by Nancy Peplinsky, HMN Founder
These past few years have certainly been challenging times. Political strife, violence, climate disasters, and the pandemic have all been just too much for many of us. Closing ourselves to the world in crisis is a common reaction, but when we sequester ourselves away we become disconnected and even apathetic, whether that is driven by indifference, overwhelm, or fear. Instead of responding to issues that concern us, instead of taking action, we shut down. The danger of this is that it allows those who seek to continue unhealthy patterns to make progress, whether that be in the political realm, with regard to racism, sexism, or the continuance of environmental degradation. A culture of apathy enables self-interested parties with little concern over greater welfare to prevail.
How do we counteract this? Perhaps one solution is the book “Active Hope” by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone which seems so very timely right now. I picked up this book recently in hopes of shifting my inner own focus to something broader again. The pandemic lockdowns and local patterns of violent climate change have seemed insurmountable for so long. Thankfully, Macy and Johnstone bring together their activist and mental health experience to encourage those of us despairing or feeling apathetic to take a step forward and embrace what we can do on a personal level and collectively. “Active Hope,” according to the authors, “involves identifying the outcomes we hope for and then playing an active part in bringing them about.”
What is so compelling about the idea of Active Hope for me is the process of acknowledging the struggles that we are facing and realizing that we are not alone in them. Getting connected to like-minded individuals is one of the cornerstones of building their concept of active hope. The Holistic Moms community has been a significant force for many parents to find that sense of community that can offer not only support, but also opportunities for change. We have seen many parents come together to improve educational systems, clean up local parks, build co-ops to support local agriculture, and create networks for improving health. It is easy to despair alone, but when we reconnect over the issues at hand, we can begin to feed off of each other’s ideas and strengths to start taking small steps away from apathy and fear and into change.
Reconnecting now is essential on so many levels. Facing huge crises seems too much for one individual, but when we can share pieces of the solution with others we can inch closer to building the world around us in a more positive way. As parents, we want to not only leave a healthy world for our children but show to them how they too can make a difference by gathering and envisioning the future they hope for. Active Hope provides both a spiritual and practical means to get us unstuck from the “business as usual” mindset to a more powerful awakening and connection. The book and its exercises would make for a wonderful HMN book group selection or topic!