Lake Davis, near Woomera, 2016

Hope?

Frankly, I don’t have much hope. But I think that’s a good thing. Hope is what keeps us chained to the system, the conglomerate of people and ideas and ideals that is causing the destruction of the Earth.

Derrick Jensen is an environmental activist. He goes on to say

A wonderful thing happens when you give up on hope, which is that you realize you never needed it in the first place. You realize that giving up on hope didn’t kill you. It didn’t even make you less effective. In fact it made you more effective, because you ceased relying on someone or something else to solve your problems—you ceased hoping your problems would somehow get solved through the magical assistance of God, the Great Mother, the Sierra Club, valiant tree-sitters, brave salmon, or even the Earth itself—and you just began doing whatever it takes to solve those problems yourself.

Coming from a tradition that says a lot about hope, these words are a challenge. But read on:

When you give up on hope, something even better happens than it not killing you, which is that in some sense it does kill you. You die. And there’s a wonderful thing about being dead, which is that they—those in power—cannot really touch you anymore. Not through promises, not through threats, not through violence itself. Once you’re dead in this way, you can still sing, you can still dance, you can still make love, you can still fight like hell—you can still live because you are still alive, more alive in fact than ever before. You come to realize that when hope died, the you who died with the hope was not you, but was the you who depended on those who exploit you, the you who believed that those who exploit you will somehow stop on their own, the you who believed in the mythologies propagated by those who exploit you in order to facilitate that exploitation. The socially constructed you died. The civilized you died. The manufactured, fabricated, stamped, molded you died. The victim died.

And who is left when that you dies? You are left. Animal you. Naked you. Vulnerable (and invulnerable) you. Mortal you. Survivor you.

This sounds very similar to notions of conversion and resurrection in the now of the now and not yet realm of God.

His article in in Orion Magazine ends with these words, which also resonate with my tradition.

When you give up on hope, you turn away from fear.

And when you quit relying on hope, and instead begin to protect the people, things, and places you love, you become very dangerous indeed to those in power.

In case you’re wondering, that’s a very good thing

Reading Jensen means carefully unpacking what he and the Christian traditon mean by the word "hope." This will repay the effort. Christians who wilfully ignore the threat of global warming because they 'hope in God,' for example, deserve everything he says about them. Hope that is plain denial, or whistling in the dark, or disguised acquiescence to the powers that be, needs to be exposed for the empty and disempowering concept that it is.

His description of the 'costs and benefits' of Grace, which he has called giving up hope, are a better description than that I've heard in many a sermon!... Read on >>>>


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