Wisdom, Courage, Compassion, Resilience, Deep Adaptation, & Climate Crisis
“If this world is to be healed through human efforts,
I am convinced it will be by ordinary people
whose love for life is even greater than their fear.”
– Joanna Macy
trust your heart if the seas catch fire.
and live by love though the stars walk backwards
((( Given the tsunamis of new reports and data, this page is under continual development… It is challenging to keep up with all the latest news, so please return often for more inspiration…! )))
“This is a dark time, filled with suffering and uncertainty.
Like living cells in a larger body, it is natural that we feel the trauma of our world.
So don’t be afraid of the anguish you feel, or the anger or fear,
because these responses arise from the depth of your caring and the truth
of your interconnectedness with all beings….
Our sorrow is the other face of love, for we only mourn what we deeply care for.
The sorrow, grief, and rage you feel is a measure of your humanity and your evolutionary maturity.
As your heart breaks open there will be room for the world to heal.”
~ Joanna Macy
Here is a list of links and resources that have inspired us as we prepared for our recent series of workshops on Awakening to Compassion, Resilience, and Climate Change – and Sourcing the Courage to Embrace Climate Crisis with Wisdom and Compassion – May 22, 2021. We will continue to develop, refine, and edit this list and web-page in the weeks and months to come, so please return and check in here often.
We honor that it takes a considerable courage and compassion to embrace and take to heart this information – what it means for our lives and world – and that all this can be quite overwhelming and distressing for people who are just not able or ready to embrace this yet…
In that spirit we encourage you to keep in mind Joanna Macy’s wisdom teachings on the Work That Reconnects – and to always begin with Gratitude… before you step into Embracing the Suffering … which leads to Seeing with new and more fully opened wisdom eyes… and Going Forth with deeper wisdom and compassion…
“Let’s take a moment to remember why we are here.
Let’s remember our love for this beautiful planet.
Let’s remember our love for all humanity in all corners of the world.
As we act today, may we find the courage to bring a sense of love and peace and appreciation to everyone we encounter and every word we speak.
We are here for all of us.”
“Declaration of Solemn Intent” from the Extinction Rebellion #ExtinctionRebellion
Where to Begin
“Vine Deloria Jr. once said that the crisis that we’re facing as a species, as a globe, it’s not actually climate change. He said we’ve simply fallen out of right relation with the Earth. Right? We belong to a nation and a people who, instead of caretaking the Earth and seeing the Earth as a relative, we prey on the Earth.” ~Melanie Yazzie, Diné, assistant professor of Native American studies and American studies at University of New Mexico, Author of The Red Road: Indigenous Action Plan to Save Our Earth
The following three articles by our beloved and respected friends Vicki Robins and Catherine Ingram, and by Jem Bendell offer a deep, wise, care-full entry point into this exploration. Having been diving deeply into Jem Bendell’s Deep Adaptation media and sites recently and the inspiring and courageous work of many other respected climate scientists, these articles offer a vivid, deep, sobering, timely, and comprehensive overview of our global predicament and the preciousness of this time in our lives. These are well-referenced for anyone interested in inquiring more deeply.
Reading these works we are left with a rich mix of profound gratitude, humility, and concern…
A very astute and sobering summary of the research findings and warmings from climate science research: https://jembendell.com/2020/06/15/climate-science-and-collapse-warnings-lost-in-the-wind/
Two significant recent reports:
- The IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change Report 2021: https://www.ipcc.ch
- The 2021 Lancet Medical Journal Countdown Report: https://www.lancetcountdown.org/2021-report/
For an excellent and succinct summary of recent research, this article from the Guardian is quite comprehensive:
Countries from Siberia to Australia are Burning: The Age of Fire is the Bleakest Warning Yet – It is time not only to think the unthinkable, but to speak it: the world economy, civilization, and maybe our survival as a species are on the line: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/nov/29/countries-from-siberia-to-australia-are-burning-the-age-of-fire-is-the-bleakest-warning-yet
“Courage is often confused with stoicism, the stiff upper lip, bravado that masks fear. There is another kind of courage. It is the courage to live with a broken heart, to face fear and allow vulnerability, and it is the courage to keep loving what you love “even though the world is gone.” ~Catherine Ingram
Earthday 2021: Why We Must Do More to Tackle the Climate Crisis
“So if you haven’t felt like crying, you haven’t been paying attention; or perhaps you have been numbed like so many of us by our culture. Our hurt is not something to suppress, or seek a distraction from. Our tears can be a truth that we can integrate into our being. Then we can be honest with each other about the path ahead. Because it is a path of both despair and dedication. Paying attention fully to what is around us and in front of us, even though it hurts, is to be fully alive. As Kahlil Gibran wrote, “the deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.” There is a calling we are hearing, to witness the beauty of life on Earth, even as so much is being lost, in the same way we would tend the bedside of a dying loved one.”
