Day 11: Radical Hope

Preventing climate change is impossible. The forces our folly has unleashed can no longer be called back. Our tasks now are to slow climate change, eventually to reverse it, and to save what can be saved—including our souls.

It is as if we were passengers on the great ship Titanic on its maiden crossing of the North Atlantic. Suddenly the huge vessel shudders.  Gradually, with agonizing slowness, we come to realize first that the ship has been struck, then that it has been breached, then (can it be possible?) that it is in trouble, and finally that it is sinking.  

Eventually some of us cross the threshold from shock, disbelief, and outrage into an acceptance of our circumstance.  Not an acceptance that it is acceptable or just or fair, but an acceptance that it is. And then, if we are wise enough and brave enough, we turn from complaint to commitment:

How do I live my life for the rest of my life?
To what purpose am I faithful?  
How courageously and creatively can I respond to this catastrophe?
How can I serve?
How can I sacrifice?

And in that turning, there is a moment when we find ourselves standing on the tilting deck lashed by wind and spray and gripped by a wild, extravagant, even fearless joy.

It is sometimes complained of Unitarian Universalists that we celebrate Easter while ignoring Good Friday—that we want the sweetness and light without the suffering and darkness.  

Whether that charge is true or not, it will no longer be possible. Good Friday is coming. Good Friday is upon us.  But Easter, too, is coming.  Easter, too, will come.

Against our will but with our faith, we are called into a future beyond our dreams, beyond our nightmares, beyond our comprehension.  We are called to devotion and sacrifice and imagination.

We are called to radical hope.

Rev. Fred Small is the Senior Minister, First Parish in Cambridge, Unitarian Universalist. Note: This reflection is adapted from the sermon “Radical Hope,” preached at First Parish in Cambridge on April 10, 2011.


Today’s practice is to be present with the emotions that arise in you as you consider the crisis of climate change already upon us and the values and practices that continue to lead humanity down the path of destruction, by way of doing a movement meditation. Either walk in a spiral of concentric circles or trace your finger in a spiral on a flat surface.

Notice each emotion come up in you, allow yourself to fully feel it, and then notice as it moves through you and other emotions arise. If you find yourself getting distracted by thoughts of your to-do list or other things, simply take a breath and put the thoughts aside. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, focus on your breath and your movement and allow the emotions to simply pass through you.

Today’s resource is “Working through Environmental Despair,” an excerpt of a piece by Joanna Macy made available via both audio and text by Quest for Meaning.  


Commit2Respond's Climate Justice Month intends to take you through a transformative spiritual process leading to long-term commitments to climate justice. At the end of the month you will be asked to SHIFT to a low carbon future, ADVANCE human rights, and GROW the movement. Learn more and start thinking about how you will #commit2respond to climate change.


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  • commented 2015-04-03 14:58:03 -0400
    I believe that all life is sacred. Within this sacred web of life all living beings die, so something else can live. Also, Mass extinctions have occurred in the past on this planet we call earth. All life strives to grow, thrive and reproduce., some succeed and some do not. Most likely Life will continue to thrive on this planet for a long time, even if we humans do not. and that OK…. I live the best that I can with joy and gratitude and when I die I will be forgotten .. and that is OK too Thank You enjoy your life!

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