Facing the Future

Well, it’s been a couple months of dabbling in this new creative/vision/writing outlet, and I find that I’m having a hard time getting started with one of the key themes I want to be addressing here: facing the future that we’ve made for ourselves.  We’ve seen it coming for decades, but haven’t managed to turn the wheel.  Yet still, and always, there are glimmers of hope, light shining through the cracks, viable paths to a future that is more caring, balanced, and connected to the greater pulses of love and truth and beauty from which all this emerged. This is a era at’s been described as The Great (economic) Unravelling, The Great (environmental) Disruption, and The Great (social) Turning; all of these hinge on the question of whether we’ll allow the present course to continue relatively unchecked, or find our way toward a new set of priorities in greater balance with natural systems and with a deeper sense of shared responsibility for the wellbeing of all.

But can be hard, so hard, to find our way through the sorrow, the fear, the anger and despair about where we’ve gotten ourselves to.  It’s just as hard to even acknowledge the sorrow and its brethren that lurk there, in each and every breath we take as we walk through our days in this troubled world.  Yet once we do, once we allow the emotional and soul-level responses that follow from all the horrors that we see and know and imagine, we then have a ground from which we can move in a way that’s more able to engage both the wounded world and the widespread efforts to lift each other up in the midst of this time of such great uncertainty.

This aspect of Bright Blue Ball won’t be detailing the troubles; there’s plenty of places for that. Instead, I’ll share here some of the voices that speak from the heart in ways that acknowledge our dire situation while holding a larger perspective in which there’s room to move and act and care and engage. For starters, I want to share fairly recent messages from two of the great elders of our time, Wendell Berry and Joanna Macy.

Here’s a snippet of Joanna, about embracing the uncertainty of our time:

We’ll hear more from Joanna here, in the weeks to come. If you can’t wait, check out this video of a passionate presentation at Bioneers in 2009, which will be featured here before long.

And now to Wendell, voice of the rural soul.  This is one of his “sabbath poems,” written in 2007, and published in his most recent collection, Leavings.


It is hard to have hope.  It is harder as you grow old,
for hope must not depend on feeling good
and there is the dream of loneliness at absolute midnight.
You also have withdrawn belief in the present reality
of the future, which surely will surprise us,
and hope is harder when it cannot come by prediction
any more than by wishing.  But stop dithering.
The young ask the old to hope.  What will you tell them?
Tell them at least what you say to yourself.

Because we have not made our lives to fit
our places, the forests are ruined, the fields eroded,
the streams polluted, the mountains overturned. Hope
then to belong to your place by your own knowledge
of what it is that no other place is, and by
your caring for it as you care for no other place, this
place that you belong to though it is not yours,
for it was from the beginning and will be to the end.

Belong to your place by knowledge of the others who are
your neighbors in it: the old man, sick and poor,
who comes like a heron to fish in the creek,
and the fish in the creek, and the heron who manlike
fishes for fish in the creek, and the birds who sing
in the trees in the silence of the fisherman
and the heron, and the trees that keep the land
they stand upon as we too must keep it, or die.

This knowledge cannot be taken from you by power
or by wealth. It will stop your ears to the powerful
when they ask for your faith, and to the wealthy
when they ask for your land and your work.
Answer with knowledge of the others who are here
and of how to be here with them.  By this knowledge
make the sense you need to make.  By it stand
in the dignity of good sense, whatever may follow.

Speak to your fellow humans as your place
has taught you to speak, as it has spoken to you.
Speak its dialect as your old compatriots spoke it
before they had heard a radio.  Speak
publicly what cannot be taught or learned in public.

Listen privately, silently to the voices that rise up
from the pages of books and from your own heart.
Be still and listen to the voices that belong
to the streambanks and the trees and the open fields.
There are songs and sayings that belong to this place,
by which it speaks for itself and no other.

Found your hope, then, on the ground under your feet.
Your hope of Heaven, let it rest on the ground
underfoot.  Be lighted by the light that falls
freely upon it after the darkness of the nights
and the darkness of our ignorance and madness.
Let it be lighted also by the light that is within you,
which is the light of the imagination.  By it you see
the likeness of people in other places to yourself
in your place.  It lights invariably the need for care
toward other people, other creatures, in other places
as you would ask them for care toward your place and you.

No place at last is better than the world.  The world
is no better than its places.  Its places at last
are no better than their people while their people
continue in them.  When the people make
dark the light within them, the world darkens.

About Jim

Night sky watcher; a mobile bit of earth's body. One foot lingering in Lower Cañoncito's piñon-juniper foothills at the southern tip of the Rockies, the edge of the Great Plains stretching away from the mouth of our little valley a couple miles downstream. The other foot re-rooting into the Land of the White Pines, home of my blood and bones, amidst the coastal plain and glacial hills and ponds of southern Maine, between the North Atlantic and the bones of the ancient Appalachian Mountains.

Posted on 2011/12/13, in Face the Future, Jimwords, Nourishing Words. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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