What if the environmental narrative of doom and gloom was not the most strategic or effective approach to solving the socio-ecological crises we face? What if fear did not motivate as much as love? What if Hope was an active force for change rather than a blind optimism?
The rise and fall of hope throughout both deep history and in each individual life is a fascinating phenomenon given sparse attention despite its critical role in both social change and personal/planetary well-being. The ebb and flow of hope is often seen as an outcome or indicator of events beyond its control. For example, the rise of hope in the women’s movement after the suffragettes successfully battled for the right to vote. But what if hope was an active driving force of causality behind this and other landmarks of history? Perhaps it is worth exploring the possibility that a lived flow of active hope can actually be a social movement and personal life strategy for positive emergence. Let’s unpick this and explore the role of hope through aligned doing, taking hope from the abstract realm into a lived praxis of transformation.
Aligned doing can be defined as the weaving together of an individual or group’s inner purpose and outer mission. Sometimes called ‘awakened doing’, it is the integration of our values with appropriate action in this time. This can be framed as aligning the intuitive feminine energy with the outer active masculine, both within ourselves and in society. As our culture is dominated by masculine values, the outward expansive energy has dominated recent millennia without the balanced integration of reflection, listening and healing. This is not a case of polarities and binary thinking, as both feminist and masculinist movements often succumb to, but rather it is a question of “both, and.” This means re-weaving together both the inner and outer, masculine and feminine, light and dark, and utilising the third emergent energy that comes from this dance. In every relationship there is a third entity, the “us”, just as in every team there is potential for more than the sum of its parts (1+1=3). Bringing this back to practical terms, aligned doing is fundamentally a lived process of 3 questions:
1. What is it that I most truly and deeply love?
2. What are my gifts?
3. What are my truest and deepest responsibilities – to myself, to Earth and to other beings?
I was asked these 3 questions at age 16, when I had just moved onto my own off-grid narrowboat home, and they struck a chord at just the moment I was ready to open to my life purpose. It took nearly a decade for this to be realised, but it started a process of aligned doing, held by the faith that I would find and integrate my gifts, passions and responsibilities. Triangulating and living these 3 questions is just one of many practices that can catalyse our personal and planetary healing. Hope is not a linear process or ultra-rational process, but a natural entanglement with the compromises and context of life within our own changing capabilities. Living hope through aligned doing is not about perfect alignment or acting with a superior dogmatism, as we too often see in the eco-lifestyle movement. Instead it is a grappling with light and dark, doing our best with what we’ve got and being open to the possibility of transformation within ourselves and the world.
This approach to life situates our own capabilities as malleable, because we can grow and expand them when we step out of the comfort zone and into the growth (hope) zone. Conversely, our capabilities are also defined by healthy boundaries, in order for our activism to be regenerative. This means that the malleability of our capabilities flows both ways, as sometimes we need to contract and reflect, following the regenerative cycle of nature’s winter. This may ‘limit’ our capacity for outer work at a certain moment, in order for us to revive hope and drive within ourselves, and to do the necessary integration work of reflective action.
For true emergence to occur, there must be divergence and convergence. Threads come apart and then come together again, and this may happen many times with small but powerful ripples of emergence. Aligned doing is not about repeating the relentless and thoughtless action that got us into this ecological mess. It is a way of being and doing in alignment with the natural cycles of life – contraction follows expansion, winter follows summer, day follows night, reflection follows action.
Image: from Regenerative Leadership (Storm and Hutchins 2019)
Tapping into this regenerative cycle allows for creative emergence, both within ourselves and in the world. It necessitates a worldview and practice of active hope, for it assumes that we are here to regenerate life on Earth and to live beautifully. What if the collective decision to take this approach is actually co-creating the reality of a regenerative human relationship with nature, as part of nature? This must go hand-in-hand with the revival of hope. Hopelessness is a branch of fear that is more dangerous than fear itself – for at least fear has some empathy, and respect for the object feared. Hopelessness is more of an apathetic fear – being afraid that we are all doomed whilst dissolving any responsibility or motivation to do anything about it. Here’s the interesting caveat – even if it were possible to predict the future and it was dark, then we’ve got nothing to lose and may as well live beautifully on Earth and with each other in our present interactions and actions. Given that we cannot possibly predict the future but only co-create it through aligned action, we have an even deeper responsibility to birth a regenerative world through all of our life work – inner and outer.
Image: Recipes for Wellbeing 2022
What does reviving hope through aligned doing mean for me personally? Since being asked those three questions at age 16, and the lived exploration of them for over 8 years through all types of activism, study and work, I have landed with a clearer (yet evolving) emergence. The weaving of those three questions led me to unearth and follow my passions and skills in design, growing, cultivating, connecting people and communicating. Now, perhaps for the first time ever, I can say that my actions each day are aligned to my inner path, and there is not a trade-off or gap between what I yearn for and what I do.
This came from a theory that we are all here on Earth at this critical time for a reason – to align our heart, head and hands for the collective healing of our ourselves and earth. Hope is the root of all true action.