Elephant in the World’s Living Room – Let’s Try Again

Sep 8, 2010

The last post I published was a very important one for me – and shortly after it went live, my server failed and 36 hours of data was wiped out. This has never happened before – yes, I’m on a dedicated server. Then, even weirder, we couldn’t locate a copy of the post anywhere. It was like – poof! – I never wrote it.

When I lamented the loss on Twitter, Martha Beck quipped, “Maybe it went out to save the world by itself. Strange things are happening these days.”

Several other people wondered if I was off the hook. No need to save the world. Poof.

I must admit, I found the thought that I

a) need only write a post and it will save the world and

b) I could go back to not seeing the elephant in the world’s living room (elephant = the need to directly tip the world away from doom in the next four years)

very, very enticing.

What do I even mean by save the world? Isn’t what I’m doing, you’re doing, enough?

Isn’t driving a hybrid, recyling toilet rolls, reading Michael Pollen, not beating our children, enough?

I don’t know! Stay tuned as I explore this and other questions – in the meantime, here is the Elephant Post. Universe, do with me what you will! (Does not shake fist. Bows meekly.)

Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.”  Rilke


I have seen the elephant in the world’s living room.  It’s so enormous, I want to do everything but look at it.

Like writing this post, right now, I’m getting very sleepy.

Oh right, that’s normal.

Feeling overwhelmed and afraid is normal.


The elephant in the living room is the state of the world.

But quick, look away.  It’s like looking at the sun; it might blind you.


As a kid, I was furious with love. I would go around insisting the whole world just needed to stop what it was doing, and make things right.

I kept thinking we just needed a global holiday. Stop everything we normally did and devote ourselves to saving the world, cleaning up or healing whatever was right in front of us.

And after, like a week or so, we’d have the whole world all sorted out and cleaned up.

I mean, there are as many of us as there are problems, so if we each worked for a whole week, things would have to get a whole lot better.

I still sort of believe it could be this easy. Well, maybe not a week; it could take a whole month.


I didn’t really look away from the elephant, I have, in many ways, devoted my life to changing the world by serving women.

But, as tends to happen at a certain juncture in our lives, the kid in me is back. She keeps tugging on my sleeve, pointing to the elephant.

She won’t leave me alone.


She wants to know – why can’t we all put down what we are doing, and directly work to help the elephant?

She keeps going on about direct help. Not indirect or after the fact but direct.

She keeps talking about us being the leaders, the creative voices who must use our energy and intelligence to directly affect change, now. That what is missing for many of us is connecting to this big purpose, having the courage to connect to something this big. It terrifies us but it also is what we are craving.

I remind her ranting never does much but make people exhausted.


I also remind her the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.


She gets the last word.

Think about this Joe Campbell quote.

The difference between a s/hero and a celebrity is “one lives only for self while the other acts to redeem society.”  (We can talk about the word redeem later.)

Links: Martha Beck, Rilke quote via Julie Jordan Scott via the Comfort Cafe amazing supportive community,  me on Twitter @jenlouden

Jettison Self-Doubt and Lose the Itty-Bitty-Shitty Committee and Make Your Thing Now

From the national best-selling author of The Woman’s Comfort Book and Why Bother.

Made for writers, artists, mail art makers, knitters of sock puppets, creative entrepreneurs, photographers, Tarot readers, and anybody who needs to make stuff they love.

I’m not one of those creepy people who make it hard to unsubscribe or email you again nine years after you’ve unsubscribed. Giving me your email is like a coffee date, not a marriage proposal.