~Gail Bradbrook and Jem Bendell
n Earth Day 2021, April 22nd, at the Leaders’ Climate Summit led by United States president Joe Biden, countries will present their new climate commitments, including net-zero by 2050. They will call these hypothetical targets ambitious. However, when you compare the overall current best-available science to these insufficient, so-called “climate targets,” you can clearly see that there’s a gap—there are decades missing where drastic action must be taken.
Of course, we welcome all efforts to safeguard future and present living conditions. And these targets could be a great start if it wasn’t for the tiny fact that they are full of gaps and loopholes. Such as leaving out emissions from imported goods, international aviation and shipping, as well as the burning of biomass, manipulating baseline data, excluding most feedback loops and tipping points, ignoring the crucial global aspect of equity and historic emissions, and making these targets completely reliant on fantasy or barely existing carbon-capturing technologies. But I don’t have time to go into all that now.
The point is that we can keep using creative carbon accounting and cheat in order to pretend that these targets are in line with what is needed. But we must not forget that while we can fool others and even ourselves, we cannot fool nature and physics. The emissions are still there, whether we choose to count them or not.
Still, as it is now, the people in power get away with it since the gap of awareness is so immense. And this is the heart of the problem. If you call these pledges and commitments “bold” or “ambitious,” then you clearly haven’t fully understood the emergency we are in.
I’ve met with many world leaders and even they admit that their targets are not in line with their commitments. And that’s natural. They are only doing what they consider to be politically possible. Their job is to fulfill the wishes of voters, and if voters are not demanding real climate action, then of course no real changes will happen. And thankfully, this is how democracy works. Public opinion is what runs the free world. If we want change then we must spread awareness and make the seemingly impossible become possible.
We understand that the world is complex, that many are trying their best and that what is needed isn’t easy. And, of course, these very insufficient targets are better than nothing. But we cannot be satisfied with something just because it’s better than nothing. We have to go further than that. We must believe that we can do this, because we can. When we humans come together and decide to fulfill something, we can achieve almost anything.
When leaders now present these pledges, they admit that they surrender on the 1.5 degrees Celsius target. They are surrendering on their promises and on our futures. I don’t know about you, but I sure am not ready to give up. Not in a million years. We will keep fighting for a safe future. Every fraction of a degree matters and will always matter.
You may call us naive for believing change is possible, and that’s fine. But at least we’re not so naive that we believe that things will be solved by countries and companies making vague, distant, insufficient targets without any real pressure from the media and the general public.
The gap between what needs to be done and what we are actually doing is widening by the minute. The gap between the urgency needed and the current level of awareness and attention is becoming more and more absurd. And the gap between our so-called climate targets and the overall, current best-available science should no longer be possible to ignore.
These gaps of action, awareness, and time are the biggest elephant that has ever found itself inside any room. Until we can address this gap, no real change is possible. And no solutions will be found.
Our emperors are naked—let’s call them out. And please, mind the gap.
Recent statement from the Royal Colleague of Psychiatrists position on the climate and environmental crisis:
The disruption to life posed by climate and ecological degradation
is a crisis which presents an unprecedented threat to human health.
Click image below to view a profound series of videos that illuminates how feedback loops in our climate regulation and crisis function – first generated for Mind and Life Institute’s symposium on Mind, The Human Earth Connection, and the Climate Crisis (https://www.mindandlife.org/insights/topics/environment/):
This is the foreword to “The Responsibility of Communicating Difficult Truths About Climate Influenced Societal Disruption and Collapse: An Introduction to Psychological Research” which provides a synthesis of some relevant peer-reviewed literature within the field of psychology. Professor Jem Bendell, University of Cumbria, UK.
