Between Hope and Despair

by Simon Goland, August 7, 2009

Today’s Reflection is about a paradox, a duality, and a way of being with no easy or immediate answers.

A beautiful summer day at the Hollyhock retreat on Cortes Island. Sun, Nature at its best, stunning Caribbean-looking beach, delicious vegetarian food. Seemingly, a little paradise.

A group of about a 115 social and environmental activists, visionaries, artists, and change agents have come together for a 5-day Summer Gathering event, to talk about what is going on in the world right now, to connect and reconnect, to find out what each other is doing to make a difference, and to explore ways to ensure we will have a future for the next generations to come. There is a lot of excitement in the air. People bring their passion, inspiration, and authenticity forward, through conversations, presentations, music, dance, and celebration of the Gathering.

“For as long as we’ve been around as humans, as wandering bands of nomads or cave dwellers, we have sat together and shared experiences. We’ve painted images on rock walls, recounted dreams and visions, told stories of the day, and generally felt comforted to be in the world together. When the world became fearsome, we came together. When the world called us to explore its edges, we journeyed together. Whatever we did, we did it together.” – Margaret Wheatley

Yet, not everything is rosy in this little paradise. Some of the conversations and presentations focused on the immediate dangers to the planet, mainly from global warming (though it is clearly only one of the many dangers we are currently facing). Some of the numbers are scary, and bring about a sense of immediate urgency of the need for radical, drastic, and painful shift in our lifestyles. Thus, together with the inspiration and the positive beat, the other side is strongly present as well – of hopelessness, despair, pain, and tears; all freely expressed, accepted, and embraced. There are times when words cannot adequately express such emotions, and a deep and painful cry, from the bottom of the soul, is the only way to capture the essence of what is going on inside.

“If you are not sure where you are Headed, make sure you know where you are Hearted.” – Philip Clement

Yet another paradox, duality of a state of being – despair and hope, pain and joy, darkness and love, coexisting together within a person, and the gathering as a whole. There are no easy answers. Perhaps there are no answers at all. The need to be with both extremes, to accept the reality, to feel the magnitude of the despair, yet not let it stop or prevent anyone from doing what needs to be done is a lesson for many to embrace. Healing starts from acknowledging the pain first.

Despite, or perhaps because, of all that happened, I am coming back rejuvenated. I felt the pain and the despair (still do) of our current reality, which I think was one of the things that allowed me to feel the other extreme as well. Knowing that others have been there too, yet still continue doing their work, is an incredible gift that I hold as a precious and inspiring knowing.

John, over to you…

Imagine there’s no heaven.
It’s easy if you try.
No Hell below us;
Above us only sky.
Imagine all the people
Living for today….

Imagine there’s no countries.
It isn’t hard to do.
Nothing to kill or die for;
And no religion, too.
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…

You may say I’m a dreamer,
But I’m not the only one.
I hope some day you’ll join us,
And the world will be as one.

Imagine no possessions.
I wonder if you can.
No need for greed or hunger;
A brotherhood of man.
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world….

You may say I’m a dreamer,
But I’m not the only one.
I hope some day you will join us,
And the world will be as one.

A sunny week to you all, inside and out.