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By Helen Watson White in All Sorts
a fresh take on what we can do to cope with the realities of our overuse of the earth's resorcesACTIVE HOPE
Is there life after death? There certainly is a continuing life for ideas that have found their moment.
Before her death in 2011, Revd Helene Mann had already given us many wise ideas and resources to use in the Celtic-Style Eucharist, or communion service, at St Paul's Cathedral. The word Eucharist meaning thanksgiving, I am thankful for them every time I walk into her library in the Chapter Room -- and often when I'm nowhere near it -- as her books, kindly gifted to the Cathedral by her husband, nutritionist Prof Jim Mann, give guidance of an everyday kind for living in our times.
After Helene died, her co-ordinator role was taken over by local Anglican and environmental activist Pat Scott, for whose research I also continue to be thankful (in Greek, grateful = eukharistos). One of the best books Pat introduced to us was Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We're in without Going Crazy, by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone. On the website Goodreads, one reader gives it four stars, with this response:
"We're headed for disaster. Soil is being depleted. Oil is running out. Oceans are getting fished out. Species are dying off. Even the climate is changing. What can we do?" [30 or 40 years ago, would we ever have imagined life on Earth could be summarised in a few short, brutal sentences -- and this was only 2012!] But that 'What can we do?' is not a rhetorical question; in Active Hope it does receive an answer. The summary continues:
"We have a choice of three stories to follow: we can continue gobbling up the earth's resources (Business as Usual); we can despondently bury our heads in the sand (the Great Unraveling); or we can become conduits for positive change (the Great Turning)... Macy and Johnstone don't tell us what to do. They offer tools to help us decide what we can do, and perhaps more important, they suggest how we can develop attitudes that will enable us bring about the Great Turning without slipping back into one of the other two stories."
The authors offer what they call Active Hope, which is not the same as simple optimisim -- the ghost of Pollyanna can rest easy, however, as I for one was glad to discover this idea: "Active Hope is a practice. Like tai chi or gardening, it is something we do rather than have. It is a process we can apply to any situation, and it involves three key steps. First, we take in a clear view of reality; second, we identify what we hope for in terms of the direction we'd like things to move in, or the values we'd like to see expressed; and third, we take steps to move ourselves or our situation in that direction. Since Active Hope doesn't require our optimism, we can apply it even in areas where we feel hopeless. The guiding impetus is intention; we choose what we aim to bring about, act for, or express. Rather than weighing our chances and proceeding only when we feel hopeful, we focus on our intention and let it be our guide... We don't wait until we are sure of success. We don't limit our choices to the outcomes that seem likely. With Active Hope, we consciously choose to draw out our best responses, so that we might surprise even ourselves by what we bring forth...
We live at a time when the living body of our Earth is under attack and when the attacker is not an alien force but our own industrial-growth society. At the same time, an extraordinary recovery process is under way, a vital creative response we call the Great Turning. What helps us face the mess we're in is the knowledge that each of us has something to offer, a contribution to make. In rising to the challenge of playing our best role, we discover something precious that both enriches our lives and adds to the healing of our world. We grow, and offer, our gift of active hope."
- Helen Watson White