“Your anxiety or even emotional distress about the situation with the climate is normal, sane, healthy and even righteous. Those difficult emotions you have been feeling may also be a painful gateway to a different expression of who you are, depending on how we support each other in that process of change.” https://jembendell.com/2021/02/18/should-we-discuss-our-anticipation-of-collapse/
Joel is among the 500 international scholars and scientists who signed the following warming and call to government leaders and policy setters to work swiftly and wisely to reduce and prepare for the climate crisis.
Worthy of Exploration:
Climate Action Tracker – A Government Roadmap for Addressing the Climate and Post COVID-19 Economic Crisis (4/27/2020) An inspiring and informative website offering deep insight: https://climateactiontracker.org/publications/addressing-the-climate-and-post-covid-19-economic-crises/
What lies beneath – on the latest net zero scenario by the International Energy Agency https://braveneweurope.com/wolfgang-knorr-what-lies-beneath-on-the-latest-net-zero-scenario-by-the-international-energy-agency
UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report 2019 – Showing the rising levels of green house gases and calling for radical and immediate action to mitigate our climate crises on a global scale. Full report is available at: https://www.unenvironment.org/resources/emissions-gap-report-2019
UN: Climate Change Will Create “New Great Divergence” Between Rich and Poor https://truthout.org/articles/un-climate-change-will-create-new-great-divergence-between-rich-and-poor/?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=b1adb585-072b-4ca3-87bd-fee8d8ef5e2e
Nature Article: Climate tipping points — too risky to bet against – The growing threat of abrupt and irreversible climate changes must compel political and economic action on emissions. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-03595-0
Moral Courage and complex times… XRTV Interview: Chris Hedges on Coronavirus, Climate and What Next? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3FfkKkmCSu4
Embodying the Climate Crisis: Toward a Somatic Understanding of Climate Change, Trauma, and Transformative Healing https://firstname.lastname@example.org/embodying-the-climate-crisis-part-1-bc2b1a61b7a
The inspired work of Zhiwa Woodbury has deeply inspired us, here is a place to begin exploring his writing and insights:
From Extinction Rebellion to Gaian Revolution: A Humane Response to the Climate Crisis
Climate Catharsis: A Psycho-spiritual, Sociocultural Model of Anthropocentric Transmutation
Exiting The Anthropocene and Entering The Symbiocene
Original Paper by Bendell – Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy http://lifeworth.com/deepadaptation.pdf
Compendium of Research Reports on Climate Chaos and Impacts (July 2019): http://iflas.blogspot.com/2019/07/compendium-of-research-reports-on.html
Deep Adaptation Linkedin group – https://www.linkedin.com/groups/12091253/
Jem Bendell and Toni Spence – This presentation, to 300 people in Bristol, UK, was Jem’s first recorded lecture on Deep Adaptation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=daRrbSl1yvY&list=PLZtwXwfaROqJqcyED69KJ29PbH53QPM5i&index=21&t=1432s
Jem Bendell “Hope in a time of climate chaos”
Jem Bendell – This is not a drill!
Jem Bendell – Grieve, Play, Love
Jim Bendell – The Wave
“What we want to do is save humanity from extinction”, Prof. Kate Jeffery, Behavioural Neuroscience | XR
Deep Adaptation Q&A with Charles Eisenstein hosted by Jem Bendell
Jem Bendell and Joanna Macy – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k1wUY6945kY
Joanna Macy – The Hidden Promise of Our Dark Age – At Bioneers – 2019 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vzmjF1jE2K0&t=577s
The following 4 guiding steps and principles from Joanna Macy’s inspired “Work That Reconnects” offers a profound guide for us to prepare ourselves to embrace, take to heart, and wisely, compassionately, and courageously respond to the often overwhelming circumstances of the global environmental crisis. Rather than leaping straight into the otherwise overwhelming morass of challenges, first begin by turning your heart-mind to “Begin With Gratitude”, taking to heart whoever or whatever you are grateful in your life, remembering and rejoicing in how profoundly privileged and resourced you are. Then strengthened with this expanded sense of the vast network of inspiring sources and forces of blessings, strength and inspiration available to us, we are better equipped to turn our attention to “Honor and Embrace the Suffering of the World” and the myriad of challenges that we face personally and collectively. As we embrace and inquire more deeply into these complex and interwoven circumstances, we will come to step three, “Seeing With Our Wisdom Eyes More Fully Open.” Guided by a deeper wisdom, we are more likely to be able to “Go Forth With Compassion in Action” and take steps toward living as a “force for good” in our world. (See – https://workthatreconnects.org/spiral/ )
