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Montreal Monthly Meeting Journal

 

The theme of December’s newsletter is hope.  Closely tied to love and faith, the divine gift of hope helps us through our bleakest moments.  


Christmas reminds us that in the dark, a spark of Light can be born and grow.  In spite of missteps, disappointments, attacks or tragedy, we can follow that infant Light and find our way. In the articles, stories, poems and meditations which follow, we hope you will be inspired by the calm and peace and hope of this blessed season.

 
 
View of a sunset over a river

 

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

 


Emily Dickinson  (1830-1886)

 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 

(Re)Generating Hope

 

Book Review of Regeneration:  Ending the climate crisis in one generation by Paul Hawken
www.regeneration.org

 

By Brooke Nancekivell

 
View of a sunset over a river
 

“We are thankful that so much joy and beauty have been offered to us.”  - Canadian Yearly Meeting, 1992 (Faith and Practice, 4.77)

 

When I was twenty-four, I became pregnant with my first child.  Amid the joy and anticipation, a curious conversation emerged:  what did it mean to welcome a child into life on a warming planet?  Friends told us they didn’t plan to have children; the prospect of climate change made envisioning good lives for the next generation too formidable.  

 

We took a different view.  For us, choosing to bring a child into the world was an inherently hopeful act.  Not a passive hope of assuming someone somewhere would figure it all out, but an active hope.  We committed to doing our level best to create a world worth living in and we trusted that enough of our elders and peers would do the same.  We imagined that the coming generations would offer their own brilliance and create worlds we hadn’t yet dreamed of.  This remains a hope without guarantees, but one with immense possibility.  

 

In Regeneration:  Ending the climate crisis in one generation, Paul Hawken and the team at Project Regeneration explores a multitude of pathways toward the liveable planet we hope for.  The future they paint is a gorgeous dreamscape:  mangroves teeming with fish, boreal forests munched by beavers, the return of the otter to the Pacific coast, cities abundant with wildflowers and gardens, services and leisure available within a fifteen minute walk.  Theirs is a world in which girls are educated, workers are paid fairly, Indigenous people are respected; a world in which we choose to put valuing life at the center of everything we do, individually and collectively, and reap the flourishing that follows.

 

The most compelling part of their vision is that it is already emerging.  Regeneration is overflowing with examples from around the world of people already doing this life-giving work.  From rewilding in England that heals degraded land, to rural health clinics in Indonesia that reduce deforestation, to Montréal own Lufa farms that offers local urban-grown produce to your doorstep, this book extends as an invitation to delight in the wonders of our world, as well as the creativity and dedication of people working to protect them.

 

Regeneration also serves as an opportunity to explore our own leadings.  Paul Hawken is often asked the eternal question - what should I do? He responds by asking - what do you want to do?*  He insists that the way forward is not sacrifice and strife, but each of us doing the work we are called to do, or, put in a Quakerly way, the work that brings out our divine light.  Sitting with this book over the last few weeks, I considered what could be my work.  What could I do to ensure that in 2043, when my child is the age I was at their birth, I would feel confident that another generation could have a hopeful future?  I found myself drawn to the section on rewilding pollinators, and so spent the last weeks of October gathering seeds from dried flowers on walks in the neighborhood with my daughter.  This morning as I wrote this, her tiny hands curled around my arm as I typed, I asked what we would do with those seeds.  Plant them in the spring, she said, and so we will. 

 

*https://www.resilience.org/stories/2022-02-07/what-could-possibly-go-right-episode-65-paul-hawken/  

 

Surprised by Hope

By Elaine Champagne 

 
View of a sunset over a river
 

I love the distinction made in French between two kinds of hope: espoir and espérance. It seems this distinction doesn’t exist in English, although I recently read that it is possible to use the words “wish” and “hope” to demonstrate the difference—but that isn’t exactly right. 

 

“Espoir” is short , and concrete.  “Espérance” is broad and  vast, carrying within it a suggestion of the infinite.  One might say, “I hope (espoir) to see you again tomorrow.” In other words, I have good reason to expect that I will be there and that I will be able to see you. “I am pretty hopeful (espoir) my project will be a success.” In fact, I’m close to my goal; my project already shows signs of success. 

 

“Espérance” is a less certain, more elusive kind of hope.  Integrally connected to desire, “espérance” is a driving force within us which engages us fully, without necessarily depending on a predestined result.  By nature it resists a defined, predetermined, packaged outcome .

 

Benoît Garceau, in La voie du désir, points out the difference between need and desire. While needs can be met—when I am no longer hungry, I am satisfied—desire grows and deepens the more it is fed. At times we treat others as “the thing” which can fulfill our needs.  But when we love someone, the desire to be close and the desire for the other’s happiness  anchor themselves within us. The more we love, the more the desire grows. This is why it is possible to talk about a spirituality of desire.  

