Today my husband asked me: Are you optimistic?
The question came out of our ongoing dialogue about new stories, where they’re emerging and whether they will make a difference. He was asking me if I was optimistic that humanity could make enough of a shift in our collective consciousness to effect a positive, life-giving change for the future where we could not only survive but thrive and come into greater equity among people and right relationship with the earth.
I had to pause and tune into deeper feeling to come up with an answer. It was one of those questions where the word wasn’t quite right but gave me a starting place from which to discern what I really felt.
I couldn’t find optimism–not to describe the multiplicity of thoughts and sensations I experienced. What I became aware of first was a deep ache in my heart for all of the pain being experienced right now in the world created from systems put in place from earlier stages of our development based on old ideas that are no longer true.
Poverty, famine, inequality aren’t about individuals and dependent upon whether someone works hard or not. Poverty and injustice are institutionalized through systems that no longer work, based on beliefs we no longer hold if we thought about them. It’s easy to look from the outside at slavery or the caste system or communism and see systems that we don’t think are fair or just or humane. But it’s much more difficult to see the entrenched systems in our own country that create and foster similar levels of inequality and injustice.
My deep heart ache is feeling the daunting task of transforming any of these systems into wholeness where they could work for the benefit of all, motivated by love and an understanding that we are all in this together. There is no away. There is no other. As Pogo said, we have seen the enemy and he is us. Sometimes I am simply overwhelmed by the enormity of greed and hate-mongering I see proliferating in my beloved country as if we are being taken over by a rabid Ku Klux Klan posing as CEO’s and newscasters. Sometimes I feel hopeless and impotent in the face of just how crazy and short-sighted we’ve become.
But next to it, riding on it like oil on top of vinegar, is this equally deep joy in being alive. Every moment I can breathe clean air, look up to the mountains, feel the sun on my back or soothing rain on my face, I am ecstatic. I love my life, every single part of it. I love my marriage, I love where I live, I love my community, I love what I get to do in life, I love being a pioneer on the edge of evolution. I think being embodied is the most sacred and precious opportunity we’ve been given.
Do I know where it will go, whether we will make it or how we will end? Will we die of plagues, or earth upheavals, or starvation, or fiery purgings from a vindictive God? I don’t know. Will the voices of hate and scorn, willful ignorance and sheer stupidity be the final accounting of the human race and what it can become? I don’t know. Some days it just doesn’t look good with people raking in millions by fomenting hate for entertainment’s sake. It certainly says something about how many people get off on lies and hate and how seduced we are by the vigilante consciousness that thinks scapegoating and genocide will solve the complex issues of our times. I do get discouraged.
So I don’t know if I am optimistic. A friend said in answer to the same question: “I’m not optimistic, but I am hopeful.” I don’t know whether I am even hopeful about anything changing externally in a way I might experience in this lifetime. I am not projecting an image onto the future that it will be what I can imagine it could be or otherwise I will be disappointed and become despondent. I know that no matter what I do, the outcome will be what it is, not in my control.
On the other hand, I believe that what I do does make a difference, even if I don’t see it in my lifetime. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Over and over again, throughout human history, the forces of love and tolerance and wisdom eventually prevail over hate, bigotry, and ignorance. While it is difficult to be optimistic in the face of so much human depravity, nonetheless I feel deep joy in an inner calling to speak out, to share my vision, to call others to their best and most whole capacity.
I am committed to honoring the gift of my incarnation and speaking out of the radiance of my own knowing. What I know is that we are radiant, amazing beings who are marvels and miracles of creation, more complex than we can possibly fathom and only at the beginning of exploring the range of our gifts. I see the possibility of a world that thrives for everyone, that honors the miracles of diversity that we are and brings all voices to the table. I have come to understand the importance of developing ourselves as individuals as well as collaborating with others to co-create something that is bigger than the sum of its parts, more beautiful and inspirational and magical than we can imagine.
I feel that the hope of the future, our own evolutionary leap as humans, will come through cooperation, collaboration, compassion, and learning to communicate across differences to hear that in many cases we are all describing grapes, each in our own language. My researches tell me that evolution moves towards greater complexity and cooperation, that we are on the brink of an evolutionary leap to a new way of seeing ourselves in relationship to each other and our world no less significant than the incarnation of Buddha, Christ or Mohammed.
I may not see the outcome of this evolutionary leap in my lifetime, but I can add my voice to its possibility. I can bring my education and experience and skill in personal transformation to bear in envisioning the collective transformation that could be. Love and understanding and deep listening heal. Honor and trust and respect work. There is room for right relationship between spouses and families, peoples and countries, bioregions and the earth. We don’t have to drive each other to extinction. Even if we can, we don’t have to. We can wake up and choose a different option. We can make a stand for humanity’s greatness rather than its smallness.
So I don’t know if I am optimistic, but I am deeply fulfilled in raising my voice in harmony with others who are voting with their feet and hearts and hands and words to realize the possibility of wholeness. Some people will remember who they are and what is possible.