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change – List of Reports and publications: https://www.ipcc.ch/reports/
Greta Thunberg https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2QxFM9y0tY
Naomi Klein Video– https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JpFZmisvrQQ
David Suzuki https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ktnAMTmgOX0
Sand Castle – poignant video made and narrated by 13 year old Oskar Mowdy, on education needed in today’s world of environmental crisis: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MzyOSAUHvE4&feature=youtu.be
Video – John Doyle at the UN https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=16&v=pMbeYJgH_6g
Ta’Kaiya Blaney – Water – and other inspiring videos: http://www.takaiyablaney.com
Joanna Macy with Jonathan Rose at Garrison Institute
Jem Bendell – The Love in Deep Adaptation – https://jembendell.com/2019/03/17/the-love-in-deep-adaptation-a-philosophy-for-the-forum/
Deep Adaptation Page on the Scientists’ Warning website:
“Apocalypse Got You Down? Maybe This Will Help: Searching for a cure for my climate crisis grief” https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/15/sunday-review/depression-climate-change.html?fbclid=IwAR3O1mVZi1-wxAkAfIDvFEyVmgCNdnn3h1kHCb75D12ITCckTOASz_YHnC8
World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency (11,258 SCIENTIST SIGNATORIES FROM 153 COUNTRIES) https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/advance-article/doi/10.1093/biosci/biz088/5610806?searchresult=1
U.S. Military Could Collapse Within 20 Years Due to Climate Climate Change says Pentagon Report: https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/mbmkz8/us-military-could-collapse-within-20-years-due-to-climate-change-report-commissioned-by-pentagon-says
Full Report: Implications of Climate Change for the U.S. Army – https://climateandsecurity.files.wordpress.com/2019/07/implications-of-climate-change-for-us-army_army-war-college_2019.pdf
Rich mix of related Podcasts – Currated by a respected colleague – Michael Dowd:
“Some people want to put us into a category.
Some people only feel good
when they know where they fit.
Are you an optimist?
Really, there’s only one right answer.
You have to be an optimist.
Otherwise you’re a drag.
No fun to be around. Dr. Death.
And a new term, you’re from the “Doomsphere.”
In the past, we were taught to note our worldview
by looking at a glass of water.
Is the glass half empty? Is it half full?
Your answer defines your identity:
Gloom and doom or hopeful
and great to hangout with.
What a nonsensical question this is.
Is the glass half full or half empty?
The right question for Warriors is:
Who needs the water and how can we get it to them?
What is the work that needs doing and how can I contribute to making it happen?
No labels. Just seeing clearly what needs to be done
and stepping up to do it.”
“Suffering is not enough. Life is both dreadful and wonderful. To practice meditation is to be in touch with both aspects. Smiling means that we are ourselves, that we have sovereignty over ourselves, that we are not drowned in forgetfulness. How can I smile when I am filled with so much sorrow? It is natural—you need to smile to your sorrow because you are more than your sorrow.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
There is no such thing as “Compassion Fatigue”!
A Vital Distinction
Regarding Mindfulness, Empathic Overwhelm, and Compassionate Responsiveness
Useful guidance and insight for our Deep Adaptation community can also be found in a wealth of recent research that shows that the notion of “compassion fatigue” is actually a misnomer. According to the research, this would be more accurately described as “empathy fatigue.” As sensitive social beings, our lives are interwoven with all other living beings and our natural environment. The parts of our brains that light up when we are in pain are closely intertwined with the parts of our brains that are activated when we encounter the pain of others. We are neurologically wired to empathically register and resonate with the suffering in our world. It touches us deeply, so deeply that if we don’t know how to manage it properly, we can become empathically overwhelmed and fall into empathic distress that leads to burnout. (See: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4040103/ )
The remedy and protection from empathic overwhelm is actually to move toward compassion. Compassion is engaged responsiveness – i.e. “compassion in action.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu reflects this wisdom saying, “Compassion is not just feeling with someone, but seeking to change the situation. Frequently people think compassion and love are merely sentimental. No! They are very demanding. If you are going to be compassionate, be prepared for action!”
