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.
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.