“The people. United. Will never be defeated. The people. United. Will never be defeated.”
This chant, which echoed during history’s largest climate march on Sunday, September 21st, stayed with me. Along with the crowd, the chant crawled along Central Park West, Columbus Circle, down through Midtown NYC. Men, women, kids, infants listened and joined the rally; liberals, conservatives, rich, poor, and homeless citizens joined the symphony; New Yorkers, natural disaster survivors, Americans, international representatives, visitors, environmentally conscious souls without an organization—they all joined the force.
The chant was direct and unanimous, put to the unapologetic bass line of the drum, and it sent a wave of pride through my bones. Everyone had a purpose for being here, and it wasn't necessarily rooted in climate change. The majority of marchers were certainly committed to enacting environmental reform, be it a broad or specific policy change, but others, like myself, were passing by and enveloped by the sheer spirit of the group. The uniting force was consciousness—feeling alive, and recognizing that being alive means respecting your right to live in free, fresh air. The people united and, judging by their commitment to purpose, defeat is not in their future.
Getting conscious of your purpose, or many purposes in life, is a gift in and of itself. Unfortunately, our culture has wired us into a very dissatisfying cycle: we enter college at 18 and take the first internship we’re offered. We follow that internship into a joyless office job or become a slave to the lure of a pretty paycheck. We laugh at people that say they’re trying to follow their passions; we look down on the musician, the artist, and the poet that hammers away, on ramen noodles, dedicating their life to the thing that gives them purpose. What fools! They’ll never make it! And then we wake up, hopefully before we’re 50 and wonder… what advice do I have to give to my children, my nieces and nephews? What have I learned about myself? About love? What did I learn that I didn't have to submit in a progress report? What changed my entire view on life? We need to have answers to those questions to get to our purpose.
The idea of life purpose is all-relative. There’s no right or wrong, no limits to how “purposeful” or purposeless your passion can be, and I think there’s a reason why the word “purposelessness” is so awkward and difficult to say: it shouldn't even exist. Purpose is relative to how it changes you and how you choose to use it. RTC exists because people found their purpose, wherever they were or are in their life, and they are changed forever. They choose to use it and spread it with us.
I’ve only been at the Table since February, but everyone I’ve worked with has, at one point or another, sent that familiar wave of pride through my bones; a wake-up call to consciousness, a reminder that I’m alive and breathing. It’s a calming, embracing cascade that makes its way into all the old crevices where self-doubt and limitation linger, the dark shadows where passions went to die. They share their purpose with us, and we share it with the world. One purpose communicated through one voice, transmitted to many. One drummer becomes the whole percussion section. One protester becomes the largest climate march in history.
Before the march even began, before I crossed over the fence blockade and joined in, Purpose looked me directly in the eyes. In an opening performance, an older Native American woman, dressed in traditional clothing and jewelry, dancing to the drum alongside the younger children of the group, wearing a headdress of pheasant plumes and ankles covered in chestnut tambourines, caught my eye. Her choice to be there brought her joy, and her expression was one of gratitude for the thing that gave her purpose: respect for the Earth we live on and the opportunity to pass the value in that lesson to the next generation. She shared her joy in fulfilling her purpose with everyone in the crowd. She convinced me to cross over and find my own.
Sometimes it’s easy and natural, as it was for this woman, to let your purpose move you. Sometimes it takes real courage and effort to listen when it says, “Hey, no, this is your purpose—chase it! Share it!” Be it a tiny voice or a proud roar, if it’s in there, it will find its way out eventually. If it brings you to us, it will be shared.