Brad Paisley is one of my favorite celebrities. I like him as a person because he likes to have fun and he doesn’t take himself too seriously. I like his songs because they tell fun stories and also address social issues like racism, sexism, and domestic violence. I also admire how he uses language and double entendres. His song “Welcome to the Future” describes how the world has changed over the decades. From having to go to an arcade to play Pac-Man to having it on his phone; from fighting the Japanese in World War II to collaborating with companies in Tokyo. He also references the civil rights movement. One of the lines sings, “He-e-e-y, every day’s a revolution.”
Every day the earth makes one turn on its axis; things keep moving as they always have. It can feel pretty mundane, or utterly reassuring. On the other hand, every day there may be another kind of revolution, defined by Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary as “activity or movement designed to effect fundamental changes in the socioeconomic situation.” I love this dual meaning of the word, as well as the word itself—it rolls off the tongue, strong and steady. Revolution requires an axis, a center. A globe rotates steadily, stable in particular dimensions. On the other hand, social (or personal) revolution requires destabilization, transition, and transformation.
Newton’s law of inertia states that an object at rest tends to stay at rest, unless acted upon by an unbalanced, external force. Inertia relates to the status quo, the way things are and have always been. An external force does not appear out of nowhere; it must have a source. When it meets the stationary object, potential energy is converted to kinetic energy—it generates movement. Once set in motion, the object tends to stay in motion, and voila, progress. Similarly, chemical reactions require a threshold activation energy to proceed. Molecular force mounts almost imperceptibly until that threshold is reached, and then the reaction ensues spontaneously, sometimes spectacularly.
Progress can be at once incremental and radical. Considering women’s suffrage, civil rights, and gay marriage, for example, history shows us long arcs of people laboring tirelessly for causes over generations, leading finally to pivotal and critical policy changes. In the first two cases, expansive movements of inclusion have allowed all of us to benefit from the talent, participation, and contributions of formerly excluded and oppressed groups. Like the turning of an incandescent light bulb, gently, patiently, and consistently in one direction, the steady work of activists eventually leads to sudden and intense illumination. Darkness becomes light, cold spaces are warmed.
This is the kind of Revolution I seek.