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Hope against hope

What do you do when your inner life, your being, is torn to shreds by what you know is going on in your name?  I sat in a non-Transition group the other day where a quiet, practical woman, with teenage boys, a job, and a busy life suddenly burst into impassioned life about the badger cull. 

badger face with fight the cull round itThe effect was nothing short of shocking.  She flamed with her distress, her anger and her love of a world she sees as being destroyed all about her.  And our human response to “make it better” was useless.  Because there was no comfort to be offered, except that we understood.  My preconceptions fell away into a new respect and understanding of her as a person.  It’s not that her inner life and mine are necessarily similar – what I know now is that she has deep inner springs of energy and awareness and that she trusted me and the others in the group.

All grist to the mill of the Transition Heart and Soul group or maybe Deep Ecology as it’s known in Lancaster. We are regularly offered the chance to put a Sunday afternoon aside to become involved in Joanna Macy’s work of reconnection.  The group leaders are people experienced in understanding and working with those who wish to explore what the Transition companion calls “the inner perspective”. Meetings are

designed to really support deep sharing and listening, to create safety and to take ownership of our feelings rather than projecting them on to others

To be part of the group is to acknowledge the value of inner change and to seek what the Transition Companion calls

– a move from materialism to values such as community, care, love and creativity; from arrogance and inequality to compassion –


I wish I could tell you more but attending that group is not something I can do.  I have to admit to being unable to bear even the thought of it because to me it offers only the opportunity to suffer and to watch others suffering. As Ann said yesterday in her blog, it is to visit,

the place where I store my Despair

My reserves of despair are huge and I don’t think I am odd or unique in the Transition world. To live with this despair without blaming myself or flying off into denying it exists requires a countering hope and a faith in the healing qualities of “just doing stuff.” That is my uninformed DIY answer to a huge psychological question and it is about all I can manage.

church logo St T'sMy hope is rooted in my religious beliefs and constantly shored, stored and renewed in being part of a church.  It is the stuff of my personal resilience and both reason and impetus to being “out there” getting on with stuff.  There are others in Transition who share the same roots and it was good to meet some of them at Conference a couple of years back. It’s a place, however, that the Transition Companion considers doubtful. 

a great deal of damage and wounding has gone on in the world in the name of organised religions, and of spirituality in general, and for this reason some people are very wary indeed about the whole issue. From this point of view, allowing any spiritual presence within your movement could be seen as asking for trouble.

I like that last sentence a lot actually and quietly hope that those of us who are part of faith traditions have been able to “trouble” Transition in significant ways - by our insistence on recognising the needs of those in poverty for instance.

book coverHope made real is action, action in the face of all the odds, actions that, like the silver ball in the pinball machine, ricochet from one spinning spool to another till the whole damn table is a clacking. That’s Transition.  When it comes to inner change I advocate what Rob pinned down in his book “The Power of Just Doing Stuff”.  Somehow in the “doing” there is hope, release, healing and growth while in the sitting and thinking about what we ought to be doing, what we didn’t do and what we failed in doing there is only despair. That’s a bit obvious now I write it down but I know how often I slide into to the “I wish  ...” and “if only we had  ...” so I’ll say it anyway.

Ann talked yesterday about “my fuel, my fire that keeps me going” and I began this blog by talking about someone revealing the fire of her inner life.  Existence it seems is a balancing act – we have those despairs within us that threaten to be all consuming but they are also the power that flames out into the world in acts that change us, change others and change the future.

Pictures: Badger cull(Creative commons), St Tees logo (St Thomas's Lancaster) Power of Just Doing Stuff(TN)


Chris Hart's picture

Nice article Caroline. It is

Nice article Caroline. It is very painful seeing our world suffering and we need either oceans of inspired hope to inspire us or deep wells to visit or shoulders to cry or scream over. We have a different personalities and traditions and, vitally, we must encourage and support each other as best possible in their own ways even when we don't understand others ways.