A New Spirit of Hope

by Fritz Hull
Issue #25, Spring 1997, p 13

It is important that awake people be awake...the darkness around us is deep.
 William Stafford 

       IT SEEMS TO ME that all who are awake these days have to call on that part of ourselves that is hopeful, that is able to envision a world beyond destruction, and to give ourselves fully and creatively to realizing that world.

 We really must do this.  It is essential now to envision the world we want, because what we envision is what shapes our energies.  The dream drives the action.  In many ways we really do have the future in our hands.  For better or for worse, we humans are altering life on Earth.  Understanding this challenges us to accept our role as the ones who, through compassion, can help materialize the vision of a sustainable future.
 How do we create and serve such a vision without exhausting ourselves?  There's a relatively unexplored, and, at times, misunderstood dynamic operating within this question.  We absolutely must take care of ourselves and give ourselves what we need.  But we can learn to couple the focus on our own growth and well-being with self-giving service and love for others and the planet.  The two belong together.  Service will not necessarily bring burn-out.
 For a lot of us, there has been enormous attention focused on individual growth-all those workshops on personal empowerment and becoming a truer, stronger, self-determining person. This probably represents a tremendous advance, but at this point it doesn't appear to be particularly well-balanced. Some people are unable or unwilling to connect with the wider environment and engage life in a giving manner. They do not perceive, or have not experienced, how extending oneself to others and the world is, in fact, empowering. There is a way that our personal needs are more than met as we seek to meet the needs of others. For me, this is best expressed by Jesus, who says, "Those who seek their life will lose it, but those who lose their life will find it."
 The damaged environment is not one more thing in a long list of social ills. It is the frame through which all other issues must be viewed because our health and the very integrity of life is at stake. During the last 300 years we in the industrialized urban world have been cocooning ourselves as Olympian observers over and against nature. It's no wonder we have bludgeoned the natural world. We have not felt an identity with it. We must rekindle that part of ourselves that knows our identity as part of the natural world and reconceptualize our unique role as humans on the planet.
It is clear that this is a spiritual task. It requires something of us at the deepest levels of existence. Currently most people don't seem to have a lot of confidence in organized religion. Many religious institutions are disoriented. They've hardly begun to awaken to what could be the role of religion with regard to the natural world. The "mainline" churches are falling in membership every year, and they are often obsessed with maintaining their own institutional life. But, there are wonderful exceptions. The scene is beginning to change. We can be hopeful.
 Emerging in our world is a spirituality that is developing very quickly across all boundaries and categories of accepted spiritual life.  Outside of conventional structures, there is great work underway, creating new thought forms and new language to express the activity of Spirit that is afoot.  New forms are emerging and new institutions are being created.
 We need to break out of the confinement of traditional stereotypical thought and language.  At the same time, we must keep hold what is of value within our traditions.  For me personally, this centers on the life and teachings of Jesus.  We must not lose the heart and genius of our traditions.  That would be a terrible error and arrogance.  Each has something to offer. 

       THIS NEW SPIRIT of hope is informed by the growing confidence that there is a great love and grace operating in the universe that has sustained the development of the planet, and all of human life, and will continue to do so.  The universe is a friendly place.  There is something happening on our behalf, and through us, that exceeds what we have imagined or thought possible.  There are unseen hands helping us as individuals and as a planetary family.

 The natural world will support us and nourish us -- it always has.  We need to make ourselves available to the power and the great blessing that will come to us from the living Earth, from the created order.  We need to feel it as part of ourselves and be moved by its great beauty, fecundity, and mystery.
I believe there is now a greater acknowledgement of this mystery, and that we are learning to access and co-create with it more than we ever have.  We need only to open our inmost sensitivities to this source of love and truth and to maintain our hopefulness, playfulness, and creativity.  This will be the way that we will come to a new level of willingness to think and live in radically different ways.   ###



Fritz Hull is Executive Director of the Whidbey Institute and was a founder of the related Chinook Institute. Fritz and his wife Vivian organized, with many others, the first Earth & Spirit Conference in Seattle in 1990, attended by over one thousand persons. They can be contacted at: The Whidbey Institute, P.O. Box 529, Clinton, WA 98236.

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