Reseach on compassion speaks of three elements of compassion:
1. noticing others’ suffering (Mindfulness)
2. empathically registering the person’s pain as a feeling within us (Empathic Resonance), and
3. acting to ease the suffering (Compassionate Responsiveness)
As compassion is engaged and embodied in action, it may be expressed by reaching out from our hearts with kindness… offering food, shelter, protection… speaking kind and helpful words… or reaching out from our hearts with lovingkindess, compassionate or healing thoughts/prayers/energies such as in the meditative practice of “tonglen” – a profound practice from the Mahayana Buddhist tradition of gathering and transforming the experience of suffering and radiating compassion and healing… (See notes on this practice in the latter portion of this page: https://www.wisdomatwork.com/wp-content/uploads/Leveys-Essential-Practices-for-Daily-Life.pdf ) All of these are examples of being moved into responsive compassionate engagement that can protect us from the dangers of being empathically overwhelmed by the suffering in our lives and world.
There are also the practices of “self-compassion” which can be very helpful to turn to in moments of overwhelm or distress. Kristen Neff offers a 4 fold formula for self-compassion that blends mindfulness and caring toward ourselves:
1) Ah, this is a moment of suffering…
2) Suffering is a natural part of life…
3) May I be kind to myself…
4) May I give myself the compassion I need…
Three Principles of the Deep Adaptation Forum https://DeepAdaptation.ning.com
Return to compassion.
We shall seek to return to universal compassion in all our work, and remind each other to notice in ourselves when anger, fear, panic, or insecurity may be influencing our thoughts or behaviours. It is also important to remember to take care of ourselves, especially when the urgency of our predicament can easily lead to burnout.
Return to curiosity.
We recognise that we do not have many answers on specific technical or policy matters. Instead, our aim is to provide a space and an invitation to participate in generative dialogue that is founded in kindness and curiosity.
Return to respect.
We respect other people’s situations and however they may be reacting to our alarming predicament, while seeking to build and create nourishing spaces for deep adaptation.
Here are some suggested questions for your own reflection, take them to your household and communities. The questions are inspired by Jem Bendell posts and original paper:
- Resilience: What things, behaviours, patterns, institutions, structures or processes you would need to protect, keep or transform in order to make them more resilient in the face of societal and ecological breakdown? How does this apply to you and the work you do?
- Relinquishment: What things, behaviours, beliefs, institutions, patterns, etc. do you, your family or community may need to relinquish as we enter more and more into DA and societal and ecological breakdown?
- Restoration: What things, behaviours,beliefs, structures and/or institutions you, your family or community may need to restore in order to be more ready for DA?
- Reconciliation: Who or what do you or your community need to reconcile with? Are there special steps you may need to take to forgive or be forgiven, to make peace with?
- Radical Hope: What does radical hope mean to you, your family or community? How does it influence the work you do or plan to do?
“It appears that the process of unfolding complexity leads to new forms of reflective consciousness. Therefore, I could choose a purpose to reduce suffering, promote joy, enable reflection, and unleash emergence. This does not sound so different from the great wisdom traditions, as well as the common sense knowledge of most people I know, if not deluded by obsessions over race, nation, politics, status, wealth or religious correctness…
Create a positive vision of people sharing compassion, love and play. It may feel that an eco-tragic outlook means you cannot have any meaningful vision of a better future for yourself, your community, or humanity. An absence of something positive to work towards can be destabilising and limiting. Some people will think you are depressed – or depressing – and need some “positive thinking”. For a personal vision, the answer may lie in developing a vision for how you will be approaching life, rather than imagining attributes of a lifestyle. This may parallel the dimensions of a collective vision. A future full of love and learning, rather than flying cars and fancy robots, could be a way to imagine a more beautiful world. And remember, the future will still be beautiful in its own way, no matter what life forms are in it – or if your favourite town is under water!” ~Jem Bendell – https://www.kosmosjournal.org/kj_article/professor-jem-bendell-on-interbeing/ Fourteen Recommendations When Facing Climate Tragedy: What Comes After Climate Dispair – See longer version of his article at: https://jembendell.com/2018/01/14/after-climate-despair-one-tale-of-what-can-emerge/
Excerpt from Catherine Ingram’s article – https://www.catherineingram.com/facingextinction/
“Climate journalist Dahr Jamail knows well the process of grief in watching earth changes before his very eyes. A long time mountain climber, he has observed the permanent retreat of countless glaciers in Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, and elsewhere, having known those regions when the glaciers were still in full.
