamed of.
Living a committed life will bring you an experience of great freedom and profound fulfillment, as well as unimaginable joy.
A recognized global visionary, Ms. Twist has been an advisor to the Desmond Tutu Foundation, and The Nobel Women’s Initiative. Lynne is the recipient of numerous prestigious honors, including the “Woman of Distinction” award from the United Nations. She is co-founder of The Pachamama Alliance and serves on a number of nonprofit boards including the Fetzer Institute, The Institute of Noetic Sciences, Bioneers, Conscious Capitalism and Women’s Earth Alliance.
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