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  • Rick Bonetti

We Have to Talk About Hope

Margaret J. Wheatly encourages us to not respond to looming existential threats with fear, but from a place of understanding. Wheatley asks us to be "Warriors for the Human Spirit", leaders, and citizens who stay engaged, choose service over self, stand steadfast in the midst of crises, and offer our reliable presence of compassion and insight no matter what."

On August 3, 2023, I attended a Zoom webinar where Peter Block spoke with Meg Wheatley about the newly-released second edition of her book, "Who Do We Choose to Be? Facing Reality, Claiming Leadership, Restoring Sanity." He asked: How do we lead as an Island of Sanity, creating the conditions for people to be generous, creative, and kind?

Last year in December 2022 Meg. Wheatley offered a webinar We Have to Talk About Hope: An Invitation To Explore Our Dependence On Hope. She said:

"We reach for hope as the antidote to despair, but actually hope is the cause of despair. The problem with hope is that it’s bipolar. Every time we rely on hope, we always bring in fear. Buddhist wisdom teaches that hope and fear are two sides of the same dynamic."

"Too many of us good people dedicated to creating change have become addicted to hope. We feel despair for the destruction of the planet, peoples, species, and the future. Yet we still need to make a difference, so we grasp for hope to motivate and energize us."

"It’s time to be aware of this cycle and liberate ourselves from the 'drug of Hopium'. It never gives us the energy and motivation we need to contribute and persevere."

"As we free ourselves from the cycle of hope and fear, we don’t become useless, hopeless people. Instead, we become people who can see clearly how to contribute in meaningful ways. We discover work that makes a different difference. We contribute meaningfully within our sphere of influence to a person, a community, or a local cause."

Meg offers an Intervention in three steps:

  1. Step One: Facing Reality. Withdrawing from the drugged haze of hopium, we can see reality clearly. We comprehend the scientific and social dynamics already in motion for the planet, people, and societies that cannot be changed by human will or unified global efforts.

  2. Step Two: Discovering Meaningful Work. We cannot change the world at the level of scale that is needed. This is the tragic reality of our time. We still want to make a difference and we can. We learn to look within our circle of influence, in our community, team, and family, and ask new questions. We keep asking these questions with genuine curiosity. We are available to offer our skills and heart wherever we’re needed. What is needed here? Am I the one to contribute to this need?

  3. Step Three: We take our place in the family of beings. The antidote to despair is not hope, it is love - love for the beauty and harmony of life even as we despair for the destruction caused by us humans.

"We give up control or saving the Earth and join the family of all beings as willing, humble participants. Opened by awe and gratitude, we feel held, supported, and loved in return. We belong here." ~ Meg Wheatly

About Meg Wheatley and the Berkana Institute

I first became familiar with Margaret J. Wheatley through her earlier books: Leadership and the New Science: Learning about Organization from an Orderly Universe (1992); Turning to One Another (2002); The World Cafe: Shaping Our Futures Through Conversations That Matter (2005), and Walk Out Walk On: A Learning Journey into Communities Darin to Live the Future Now (2011).

There has been a lot of change in the last decade so I am looking forward to reading Meg's latest book, Who Do We Choose To Be?, Second Edition: Facing Reality, Claiming Leadership, Restoring Sanity (June 6, 2023)

"Margaret Wheatley began caring about the world's people in 1966, as a Peace Corps volunteer in post-war Korea. In many different roles-- speaker, teacher, consultant, advisor, formal leader--her work has deepened into an unshakable conviction that leaders must learn how to invoke people's inherent generosity, creativity, and need for community. As this world tears us apart, sane leadership on behalf of the human spirit is the only way forward."

"Her work now focuses on developing and supporting leaders globally as Warriors for the Human Spirit. These leaders put service over self, stand steadfast through crises and failures, and make a difference for the people and causes they care about. With compassion and insight, they know how to invoke people’s inherent generosity, creativity, kindness, and community--no matter what’s happening around them."

She is co-founder and president of Berkana Institute a 501C3 non-profit "concerned with the flow of beings into their new forms through gentle, penetrating, and pervasive action. To promote blossoming, Berkana requires the qualities of modesty, patience, fairness, and generosity:" There are five aspects to Berkana Institute's work:

Her website is designed as a library of free resources as well as information about products and her speaking calendar."

The YouTube video above, from Michael Dowd's TheGreatStory channel, is a June 2022 "post-doom" conversation between Michael Shaw and Margaret J. Wheatley, titled Finding Solid Ground in 'The Age of Threat..'

You might also want to watch the May 2020 YouTube conversation between the late Terry Patton and Meg Wheatley on Michael Dowd's TheGreatStory channel.


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