Radical: Adjective: (esp. of change or action) Relating to or affecting the fundamental nature of something; far-reaching or thorough. Relating to or proceeding from a root.
Arising from or going to the source … this is the definition of “radical”—though the term is popularly used to describe a person who advocates overthrow or total reform of a social or political system.
On the need for “radical” thinking—Jose Marti wrote that the one who “does not see things in their depth should not call himself a radical.” Who dares to do so, since identifying oneself as a radical (even in the root-sense) is a sure way to become ostracized and misunderstood, if not persecuted?
Yet there is a definite need for radical reevaluation in our lives from time to time—to do the hard work of examining our own purpose, along with many urgent practical issues, as a new delving into what is behind it all. What is needed is self-awareness and honesty about what our beliefs are truly based on (our understanding of what it means to be human), and how they affect other people, especially the legacy they leave to our children.
Raymond Williams proposes that: “To be truly radical is to make hope possible rather than despair convincing.” To be truly radical would mean to return to values that provide everyone with a reason for living. To cease dividing society into people who matter and those who don’t. To remember with Joanna Macy that “Our lives extend beyond our skins, in radical interdependence with the rest of the world.”
Could it be that we are not radical—root-oriented, source-influenced—enough?
How can we do it—become radical in ways that are life-giving and hope–perpetuating? Chris Cavanaugh points out that “Storytellers, by the very act of telling, communicate a radical learning that changes lives and the world: telling stories is a universally accessible means through which people make meaning.”
And according to master storyteller Paulo Coelho, “Our life stories and the history of the world were written by the same hand.” He also reminds us that “When you want something with all your heart, that’s when you are closest to the Soul of the world.”
Jesus said that where our treasure is, there will our hearts be also (Matthew 6:21).
Do we even know our own hearts in a radical enough way? There is a journey latent here for each of us to engage in. Do we dare travel to the root and come back to tell our stories?