From Activist to Children’s Author

alex-wallman-our-mirror-book

When I was young, my parents used to laugh and tell me that I liked the company of animals more than people. They said I was a very intense child and very focused. I would always be in some pond looking for frogs or I would come home, beaming, covered in dirt and clutching a lizard I wanted to ‘understand’. As far back as I can remember, I was enchanted with animals and the way their specialized senses and acute abilities made our generalist human faculties seem pale and dull.

As I grew older and my world expanded, I became more and more concerned with humanity’s treatment of nature and the animal world. I began to volunteer for various environmentally-focused groups, all the while feeling a gaping sense of loss from the news I heard of each new species Earth had lost to extinction. This news, and my broadening understanding of the world, began to sadden and anger me — to the point that I dreamed of doing something radical and taking on those who wanted to destroy everything natural, precious and beautiful.

One day in my late twenties, I heard that a special ship was docked at port in my hometown of Melbourne. A friend told me it was captained by a man named Paul Watson. Apparently, Paul was some kind of modern-day pirate! He liked to buy old ships from the military, reinforce their hulls, and then drive them through pack ice in the Antarctic, hunting for Japanese whalers. These whalers were targeting endangered species like the fin, the blue, the sei and the humpback. When Paul would find the whalers, he would use his ship to ram their ships, harass them, and sabotage their equipment until they gave up their bloodthirsty hunt for cetaceans and fled. Paul was a hunter of hunters. And I knew that if there was any way I could be of service to his cause, I was determined to be.

A few days after hearing of the ship’s berthing, I turned up to where Paul’s ship was docked and made friends with the first mate. I told him I wanted to help out so he had me guard the ship at night and help refit the aft. During this time I quit my job as an art director, and a few months after joining up I pushed out to Antarctica, joining Operation Migaloo as we headed out into the lonely Southern Ocean.

It was a brutal voyage of seasickness and, for my less-than-courageous constitution, constant dull terror. But not terror from anything to do with our confrontations with the Japanese or the rammings, the slow crushing of metal on metal, or the flash-bang grenades they would throw at our faces, not caring if they burst our eardrums. My fear almost always came from the ocean and nature itself.

It’s hard to describe what it was like to drive that ship of ours through the cold, heavy, lonely Antarctic nights with no idea if a submerged iceberg would fight its way into our hull and send us to our graves. If you haven’t experienced a similar polar journey, there may be no way to relate to the constant tense feelings I had as I maneuvered between the horizontal icicles that formed on a deck railing at dawn after a night of high winds, of being scared of slipping and impaling myself as the ship surged and rolled, of driving up 30-foot waves in 55-miles-per-hour winds, only to crash down the other side of them and see the front of the ship completely covered in green water, time after time. It was a stressful and dangerous time and I knew that it was shaping my mind in some very interesting ways.

When I eventually returned to land, I knew I wanted to do something as important for the planet as I could imagine. I was going to find out the biggest and best way to put my skills and passions to use. But I had no idea that I would wind up doing something as humble as writing a children’s book.

Getting reacquainted with life on land, and beginning to spend time with friends’ children and my own my nieces and nephews, brought the realization that young minds are born with powerful capacities to imagine and intuit. These two abilities have the potential to solve many of the problems facing humanity —- yet today remain under-appreciated and untapped.

Seeing such mental and spiritual crowd-sourcing potential in children, I found myself dwelling on just how powerful it could be to have a cadre of young minds, alive with visions of a better planet. I began to envision them seeing cracks in our current, broken ways of doing things and applying pressure with their imaginations until our wearisome current structures fell away into obsolescence — leaving only their new inventions and ideas, bursting into the light.

I began to focus on the idea of writing a children’s book. Shaping children’s minds began to feel like the most alluring and powerful idea I could imagine. I had my medium, now all I needed was my message.

What would it be? I knew the message would need to be self-empowering to its core. It would have to make anyone who read it understand that a better world was up to them, and that they already possessed the power to make it happen. Could I write a book like that? Could I write any book?! Could I follow through with my convictions?

