“Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act.”
How do we join our hope and rage together?
Isn’t it time to join Greta Thunberg and rage about the insufficient attention being paid to the planet’s impending environmental disasters?
At the same time, how do we heal our souls from infiltrations of despair invading our hearts?
How can we move with urgency, and, at times when needed, move slowly, consciously, and with great care?
These times call for urgency
Urgency, though, can carry a shadow. We may rush into the fray, without sensing what individual contributions we’re being called to make. We may be tempted to push hard, while leaving an unwanted wake behind us. We may move fast, with determination, yet end up disrespecting others, exerting our power, and writing off anyone who disagrees with us.
As we face the enormous crises at hand, we risk hardening the very hearts that we need to help us heal the planet.
Keeping our heart opens
I’m not an in-the-streets activist these days. I’m a writer, thinker, stay-at-home-with-nature kind of gal. I try to conserve, don’t live an extravagant lifestyle, vote, financially support causes as I can, and grow lots of kale.
It doesn’t feel like enough. (Then again, “not enough” is a phrase my inner critic frequently throws my way.)
My action these days involves reclaiming my appreciative relationship with the garden, and through that, with nature.
I spend time giving thanks to the trees and plants. I think they understand even though we don’t appear to speak the same language. Still, all too quickly in the face of an onslaught of weeds, my connection to the garden can become task-driven and mechanical, even aggressive. I understand why people still reach for chemicals to keep weed invaders at bay. When I’m under siege, I want to take back control!
Then the light comes on. I’m losing the love and with that the magic living in my relationship with our land. I need to slow down. Go off task. Rekindle the joy. Find the respect. Perhaps that will be my small step of environmental activism today.
My small deeds won’t save us from climate change, but they help keep my heart open.
That way, I can bear to read (some of) the news and listen for the whispers of what I will be called to do next.
Challenging despair with action
My friend Rondi has taken a different path. Her Whole Vashon Project Is “Standing Up to Climate Change…” by making the environmental commitments and initiatives happening on our island visible to all. Her passion stems from a deep source within her and a sense of being called to do this work. The fire that she carries is catching. Thus far, after only a few months, 100 island organizations have stepped up and announced their “green goals” to the community.
Her work inspires me. For one, she offers islanders a concrete vehicle for action and the exchange of ideas. Just as important, she provides an alternative to the despair that threatens to disable many of us.
Bearing the chemo/healing the wound
I spent time this week with a friend who is facing a challenging situation in her battle with cancer. After the first rounds of chemo, she had an operation that successfully removed most of the remaining cancer. Unfortunately, post-surgery, the deep wounds became infected, causing her great pain. She requires additional chemo to kill any last cancer, yet that chemo diminishes her immune system, making it harder to heal her wounds.
She needs to destroy cancer while she tries to heal her body.
Photo credit: National Cancer Institute Author: Linda Bartlett (photographer)
We face a similar dilemma.
Our global systems have cancers that are destroying the environment.
We need to find an equivalent to chemo that can eliminate invasive elements, which have fostered waste, neglect, greed, overuse of resources, gross inequities, and deliberate or inadvertent harm to the environment.
Our rage, trying to burn away what is toxic, is like chemo. We use it to ignite action, burn through indifference, and make people pay attention to the plight of the world. We then operate to take apart and repair the structures in our broken systems and refocus our priorities.
At the same time, we must heal.
How do we bring rage and fire, hope and healing together?
We need to burn with rage and heal with hope.
David Spangler, one of the great sages of our times, speaks to this when he writes about “fiery hope” in his new book Holding Wholeness: (in a Challenging World).
“Hope isn’t a wish; it’s an inner capacity, first to be open to possibilities for action and vision that refuse to be circumscribed or defined by circumstances and which thus can be transformative in the moment, and second, to add our energy to bring those possibilities to life through action of some nature.
“Fiery hope” is an affirmation that we are a source of hope because we are—or can be—a source of change and new vision.”
“It is “fiery” because it taps into our passion, our commitment, our intentionality, our spirit.”
Spangler says this hope can open us to new possibilities while changing us from the inside out, positively affecting how we respond to events and each other.
With fiery hope, we save ourselves from the downside of urgency that results in our forgetting the power of connection with ourselves and with others.
“Hope can make us resilient as well as creative. It is “fiery” because in honoring ourselves and what we are capable of doing both on our own and in conjunction with others, we can burn away hopelessness and the sense of helplessness that comes with it.”
Let’s burn and heal
I pray that my friend’s chemo will burn the remaining cancer cells from her system while her wounds heal and her being recovers.
Let’s burn away our planetary diseases of indifference, greed, and environmental destruction.
Let’s seed the hope that allows us to get bigger, see more possibilities, and find the strength to heal ourselves and the planet.
Let’s join our rage about the planet with the fierce love that demands that we care.