Somedays I admit to being afraid of the creeping darkness of overwhelm, disenchantment, and outrage that tries to threaten our world.
I feel sad when I see people throw up their hands and murmur, “Too late. Too complex. Too many bad people with too much money and power.”
I get it! I feel myself wanting to retreat or scream in outrage. When the VW scandal broke, you should have heard me. “But Aidan (my bonus son) did the research to convince us it was the very best car for the environment!” How could he have known VW was lying about emissions because some CEO wanted to sell the most cars in the world! Does this make me want to throw up my hands and say, “The world is hopeless!” YES. And… NO!
I make myself choose the NO! again. Some days it is far harder than others, and yet I refuse to go over to the dark side and believe the lie that change is impossible. That we are doomed.
If we allow overwhelm, disenchantment, and outrage (even when that outrage is well founded) to take over our hearts, we are actively helping to create a bleak, hopeless world.
Cultivating the opposite of hopelessness looks different for each of us. For you it might be cultivating joy. Or vulnerability. Or compassion. Enthusiasm. Wisdom. Or creative problem solving. Pick what helps you when faced with something that scalds you with anger or drowns you in hopelessness, and dedicate yourself there.
Make your best diligent effort to be an intelligent, loving antidote to the darkness of giving up on us humans.
And effort it does require. That’s part of the rub. We are so often exhausted and overwhelmed by the grind of modern life, it is difficult to have the energy to stop the creeping malaise of resignation. But if we band together, if we hold each other in the effort, everything becomes possible.
We cannot do it in isolation.
I am a helper bee so I’ve compiled a few suggestions and resources below. They are just suggestions, not in any way prescriptive. My sole purpose in writing this post is to extend my heart to yours. I want to stay open, stay hopeful, stay awake with you. Let us continue together, imperfectly, sloppily, with compassionate grit, to shape a world we love.
I send my thanks for your hard work and my love to you on this cusp of a new year!
Resources and ideas for cultivating hope (or whatever quality best works for you)
- Joan Halifax has much wisdom to share on empathy, hope and encountering grief. Here is her interview with Krista Tippet and a very practical practice for G.R.A.C.E.
- One reason resignation and outrage is on the rise is because life is too complex, and we don’t have time to do the research needed to know whom and what to trust. Just think of how much you would have to read and process every time your computer operating system asks you to agree to an upgrade – and what do you do if you disagree??! I mindfully choose what I will research and what I will let go of as being out of my control or not important. Wise, informed engagement on a human scale is essential.
- Refrain from outrage and propagating misinformation, and forgive yourself when you slip. Slate did a great series on outrage and check this out at the piece on Quartz…
“We all bear responsibility in the war against bullshit. We should discourage bullshitters by resisting the temptation to cave to the clickbait and contribute to page views. We should hesitate to spread articles that provoke immediately strong emotional responses but lack reasoned arguments. Bystanders with knowledge of a given area must continue to call bullshit on charlatans in a way that encourages reflective critical thinking. And simple awareness that intuitive assessments can lead to us to fall prey to bullshit may help us to check our instinctual reactions to what we read online, encouraging us to think again–and more deeply.”
Bullshit leads to cynicism and disengagement. It erodes our trust. Question what you share and what you believe.
- When I asked my friend Molly Gordon how she cultivates hope, she wrote me, “Hope thrives when I remember that I am part of a web of life that is infinite, miraculous, and inherently creative. If I stop and connect to the larger miracle, I come home to a self that is more closely allied with our true nature and less prone to navel gazing.” Love that!
- Accept your limitations. I spend a lot of time preaching about living a human-scaled life at The Oasis, because when we attempt to be someone we can’t be, we exhaust ourselves, which gives hopelessness a leg up. When we say, “This is the time and these are the resources I have to share and how I choose to share them,” we ground ourselves in acceptance and our common humanity.
- My friend Michael did a great blog post about 3 Ways to Increase Your Helpfulness. It’s a video with a transcript.
- Joanna Macy has long been a practical, poetic voice for transforming denial, grief, and despair at our social and ecological challenges. Coming Back to Life, her seminal book with Molly Brown, has recently been updated.
- And read this good news in The Atlantic, “by many measures, humanity is in better shape than it’s ever been.”
- Love yourself as much as you love the homeless person you gave a dollar to, your brother-in-law who called you when he was drunk again to rant about politics, your friends fighting cancer and depression, because when you do, you are an unstoppable voice for love and hope and unstainable goodness.