The Reason for Hope Is the Creative Process of Life by Carol P. Christ


carol p. christ photo michael bakasIn these these days when many of us are gripped by paralyzing despair as we come to terms with the election as President of a racist, sexist bigot who has created a climate of fear and promises to undo much of the progressive legislation of the past fifty years, I find it appropriate to reiterate an insight that has sustained me through many years of sadness and disappointment about the state of our world.

“Hope is not to be found in optimism so much as in a primal understanding of what matters most.” In other words, the reason for hope is not to be found in the knowledge or rational calculation that our efforts will succeed in saving life on earth but rather in the conviction or inner knowing that it is right to try.

This thought was liberating for me. Like many others, I have spent quite a bit of time wondering whether anything I can do could make enough difference to save the earth. In light of the enormity and different kinds of problems we face, no action that I could imagine taking seemed like it would make a difference.

What I learned is that I do not have to know whether or not my efforts combined with those of others will actually end up saving the earth. What I do need to know is that it feels profoundly right to me to make whatever efforts I can to help others and to protect life. Since then, the energy I once wasted in trying to know what cannot be known anyway—the future—has been freed up to do what I can do. I no longer ask: Will it be enough? I feel grateful that I am in a position to do something, and ask instead: what more can I do? No one of us can do everything. We all need to find something we can do.

It now seems to me that the question of optimism or pessimism about the fate of the earth is the wrong question. What if all our efforts to save the earth come to nothing? The assumption implicit in this question is that if in the next fifty years we have not ended war, and if in a hundred or two hundred or five hundred years the earth is so poisoned or degraded that it cannot sustain human life and the diversity of life, then all of our efforts to save life on this planet will have been in vain.

But this, I now see, is not the right question. Even if we knew for certain that in two hundred years there would be absolutely no more life on earth, would it be reasonable to say that all of our efforts to save it were futile? Yes, if the end result is our only concern. But if we look at the process rather than the end result, it makes no sense to say that our efforts to preserve and enhance life come to nothing.

If one child is helped and goes on to help others, that is something. If even one life is saved, that is something. And the truth is that we really cannot know the long-term consequences of any action we take. One small act could be the one that turns the tide.

The reason for hope is the creative process of life itself. If human beings have created many of the problems that limit and threaten the possibilities of life on this earth, then we have the capacity to solve them as well. The way we use our creative freedom will help to determine the fate of life on earth.

Excerpted from Carol P. Christ,  She Who Changes, 176-177. The quote is from Katy Payne’s review of Jane Goodall’s  Reason for Hope.

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Carol P. Christ’s new book written with Judith Plaskow is Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology. They are co-editors of Womanspirit Rising and Weaving the Visions. Carol wrote the first Goddess feminist theology, Rebirth of the Goddess and the process feminist theology, She Who Changes.

Listen to Judith and Carol’s first interview on the book on Northern Spirit Radio and their second on WATER. Carol and Judith will be speaking about their new book at a public lecture on November 21 in San Antonio.

Carol P. Christ leads the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete. Join the 2017 spring and fall tours now and save $150.

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Categories: Activism, Climate Change, Ecojustice, environment, fear, Feminism, General, Grief, Justice, War and Peace

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13 replies

  1. I am amazed by the healing processes of bodies and of the earth which unfolds through a constant never ending re-stabilizing process. There is no general future scenario except to uphold life through continual action toward the best solution at the present moment.

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  2. Thanks, Carol. I totally agree: the reason for hope is the creative process of life itself.

    And among our leaders today, another reason for hope in my opinion is Senator Elizabeth Warren — she is highly creative and fearlessly out there in the political arena demanding that our leaders take responsibility for the environment and other things. She has said: “Investing in clean energy technology is investing in our health, our environmental security, our national security, and our economic security.” The UK magazine, New Statesman, named Warren as one of the top 20 US progressives.

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  3. “What I learned is that I do not have to know whether or not my efforts combined with those of others will actually end up saving the earth. What I do need to know is that it feels profoundly right to me to make whatever efforts I can to help others and to protect life.”

    This attitude is one that I have actively cultivated and I agree that ultimately what matters is that we continue to align ourselves with life, do what we can to help – and leave it at that. As a passionate eco-feminist I was thrown into despair when I had a dream about the earth turning to ashes the night following the results of the election. All the despair that seemed to be waiting in the wings escaped, and for a time I just gave into it. But now I am developing some perspective and see that for me nothing has changed. No matter how despicable the president my job is to get back on that knife edge and continue to do whatever I can.

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  4. She Who Changes and Reason for Hope are both on my shelves. Maybe I need to read them both again! Thanks for posting this today. Maybe if we all keep doing little acts of kindness…. If we keep on being creative…….. Maybe there will be hope.

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  5. I’m always grateful for your work and voice. Thank you.

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  6. Thanks Carol. It’s not the destination, it’s the journey. I’m bookmarking this for it’s something I, for one, want to read again and again. :)

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  7. Thanks for this Carol – so well articulated. I hope it’s ok to share on FB.

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  8. Absolutely – the totality of life is so much larger than we can ever know. Continuing to speak love speaks to that enormity. I now find solace in signing petitions, spreading info on social media. donating what money I can to progressive causes, volunteering in my community which is under tremendous stress due to poverty and of course my own spiritual/creative practice of painting. Thanks for such fantastic wordsmithing of our task now.

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  9. Great post, Carol. I must be on the same wavelength, because this afternoon driving home from a dental appointment, I had saw a license plate divination that answered my own feelings of despair: “Let the outcome be unknown, but be jazzed about what you do to create a better world. That’s the prescription for your despair.” Step number one: I’m gong to the Million Woman March with my pregnant daughter in January (maybe that’s three of us). Step number two: I’m sending a large check to Planned Parenthood. Step number three is volunteer involvement (as yet undecided) to protect women’s right to choose. I’m jazzed about women’s rights. Others may be jazzed about the environment, anti-racist work, etc.

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  10. Molo,

    “What more can we do?”. It is important to view the incremental progress we are always making.

    Enkosi,

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  11. BEAUTIFUL!!! Thanks very much. I share your anguish and thoughts. It was very confortable for me read this text.

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  12. I appreciate your post, Carol. It is insightful and so right, at this moment. So many of us despair but the creative life force does begin to well up again and seek fulfillment through action. It is a time of re-prioritizing where to direct our energies, and for me, a time when I know deeply and instinctively that I am still part of the essential process of bringing forth and sustaining life.

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  13. “The reason for hope is the creative process of life itself.” Thanks, Carol. That one sentence captures it all.

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