The first thing to say:  I am sorry if you are experiencing me as depressing.  Really, truly, my intention is to reveal an inner dialogue (much of which I know others share) and come out on the other end someplace positive!  I promise.

In reference to the planetary dangers ahead as a species and as individuals, I know people who talk about hope, and I know people who talk about the importance of not having hope.  A lot of this is a philosophical discussion, and somehow philosophy is an entitlement of thinking people, whereas highly personal/emotional reactions are thought of as excessive, unproductive, irrational and perhaps nutty.  I straddle hope/no hope in my daily life of thought and mood. To usher climate change issues into every level of economic and socio-cultural transformation, we’ve got to include the deeply personal.  Women hating housework at the level of daily resentment was a crucial motivator in 1960s feminism. Feelings matter…

Someone just wrote this to me, in reference to my last bit of writing:

I just keep going back to the same word: impermanence.

It’s difficult for me to connect with your thought process. There was a lot of “heaviness” there…. 

However, the part on being disconnected – that definitely resonates with my paradigm.

Your reality (and your perceptions and feelings about the environment) are a reflection of yourself. How you are connecting with yourself will show up as a reality. That’s putting it very simply. I see a picture of the Himalayas and I think “Wow, what majesty!” You look at that same picture and you think “This is horrible!”

Different perceptions.

We care about the environment. We do what we can. We support government structures that will take us down the correct path. 

But we see and hear all these dooms-day stories about the earth. It’s very stressful and anxiety-building. If I’m not hearing a solution or a call to action – that message is adding stress to my daily life that will manifest in not enjoying the current moment – the one that matters most. 

Let’s keep active. Do everything we can to make this a liveable planet – but let’s also be in the moment and just enjoy what we have right here, right now.

First, let me say there is basically nothing above with which I disagree (except where she sees might trust government I probably do not).   I see the importance of living in the moment; I agree that tactically in terms of communication we need to project “vision” and “solutions;”  I realize I somehow failed to convey to her the extent of personal lifestyle change and committment  and small and large projects to which I, and my husband in his career in a big way, dedicate our lives.  Somehow I totally turned her off, or scared her, or failed to reach her, to persuade her.  Or maybe, and this leaves me sad, there are some people who just don’t get it/feel it/ know it in their bones yet.

(Yet.  As someone said recently, those people are going to fall harder, because they are not seeing it coming.)

She and I began our discussion when I commented on a friend’s facebook photo of one stunning picture among a series of awe-inspiring photos he took in Tibet in 2002.  She had written that her heart dropped in beauty at the sight of a particular snow-covered glacier.  I, in my personal practice of not remaining silent about heat and melt, wrote that my heart dropped wondering how much of that snow had already melted in the eight years that have passed, and would melt in the next decade.  Party Pooper, that’s me!  (I have read about the exponential rate of hotting up in the Himalayas, and the terrifying water issues that are going to result across Asia in the next decades.)  She wrote, “Impermanence,” referring to a Buddhist notion of nothing remaining constant, not even mountains.  I wrote “Suffering, ” referring to all the beings who do, and will.  I wanted to quote the Dalai Lama who sees climate change now as a larger problem to the people of Tibet than the Chinese occupation.  That seemed a juvenile strategy to me, so I wrote to her one to one explaining my very personal journey with all this.  We had a nice exchange, I thought, and I sent her the link to this web log.

Clearly she finds me a bummer and all my emotional to-and-froing stressful, and heavy, which it is to me too!  I could use some of that Buddhist detachment, but I would want it to come from a place of very deep attachment to and love for the world around me.

That particular dialogue stopped feeling fun and productive, but the larger questions go on about living in the now and the larger expanse of  time ahead of us– and whether we must have hope or not for the future and for the changes we can make now.

Good friends who read Derrick Jensen insist that we give up the idea of hope (meaning, that changes and tweaking our industrial capitalism will only delay not prevent social and environmental collapse, which is ultimately good).  This is a simplistic summary, but I think accurate enough. (Awaiting correction or clarification anyone might offer!)  Obviously hope is a semantic problem as well, but I’m not mentally inclined towards these ways of thinking.

Other friends place hope way in the distant future, when some kind of new stability is able to emerge socially and agriculturally/ permaculturally from whatever new climate emerges.  We are talking “eventually” here– therefore, it’s hypothetical too.  (It’s all hypothetical really.)

Then there’s a different kind of hope, which I’d say is like wishing to be able to keep pretending. That’s not quite right.  It’s where we place our hope-against-hope.  It’s hope where we would like to admit that the severity of our thinking is wrong. Obama is in the category.  Copenhagen is in this category.  Technofixes might be here.  (I used to call myself an atheist praying for a technofix.)  All the things all of us are doing hope-against -hope (350.org, 10:10, Avaaz, Age of Stupid, I could go on and on)– all the Good Faith daily actions we keep doing of reducing our impacts and  striving for energy and emissions-change at every level: transport, housing, manufacture, agriculture, sewage, resource use, product design, travel, tourism…  Imagining a world where everyone gets it together and we make the changes we need.  In time. Though by a hare’s breath.

Hoping for this is Hope.  

All this by and for people willing to accept a new mindset of change, even if you call it austerity, and a kind of world view that holds within it a notion of “climate justice,” and futurism, and humanism– to make sure there is something left for the future. I’m not willing to give up these shreds yet.  And that’s why I consider myself a hopeful person, shocking as that might appear to some dressed in its dour garb of heaviness and grief.


2 Responses to “Hope”

  1. nicola baird Says:

    I don’t see how anyone would find the energy to mother if they didn’t have hope. Luckily our young kids’ ability to live in the moment often helps recharge that hope (even if it is exhausting coping with their daily requirements).

    I teach a few students in their late teens and early 20s – why would they come back to a session if I told them they were doomed? They come back because I don’t blacken their future (don’t think this is irresponsible). Instead I try to offer them hope and energy (and if they are really lucky and great at listening) the skills to think against convention so they have the confidence to create or greet the energy efficient solutions that we need now.

    Hope is catching. Dooming and glooming can look cool, but it’s hard work sharing for too long. That said I feel v lucky to have found it impossible to be miserable about anything for too long, it’s just not an instinctive way for me to behave. Getting irritated and wanting to do something about things is tho. And on that note have you had a reply yet about parking by the school gate? My campaigns to get the secondary school kids lockers and the right for those secondary school kids to wear decent shoes is slow. I’ve timetabled two years…

  2. Keith Farnish Says:

    I think it’s time to sort out what we mean by “hope”. After a discussion with a couple of people, good people who wouldn’t ever consider delegating responsibility to something “out there”, I realised that some uses of the word “hope” actually mean “will”, as in: “I have genuine will to create change.”

    What I would like is for people who have the anti-hope mindset, including me, to start using the word “will” instead. It might mean that certain phrases, like “We are full of hope” get consigned to the linguistic dustbin, but at least it will allow us to tell who is genuine about their desire to change, and who is just pretending.

    And it’s still ok to hope someone has a nice day 🙂


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