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To Know, To Dare, To Will… And Then What?

To Know, To Dare, To Will… And Then What? January 28, 2018

“To Know, To Dare, To Will, To Keep Silent”

The first time I heard this phrase, I didn’t realize its origins were somewhat murky, just that it resonated in a way that was hard to explain.


Yet, I did take one issue with it… “To Keep Silent.”

I’ve been an activist of one stripe or another for most of my life. There exists video footage of me, age four, pointing to some trash floating in a river, and despairing at the state of humanity, complete with tears.

2017 Women's March, Madison, WI
2017 Women’s March, Madison, WI

There was also this one time, in elementary school, where I drew a picture of all of the animals that were going to lose their home (a nearby field) when the school built another building. I may have taken it to the Principal’s Office, and demanded that she meet with me to look at the picture, and discuss the eminent devastation.

I grew up 20 minutes drive from Flint, Michigan, where Michael Moore filmed “Roger & Me,” and his muck-raking tendencies had a huge impact on me as a high school-er. (The same city, where in recent years, a perfect storm of poverty and political neglect has led to thousands of people being poisoned without receiving due justice.)

Ashleigh "FoxBat" Smiley at the 2017 Women's March, Madison, WI
The author at the 2017 Women’s March, Madison, WI (The front of the sign said “Women and Cats do as They Please,” the reverse reads, “Grabbing Back!”)

 As an adult, it’s been no different. Last spring saw me at the Women’s March in Madison, Wisconsin, and I paraded topless around Madison’s Capitol Square at the end of the summer… (#FreeTheNipple)

So, this idea, of biting your tongue… It bothers me.

Go Topless Day 2017, Madison, WI
Go Topless Day 2017, Madison, WI

On the other hand, I can see the wisdom in it. Sometimes, you can get going on a project, and talk about it so much, you lose the verve for what you’re doing. Hence expressions about walking versus talking. Actions speaking louder than words.

Still, when it comes to life and magick, I think we’re trending more and more as a community toward transparency, especially in organizations and leadership. The past few years have brought forward a wave of Pagan authors and activists enacting this trend, particularly when it comes to their personal lives. (I decided to join them, in my last post).

Overall, I see this as a good thing. I think our world needs more awareness of the human condition; more compassion for others; more empathy.

Bryan and I at Go Topless Day 2017, Madison, WI
Bryan and I at Go Topless Day 2017, Madison, WI

An important thing to remember, is that we gain empathy through two main mediums:

1) Actively listening to the stories of those who are different than we are. Listening, is the act of pausing our own message, to receive the message of another. When we further pause to reflect on what others have said, we might come to learn that while our ideas are different, they may stem from common ground.

2) Willingly stepping into a place of vulnerability, and sharing who we really are with others.

Through the pairing of these two techniques, we invite real communication, and foster understanding. Neither technique is served, I might add, by keeping silent.

So, to you, I humbly suggest an alteration to the well-known phrase… “To Know, To Dare, To Will, To Take Action

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