Tag Archives: hope

Druidry and the Future – cover notes

Here’s the cover for a small book I’m self-publishing. The reason I’ve gone it alone for this one is that there’s a good 9 months of lead time doing anything at Moon Books, and I felt this needed to move now. I’ll be sorting out ebook versions in the next few weeks.

The cover came about in no small part because Tom Brown (my co-conspirator in most things) has been thinking a lot about hope punk recently. Hope punk was coined as a literary term to offer some kind of alternative to grimdark. However, the notion of hope punk really lends itself to visual expression. What would a restorative, regenerative, generous sort of future look like? If we can dream it, we have a much better chance of making it happen.

We tend to associate Paganism with rural settings, although most of us live in more urban areas. So, here’s Druidry in an urban context. It’s an explicit visual statement that Druidry does not belong ‘away’ in some wild and remote place, but belongs where people are. Look closely at the city and you’ll see the roof gardens, the trees, the plant pots, and also the birds in flight. Nothing says hope to me like the image of a sky full of birds.

This is a project all about hope. I don’t see any point doing anything else. Misery and hand wringing changes nothing. I’m most interested in the kinds of changes I can make personally, and by directly engaging with other people.

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Pausing to reflect

It’s my birthday today. I find birthdays are a good time to pause and take stock of things. Quite a lot has changed for me over the last year – I’ve become more involved with Transition Stroud, which has brought a whole host of new people into my life. I’ve had a lot of upheaval around work, which has given me a better sense of my limits and possibilities. I’ve coloured an entire Hopeless Maine graphic novel. I’ve written and performed a lot of poetry, and I’ve started dabbling in storytelling.

Birthdays inevitably have me reflecting on how this day has played out in other years. Some have been memorably good. Some were deeply unhappy. It’s a day that highlights what’s best in a person’s relationships but that will also flag up insufficiency in a way that’s hard to miss. This is a good year in terms of people.

On the whole, I like how my life is going at the moment. My ambitions are on the small side and I’ve become much more focused on the details of daily life than on big schemes. The things I most want are fairly feasible. The changes I want to make moving forward aren’t very dramatic, but might improve my day to day standard of living a bit. I’m getting better at deciding when to say no, so as to protect my time and energy. I do a lot of saying yes, and I remain willing to offer help, support, volunteer work, and the such – I’m just being a bit more picky about who gets what of that. I’m working out how to step back as well as how to step forward.

The state of the world worries me immensely. I reflect a lot on what can be surmised about people living at the ends of empires and civilizations. I think about my radical ancestry – the many people who fought, and sometimes died to try and advance the causes of equality and fairness, many of whom never saw that get results in their own lifetimes. I keep reminding myself of all this because it is important perspective. Life is not like a movie, and I may not get a coherent narrative arc. The important thing is to do what I can and to stay hopeful and active, and to help as many other people do that as possible. Giving up is one sure fire way of being defeated, and while there is life, there is some sort of hope, however frail that may seem some days.

Birthdays are a reminder of how finite our lives are. None of us will live forever. If we keep on with the unsustainable choices, many of us will shorten our own lives, and the lives of others. Life, and time are the most precious things we have and the question of how to spend that well is one to keep asking.


Recover health, hope and happiness with the help of trees

This blog is inspired by the principles of the Tree Charter – find out more about it and how to get involved, here – https://treecharter.uk/

There’s no doubt about it that time with trees improves our mental health. They offer a great deal of good to our bodies as well – cleaning air, cooling urban environments and rural ones alike, holding moisture in the soil. Having trees makes for good human habitat. They protect us from excess sun and thus from skin cancer.

Re-greening a landscape is a reliable way of giving people hope. A dead, dry landscape doesn’t support life and offers humans nothing – except the drama of exposed soil. A green landscape can feed and shelter us, give us respite from the weather and blesses us with beauty. In most parts of the world, planting trees is the way to overcome environmental degradation. We have to plant trees and protect the trees we’ve got, and find ways of living on the land that doesn’t strip life back to the soil.