 

Hope (espérance) and desire are inseparable. To hope in this way, one must feel desire.  One must desire in order to hope. And one must hope in order to feel desire, it seems to me. Desire  makes us feel that something is missing, opens up the empty space within us that calls out to the other, that calls out to the infinite.  Hope (espérance) is the dynamic that drives us towards the infinite. We must also add the element of “suffering” to our reflection.  When we suffer, hope (espérance) becomes more intensely necessary. But it is when we suffer,  that hope (espérance) is most difficult to find. 

 

And then, there is religious hope (espérance), that impulse which causes us to consider whether the infinite calling to us could have a divine identity. 

 

Christian hope (espérance), my favorite, never fails to astonish me.  How to describe it? It arrives and disrupts everything, turns everything upside down.  Rather than moving in a straight line taking root within us and pulling us forward, it comes  as a surprise, as a gift—a gift of God.  It bursts into our lives disruptively. It takes on a life, a loving identity, which we had suspected was always  there, overflowing with promising abundance; but it was something we could only tentatively taste, because it had not yet fully presented itself . It can be like a burning wind or like a delicate breeze. We wait for it, and it is the visitor,  passing through us.     

 

Hope (espérance) does not close its eyes to the misfortunes of this world.  It transforms  itself  into compassion. As it does so, it does not hide itself from the truth. But at the heart of heavy reality, with all its weight, hope (espérance) is that voice murmuring to us:  “Behold I am making all things new! Do you not see? ”   (Revelations 21:5)

 

"L'espérance, c'est ce qui reste lorsqu'il n'y a plus d'espoir"
Michael Lonsdale, inspired by Péguy.

 

Václav Havel, former president of Czechoslovakia, said in Disturbing the Peace that hope “is a dimension of the soul, and it’s not essentially dependent on some particular observation of the world or estimate of the situation. . . . It is an orientation of the spirit, and orientation of the heart; it transcends the world that is immediately experienced, and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons.” To me, intrinsic hope is also that of God in everyone; the inner light; the quiet, still voice; and the experience of the Great Mystery

 

Kate Davies, “A Quaker Perspective on Hope,” Friends Journal, September 1, 2018

 

The Ocean of Light Prevails

By Margaret Slavin

 
View of a sunset over a river
 

I grew up with that story of a young man who endured torture and torment and death, Jesus on the cross. But then there was that empty cross, the stone rolled away from the tomb, and “Christ is risen.” The central Christian story was –still is?-- that life triumphs over death.


This story is supposed to give us hope, and in my own life it has.


I can see that it is a fact that everyone who dies is physically still here. The molecules that form our bodies do not leave the planet—except for a few bits that may have shot off as part of rockets into outer space! Physically we stay here, and we recycle into wind and water and trees. 


What happens to our specific energy, the person we knew and who is gone? My life is full of stories of loved ones reappearing after death. I do not know how to sort out the tricks our minds and hearts play on us when we long so much to see a person again, but I keep a very open mind. I have experienced things myself which make me feel that those I love hang around, at least for a while, after they die. 


What about the death of the planet, though, as a habitable place for human beings? What about the permanent loss of human culture and civilization, art and music, theatre, film, song, poetry? The ancient tales we tell, the gestures of kindness and courtesy that put broken people back together and lead to love? This is the hard one: to find myself close to the end of a long life and to see the institutions of hospitals, schools, civility, democracy, not to mention churches and mosques, temples and synagogues crumbling into useless or despised pieces of our past. We have all worked so hard to bring us to this moment of safety and compassion, only to have it disappear, and systems of brutality and disrespect take its place. Where is hope? 


The Egyptians had the resurrection symbol of the scarab beetle, a startlingly beautiful insect they saw come crawling out of a dungheap. We know now that the beetle emerged from eggs left in the dung by the parent beetle, but the metaphor remains the same. Startling beauty emerges from disgusting and wasteful times.


If you follow the metaphor, the seasons change, the bugs die, flowers compost back into the Earth. So is it the ocean of light that prevails, or the ocean of darkness? Or do the Buddhists have it nailed: the only constant is change? Is that the same as hope?


Wikipedia says “the Sun will likely engulf Earth in about 7.59 billion years.” Ultimately, we are doomed. Or are we? Move back and see the larger picture: the incredibly beautiful, flowing cosmos, which includes in its energy all that love. We didn’t make that up. 


We might as well keep on with the small intense projects that life places in our path. Because there is hope.

 

…Not only is hope necessary in a social movement, but it is inherent in any act of progressive justice. 

 

Emily K. Locke, “Hope, the Core of Social Justice”. Public and Community Service Student Scholarship Essay, Providence College 2020 

 

Walking Up Atwater

By Geoffreyjen Edwards

 
View of a sunset over a river
 

Five seven three. 

