Where is hope today?

These are in many ways dark times.

Environmental catastrophes are becoming daily occurrences. Or rather daily life involves living in ongoing environmental chaos. It is increasingly difficult for anyone to delude themselves about the consequences of profligate burning of fossil fuels, destruction of forests and pollution of water, air and soil.

Politicians feed on fears of social breakdown. People retreat into nationalism and want a ruthless ruler to protect them, not caring about the loss of civil liberties. On this day the U.S. House of Representatives is considering Articles of Impeachment against a lawless President.

Some stockpile weapons and ammunition. So we have to add daily school or other mass shootings to the list of fears. The”other” is suspect and must be oppressed, controlled, imprisoned. Turned back at our borders. Eliminated?

I was thinking we might all experiencing something like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but realized the trauma is not in the past, but ongoing. I found there is a term for this.

“In countries where the ever-present threat of arrest or violence continues to exist, dealing with continuous traumatic stress (CTS) posed unique problems for therapists.”  

When the trauma doesn’t end. Romeo Vitelli Ph.D. , Psychology Today, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/media-spotlight/201305/when-the-trauma-doesnt-end

When did we begin to realize so many things no longer make sense? When was the day the music died?

sensemaking–the action or process of making sense of or giving meaning to something, especially new developments and experiences.

At the collective level, a loss of sensemaking erodes shared cultural and value structures and renders us incapable of generating the collective wisdom necessary to solve complex societal problems like those described above. When that happens the centre cannot hold.

Threats to sensemaking are manifold. Among the most readily observable sources are the excesses of identity politics, the rapid polarisation of the long-running culture war, the steep and widespread decline in trust in mainstream media and other public institutions, and the rise of mass disinformation technologies, e.g. fake news working in tandem with social media algorithms designed to hijack our limbic systems and erode our cognitive capacities. If these things can confound and divide us both within and between cultures, then we have little hope of generating the coherent dialogue, let alone the collective resolve, that is required to overcome the formidable global-scale problems converging before us.

Pontoon Archipelago or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Collapse. By James Allen, originally published by Medium
June 18, 2019

That same article discusses the concept of wicked problems.

The problems before us are emergent phenomena with a life of their own, and the causes requiring treatment are obscure. They are what systems scientists call wicked problems: problems that harbour so many complex non-linear interdependencies that they not only seem impossible to understand and solve, but tend to resist our attempts to do so. For such wicked problems, our conventional toolkits — advocacy, activism, conscientious consumerism, and ballot casting — are grossly inadequate and their primary utility may be the self-soothing effect it has on the well-meaning souls who use them
If we are to find a new kind of good life amid the catastrophes these myths have spawned, then we need to radically rethink the stories we tell ourselves. We need to dig deep into old stories and reveal their wisdom, as well as lovingly nurture the emergence of new stories into being.

Pontoon Archipelago or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Collapse. By James Allen, originally published by Medium
June 18, 2019

We are inevitably sending our children to live on an unfamiliar planet. But the opposite of hope is not despair. It is grief. Even while resolving to limit the damage, we can mourn. And here, the sheer scale of the problem provides a perverse comfort: we are in this together. The swiftness of the change, its scale and inevitability, binds us into one, broken hearts trapped together under a warming atmosphere.

We need courage, not hope. Grief, after all, is the cost of being alive. We are all fated to live lives shot through with sadness, and are not worth less for it. Courage is the resolve to do well without the assurance of a happy ending. Little molecules, random in their movement, add together to a coherent whole. Little lives do not. But here we are, together on a planet radiating ever more into space where there is no darkness, only light we cannot see.

Climate scientist Kate Marvel, https://onbeing.org/blog/kate-marvel-we-need-courage-not-hope-to-face-climate-change/

Readers of this blog have seen these ideas and quotations, and those in yesterday’s blog, before. I am reviewing these things now to help me consolidate a number of ideas and writings I have found useful in the past. My intention is not to dwell in hopelessness, but instead to express what our situation is now in order to apply new ideas that might help us move forward, perhaps find hope. In the meantime, here are some more ideas about hope.

People often mistake hope for a feeling, but it’s not. It’s a mental discipline, an attentional practice that you can learn. Like any such discipline, it’s work that takes time, which you fail at, succeed, improve, fail at again, and build over years inside yourself.

Hope isn’t just looking at the positive things in this world, or expecting the best. That’s a fragile kind of cheerfulness, something that breaks under the weight of a normal human life. To practice hope is to face hard truths, harder truths than you can face without the practice of hope. You can’t navigate dark places without a light, and hope is that light for humanity’s dark places. Hope lets you study environmental destruction, war, genocide, exploitative relations between peoples. It lets you look into the darkest parts of human history, and even the callous entropy of a universe hell bent on heat death no matter what we do. When you are disciplined in hope, you can face these things because you have learned to put them in context, you have learned to swallow joy and grief together, and wait for peace.


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