contributor’s note: written in memory of and in reverence for Howard Zinn (1922-2010)
Howard Zinn lived a life in alignment with his highest ideals, with what he wholehearted believed in. He will be remembered as an historian, writer, teacher, ally, and activist who dedicated his life, in service, to social justice and truth-telling. In 1980, with the publishing of his book, “People’s History of the United States,” he changed the way we looked at US history.
For many of us, it was the first telling of US history from the perspective of the proverbial (and actual) ‘have-nots,’ the ones who were oppressed, wronged, mutilated, dismissed, etc. Before this, US policy, at least according to the prevailing history books of the day, seemed to always be shone in a benevolent, moral, kind, and nonviolent light.
Transformation begins when one recognizes and accepts that there is something that, indeed, needs to be transformed. Next, an intention is set and a plan is made to move towards the goal. Ideally, the next steps are to follow the plan and re-adjust accordingly until, presumably, set goals are met. In order for transformation to be sustainable and nonviolent, the idea of reverence plays an important role.
Reverence is defined as a deep respect for someone or something. Sustainable transformation, whether it be on a personal, transpersonal, or societal level, hinges on a reliably renewable source of motivation or inspiration to stay with our intentions.
When there is equal reverence for upholding the dignity of our own personhood as well as that of others, we hold our intentions in a very powerful way. We do not hold back our own voice, neither do we squash the voices of others.
I imagine that Howard Zinn held truth-telling in deep reverence. He wrote, spoke, dissented, and protested, in the name of telling truth. In addition, he was committed to encouraging and creating spaces for those who traditionally had no such space to tell their stories.
In knowing that reverence sets the framework upon which we build our house of intention, it makes sense to take great care in choosing what we revere. If we choose to revere selfishness or ‘winning’ at any cost, our intentions form around these ideas. And, it follows that our actions flow from there.
As luck would have it, the human condition ensures that all people, regardless of cultural backgrounds, basically long for the same things: to be loved, to feel connected, to be seen. When we hold these ideas with reverence, we have a better chance of actually aligning the way we interact with the world with our highest intentions and our very best selves.