Linda Neale's Blog

Hope and Heart

Linda Neale - Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What gives us the hope and heart to continue to work on what is best for the Earth in the face of difficult changes?  This is the central question for Earth & Spirit Council's Earthday 2012 conference to be held on April 20 and 21 in Portland.

Ever since this question was first considered as the central discussion point for the conference, I’ve been thinking about my own personal response.  Over the years I’ve wondered what keeps certain people going – why Aldo Leopold kept pursuing his “land ethic” in the face of human-centered philosophies, or why Julia Butterfly Hill stayed in Luna for so long.   Each person has their own reasons for their work, but perhaps we can learn something by discussing our reasons with each other.   We elders must do whatever we can to pass on the needed dedication and tenacity to the next seven generations.


So what gives me the hope and heart to continue working?


First of all, when I pay attention I see that life is an interconnected web, and humans are a part of that web.   I know this philosophically, scientifically, and spiritually --  I’ve done the research. With this as a foundation, it follows that in order to preserve life, we must preserve the web.  Leopold says “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise."  The Lakota people say it simpler – “Mitakuye Oyasin”, or “All My Relations.”


Part of what gives me hope is when I see people who formerly believed in human supremacy begin to understand the interconnection of all life, because I know that this understanding is a key to our survival.  When people begin to change their behaviors, and act in ways that respect the Earth and each other, I get excited.  That’s one reason I’m participating in this conference, and one of the main reasons behind Earth Day. 


The other part of the question concerns what gives me the heart to continue?  This is  more personal; the answer  involves words like “courage” and “purpose”, and relates to our individual expectations and commitment.  Many people expect that if they work hard and do the right thing, the universe will recognize it, and it will be easy.   Some believe that when obstacles arise, “it’s just not meant to be”, so they give up.    I rarely give up.  I believe in hanging in there.  My husband Rod has always taught me that healing and prayer are not passive, they require my participation and action.  I need to do my part. 


When I was a child, I learned about courage the hard way.  As an adult I chose to participate in Native ceremonies that taught me even more about courage and commitment.  So now I expect that anything good will require sacrifices.


Another crucial aspect to my own “heart” and commitment concerns community.  I am fortunate to have many friends who share my beliefs, intentions, and spiritual practices.  They support me, and I support them.  Without this kind of support and community, I would probably be less courageous.  Without it, our society will not change.   Margaret Mead referred to this when she said  “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”   What she didn’t mention is that how we treat each other in our small group of citizens  matters.  Respect and support help me and others feel important and included.


Again, Aldo Leopold wrote about community when he described his “land ethic”:  "The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land...[A] land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such."


The last reason for my own “hope and heart” concerns beauty.  This planet is so incredibly gorgeous and awe-inspiring.  As long as there is beauty in the natural world, you and I and others will continue to respond and want to preserve it.  Not out of fear of loss, because any behavior based on fear can be regarded as suspect, but because beauty stimulates something mysteriously healing within us. 

For this I am grateful.

I encourage all of you to write your own response to the question and post it here, or at the Earth Day blog.


Lawrence Hawk commented on 30-Mar-2012 03:28 PM
“What gives us the hope / faith / heart to keep working on what is best for our Earth in the face of so many difficult changes?” Some of us are buying guns, building bunkers and hording what we think we need. Some of us are supporting EarthDay Conferences
and each other in community. The hope we seek will be found in the nature of our actions, in the ways we spend our energy and what that attracts. I believe the balancing factor will be determined by the natural order imprinted in all living things, the natural
attraction to survive. Need and Attraction are the driving forces behind evolution.
JOnathan Snell commented on 14-Apr-2012 10:31 PM
What gives us the hope and heart to continue to work on what is best for the Earth in the face of difficult changes? For me regarding the future of us humans in our relationship to the Earth, I see roughly equal forces and factors in place leading to a
pessimistic future as an optimistic future. My experience has universally been that taking an optimistic approach is more enjoyable, rewarding, and productive. This gives me hope and heart.

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