Thursday, January 16, 2014

Chances, Possibilities and Privilege: How Our World is Changed

Lots of people use the end of the year and the kickoff of the new one to look back or look forward. Calendar turning is a reminder that time passes on, seemingly otherwise unnoticed. Two of my favorite thinkers and writers have done some exceptional reflection and articulated some hopeful possibilities worth sharing with those who do not usually bump into their work.


Charles Eisenstein who wrote the book Sacred Economics that I have referred to numerous times in this blog wrote a couple of pieces that look at the world and our individual place in it with, as is his wont, fresh insights and a deep gut belief in possibilities. In an essay entitled 2013: A Year That Pierced Me, Eisenstein reflects on the 150 talks he gave, the responses to them and his new book, The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible and whether any of it matters.


     I gave over a hundred and fifty speeches and longer events in 2013, and sometimes, even if the speech ended with a standing ovation and tears glistening around the room, I would wonder at night, "Is this really doing any good? After all, everyone went home and look at the news." I would read that while I was speaking, a Yemeni wedding party was incinerated by a hellfire missile, or that torture had resumed at Abu Graib, or that indigenous tribes were to be removed in Ecuador so their pristine rain forests could be cleared for oil drilling, or that Fukushima radiation is causing fish to bleed from their eyeballs...

     Every day there is another incontrovertible sign that the military-industrial-pharmaceutical-prison-educational-financial-political complex is ascendant. Against that backdrop, I sometimes wonder, does the world really need another smart white guy speaking in a room?

Eisenstein goes on to wrestle with the flip side of his catharsis. A few excerpts below:

     It would be irresponsible to inspire hope where there is none...

... I say a more beautiful world is possible. I say it from a knowing, and it touches the same knowing in anyone who listens...

...I speak from a knowing, yet I just as much as anyone need help to believe.

Eisenstein followed up this piece with another short essay, 2013: Hope or Despair, a few excerpts follow

     Sometimes the positive development look like pinpricks of light under a blanket of darkness. The points of light are tiny in comparison to the injustice and ecocide.

He goes on to wonder aloud about some possibilities and continues:

     ...My point in illuminating them is that we treat these positive developments as harbingers of the future, and stand firmly in the energy of their possibility. They are not distractions from despair's reality; they are heralds of a more beautiful world. 


And then there is the forceful, moving, analysis from Rebecca Solnit, The Arc of Justice and the Long Run: Hope, History, and Unpredictability. I'll share the opening paragraph and perhaps another quote or two. But one will lose a great opportunity if they do not read the entire evocative seven page essay.

     North American cicada nymphs live underground for 17 years before they emerge as adults. Many seeds stay dormant far longer than that before some disturbance makes them germinate. Some trees bear fruit long after the people who planted them have died, and one Massachusetts pear tree, planted by a Puritan in 1630, is still bearing fruit far sweeter than most of those fundamentalists brought to this continent. Sometimes cause and effect are centuries apart, sometimes Martin Luther King's arc of the moral universe that bends towards justice is so long few see its curve, sometimes hope lies not in looking forward but backward to study the line of that arc.

     ...a decade ago I began writing about hope, an orientation that has nothing to do with optimism. Optimism says that everything will be fine no matter what, just as pessimism says that it will be dismal no matter what. Hope is a sense of the grand mystery of it all, the knowledge that we don't know how it will turn out, that anything is possible.

There is so much more here beautifully shared. Enjoy. Be hopeful, but be active....