Moving Forward (beyond hope)

photo credit: E. M. Tomic

As Miki Kashtan recently wrote,

Stories that exist currently in the USA … keep us either passive or focused fully on individual solutions, both of which play directly into sustaining the capitalist, white-supremacist version of patriarchy that is endangering all life.

In November 2018, after I wrote Enough and Unflinching, I felt the need for a third piece about getting through each day and moving forward. Over the last six months it has morphed into two short lists.

Paths forward include:

Applying science (including social science) and technology to solve our common problems [3]

Finding new ways of working together that allow some healing and safety [2]

Documenting and sharing news of all of the preceding [1]

Getting through each day:

There is no hope; let us proceed without it.

Anger can be both motivation and guide.

Empathy, curiosity, and concern are the recipe for secret sauce.

And at the end of each day, when I look at the sky (because climate change has brought new and different sunsets), I murmur to myself

This is what beauty looks like now.

These are the thoughts I wanted to share with you. I’ve kept them brief because it’s time for the vulture to come! Below the dog photos: details and (optional) footnotes.

How the dogs look when I am crying and they don’t know how to help.

Free from Hope

These two quotations are excerpted from the end of Dahr Jamail’s The End of Ice (2019). First, Jamail quotes Stephen Jenkinson:

Grief requires us to know the time we’re in. The great enemy of grief is hope. Hope is the four-letter word for people who are willing to know things for what they are. Our time requires us to be hope-free. To burn through the false choice of being hopeful and hopeless. They are two sides of the same con job. Grief is required to proceed.

Stephen Jenkinson

And then Jamail speaks for himself, about his own life’s work:

Each time another scientific study is released showing yet another acceleration of the loss of ice atop the Arctic Ocean, or sea level rise projections are stepped up yet again, or news of another species that has gone extinct is announced, my heart breaks for what we have done and are doing to the planet …

A willingness to live without hope allows me to accept the heartbreaking truth of our situation, however calamitous it is. Grieving for what is happening to the planet also now brings me gratitude for the smallest, most mundane things. Grief is also a way to honor what we are losing …

I believe everyone alive is feeling this sorrow for the planet, although most are not aware of it. Rather than grieving for her, many are given pills for depression, or find other ways to self-medicate. To live well involves making amends to the Earth by finding gratitude for every bite of food and every stitch of clothing, for every element in our bodies, for it all comes from the Earth. It also means living in a community with others who are remaking themselves and their lifestyle in accord with what is …

I want to make my own amends to the Earth in the precious time that we have left, however long that might be. I go into my work wholeheartedly, knowing that it is unlikely to turn anything around. And when the tide does not turn, my heart breaks, over and over again as the reports of each succeeding loss continue to come in. The grief for the planet does not get easier. Returning to this again and again is, I think, the greatest service I can offer in these times.

Dahr Jamail

In I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness, Austin Channing Brown has found a similar path forward:

I need a love that is troubled by injustice. A love that is provoked to anger when Black folks, including our children, lie dead in the streets. A love that can no longer be concerned with tone because it is concerned with life. A love that has no tolerance for hate, no excuses for racist decisions, no contentment in the status quo. I need a love that is fierce in its resilience and sacrifice. I need a love that chooses justice.

But I have learned that when I expect this kind of love for my Black female body, it means inviting hopelessness to my doorstep.

I have learned not to fear the death of hope. In order for me to stay in this work, hope must die.

The death of hope gives way to a sadness that heals, to anger that inspires, to a wisdom that empowers me the next time I get to work, pick up my pen, join a march, tell my story.

Austin Channing Brown

Finally, for those who enjoy YA / science fiction, I recommend Diana Wynne Jones’ The Homeward Bounders for an illustration of how being “bound to hope” is … not helpful. For many years I used quotations from this small volume in my .sig files. The strongest one was, “Before three of my own kind I can speak the truth.”

Powered by Anger

Anger expressed and translated into action in the service of our vision and our future is a liberating and strengthening act of clarification.

Audre Lorde

I’ll let Umair Haque wrap up:

What does anger tell us? Anger tells us that we are threatened in some way. It tells us that we are hurt. It tells us we are wounded and aching — and no one is caring for us. Doesn’t that sound like, well, all of us, right about now, or at least enough of us? We are the ones who have to take care of one another, my friends. That is the message of our anger — and it’s why we feel angry when we just hear basic facts about our world now.

