What do you love too much to lose? (noun)
What will you do to protect it? (verb)
These are the questions that occupy my mind this weekend at Mapping A New Geography of Hope conference in Point Reyes Station, California. The goal in answering these questions, as outlined by Kathleen Dean Moore, is to create two streams that will move us through that geography.
Admittedly, these are tricky terms, and Moore acknowledged this fact. Geography denotes that we can somehow navigate through a landscape, move within established terrain. Certainly “mapping” contributes to this feeling. In mapping a geography, we get the sense that we can pin down some parameters, delineate some path. Yet as Gretel Ehrlich admitted, when we add slippery “hope” to this proposal, we start to swing between despair and joy almost too rapidly to orient ourselves in a productive fashion. But, she adds, there is a necessity for us to accept that vacillation as a proper response to a world of great beauty and great injustice, and in the tension between the two find agency.
What does the landscape of hope look like? There’s a lot of tension in that term. In part, because we often confuse hope with expectation but also because to hope is to sit in possibility not actuality. It is to see what-can-be in the what-is-now rather than fixating only on the what-is-now. Like the two rivers Moore proposes we create this weekend, hope flows (you thought I was going to say “floats” didn’t you?). It twines itself along pathways that aren’t always immediately obvious, and like water, it can carve vast canyons out of seemingly impenetrable stone. Hope finds the faultlines, the crevices in our dogmatic reality and transforms it in ways that defies expectation.
But what does the new in a “new geography of hope” look like? Pricilla Ybarra claimed that new is actually looking back at the old. How do people who have long history with the land exercise a geography of hope? But I also think we can look at smaller humans who have a shorter personal history with the land.
Throughout the lively discussion last night, Camille Dungy’s daughter, four (and a half–she insists) years old, kept her hand quietly raised. When finally called on, she cried, “I love everybody.” Her mother added, “What she asked me was ‘why don’t people just love each other?'” Indeed.
Love. That is the new/old in a geography of hope. When we have genuine love and compassion for others of our species (for ourselves even), from that comes hope for a renewed planet. Renewed relationships are the rings from a stone tossed in the river that slowly but ineluctably change its course (read Moore’s essay linked above, you’ll get it). Unlike water rings, renewal doesn’t fade away or get swept downstream; it spreads from loving people to loving animals to loving microbes to loving stones to loving oceans to loving everything (listed, after people, in no particular order).
How do we map a new geography of hope?