Despair – and its antidote
I have recently read, and responded to, a post on Facebook that dares to voice despair over our treatment of our planet. This person has the audacity to voice what is at the back of every person’s mind, who watches the rates of extinction as they are reported; who sees the devastation of our forests, first by our chopping them down, then by our changing their composition to suit the buyers and then by the relentless fire that sweeps through destroying all; who knows about the state of our oceans and the suffering it causes our friends of the deep seas. I read this post just after signing a petition for an oil company to clean up its seven spills in the Amazon over the last four years. I read that wail of despair, as here, in Australia, we have just had, and in some parts continue to have, a heat wave that has broken record after record.
The person had a particular point to make, one that often does the rounds as a Facebook meme these days:
We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow the earth from our children.
It is attributed to Chief Seattle of the Suquamish Tribe. The writer said, and I could hear the tears in his writing, something borrowed should be handed back in the same condition in which it was received.
Despair can sit like a monster in the shadows, and if you pay it attention, it will attack, tie down your arms, bind your feet and gag you, and you will be able to do nothing – until you drag your attention away from it and do something else. It is probably fair to say that not one of us who care deeply about our environment and our Mother Earth, do not have Despair lurking in a dark corner behind us somewhere, sometimes closer, sometimes further away, and right beside despair is its partner, Rage, and gathered there too, Inconsolable Grief. These three are paralysing. They lead to helplessness and hopelessness. That leads to surrender.
What in the light of this, is life asking of me or you? We can’t question life. Life questions us. Life demands an answer.
We can’t all go and tie ourselves to logging equipment and picket the major oil companies. We don’t all have money to finance the legal fees of the people who do. Those who have the means can help that way. We aren’t all good writers, but who says you have to be a “good” writer to get a message across to a person in power? Sometimes it’s the words written shakily by someone struggling to convey a heartfelt thing that makes the deepest impression. Don’t ever underestimate the power that gathers in words written from the heart.
All those petitions that go across your Facebook page or land in your inbox with the rest of your email? How often have you wondered if they actually reach their destination and make a difference? Well, if you stick around long enough, you get the digest which rounds up the successes – the policies changes, the companies charged, the charges against activists dropped. You can take a moment or two to sign a petition – sign hundreds. It is letting the will of the people who care be known across the planet, with far fewer borders.
And you can talk to other people, BUT don’t get angry. When there is anger people aren’t listening any more. Talk quietly. Let people know what your perspective is, and how you feel – gently. When you whisper, people have to pay attention to hear you. Keep whispering and they will have to lean in closer.
Teach your children. Teach other people’s children. Drop whispers in their ears, not about despair and how awful it all is, but about what they can do to help. Empower them. Build them up to believe that they can make a difference in the world, even if it’s just one petition at a time.
Now rise up my fellow warriors. We have work to do.