A Wild Love for the World*: Touching our Despair with Compassion

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<long with my cereal, I imbibed the tears and blood, loneliness, misery, trauma, and horror that is daily life for millions of people on the planet.”

It affects all of us, whether we are aware of it or not. I began to recognize the depths of my own despair when I stopped watching the nature programs I used to love. The sight of frolicking bear cubs would make me cry. And then get angry. It simply hurt too much to be reminded of all that I saw being lost. I learned how easily fear, confusion and pain can alienate me from my sense of Mother/Father Earth as a place of refuge.

In Love Letters to the Earth, Thay wrote: “A spiritual revolution is what is needed if we’re going to confront the environmental challenges that face us.” Healing ourselves and healing our planet are not separate. He wrote, “If we feel helpless or overwhelmed, if we have anger, fear, or despair, then no matter what we do to heal ourselves or our planet, it will not succeed. Meditation is the most basic, crucial thing we can do.”

How do we work with our grief and despair, our numbness and confusion to walk a path of meaningful hope and peace for this troubled world? How do we take what we touch in meditation off the cushion and engage with the urgent needs around us?

This Thursday night we will take time to voice our despair and our hope, and explore how we can sustain our wild love for the world. We will use a love letter from Thich Nhat Hanh to touch the earth in gratitude and renewed commitment to the earth’s well-being. Below is a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke, and an excerpt from the On Being interview with Joanna Macy where she reflects on that poem, to aid in our own reflection.

In peace and joy,

Ann Kline

* (Taken from the title of an Interview with Joanna Macy, November 1, 2012, in Krista Tippet’s program “On Being.”)

Follow Mitchell’s blog as he travels to Scotland and Plum Village here.

"Dear Darkening Ground" by Rainer Maria Rilke

translation by Joanna Macy + Anita Barrows

Dear darkening ground,

you’ve endured so patiently the walls we’ve built,

perhaps you’ll give the cities one more hour

and grant the churches and cloisters two.

And those that labor—let their work

grip them another five hours, or seven,

before you become forest again, and water, and widening wilderness

in that hour of inconceivable terror

when you take back your name

from all things.

Just give me a little more time!

I want to love the things

as no one has thought to love them,

until they’re worthy of you and real.

Book of Hours, I 61

Ms. Macy: I’m ready to see. I’m not insisting that we be brimming with hope. It’s OK not to be optimistic. Buddhist teachings say, you know, feeling that you have to maintain hope can wear you out, so just be present


Ms. Tippett: (laughter) That’s good. Yes.

Ms. Macy: The biggest gift you can give is to be absolutely present, and when you’re worrying about whether you’re hopeful or hopeless or pessimistic or optimistic, who cares? The main thing is that you’re showing up, that you’re here and that you’re finding ever more capacity to love this world because it will not be healed without that. That was what is going to unleash our intelligence and our ingenuity and our solidarity for the healing of our world.

So that is what keeps me going, Krista. So the great turning is a revolution that is underway, the transition to a life-sustaining society, that this is sprouting up in countless ways, new ways of holding the land, new ways of generating energy, new ways of producing food, some of them very old ways that we are going back to, wisdom of the ancestors and of the indigenous people often, new ways of measuring prosperity and wealth, new ways of handling differences through nonviolent communication, through restorative circles instead of outside the dominant punitive penal system now. There’s a tremendous energy …