And then I took a look in the mirror.

When I looked in the mirror, I didn’t see a man who could write anything empowering or uplifting. When I looked in the mirror, I saw what I saw in a lot of other activists and society at large: a man who was deeply flawed despite his good intentions, a hypocrite who made excuses, a man who blamed others and felt disempowered and angry. This man staring back at me blamed his exterior world for his troubles and took very little responsibility for creating anything better.

Looking inward made me realize I had it all backwards. I believed that my world created me, and not that I had the power to create my world. I realized I had to flip it all around, and that this is what I wanted to teach to children. Their world was a mirror and they had the power to turn their worldly reflections into whatever they chose using their own feelings, thoughts, beliefs and actions.

You see, for each of us our external world is a reflection of our internal world. But what does this idea really mean? At its most basic, it means that our world is a creation that starts within us. It’s not something that happens to us; it’s something we build with the feelings, thoughts, words, actions and beliefs we choose to hold and express. In essence, what our world looks like is up to us as individuals. If we want to see smiles from other people, then first we have to give smiles. If we want to be understood then the first step is to try to understand others. And if we want a beautiful world to be reflected back to us, then we have to first each examine our beliefs and tell ourselves that beautiful new things are possible.

Now I know we don’t all start off in the best situations. Some of us are born into a very raw deal, be it poverty, racism, disease or disability. But I also know the powerful gift we are ALL given is the ability to choose our thoughts, and foci, and to create our own meanings and empowering personal narratives, no matter if we are born in a cage or even if our body is our cage. I have seen enough in life to know that changing our internal worlds can have a huge impact on our physical world. After all, 90% of what determines our life is not what life gives us, but how we respond to what we are given. It is this self-empowering message that I want to share.

You see, the truth is all too often people have it back-to-front. We think we can change our world without first changing ourselves. We think that we can reach into the mirror — our world — and make our reflection move without first moving ourselves. But as we all know when we look in the bathroom mirror, we cannot get a smile from our reflection until we smile first.

You may have heard of this concept in the saying, “You only get out of life what you put into it.” Gandhi was well aware of this idea when he proclaimed his famous words, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” and Emerson knew it when he wrote, “Each one of us sees in others what we carry in our own hearts.” A better world begins by looking inside ourselves and then choosing to nurture any aspect of ourselves which we would prefer to see reflected back to us — be it love, generosity or courage.

This mirrored-reality concept is by no means new, and you have probably acknowledged and used it in the past. But have you ever put it to work then stopped using it because you haven’t seen immediate improvement in your world — even when you have been putting out more positive energy? I think that most of us probably have, and all too often only because we haven’t seen immediate change in our surroundings. So what’s the solution to such a seemingly disempowering situation? I believe the key lies in recognizing the fact that our ‘world mirror’ can often take time to catch up with what we’re putting out there. So in such moments, we must rely on our inner visions to guide us. In these times we must hold our course because we are doing what we love to do — and because this is what we would prefer to have reflected back to us. This notion is what we call faith.

There is a beautiful new world awaiting us — a world of harmony, unity, and rejuvenation of nature through a global rebalancing of our own nature. But to get there we are going to have to tell new stories to ourselves and our children. In essence, we are going to have to create a new exchange of ideas. A new culture. This culture will have to have, at its heart, a belief of personal responsibility and self-empowerment. To get to this new world, we will all have to know that we can change our entire planet with what we personally think, feel, believe, say and do. And spreading this idea is a movement I hope to be a part of with the creation of my children’s book, Our Mirror Book.

Our world desperately needs new ideas. The old ones just aren’t serving us anymore. These ideas are going to come from the pure, connected, authentic minds of children who understand they have all the power they will ever need inside themselves. It is with these young imaginations and visions that we can save our beautiful blue planet. And the first step in this journey is to understand one simple idea: if we want to change the world, then the first step is for each of us to look in the mirror.

Alex Wallman is an artist and writer who is currently preparing for the release of his first children’s picture book, Our Mirror Book. Read it for free or pre-order a copy at www.alexwallman.com.

