Not Hope But Possibility – The Literature of Restoration

This essay is published in Second Wind: Words and Art of Hope and Resilience, Edited by Kate Aver Avraham and Melody Culver, Fireball Press, 2020. Available at Amazon. 100% of the profits are donated to the Community Foundation COVID-19 Response Fund.


I am thinking of the possibilities for a future for this poor beleaguered planet Earth. I am heart broken. But I still must ask: What are the possibilities that we might change the dire situation we are in?

What are the possibilities? Which ones call to us? How will we meet them?

Holding these questions is how I live. I go on because I am living the possibilities every day and such a life is focused, full of energy and determination. When I see that you are living the possibilities too then I am enthusiastic. It may not matter, ultimately, if we will succeed, for who can define success? It matters, inordinately, that we are each, in all the ways open to, being determined to meet the times.

For too many years, I have been writing about meeting Extinction, Climate Dissolution and Social and Political Chaos without seeing the changes which life requires.  I capitalize these words because they are so large and this is what we are up against. The lights are going out.  I don’t want to diminish in any way the dire circumstances that confront us and all life.

To be truthful – and the Literature of Restoration demands truthfulness – I have no patience for those who say, they can’t face it all because they get too depressed and then they can’t function.  To them, I say, tell that to Polar Bear mother whose ice, the land she needs to survive, is melting because of how we live and she and her cubs are starving.  Tell that to Elephant mother, to the Matriarch. who is responsible for the entire herd but can’t find water or food and if/when she does, finally, the poachers descend and cut off her tusks while she is still alive and her calves are watching.  Tell that to the Wolf pack which is running from the helicopters with marksmen shooting AK47s at them allegedly to protect the cows which members of our species will  eat instead of the wolf pups who are now writhing in pain from bullets or dying without a pack to sustain them.  Their situation is grim and they are helpless before us.  We are not helpless; we must not look away.

There is an enormous energy – infinite possibilities – that come from bearing witness and living accordingly.  These are two actions that must be one – bear witness and live accordingly.  Change your life.  Let your heart guide you.  Become an ethical being.  It is so very difficult and so very simple. Bear witness and change your lives accordingly

There are so many possibilities I consider each day, week, month, year; there are no end to them.  So today, I would like to offer one that has been preoccupying me for some years.

Seeds of change lie in literature.  A new literature can help create a viable world.  Let’s imagine being participants in a Literature of Restoration.  I would like to muse with you about this possibility, hopefully engaging your curiosity and willingness to explore this with me.  Frankly, I would like to seduce you into taking on the challenge:  Let’s save Planet Earth.   

Planet Earth.  Let’s give Her her due first.  Earth Mother.  Let’s not battle to save Her. Rather let’s see what we can gather from all dimensions so that we feel deep alliance with Her and so protective of her, so thoughtful about how we act in relationship to her, that we are taken, by the power of language, our own words, into that relationship which is profoundly sustaining and revives the connections which all lives depend upon.  Magic? Of course. Just saying these words immediately creates a different environment that supports change.  Going to the trenches, entering a battle on behalf of her, warring for her, no matter the outcome, changes nothing.  The one who wars, whose mind is at war when provoked is the one who, ultimately, does harm.  But the lover seeds life.  But make no mistake, deep loving can be gritty, fierce and very challenging.

Rather than a Literature based on conflict, I am suggesting that we find the magnetic center of what we are writing and let it attract the necessary stories, events, experiences to it. That we give up all imposed formulae and arbitrary categories and limiting definitions and let the writing itself, the muse, the stories, the characters enact the context in which they want to live and flourish.  Let’s give up thinking we’re in charge or ought to be.  Let’s yield to the spirits, and see what they want to say and how.  Let’s see if we can create inter-dependent, complex, diverse, cooperative and nourishing forms that mirror the Earth’s ecological, interlacing, inter-dependent ways.

I am thinking of the eros of resonance rather than contemporary literature’s obsession with violence. A Literature which is a peacemaker rather than a war monger. Let’s see what brings us together rather than what pulls us apart. If English offers us anything in this area, it offers us metaphor.  Let’s see where metaphor can take us.  Metaphor – the lightning of understanding that strikes when two unlikely, or very distinct elements, align and create something new – sperm and egg, pollen and nuclei leading to life and beauty. Let’s reverse extinction and climate collapse through a transforming literature emerging from our own hands.

The Literature of Restoration leads to restoration.  Because it honors the old, old ways, the Indigenous Earth-based, Spirit-based values, by including them in the text.  Because such a literature references and respects ancestors, lineage and elders instead of commercial brands, because it identifies the Earth, location, the ground from which it springs, rather than what is manufactured, because it honors soul instead of economics, such literature by its nature restores us to a sane world.

This Literature can be a Council, honoring the myriad voices, seeking diversity, multiplicity, differences.  Because the other in such texts can be seen as kin instead of enemy, the possibilities of revelation and deep understanding increases.  A Literature that is a circle, not a straight line, that honors the curve of poetry and not only the straight line of reasoning, that drops the false barriers that imprison writing in a box, that does not ask us for word count or pretend to know what a story is or isn’t, what a novel is and why it isn’t memoir, how many pages a screen play needs to be (120 preferred) and on which page the climax occurs, but gives us permission to become everything we might be, a fertile field, a fecund jungle, a a babbling brook rather than a tower of Babel, a night sky full of points of light. Song. Which light do we prefer – the fluorescent display of urban commerce or the darkness which lets you see light years away to the faintest beginnings?

Let all the barriers come down, dissolve the categories, let history, dream and fiction co-exist, the past and present intermingle, the known and unknowable interpenetrating.  Write the complex and fluid continuous present, allow the animals to enter and leave a print as text as they might traverse the field where we are standing unafraid of the life that abounds there.  Allow even the assumption of human hegemony, human superiority crumble.  Imagine a literature that is truly homocentric without being human-centric.  Let’s hear it all.

Not an easy Literature.  But proposing radical truth telling.  And ethics.  Rigorous ethics that we live first and foremost before they reach the page.  Refusing to diminish or belittle what must be seen and reckoned with.  A Literature with an adamant gaze.  Bearing witness, unflinchingly, but with anguish, pain, grief and heartbreak.  Imagination without pretense.  Wild visions without consoling fantasies.

Imagine such a Literature which by its morphing and fractal shapes, by its refusal to be cut off from the past or the future, by its insistence on including the vastness and particularity of the imagination, by saying yes and yes and yes, allows all the life forms to co-exist in dynamic relationship.  Imagine such a possibility, such possibilities from our pens.

And finally, prayer.  A literature that allows prayer.

Great Spirit, Great Heart, Great Mystery, Awesome Presence, Ancestors and Future Beings. Thank you for your presence in our lives.  Thank you for our lives.  May we find the words that are needed in these times. May we have the language to speak what must be spoken. May all the stories that need to be told, be told.  May we not hold back what needs to be made visible.  May we have the courage to look at everything without denying the terrible truths of our lives. May we have insight and vision.  May we discover the language of the heart.  May our words be true and may they be courageous. May the Earth be restored.  May there be viable futures for all beings and may our words help bring such possibilities to life.  Aho.