Unlikely Rebels

Unlikely Rebels

An excerpt from The Activist’s Tao Te Ching by William Martin


Tipping points are an essential part of life; those moments when a movement in one direction begins to give way to a movement in the counter direction, ebb begins to flow, flow begins to ebb. We are in a time of multiple tipping points — in society and in the lives of each person. Climate change, civil unrest, violence, and various environmental crises are intertwined in a complex movement of which each of us will play a part. We will need to carefully find our way into the revolutionary role each of us will play — one small, simple, and gentle step at a time.

Those who would truly change the world
do not seem like rebels.
They are deliberate and careful,
aware of every nuance
and movement around them.
They are kind and courteous in conversation.
There is a lovely simplicity about them,
something selfless and disarming,
welcoming and accepting,
and above all, clear.
They are willing to wait patiently
until proper action arises by itself,
then they move with surprising
swiftness and power.
Though their lives are at risk,
they are calm and unworried,
because they are truly free.

This revolution is like none that has come before. This one will happen with, or without, our help. Thus we are free to act without needing to push, pull, force, or convince. Our muscles will be relaxed, our speech will be gentle, and our actions will be filled with power.

William Martin is the author of The Activist’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for a Modern Revolution, as well as five other books of Tao Te Ching interpretation, which include titles highlighting parenting, love, aging, and caregiving. He lives in Northern California. Find him online at

Excerpted from the book The Activist’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for a Modern Revolution. Copyright © 2016 by William Martin. Reprinted with permission from New World Library.

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