Humans don’t thrive in sterile environments – be that an urban sprawl, or a landscape we’ve ravaged. We are kinder to each other when we live alongside trees. We thrive in gentler, leafier landscapes. Agriculture works better in landscapes that aren’t denuded of trees and shrubs – the soil stays put in heavy rains and insects are present for pollination. If we only thought of trees in terms of how much use they provide to humans, we should be planting trees everywhere we can, with great enthusiasm.

Of course when we plant trees, we benefit more than ourselves. We benefit every creature for whom trees are a habitat. We can restore ecosystems and bring back diversity of life. If there’s any pockets left of an eco system, we can give it a fighting chance by expanding the trees and connecting up the surviving landscapes.

Tree planting gives us the best hope of reducing the impact of climate change, and surviving the changes it will make.


Resisting despair

Every day when I get online there is some new awfulness. An email or two in my inbox I have to delete without looking at because I know from the subject matter that I can’t take it. Some appalling and cruel political decision revealed on Twitter. Something in the news to weep over. There are new ones every day, and it is exhausting and demoralising, and what are we to do?

It would be easy to give up all hope, to decide that humans are awful and we cannot be saved from that. It would be easy to decide that trying to care for the planet is too hard, too painful. It would be easy to decide to ignore every new source of heartbreak and stop trying to do anything. To accept that all is futile. To give up. To let feelings of despair and cynicism in.

Of course, nothing is won by people who give up. No good change is brought about by people not caring. Perhaps the single most important fight any one of us faces right now is the fight not to succumb to despair.

I think that’s an important point to recognise right now. Your heart is a battleground, a microcosm in which all the big fights of the world are going on right now. If you give in, then all that is worst about humanity gets to move into your heart as well, and even if you don’t actively support it, in your silence and inaction, you’ll tacitly support it. If you can win this one in your own heart, if you can stay caring and compassionate, and stay hopeful, you can be part of the solution.

If we can keep our own hearts open, we can help the people around us to do the same. For as long as there are people prepared to keep caring and trying, there is hope. That’s all hope is – someone who hasn’t given up yet. We can hold each other up, and remind each other of what we’re fighting for rather than focusing always on what we’re up against. We can share good things – love, friendship, kindness laughter, gentleness. We can be the good in each other’s lives in so many small and every day ways. We can keep each other going. We can do this.


Hope

Evil can only be said to have truly won when there’s no one left who cares enough to resist it. Which is one of the reasons I don’t really believe in ideas of ultimate evil, just as I don’t believe in any kind of ultimate ‘good’ either. But, it is certainly true that humans can manifest evil through cruelty, and the acceptance of cruelty.

Faced with deliberate cruelty and oppression, hope is always the most important answer, and the key to resistance. We have to hold on to the hope that this can be overcome, and that enough of us aren’t up for it. We have to maintain our belief in other human beings, sometimes in defiance of all evidence to the contrary. We have to believe that collectively, we can and will do better.

Holding that belief protects us from paralysis. It stops us being totally overwhelmed even when things seem truly overwhelming.

Hope doesn’t have to flourish naturally. It is a path we can choose to walk, a way of being we can choose to adopt no matter what we’re up against. To hope is to refuse to submit to fear, to refuse despair, and apathy and inaction. Hope keeps us trying in whatever small ways we can, to make things better.

And if all else fails, what you do is keep the small flame of your hope alive, until you can find opportunities. We can keep hope alive for each other. We can talk about it, express it, imagine what it would look like, plan and tell stories. We can remind each other of times when hope was justified. We can keep saying ‘we can do better than this’. We are better than this. We aren’t beaten yet.

No matter what happens.

We can do better than this.

We can make things better than this.

It is worth keeping trying.

Never give up. Never surrender.


Hope and Matlock the Hare

This autumn I undertook to re-read the Matlock the Hare trilogy – I proof-read the third volume earlier in the year, and that’s not the optimal reader experience. Plus, I wanted to read the series as a whole from a position of understanding what it’s really about.

Book 1 of the Matlock series introduces Matlock the Hare, on his quest to solve a riddle to become officially more magical. As a magical hare, he’s got three such tests to do, and the reader can be forgiven for thinking this sounds like wizard school for hares. But it isn’t. As Matlock sets out in book 2 on trial number 2, it’s increasingly obvious that the glorious magical world he inhabits is beset by problems. When you get to book 3 it becomes evident that the story you were reading is not really the plot at all, which is all I am going to say on the subject.