When I was young, my parents used to laugh and tell me that I liked the company of animals more than people. They said I was a very intense child and very focused. I would always be in some pond looking for frogs or I would come home, beaming, covered in dirt and clutching a lizard I wanted to ‘understand’. As far back as I can remember, I was enchanted with animals and the way their specialized senses and acute abilities made our generalist human faculties seem pale and dull.

As I grew older and my world expanded, I became more and more concerned with humanity’s treatment of nature and the animal world. I began to volunteer for various environmentally-focused groups, all the while feeling a gaping sense of loss from the news I heard of each new species Earth had lost to extinction. This news, and my broadening understanding of the world, began to sadden and anger me — to the point that I dreamed of doing something radical and taking on those who wanted to destroy everything natural, precious and beautiful.

One day in my late twenties, I heard that a special ship was docked at port in my hometown of Melbourne. A friend told me it was captained by a man named Paul Watson. Apparently, Paul was some kind of modern-day pirate! He liked to buy old ships from the military, reinforce their hulls, and then drive them through pack ice in the Antarctic, hunting for Japanese whalers. These whalers were targeting endangered species like the fin, the blue, the sei and the humpback. When Paul would find the whalers, he would use his ship to ram their ships, harass them, and sabotage their equipment until they gave up their bloodthirsty hunt for cetaceans and fled. Paul was a hunter of hunters. And I knew that if there was any way I could be of service to his cause, I was determined to be.

A few days after hearing of the ship’s berthing, I turned up to where Paul’s ship was docked and made friends with the first mate. I told him I wanted to help out so he had me guard the ship at night and help refit the aft. During this time I quit my job as an art director, and a few months after joining up I pushed out to Antarctica, joining Operation Migaloo as we headed out into the lonely Southern Ocean.

It was a brutal voyage of seasickness and, for my less-than-courageous constitution, constant dull terror. But not terror from anything to do with our confrontations with the Japanese or the rammings, the slow crushing of metal on metal, or the flash-bang grenades they would throw at our faces, not caring if they burst our eardrums. My fear almost always came from the ocean and nature itself.

It’s hard to describe what it was like to drive that ship of ours through the cold, heavy, lonely Antarctic nights with no idea if a submerged iceberg would fight its way into our hull and send us to our graves. If you haven’t experienced a similar polar journey, there may be no way to relate to the constant tense feelings I had as I maneuvered between the horizontal icicles that formed on a deck railing at dawn after a night of high winds, of being scared of slipping and impaling myself as the ship surged and rolled, of driving up 30-foot waves in 55-miles-per-hour winds, only to crash down the other side of them and see the front of the ship completely covered in green water, time after time. It was a stressful and dangerous time and I knew that it was shaping my mind in some very interesting ways.

When I eventually returned to land, I knew I wanted to do something as important for the planet as I could imagine. I was going to find out the biggest and best way to put my skills and passions to use. But I had no idea that I would wind up doing something as humble as writing a children’s book.

Getting reacquainted with life on land, and beginning to spend time with friends’ children and my own my nieces and nephews, brought the realization that young minds are born with powerful capacities to imagine and intuit. These two abilities have the potential to solve many of the problems facing humanity —- yet today remain under-appreciated and untapped.

Seeing such mental and spiritual crowd-sourcing potential in children, I found myself dwelling on just how powerful it could be to have a cadre of young minds, alive with visions of a better planet. I began to envision them seeing cracks in our current, broken ways of doing things and applying pressure with their imaginations until our wearisome current structures fell away into obsolescence — leaving only their new inventions and ideas, bursting into the light.

I began to focus on the idea of writing a children’s book. Shaping children’s minds began to feel like the most alluring and powerful idea I could imagine. I had my medium, now all I needed was my message.

What would it be? I knew the message would need to be self-empowering to its core. It would have to make anyone who read it understand that a better world was up to them, and that they already possessed the power to make it happen. Could I write a book like that? Could I write any book?! Could I follow through with my convictions?

And then I took a look in the mirror.

