Choosing Active Hope

Sunflower at my Community Garden plot - October 10, 2014
Sunflower at my Community Garden plot – October 10, 2014

The heart that
breaks open can
contain the
whole universe
~ Joanna Macy

There is too much bad news to justify complacency. There is too much good news to justify despair.”
~ Donella H. Meadows

What is hope? Can we have hope in a world going crazy as ours? A world that knows about climate change, resource depletion, pollution, epidemics, disasters, wars, political clashes and social injustices, among many other crazy things, and still continues as nothing has happened?

Joanna Macy ( writes on her book “Active Hope” that our world is currently living three stories:

  • The story of Business as Usual (nothing will change and we can continue as we have…the future will probably be similar or even better, etc…). This is also a story of denial: denial of limited resources, denial of climate change, denial that anything could go wrong…not only most middle class people live this, many others chasing sustainability have too decided to be “optimistic” and ignore limits and challenges.
  • The second is a story of Doom: this is the story held by many preppers and survivalists, but also by nihilists and those who have given up and can’t see any way out of where we are now…many secretly wish humanity is wiped out so whatever is left may provide for other species
  • The third is a story of hope: this is being constructed by all those who believe there may be a way out and that in any case, doing something is much better than giving up.

There is a reason I re-visit this topic today: it is probably more current than ever…things have started to unravel in many places, people are starting to awake and change.

Even at a personal level, things are accelerating and stretching me towards apparent opposite directions…

Until a few days ago, my personal challenge was: how do I immerse myself in the third story when my entire life drags me to the first and when many things around me show me that the second may be more realistic?

A series of somewhat expected and some unexpected decisions and changes around me suddenly guided me to the answer: you have to choose.

And I chose active hope.

There is no point on fighting the first story: she will eventually unravel and crash and those of us engaged in it may have no other option than follow the flow and embrace change…the only thing we can do is build resilience and help others around us to do the same.

There is no point on trying to stop the second story either: she is already here, she is in Iraq and Syria in Gaza and West Africa, and she travels and touches many, randomly and blindly. Here again, is it through resilience and active hope that we can save and support those in the middle of the hurricane.

Active hope (the core of the third story) is not about passively expecting that someone or something may “save” us or would bring the truth, the magical toolbox of technology, wisdom or spirituality that would turn things around. Active hope is about accepting the pain, the sadness and the anger while also being grateful for what is still left. It is also about doing and sowing with the knowledge that we may never see the fruits and that there may not even be fruits, but still sowing.

For me, this means giving the best I can give at work, at home and at my community. It means to become fully involved and trust that others will follow.

Active hope is choosing to be fully present and give the best you can give.

Life is too short to be entangled in either doom or business as usual: feel, wake up, be grateful and act.

The only hope we have is “active hope”.

If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”
~ Dalai Lama XIV

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving to all

Flowers from my garden, October 2014
Flowers from my garden, October 2014
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