In the final chapter of The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption, he writes: “Each time another scientific study is released showing yet another acceleration of the loss of ice atop the Arctic Ocean, or sea level rise projections are stepped up yet again, or news of another species that has gone extinct is announced, my heart breaks for what we have done and are doing to the planet. I grieve, yet this ongoing process has become more like peeling back the layers of an onion—there is always more work to do, as the crisis we have created for ourselves continues to unfold. And somewhere along the line I surrendered my attachment to any results that might stem from my work. I am hope-free.”
I recently interviewed Dahr on the question of hope with regard to the many non-harmful or natural geo-engineering projects of mitigation and drawdown of carbon that are underway, unlike the aforementioned scary ones. These include planting trees, enriching soil, using particular forms of effective seaweed for carbon capture and ocean cooling, solar farms, onshore wind turbines, plant-rich diets, and educating girls (educated girls have fewer babies), to name a few. But Dahr is wary about the timeline of these proposals.
“Hope is about the future and gives us a sense that we have more time when, in fact, we are out of time. I think it is awesome that people are doing things to mitigate the damage as it is the right thing to do. Some of us feel morally obliged to take action in those ways. On the other hand, when you look at the amount of carbon that needs to be drawn down and how fast that has to happen, it is a physical impossibility to scale that to the level we would need.
“Take, for instance, wide-scale rejuvenation of soil. If every farmer were incentivized and mandated to incorporate practices that would rejuvenate soil at world scale and we coupled that with wide-scale tree planting—of course, all of these things take time–at least we would have set in motion some actions that might still help. What makes natural geo-engineering, soil sequestration, planting trees, and so on impossible for actually turning the tide on this is that there is a near total lack of political will to mandate any of it. If all of a sudden we could replace the horrible governments with functional ones that represented what we now need and if that is where all the funding went, yeah, it might actually make a dent in mitigation. But the reality is that there is not one country that I know of doing everything it can in that direction. Certainly none of the major emitters–Russia, the US, China, and India–are doing anything of significance; all four are just stomping on the gas. There is nothing to indicate that a change of course will happen. Nothing. Not now. Not next year. Not in ten years. So the lack of political will is going to negate any and all natural geo-engineering efforts.
“Nevertheless, we are still obliged to do what we can in our own ways, even if there is no chance for long-term mitigation. I was talking with a friend before I finished my book, and I said to him, ‘Why even write this book?’ And my friend said, “You know, Dahr, if the total outcome of your book buys one little organism in the Amazon one more week of life, then it is completely worth it.’”
Yet, we are often told that we cannot carry on without hope for at least a someday outcome. Because our western cultures, particularly those in America, are fixated on an almost childish adherence to hope, they celebrate old clichés such as, “You gotta have hope,” “Don’t lose hope, ”Keep hope alive.” Politicians and CEOs get elected with such slogans. Activists get funds for their projects and ideas even though they are five decades too late. And religious and new age thought leaders make millions peddling spiritual hopium, self-induced intoxication that ignores reality and offers an illusion of control or escape. True, there are times and places for hope when it is possible to change a course that can be changed. But clinging to hope when there is no longer anything to be done, when the course cannot be changed, makes hope itself a burden. One is forced into internal pretense, deeper denial. For people who have limited capacity for denial, and I suspect that if you have read this far you are one of those, maintaining hope becomes impossible. It is a surprising relief to let go of it.
However, you may then experience the brunt force of sorrow. Grief, straight up. It may sneak into your dreams. It may come in ordinary moments such as smelling the spray of an orange; or when a child whom you love says the words, “When I grow up…” It may come when you observe greed, ignorance, and cruelty, as these are reminders of why the world is dying. Sometimes you may feel you could cry and never stop crying.
To stay steady, you may be forced into a witnessing presence, vast enough to contain your grief. You may acclimate to living with grief without the assumption that it should or will dissipate. Despite this or because of it, you may notice a growing tendency to appreciate simple moments of connection and many small joys. And you may feel more awake than you have for a long time.”
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.