I wrote recently of the possibility that “our imagining of wilderness will deliver us to a new geography of hope.” That hope, though, seems a far stretch even now as the latest COVID surge seems to be subsiding. We know, even as we may deny its frightening implications, that the world will not ever return to how it was before. The pandemic is not a passing event that will someday be over; we have irrevocably altered the conditions of our habitation on this earth in such a way that constant catastrophe looms on every front: overheated seasons, monstrous storms, heat domes and polar vortices, devastating diseases that spread beyond our capacity to control their vengeance, fires and floods and poisoned lands, mass extinctions accelerating throughout the world. These are the legacies of human progress, the new realities we now live within. We are desperate for new geographies of hope.
Slowly it dawns on the more astute observers that our success as a species has also been our demise. In finding a way to live on earth more prosperously, we have lost our ability to live with earth more harmoniously. In our religions and spiritual contemplations we have invented the garden of our imagination, the primal place of wilderness that may redeem us, as a hope that our domineering quest for prosperity will not bring instead our ultimate obliteration. But unless hope accompanies new visions, new ways of living with the earth and its other inhabitants, a new humility for the human place in the cosmos, I find it hard to be hopeful, even in the solitude of a wild land at peace with itself. For me, hope must inspire active change, not just for myself but for the human community at large. Together we must become something other than what we have imagined. Somehow we must ….