I Despair, Therefore . . .

August 12, 2010 Leave a comment

“The seeds of Reunion are sprouting everywhere. That which was hidden for millennia is coming to light. Soon, fertilized by the detritus of our decaying civilization, the sprouts will mature, bloom, and bear fruit. Our job is first to receive them, then to spread them everywhere and to guard and foster them with every ounce of our love.”

“Three Seeds” by Charles Eisenstein

It’s awfully hard to read the news these days, especially if one is tuned in to the scientific and environmental communities:

“Northern Hemisphere Temperatures Shatter July Record

“Declining Phytoplankton Another Sign of Climate Catastrophe

“Climate Change and Illegal Logging Could Wipe Out Rainforest Wildlife by 2100”

Basically, I get the sense that I am listening to the gradual erosion of our life support system.  What so many of us are only now recognizing as the fragile balance of conditions that keep us going seems to be experiencing dramatic changes.  Where it all leads and what the specific implications for humanity are, nobody knows, though considerable loss and grief seem undeniable.

As I sit here in my hotel room preparing for tomorrow’s presentation at this gathering of the Children and Nature Network’s Grassroots Gathering, I am filled with both the hopefulness instilled by this community and its commitment to righting our connection with the planet, and then these waves of despair that ours is a challenge that perhaps our species is not equipped to meet.

A couple of years ago, I met a group of people who were gathering in my current hometown of Arlington, Massachusetts to share their feelings about the degradation of our planet.  They have subsequently built a program called Earth Circles, which is rooted in the work and writings of poet and activist Joanna Macy on despair and empowerment.  Macy writes:

We will have to make radical changes in our ways of living, thinking and seeing the world in order to allow human life to continue on this planet in balance with all other life forms and in harmony with the earth itself. The very idea of so fundamental a change is, for many of us, completely overwhelming. For the task of imagining that new life, working together in community is essential.

The Earth Circle’s approach looks to despair as a critical feeling to embrace to get us to meaningful action towards a new and life-affirming way of being.  “First, we experience gratitude for our lives; second, we allow ourselves to feel pain for the world; third, we gain a new vision of the world, whereby we recognize that we are an integral part of the web of all life; fourth, we go forth and apply what we have learned in an effort to change the way we live.”

I despair, and I hope.  And each day I understand more profoundly the power of WE, to help us each accept and adjust to our new reality and ultimately (hopefully) keep our place in this planetary story.

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