Re-reading the trilogy, it struck me how clever the whole thing is – the apparent main plot line distracts you from a whole other story that’s being woven right under your nose, and becomes visible only towards the end of the third book. The re-reading process is full of new surprises and delights as you start to see how the real story was there all along, hiding in plain sight.

What struck me most on the second time through was the mix of political satire, and hope. Making dark comedy out of modern politics is in many ways a natural reaction, but usually there’s a quality of despair to it. To poke the heaving mess that is modern politics while remaining warm-hearted, and able to encourage people to hope for the best, is an incredible achievement. We need more of this sort of thing.

On the second read, the third volume had me in tears. Not over the overtly sad bits, or the twizzly bits, but over a long passage about the importance of hope and how to live well. Life at the moment can feel like a desert where hope is just a dead thing whose bones you can see. But, in the Magical Dales, hope is alive and well, and waiting to be found.

Commercialmass is looming as I write this blog. If you need to gift someone with something good, do consider getting this set – it’s beautiful stuff, with gorgeous illustrations, giggles/chickles (did I mention a language to learn?) the routine puncturing of officious pomposity, crumlush creatures, and hope. Lots of hope. It is a series you can read repeatedly, and that stands up to close inspection, without tidying itself up too neatly – I always feel a bit cheated by that. The books leave you with plenty to wonder about, while also providing a very satisfying sort of read.

More here about Phil and Jacqui Lovesey’s Matlock the Hare  – http://www.matlockthehare.com/


Midsummer Prayers

Midsummer elderflower heady

In bloom, in honeyed mead

Wood silk goblet passed

Friendship hand to hand

Fingers brushing affirmations

Red sky in the river

Moon vast in the trees,

Thyme on the barrow.

Time.

 

Falling in love all over again

With the bee orchids,

Sky lark songs,

Poetry to the heavens,

Shimmering river magic.

All is enchantment here,

Aching, tender and wild.

Prayers for wisdom

Answered in twilight

By the effusive glow

Of a cheerful insect

Irrepressible life.

 

A gleaming bottom beacon

Hope in unlikely places.

Lights to follow,

Faerie-like and unruly

Through the long grass.

Going to Elfland,

Or going home,

Or both.


In troubled times

This is what we have to do. We have to be kind to each other and try to take care of each other, whatever happens.

We must not fall into blaming and hating each other. There have been lies written and lies spoken and emotions played on. If we keep feeding the hate we are supporting the lie-mongers. We have to be better than that.

We must not ignore what is happening. We must not be overwhelmed by what is happening. We must not be paralysed by fear.

Keep doing the good things. Play. Give. Love. Make good things and share them. Make tea. Make cake. Make hope in every way you can think of. Make a future that is not impoverished by hate and fear. Make a future that is better than the politicians, better than the media, better than the people who can only see how to exploit other people.

Today a thing happened that may have dire consequences. This is true most days, we just don’t always know about it. The only answers are to do the best you can with what you have. These are the only answers there ever are. Be brave, be good, be open hearted, be shamelessly naive about the idea that things could be a whole lot better than this. Forgive the people who let you down. Move on.

Hope.


Hope, not hate

If you’ve been following UK politics in the news, you’ll have been hearing far too much about the ‘success’ of the far right party, UKIP, and very little about how well the Greens have been doing. The media bias makes me very uncomfortable, but that’s an issue for another day. Perhaps in part due to the media hype, a lot of people did vote for UKIP; whose policies include getting rid of maternity pay, making rape in marriage legal, and blaming anyone ‘not from round here’ for just about everything. No doubt some of those votes were in protest against the mainstream, not meant as endorsements.

However, I’ve seen UKIP supporters online. Angry, anti-intellectual, resentful, frustrated, shouty… they do not inspire joy. This is not a party which brings out the best in people, but a party that calls the police to challenge someone who had posted actual UKIP policy statements to twitter. What do we do in face of this?

