Your Vantage Point Could Be Your Pivot Point

Saturday, September 23, 2017 - 9:00 am
Members of Team Rubicon work on a house

Your Vantage Point Could Be Your Pivot Point

“Hope” is a word comprised of many meanings with many associations. In uncertain times, hope can be a source of comfort and solace, an alternative to cynicism, a refuge that leads to inaction… One’s vantage point may be one’s pivot point. And I think you’ll see that juxtaposition in the following two columns from Miguel Clark Mallet and Parker Palmer. Both were written independently of, and not in response to, one another. And yet, there are connections and overlapping understandings worth considering.

(Nicola Fioravanti / Public Domain Dedication (CC0))

Miguel Clark Mallet | We’ve Hoped Our Way Into Our Current Crisis
For the time being, Miguel has given up on hope as an antidote. As he sees it, the alternative just might equip us to live humbly and with vigor:

“I don’t need hope to act. I don’t need hope to figure out what I should do and how I should live. I have values. I have beliefs. I can examine whether they’re grounded in reality. And I can use those values to ask myself with each choice, ‘Am I being — right now — the person I believe I should be? Am I acting in line with truth, with reality, with the way I think life should be lived?'”

Knoxville residents participate in a service of prayers and hymns for peace in advance of a planned white supremacist rally and counter-protest around a Confederate memorial monument on August 25, 2017 in Knoxville, Tennessee.

(Spencer Platt / Getty Images / © All Rights Reserved)

Parker Palmer | Hope Is the Place Where Joy Meets the Struggle
Victoria Safford’s poem on hope offers an engaged way to live in the world. As Parker reads her words aloud (a must-listen!), he thinks about immature defenses of cynicism and what it means to stand in the place where hard, joyful work makes vision for change come alive:

“If I were to lose hope and turn to cynicism, what would I do? Sit in a corner, stare at the wall, and suck my thumb? When people like me allow ourselves to become hopeless — while there’s so much we can do for those who are truly suffering — we need to remind ourselves that opting out is not a fit way for a grown-up to live.”

An inmate sits in his cell at San Quentin State Prison's death row on August 15, 2016 in San Quentin, California.

(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images / © All Rights Reserved)

Courtney Martin | What I Learned About Community from a Maximum-Security Prisoner

“It’s not that I didn’t expect people in prison to be capable of this kind of generosity, but reading the specifics of it — the soap, the shoes, the yellowing shirt — makes it so real for me. I can picture each item, each act. I can feel the gratitude and relief that must fill these waiting, wanting men.”

Our editorial team wrestled with whether to include the proper name of the convicted murderer who wrote Courtney an unexpected letter. Ultimately we decided to include his name. Our digital editor notes, “Naming him allows a more transparent conversation to emerge that gives him his full (and very flawed) humanity.” How might you think through it? Where would you land?

The Civil Conversations Project

People talk after a Sacrament Meeting of the Washington, D.C. 3rd Ward at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints October 23, 2011 in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

(Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images / © All Rights Reserved)

Erika Munson The Challenge of Not Choosing Sides
A 12-year-old girl came out to her local church. It was recorded on video and went viral. It also sparked a rift within the larger Mormon community. But a member of the LDS Church wonders whether a less divisive conversation would’ve ensued:

“Living in the tension of orthodoxy and inclusion is rich with meaning. It demands empathy and patience, attention to inner wisdom. It asks you not to take sides in internet battles; not to shame and dehumanize an entire cohort of humanity in order to show support for your own idea of what someone or something represents.”

Constellations of Krista’s Conversations

A poem of six lines from six different conversations, generated by our new discovery engine:

language of radical hope
a victory march
black people
climate change
always amazed
my mind-body relationship

Those phrases comprise this week’s constellation of conversations. Krista’s interview with Junot Díaz (“language of radical hope”) is the north star in this cluster. The other five “stars” that complete the picture are unexpected — and would make for a nice packaged playlist!

The Courage To Be Vulnerable
Are We Actually Citizens Here?
The Moral Math of Climate Change
The Inner Landscape of Beauty
The Body’s Grace

Listen, share, and add them to your playlists. I’m looking to feature them in upcoming newsletters. Just send me a link to your playlist and share a couple of lines about what it means to you. The best way to reach me is via email at trentgilliss@onbeing.org, or on Twitter at @trentgilliss!

Things We’re Reading and Watching
TED | Can Art Amend History?
Titus Kaphar delivers a powerful talk on TED’s main stage. Rather than erase our public monuments, he asks, can we see them differently and amend them?

ESPN | How Team Rubicon Is Helping Disaster Victims and Military Volunteers
A story of how one veteran (and former football player) has changed the landscape of volunteerism. Military veterans may be some of our best first responders to natural disasters.

The New Yorker | The Two Friends Who Changed How We Think About How We Think
During our editorial session for our upcoming podcast with Daniel Kahneman, this article came up in conversation. So fascinating.

On Being on Instagram

Our friends, the photographer Matthew Septimus and poet Esther Cohen, have created a new postcard series for the ten Days of Awe: County Route 20. This year’s project, Esther says, focuses “on the road of life, the road from Earth to the moon, beauty that persists in spite of floods and governments, the roads we all take.”

more than what happens
smell is bright green
even at night when
this road almost eternal
there to here
road for us all
going right
to the soft moon

May the wind always be at your back,
Trent

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Contributor

is the co-founder of On Being and currently serves as publisher & editor-in-chief. He received a Peabody Award in 2007 for his work on “The Ecstatic Faith of Rumi” and garnered two Webby Awards (in 2005, and again in 2008). The Online News Association nominated his journalistic work multiple times in the general excellence and outstanding specialty journalism categories. Trent’s reported and produced stories from Turkey to rural Alabama, from Israel and the West Bank to Cambridge, England.

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  • Gabby

    While including the young man’s name did not add to the effective the blog post for me, I don’t think there is any problem including it – provided he gave his permission. Including a person’s words and his name from a communication a person intended to be private without first asking permission would have been very disrespectful, no less so because this young man is in jail.
    Many times when one person shares/spreads personal things about another it does publicize the latter person’s flawed humanity,- in fact it is often intended for that purpose, but that does not justify the third party disclosure.
    I think we need typically to ask ourselves how we would feel in another person’s situation. If I wrote someone a personal letter and then I discovered my words and name had been disseminated over the internet without asking me if it is okay, I would feel I was not being treated respectfully or compassionately. Of course people who want publicity may be only too happy to give such permission, so we cover our bases decently by asking.