living inside hope

[For International Women’s Week, I plan to post a passage from the writings of different women each day. Then I’d love to keep focusing on the thoughts and words of women throughout the month – send me ideas or post suggestions in the comments! I’ll start with this favourite passage of mine from a novel by Barbara Kingsolver]:

You’re thinking of revolution as a great all-or-nothing. I think of it as one more morning in a muggy cotton field, checking the undersides of leaves to see what’s been there, figuring out what to do that won’t clear a path for worse problems next week. Right now that’s what I do. You ask why I’m not afraid of loving and losing, and that’s my answer. Wars and elections are both too big and too small to matter in the long run. The daily work – that goes on, it adds up. It goes into the ground, into crops, into children’s bellies and their bright eyes. Good things don’t get lost.

Codi, here’s what I’ve decided: the very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof. What I want is so simple I almost can’t say it: elementary kindness. Enough to eat, enough to go around. The possibility that kids might one day grow up to be neither the destroyers nor the destroyed. That’s about it. Right now I’m living in that hope, running up and down its hallway and touching the walls on both sides.

– Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams (novel)

responding to globalization: small scale on a large scale

There is also a vast and equally important movement toward “going local.” In fact, more and more groups are recognizing that economic localization represents a systemic solution multiplier. At a fundamental level, centralized, top-heavy systems – whether they are capitalist, socialist, or communist – cannot remain democratic. Decentralizing, or localizing economic activity, from finance to industry and farming, can restore participatory democracy while simultaneously renewing the social and ecological fabric. Instead of scaling government up, localization is about scaling business down. Business and banking need to be place-based in order to allow culture and ethics to shape commerce, rather than vice versa.

Localization is not about ending trade, nor is it about acting only locally. For grassroots localization efforts to succeed and grow in the long term, they must be accompanied by policy changes at the national and international levels. Rather than thinking just in terms of isolated, scattered efforts, we must demand government policies that promote small scale on a large scale, allowing space for community-based economies to flourish and spread.

– Helen Norberg-Hodge, Ancient Futures: Lessons from Ladakh for a Globalizing World (2009)

[NOTE – a UN committee agrees: check out this report that deserves much more attention.]

practicing attention

[one final passage from Barbara Brown Taylor}:

Reverence may take all kinds of forms, depending on what it is that awakens awe in you by reminding you of your true size. As I learned on that night of falling stars in Ohio, nature is a good place to start. Nature is full of things bigger and more powerful than human beings, including but not limited to night skies, oceans, thunderstorms, deserts, grizzly bears, earthquakes, and rain-swollen rivers. But size is not everything. Properly attended to, even a saltmarsh mosquito is capable of evoking reverence. See those white and black striped stockings on legs thinner than a needle? Where in those legs is there room for knees? And yet see how they bend, as the bug lowers herself to your flesh. Soon you and she will be blood kin. Your itch is the price of her life. Swat her if you must but not without telling her she is beautiful first.

The easiest practice of reverence I know is simply to sit down somewhere outside, preferably near a body of water, and pay attention for at least twenty minutes. It is not necessary to take on the whole world at first. Just take the three square feet of earth on which you are sitting, paying close attention to everything that lives within that small estate….

With any luck, you will soon begin to see….You may begin to hear… to smell… to notice and feel the textures of….

You may even feel the beating of your own heart, that miracle of ingenuity that does its work with no thought or instruction from you. You did not make your heart, any more than you made a tree. You are a guest here. You have been given a free pass to this modest domain and everything in it….

The practice of paying attention really does take time. Most of us move so quickly that our surroundings become no more than a blurred scenery we fly past on our way to somewhere else. We pay attention to the speedometer, the wristwatch, the cell phone, the list of things to do, all of which feed our illusion that life is manageable. Meanwhile, none of them meets the first criterion for reverence, which is to remind us that we are not gods. If anything, these devices sustain the illusion that we might yet be gods – if only we could find some way to do more faster.

Reverence requires a certain pace.

– Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World

the problem with big

[Wendell Berry offers some thoughts on the predicament we get into when corporate industrialism leads to its inevitably inhumane scale of business – not an easy read but important to “chew on”]:

When people succeed in profiting on a large scale, they succeed for themselves. When they fail, they fail for many others, sometimes for us all. A large failure is worse than a small one, and this has the sound of an axiom, but how many believe it? Propriety of scale in all human undertakings is paramount, and we ignore it. We are now betting our lives on quantities that far exceed all our powers of comprehension. We believe that we have built a perhaps limitless power of comprehension into computers and other machines, but our minds remain as limited as ever. Our trust that machines can manipulate to humane effect quantities that are unintelligible and unimaginable to humans is incorrigibly strange.

As there is a limit only within which property ownership is effective, so is there a limit only within which the human mind is effective and at least possibly beneficent. We must assume that the limit would vary somewhat, though not greatly, with the abilities of persons. Beyond that limit the mind loses its wholeness, and its faculties begin to be employed separately or fragmented according to the specialties or professions for which it has been trained.

Wendell Berry, from his Jefferson Lecture, 2012

The everyday

Welcome to those newly following this site. One of the first sections of readings in our prayer book is on “the everyday.” Here is a thought from one of the authors most influential in shaping our life together at SSU:

“If we are to remain faithful to the daily round,
we need daily manna. It may be ordinary, a bit
tasteless. But it is the manna of fidelity to the
covenant, to responsibility, to the small things
of everyday life. It is the manna of meetings, of
friendship, of looks and smiles that say ‘I love you’
that warm the heart.”

– Jean Vanier – Community and Growth