Take that anger — and do something amazing with it. Something defiant, improbable, deep, full of grace, that honors the time, dust, and the truth in you, something exploding with meaning, something that makes you feel like you’re worth something inalienable, something that makes your heart roar and your body sing. Do it until that white-hot anger finally becomes something more like fierce, furious love, care, compassion. If enough of us did that — how long would it really take to fix all the troubles of this forlorn, broken age?

umair haque

Empathy, Curiosity, Concern

We can enjoy and practice these in our personal lives, and use them to create art to inspire others to do the same. For now, I’ll post only a few examples:

Dylan Marron, “Conversations with People Who Hate Me” (podcast)

Amanda Palmer, “Empathy is Nothing” (2 poems separated by 6 years)

I’m on record as being puzzled that Palmer’s Mother video (created with Jherek Bischoff and many collaborators), in which she offered empathy and breast milk to a tyrannical leader, didn’t go viral, and I’m including it here as an example of extreme empathy.

Luna figured out a way to cheer me up.


As always, these are optional! And long-winded.

[1] Supporting journalism (including subscriptions and direct payments via Patreon) is my third highest monthly expense, after rent and health care. This means it takes most of the resources that used to go to “tithing”. Knowing and understanding the news is crucial, and not just news that I already agree with, but news that challenges me to think and act.

I am thrilled to be making $19/hour, but can’t afford to hold up all critical journalistic outlets on my own.

[2] I need words to have meaning, so that you and I can communicate.

If we allow words to have meaning, then they can be used as weapons.

In a culture where words are used to speak hate and division, to encourage us to harm each other (even more than we were previously doing), how do I get through each day? Each person’s approach will be different; mine includes

More self-care than before
Grounded in what I know and believe
So that I can love more deeply
Understanding that those who plan our harm
Are trying to meet their own needs
Albeit in ways that are tragic
For them and for all of us

You may recognize the language of Compassionate Communication, holding everyone’s needs as equally important.

Can this approach include a critique of capitalism? Yes.

… Nonviolent collective responses to conditions of oppression are made possible, first, through a change in the collective story: the story shifts from fear and inadequacy to the possibility of taking action and creating change; from a win/lose battle to seeing the ultimate goal as what Martin Luther King Jr. named “Beloved Community” — a vision of recreating the fabric of connection that is the foundation of our social existence. No humans are enemies in this story. Actions, systems, and worldviews would need to be transformed, and no human need be discarded along the way. The story supports the choices. The choices support possibility. The outcome is always unknown.

Miki Kashtan

On groundedness, let us hear again from Austin Brown:

Ultimately, the reason we have not yet told the truth about this history of Black and white America is that telling an ordered history of this nation would mean finally naming America’s commitment to violent, abusive, exploitative, immoral white supremacy, which seeks the absolute control of Black bodies. It would mean doing something about it.

How long will it be before we finally choose to connect all the dots? How long before we confess the history of racism embedded in our systems of housing, education, health, criminal justice, and more? How long before we dig to the root?

Because it is the truth that will set us free.

… Only by being truthful about how we got here can we begin to imagine another way.

Austin Channing Brown

[3] Here is my first draft of a list of books and links of interest. Most of the books contain detailed plans for how we humans can begin handling matters better. The articles are a useful mix, ending with a love song to Puerto Rico and the Americans who live there.

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (Jared Diamond)

Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis & the Coming Battle for the Right to Water (Maude Barlow)

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (Elizabeth Kolbert)

Intervention: Confronting the Real Risks of Genetic Engineering & Life on a Biotech Planet (Denise Caruso)

Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life (Winifred Gallagher)

How America Lost Its Mind (Kurt Andersen in The Atlantic)

The Information War Has Begun (danah boyd)

Your Data Is Being Manipulated (danah boyd)

I’m Not as Angry as You Should Be: Where Your Anger and Fury at Social Collapse is Trying to Lead You (umair haque)

The Powers No One Can Take Away From Us (Miki Kashtan at Fearless Heart)

Almost Like Praying (Lin-Manuel Miranda feat. Artists for Puerto Rico )

In Closing

Less well known is the paradox of tolerance: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.

Karl Popper


How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause?

Part 1: Enough. Part 2: Unflinching. This is Part 3. Thank you for reading!

Jules (Julianne) Chatelain

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Flat flip flies straight. Tilted flip curves. Play catch; invent games!

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