When I looked in the mirror, I didn’t see a man who could write anything empowering or uplifting. When I looked in the mirror, I saw what I saw in a lot of other activists and society at large: a man who was deeply flawed despite his good intentions, a hypocrite who made excuses, a man who blamed others and felt disempowered and angry. This man staring back at me blamed his exterior world for his troubles and took very little responsibility for creating anything better.

Looking inward made me realize I had it all backwards. I believed that my world created me, and not that I had the power to create my world. I realized I had to flip it all around, and that this is what I wanted to teach to children. Their world was a mirror and they had the power to turn their worldly reflections into whatever they chose using their own feelings, thoughts, beliefs and actions.

You see, for each of us our external world is a reflection of our internal world. But what does this idea really mean? At its most basic, it means that our world is a creation that starts within us. It’s not something that happens to us; it’s something we build with the feelings, thoughts, words, actions and beliefs we choose to hold and express. In essence, what our world looks like is up to us as individuals. If we want to see smiles from other people, then first we have to give smiles. If we want to be understood then the first step is to try to understand others. And if we want a beautiful world to be reflected back to us, then we have to first each examine our beliefs and tell ourselves that beautiful new things are possible.

Now I know we don’t all start off in the best situations. Some of us are born into a very raw deal, be it poverty, racism, disease or disability. But I also know the powerful gift we are ALL given is the ability to choose our thoughts, and foci, and to create our own meanings and empowering personal narratives, no matter if we are born in a cage or even if our body is our cage. I have seen enough in life to know that changing our internal worlds can have a huge impact on our physical world. After all, 90% of what determines our life is not what life gives us, but how we respond to what we are given. It is this self-empowering message that I want to share.

You see, the truth is all too often people have it back-to-front. We think we can change our world without first changing ourselves. We think that we can reach into the mirror — our world — and make our reflection move without first moving ourselves. But as we all know when we look in the bathroom mirror, we cannot get a smile from our reflection until we smile first.

You may have heard of this concept in the saying, “You only get out of life what you put into it.” Gandhi was well aware of this idea when he proclaimed his famous words, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” and Emerson knew it when he wrote, “Each one of us sees in others what we carry in our own hearts.” A better world begins by looking inside ourselves and then choosing to nurture any aspect of ourselves which we would prefer to see reflected back to us — be it love, generosity or courage.

This mirrored-reality concept is by no means new, and you have probably acknowledged and used it in the past. But have you ever put it to work then stopped using it because you haven’t seen immediate improvement in your world — even when you have been putting out more positive energy? I think that most of us probably have, and all too often only because we haven’t seen immediate change in our surroundings. So what’s the solution to such a seemingly disempowering situation? I believe the key lies in recognizing the fact that our ‘world mirror’ can often take time to catch up with what we’re putting out there. So in such moments, we must rely on our inner visions to guide us. In these times we must hold our course because we are doing what we love to do — and because this is what we would prefer to have reflected back to us. This notion is what we call faith.

There is a beautiful new world awaiting us — a world of harmony, unity, and rejuvenation of nature through a global rebalancing of our own nature. But to get there we are going to have to tell new stories to ourselves and our children. In essence, we are going to have to create a new exchange of ideas. A new culture. This culture will have to have, at its heart, a belief of personal responsibility and self-empowerment. To get to this new world, we will all have to know that we can change our entire planet with what we personally think, feel, believe, say and do. And spreading this idea is a movement I hope to be a part of with the creation of my children’s book, Our Mirror Book.

Our world desperately needs new ideas. The old ones just aren’t serving us anymore. These ideas are going to come from the pure, connected, authentic minds of children who understand they have all the power they will ever need inside themselves. It is with these young imaginations and visions that we can save our beautiful blue planet. And the first step in this journey is to understand one simple idea: if we want to change the world, then the first step is for each of us to look in the mirror.

Alex Wallman is an artist and writer who is currently preparing for the release of his first children’s picture book, Our Mirror Book. Read it for free or pre-order a copy at www.alexwallman.com.

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