I’m pushing an elephant up the stairs – Resist – Spirit of the Poor

One of my favourite song lyrics of all time is from the R.E.M. song ‘The Great Beyond’ 

It goes, I’m pushing an elephant up the stairs 


Yes. I know that feeling. Trying to shift the impossible.

And not just trying to push it out the door – where it would maybe even bump down a step or two, but trying to push it up an incline where it doesn’t want to go. Probably a narrow incline – how many staircases are wide enough for an elephant to fit comfortably? That elephant would become wedged almost immediately. Not an easy situation to recover.

Now I realise I am perhaps thinking too much about this song, but the thing is, I get it. So often in life I feel that I am pushing against things bigger than myself, but it doesn’t stop me trying. The rest of the song goes like this:

‘I’m breaking through
I’m bending spoons
I’m keeping flowers in full bloom
I’m looking for answers from the great beyond

I want the hummingbirds, the dancing bears
Sweetest dreams of you
I Look into the stars
I Look into the moon’

I love those lyrics. That is what we do when we resist – we begin to bend spoons, we look beyond ourselves for the answers and the power, and we keep remembering what it is we want. why we are resisting.

I don’t know what you need to resist that will contribute to a movement towards economic justice in our world, but I’m quite sure there is something. Consumerism is the obvious, but what about the way that identity becomes tangled up with branding and ownership of goods ?  Am I only the trainers that I wear ? Who made them anyway, and what resistance should I show to those who seek to make children spend hours producing them so that I can buy them?

Resist the urge to give up. To stop caring. To decide that the elephant is frankly, too heavy and there is no way it will ever make it up those stairs. I’m about to take part in the Live Below the Line challenge, in joining with others to live on £1 per day for food for a five day period. Many people in the world do this without a choice, and by doing this exercise and giving the money my family save to Tearfund we are trying to identify with those people, and have some idea of what that form of poverty can feel like.  I mentioned this on my twitter account and immediately got lambasted by a fellow tweeter for making choices that are denied to the poor. The tweeter criticised the campaign as a stunt and ineffectual. I had to think about her arguments and I wondered if I was doing the wrong thing in participating. I’ve decided that it is the right thing for us to do – I am resisting the voices telling me it is pointless. Even as I thought about writing this post I was questioning the point of it. What difference will it make ? Don’t bother.

Writing this is a form of resistance of myself.

We have a big God . a God of justice. a God who can change the world. As far as I can tell he’s opted to allow humans to be his agents of change.

so we better keep pushing the elephants. 

And when we get them up the stairs, we’ll begin bending spoons……


This post is part of the Spirit of the Poor linkup , hosted this month by Luke Harms


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8 Responses to I’m pushing an elephant up the stairs – Resist – Spirit of the Poor

  1. Activities like you’re participating in, I think, really do help us face reality and give us a better understanding of what our brothers and sisters are facing. Please let us know how it goes – I’m very interested to hear! :)


    • caiobhesblog says:

      Thanks for commenting Susan. I plan to work out our meals today – I’ll definitely post about how it all goes! Even before we’ve started it’s made me think about our definitions of necessity and luxury .


  2. Resist in the way that you need to resist. I personally love what you’re doing, and think it’s a great hing. Part of resistance is also resisting the urge to believe our worst critics. Keep resisting!


    • caiobhesblog says:

      Thanks Karissa. We are half way through our five days, and I hope to post again about the experience. I am being changed by it, and that’s maybe enough reason for any sort of resisting ?


  3. Wow, I really love the comparison of resistance to pushing an elephant up the stairs. I feel it sometimes in my own experiences of resisting. The pushback and weight that meets resistance can often get so heavy and can seem so impossible that it is tempting to give up. And that is why we cannot resist alone. We have to keep on pushing, and we have to gather others to carry some of our load and to help push this heavy elephant up those stairs together. Thank you for this.


  4. Jamie Wright Bagley says:

    Thanks for sharing that. I feel the weight of this, too. I have fallen for the convenience path a lot lately, even though it is often not really easier than alternative paths. It’s just habitual. And pushing that elephant makes me tired. :) I’m encouraged by your words to press in again. Thank you.


  5. I think what you are doing is wonderful. I, too, want to hear how it went. What I imagine is that you find some very delicious things that you had never tried before.

    My own personality is such that I am rarely motivated by the negative. I do things because I envision something better than what I have, or a better world than the one I live in. When my wife says, this house is a mess, let’s clean it up; I want to run and hide. But when she says, wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to see the top of your desk, then I get motivated. It is the same with world issues. Resistance, for me, is envisioning wonderful things, like growing vegetables, riding my bike, sewing clothes. But that’s me. I know there are a lot of people suffering and I do care about them, but I am most motivated by images of helping, rather than the need. I think I would go up the back stairs with some food that the elephant would want and see if I could entice him or her up the stairs.


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