 

Have you ever had some nonsense phrase running around in your head? Where had she heard it, au juste? In a dream? Or maybe on the radio. The words of a song, perhaps, or a contine. Like Two, Four, Six, Eight. Who did she appreciate, though?

 

Five seven three. No one's address, except to something in her head. 

 

She was walking along a street all picked out in light, as the sun glanced off the bright autumn leaves onto her face. Not walking, skipping. 

 

Five, seven and three. All primes. She liked numbers, and maths, and was fascinated by the story of primes. So simple, yet so complete. But what did these ones have to do with anything?

 

She'd always liked the number five. It had a comfortable feel to it, like a scarf on a windy day. And seven, full of mystery and hints of the larger cosmos

. Like the star motifs on her dress. Three was another matter altogether, though. Dark things came out of there, spirits from another time and place. Faceless masks, drifting through the world, carrying the dead in sharp planes of glass. Clinging, pulling her down.

 

She felt depressed, a weight lying upon her.  No doubt the news she had just heard. Nana. She didn't know what to think. She hadn't seen her obâchan, her grandmother in a long time. She felt sad, she supposed. But it was confusing; Nana was mixed up with all the other things she had lost or left behind. Country, friends, another language. 

 

It was hard to feel sad, too, on such a day. But she felt she was betraying something if she looked up at the sky too hard. What should she do?

 

With a start, she realized she had the order wrong. Not five seven three, but Seven Five Three. Shichi-Go-San*, the festival coming up in a few days. Now everything was right. She felt her Gran's hand on hers, steadying her, calming, giving her a new sense of belonging. 

 

She picked up her feet in the autumn warmth and skipped on up the rest of Atwater to the yellow gold at the top of the street. The stars on her dress echoed the larger sense of the cosmos.

 

*Shichi-Go-San is a Japanese rite of passage and festival for girls, held annually on November 15th.

 

Author's Note: I don't know why this story came in this form. I was affected by my encounter with Adam, his Japanese wife Kyoko and daughter Lisa at Montreal Meeting for Worship on Sunday, November 6th. As I was struggling to find a resolution to the story, I looked up the numbers 7-5-3, and incredibly, landed on the page for Schichi-Go-San, about which I have no memory of ever seeing. But this is precisely where the story was going. So not only is this story about hope, but the very writing of it came about by being open to the light. Thanks to Adam for his encouragement and additional information.

 

“hope is... a search which can be carried out only in communion with others”

 

Paulo Friere, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

 

 
View of a sunset over a river

Photo by Geoff Garver


Hope Is (After Emily Dickinson)

By Wendy Eberle

 

“‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers — / That perches in the soul —

And sings the tune without the words —

And never stops — at all —“


Hope was my college roommate junior year 

learning to play the Tchaikovsky violin concerto, 

first notes then measures then longer phrases and more lovely, 

then all of it together 

again and again and again day in day out. 


Hope is Hope writing to me a year or two post-graduation about living her sobriety 

day in, day out. 


Hope is driving to campus through the fall’s first snowstorm to teach a class of three.


Hope is planting spring bulbs a little too late in the season, after that unexpected snow. (Hope is composting.)


Hope is stringing Christmas lights in November.


Hope isn’t forcibly holding the breath, 

it is the steady breathing, 

it is the thing 

that sings.

Yet hope is also that pause 

between breaths, 

the stillness in the rest, 

the arrest of the upheld bow.


Hope is the verb, 

but also the punctuation:

the semicolon, 

the dash that hangs 

at the end of the line, 

the quiet in the poem 

that keeps on going — 

that keeps us all going.

 

 

In such a world as ours today, no light glib word of hope dare be spoken. . . . Only if we look long and deeply into the abyss of despair do we dare to speak of hope. . . . We dare not tell people to hope in God . . . unless we know what it means to have absolutely no other hope but in God. But as we know something of such a profound and amazing assurance, clear at the depths of our beings, then we dare to proclaim it boldly in the midst of a world aflame.

 

Quaker mystic Thomas Kelly, quoted in Practicing Peace by Catherine Whitmire.  Kelly chose to move to Germany in 1938 to support Quakers living under Hitler’s regime.

 
 

List of Contributors

 

Co-editors:
Jean-Louis Demers
Sherezada Ochoa
Wendy Sturton

 

Translators:
Jean-Louis Demers
Wendy Sturton

 

Layout:

Sherezada Ochoa

 

Special Thanks to:

Elaine Champagne

Wendy Eberle

Geoffreyjen Edwards

Geoff Garver

Brooke Nancekivell

Margaret Slavin

 
 
 
 

To contact the Newsletter Team please email us at newsletter@montreal.quaker.ca

 
 

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