Let’s Think About Living

Driving home from The Bioneers Conference on Sunday I heard this song. I offer it to you as good medicine. It’s really a spoonful of sugar. Open wide.

I didn’t attend most of the conference, as I was there primarily to help staff the table for Holos Institute. I have mixed feelings about Bioneers. I love the concept, am thrilled by the innovation, and respect most of the presenters. I am also turned off by the high cost of the tickets, the priveleged demographic that attends (Marin County, Hello!), and the narrow-mindedness that can only happen when a new-age ostrich buries its head deeply into the buttocks of its own beloved dogma. A-hem. However, there was one person I had really hoped to hear speak, and I was so fortunate as to be there just at the right time to catch her talk.

Jane Goodall.

She is a personal hero of mine. If you don’t know much about her, or would like to know more, or would just like to bask in the sunshine for a minute…this talk is very similar to the one that she gave.

She began her talk by honoring her mother. Within the first two minutes I was in tears. She went on to give a little personal history, describing her experience in Africa, then (1960) and now, and concluded by describing the conservation programs her foundation is working on.

The content was fascinating, but it wasn’t the words that were so moving. It was her presence of heart. From this throne she radiated. In one hand she held a royal scepter as beacon of  deep wisdom. Wisdom I am guessing that comes from someone who fell so deeply in love with a land and its beings that she swore to protect it…and who then learned to be with her grief when so much of what she loved was destroyed. In her other hand she held a chalice, and within its draughts was hope.

As someone who also loves the earth and her creatures deeply, hope is something I need to do the work I want to do, and it is also the one thing I have a tricky relationship with. Lately I have noticed a running commentary, way in the back of my day to day thought process. With the low hum of a sinking ship, it sounds something like this,

This work we are doing, of ecopsychology and psychotherapy and environmental education and urban homesteading and local foods…it’s all well and good, but I think all the folks who think we are making a difference are mistaken. I mean, let’s get real. Thinking that we can turn this all around, that we aren’t completely screwed is delusional. It’s a big world…and most of the people in it are just struggling to stay alive and it’s just because we live in California and the Bay Area and we are surrounded by so much like-mindedness that we think we are making any difference at all. Leave this bubble and most people just don’t care, our government is in the control of corporations, Obama is such a total let-down and our air and water is being destroyed and we’re already past 350 parts per million and why do I even bother to recycle because all this plastic is just going to get shipped to the third world and we’re just brainwashing ourselves to make ourselves feel better because it’s hopeless hopeless hopeless hopeless”

Can you believe it? After writing that out, I can’t quite believe it either. And yet it was that voice that was challenged while I was listening to Jane Goodall. By the end of her speech, I found myself experiencing just the tiniest bit of courage. I realized that allowing myself to feel hope is daring. It is also hard. It is actually a lot easier (I would almost say lazier) to not be hopeful, to be discouraged instead.

Within my chest, I felt something upturn. A dark face dared to lift its head, and like a sunflower greeting its maker, that same something inside of me greeted the sky. The blue sky that is always above, that is impervious to the clouds that dance across its expanse. I dared to hope. And it felt good. It felt right. I felt the warmth of that truth flood through my veins, and as parched ground must feel as the first raindrops fall, I marveled that through discouragement I had become so dry…so dry that it felt normal.

When she finished, the crowd leapt to its feet in a standing ovation. When they wouldn’t sit back down, she came back to the podium for one more statement. Eyes twinking she asked,

Can we save the world?”

She walked off stage buoyed by hundreds of voices shouting “YES!”

Keep doing the good work that you do. I’m in it with you.

Love you all. Have a good week.

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9 thoughts on “Let’s Think About Living

  1. That’s AMAZING that you were able to see Jane Goodall. I can only imagine how inspirational she would be in person.

    You are the most hopeful person I know. You inspire me! I learn so much from you and your writing.

  2. Mary, I’m so proud of you. You are amazing. I love Jane Goodall, too, and have most of her books if you want to borrow them. (you will have to come get them though, hehehehehehe)

  3. waves of goosebumps mary. i must say first: i just read an article interview with obama in rolling stone magazine, don’t ask why i had that, from a few months ago. it sheds different light on why he appears to be such a let down. i scroll through his photos on flickr occasionally, and he feels true and good still, i feel.

    second: i have seen her speak a few times too! i LOVE her with a fierce passion. i just sent a check for 25 dollars to her foundation monday! she is the best person to have as a hero. she is about to turn me vegetarian. no one but her could do that. i just love turkey and buffalo so much sometimes. sorry to say that. are you vegetarian? anyways. i’ve even hung out with her in her hotel room! an old personal assistant of hers is a good friend of ours, and he brought us up to hang out with her there in her hotel once when we were traveling in seattle, and then also here in boulder at his house. we brought her scones from our bakery. i am totally showing off!!! then i even got to ask her a question, a prefabbed question in one of her talks once. i actually went on stage with her. it was something like, ‘how did your mother influence you?’ she said, basically, she believed in me. she believed in my dreams and choices from the beginning, and always had faith in me and let me know it. something like that. lalalalala. world’s best lady. i am with you. she is a miracle. a walking miracle. i’m glad you wrote about her.

    and hey~~ also…on your last post about your altar for day of the dead, i just want to say how much i love that. and at my kids’ school the last few years, they always asked each kid to bring in photos of friends family and pets to put on their classroom altars for the day of the dead. kids loved doing that and talking about their beloved dead. oh. i have been honoring my dad a lot lately. this is when he died. i love this time of year. it feels so different. i was in mexico once with an old mexican boyfriend for day of the dead one year. crazy ass beautiful! more colors than i knew could exist in one cemetary.

    is this comment too long? long comments rock! phew that was nice for me. relating just makes me all chatty.

    1. i love your long comment! goodness knows i’ve left quite a few on your blog!! i think if we ever hung out in person we’d have epic conversation.

      1. i’m still onboard with obama, and i’ve also read some things lately that explain why he’s made the choices he has. i just think he needs to step it up before the end of his term…people took a risk voting him in…they risked HOPE. if he stays mediocre, he won’t get voted back. and i’m not staying in this country for another bad republican president. aaaaand, there’s that fatalistic streak again!

      2. ha ha! you were totally showing off and as well you should! that is AMAZING that you’ve had so much contact with her. for some reason i’m not surprised…with your passionate insight, it seems natural that your circle would mingle with hers. a like-attracts-like kind of thing.

      3. i love that your kids’ school included an altar for the dead…there is so much about my childhood and school experience that could have been so healed through something like that! and i hope to go to mexico someday to see the traditional festivals. much love to you as you honor your dad this year. xoxo

      1. yes….you would be a great running partner. tea partner. walking, sitting, any of it. showing off is cool as long as you know you are doing it. birdy. what a good thin day.

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