The temptation is to get angry back. It’s very easy to shout abuse at angry, destructive people who put their fingers in their ears and sing loudly if there’s any risk someone might show them evidence that doesn’t back their claims. I’ve hardly been complimentary in the last few paragraphs, but I’m also terribly aware that these are people. Somewhere in there, they have feelings, and there’s a good chance that for many, beneath the veneer of noisy anger is a deep seam of terror. Life is scary just now. Climate change is terrifying. How much easier it is to be able to blame all the big economic problems on powerless immigrants! It would be even more alarming if we had to look at how those with power are screwing us over. And all the while, those with power are no doubt rubbing their hands with glee as those of us who should have been working together for change are mired in fighting each other.

Getting angry does not cause angry people to magically become compassionate. It doesn’t get rid of hate, but entrenches it. Shouting at people and calling them bloody stupid, does not get many of them to engage productively. I suspect people are going to UKIP under the mistaken impression that this party cares, and is listening. These are people who have every reason to feel that the mainstream doesn’t care and isn’t listening. That needs to change.

In the normal scheme of things we hate people who have personally wronged us, and where we can see a direct causal link between them and the specific wrong. What we’re getting is a truly irrational mass hatred of whole groups of people. That’s not hard wired into any of us but is being constructed, and fed. It would be all too easy to make UKIPpers another hate group for smug people to look down on. Another vast generalisation and condemnation to feed the division and keep us all harassing each other.

Hug a UKIPper. They probably need it. We need hope, not hate. We need to co-operate, not tear each other down. We need to recognise and respect each other’s fundamental humanity – it’s fine not to like each other and not to agree, but that doesn’t entitle us to strip others of rights and dignity. There are some large and real problems out there just now – wealth distribution, climate change, human rights, our viability and future as a species… the more people there are working together to tackle that, the better. Hope not hate means having to work out how not to hate the haters – and that’s going to be really hard. We will not build a better world by chucking shit at each other, we have to inspire each other to do better. There is no other way.

(and, while the media silence is curious, the Greens actually did very well in the local elections).


When despair helps

Generally I’m pro-hope as a way of keeping going, staying sane and emotionally viable, and being able to get stuff done. Sometimes though, hope traps us and despair sets us free, and I thought it would be interesting to ponder that a bit.

Hope allows us to imagine that things will get better, that we can make a difference, that time will heal and wisdom will prevail. Hope is what enables you, day after day, to show up to the nigh on impossible and keep trying to move mountains. Without hope there can be no epic changes, no wild innovation and all the people who say it can’t be done get to be right. With hope, that apparently impossible task can turn into that which you have actually done. Hope is a powerful thing.

However, misplaced hope is not a helpful thing. If we hold onto the belief that it will get better, and that our staying and slogging away at it makes a difference, we can give a lot of time to achieving very little, or to staying in spaces that hurt us. Maybe one day he will value me and be kind to me… maybe this job will be better next year… maybe the neighbours will move and I won’t feel so intimidated… maybe this government won’t sell us out to the corporations… maybe once they see the evidence they’ll be reasonable… and on we go.

Many things only work if you’re dealing with sane and reasonable people. When you’re not, then hope becomes dangerous. Hoping that climate change won’t happen… hoping that politicians will see sense and do something about it – this does not work. It is misplaced hope, and we need to invest our belief and energy in changes we can make for ourselves and become the tidal wave that changes everything.

Despair can give us the push to move on. In giving up, we can become able to shake off what’s restricting us, kick it squarely in the shins and get on with our lives. Giving up on ideas, beliefs, hopes and people hurts like hell. It is a loss that can be as profound as a bereavement, but without the wider support because nothing visible died. What died was inside you, in your heart, in your head. We don’t do funerals for the loss of political ideals, although I suspect there are a lot of grieving and betrayed Liberals out there who could have done with just that. We don’t have funerals when we realise our idea of someone was imaginary and the real person is totally different. Our ideal is dead, but we have no means to honour it.

These private deaths and personal losses are deeply affecting, and agony to go through. However, on the far side of the death of hope, is a fresh start. A chance to rethink, do differently and find a better place to invest our hope.