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Active Hope

“Act Upon Hope” Commoners Choir

So, we’re all starting to feel a bit more hopeful, but what does this look like? Is it just wishful thinking, or is it something more solid than that? Take a look at the first image. This is part of my process work towards my upcoming exhibition Then I’ll Begin. One of the art pieces will consist of five lightboxes with acetate images covered with ash. Visitors will be invited to play with the ash and to draw in it as a moment of reflection, maybe mourning, maybe of prayer. I wanted to try this out to make sure it works and then was faced with the decision: what would I like to write or draw in the ash? As you can see, I went for hope. Hope against hope you may say?

I am currently reading a book called Active Hope. This is a book about climate change and how we deal with its enormity and yet still act positively for change. In the book the writers Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone write” Since Active Hope doesn’t require our optimism, we can apply it even in areas where we feel hopeless. The guiding impetus is in intention; we choose what we aim to bring about, act for, or express. Rather than weighing our chances and proceeding only when we feel hopeful, we focus on our intention and let it be our guide”

This, I think is extremely helpful. We do tend to think of hope as a sort of abstract fluffy concept, a bit like a wish. Take a look at the second image. This is a sculpture by Robin and Amy Wight. When my children were little, my daughter called dandelion seeds, which float on the breeze, ‘wishes’. This chimes with ‘airy fairy’ ideas of hope, and yet a dandelion seed represents an intention, it is truly active hope, taking a risk to create new life.

A friend recently gave a sermon on the radio about hope. Here is part of what he said:

“For me ‘Hope' is a doing word. Hope ‘happens’ when scientists are working hard on a vaccine or a cure for a virus or a disease. Hope ‘happens’ when a stranger is helped, and locals are kind to a student living far away from home. Hope is when people give generously to charities supporting the homeless or sanctuary seekers or groups that are helping political prisoners or feeding those who are facing hunger here and abroad. Hope is when lecturers and staff work extra hard with new technologies so that our students can complete their studies and still thrive during a pandemic. Hope is found in our hospitals and in our schools and in our supermarkets and wherever people have served others to keep the community going over the last 12 months. Hope is not a vague and immaterial abstraction. Hope is an action.”

As my book says “Active Hope is a practice. Like tai chi or gardening, it is something we do rather than have.”

Take time to look at the pictures and consider these questions:

- What do you hope for?

- How can you turn wishes into intentions?

- Where do you find hope in the world?

Active Meditation (see what I did there?!):

You will need a pencil and piece of paper and a circular object, maybe a rubber

- Draw gently around your circular object

- Fill the circle with seeds of hope. An easy way to draw a dandelion seed is to make a small cross and layer another cross onto it. You may want to write words down to express certain hopes you have

- Now break the circle by drawing seed floating out and away. You may want to rub out your initial circle, breaking the bubble so to speak. How does this feel? What are your seeds of intention? How can you act for hope?

This meditation is commissioned by Leeds Methodist Mission

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