Kabbalah entreats us to look for origins, to journey back and discover the source—the seed that starts the flow which results in an outcome.
When you square a number, it has an “exponential” effect (32 x32 =1024) but when you square the number one you return to the source—back to “square one” because 1×1 still equals one. There are times though that we can feel the exponential impact of one person’s ideas or actions—they cascade into a new way of perceiving reality, a new way that society responds.
Think civil rights and bring to mind Rosa Parks. Think of bending a paradigm and bring to mind Copernicus or bending a knee and bring to mind Colin Kaepernick. Think about women driving (in Saudi Arabia) and bring to mind Manal al-Sharif.
Sometimes change indeed comes from the exponential impact of numbers—but if we look for origins, if we journey back to source—it is often just one person who plants the seed that brings about an outcome.
Manal al-Sharif was arrested in 2011 for daring to drive in Saudi Arabia. It was not against the secular law—but it was an accepted and presumed violation of religious law which had created an unyielding taboo against women driving cars. Manal spent nine days in jail. She persisted in her activism, and other women, first a handful, then dozens, then hundreds joined in (driving despite the religious ban) and then thousands signed petitions.
Two weeks ago Manal—the one who started as one and alone, could get into her car in Saudi Arabia along with all the women of her country be behind the wheel—a driving force for gender equality, for gender freedom.
Margaret Mead is oft quoted for her brilliant observation:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
When we look for the source of those small (and large ) groups—the source of a movement come to realize that outcomes may need numbers, but they start with one.
“Never doubt that even one person, one thoughtful, committed citizen can change the world.”