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Hope and Grace

By Carolyn Raffensperger Oh the dark hole of environmental despair. The news these days is rarely good. Another fracking approved. Another species lost. Another cancer diagnosed in a beloved. Another day preternaturally warm. It seems that the only music we hear is the requiem.

Over the past year I have participated in many conversations about hope. They usually begin with a quiet plaintive voice from an ally who has faced the reality of climate change or the disasters of Fukushima or logging in the rain forest. That lone voice confesses to having lost hope

I am not optimistic about the future. But like Vaclav Havel, the writer and former president of Czechoslovakia, I believe that hope is not optimism or the belief that everything will turn out all right. Hope it is the deep orientation of the soul towards what is right.

Vaclav Havel’s view of hope is hope with a shadow. We give up illusions and take our place shoulder to shoulder with others so we can all put our weight behind the life-line. How do we hang on during those days when it seems that we will certainly lose and there is no possibility to pull the Earth and the future out of the catastrophe?

In those darkest moments it is not hope we need, it is something more ineffable. It is grace. Grace is that unexpected and undeserved good gift. It is the offspring of love and action. Grace is the little match lit in the dark of night that shows the way out of the dead end. It is the unpredictable tipping point of all of our actions on behalf of the Earth and future generations. We do not know which action will cause the Great Turning, but time and time again we see the plot twist that could only be called grace.

In the end grace is the fuel for hope. We know that we are not alone. We have the strength to keep that compass pointed due north.