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Center for Action and Contemplation
Crisis Contemplation
Crisis Contemplation

Hope Makes Room for Love 

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Retired Episcopal bishop and Choctaw citizen Steven Charleston draws on his Native American experience to navigate collective crisis. 

We inhabit a period in history that seems to be filled with conflict. The world has become an uncertain place, a dark place, where we cannot see what may happen next. All we know, based on our recent experience, is that things could—and probably will—get worse.…  

For millennia, my ancestors followed a spiritual path that was respectful of the earth, inclusive of all humanity, and visionary in its transformative power. That tradition has survived. It is one of the oldest continuous spiritual paths on earth. My ancestors’ faith continues to this day despite every hardship and persecution it has been forced to endure…. I was asked to write a brief commentary about the Christian theology of the apocalypse: the final, terrible vision of the end of the world. I said my Native American culture was in a unique position to speak of this kind of vision, because we were among the few cultures that have already experienced it. In historic memory, we have seen our reality come crashing down as invaders destroyed our homeland. We have lived through genocide, concentration camps, religious persecution, and every human rights abuse imaginable. Yet we are still here. No darkness—not even the end of the world as we knew it—had the power to overcome us. So our message is powerful not because it is only for us, but because it speaks to and for every human heart that longs for light over darkness. [1] 

Charleston takes inspiration from the hope embodied by his ancestors during crisis and displacement.  

My ancestors did not survive the Trail of Tears because they were set apart from the rest of humanity. Their exodus was not a sign of their exclusivity, but rather their inclusivity. In their suffering, they embodied the finite and vulnerable condition of all humanity. They experienced what the whole tribe of the human beings has experienced at one time or another throughout history: the struggle of life, the pain of oppression, and the fear of the unknown. Their long walk was the walk of every person who has known what it means to be alone and afraid. But they walked with courage and dignity because they had the hope of the Spirit within them.… 

Hope makes room for love in the world. We can all share it, we can all believe in it, even if we are radically different in every other way. We no longer need to fear our differences because we have common ground. We can hope together—therefore, hope liberates us. It frees us from our fear of the other. It opens our eyes to see love all around us. It unites us and breaks our isolation. When we decide to embrace hope—when we choose to make that our goal and our message—we release a flow of energy that cannot be overcome. Hope is a light that darkness can never contain. [2] 


[1] Steven Charleston, Ladder to the Light: An Indigenous Elder’s Meditations on Hope and Courage (Minneapolis, MN: Broadleaf Books, 2021), 14–15.   

[2] Charleston, Ladder to the Light, 62, 67–68. 

Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Izzy Spitz, Untitled, watercolor. CAC Staff, Untitled, watercolor. Izzy Spitz, Field Study 2, oil pastel on canvas. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image

When the world swirls around us we go to the sacred center. 

Story from Our Community:  

Recently in the Daily Meditations, I read two phrases resonated in me: “Many people fall into non-dual consciousness,” and “Crisis contemplation arose out of necessity.” When the Covid-19 pandemic began, I felt compelled to embark on a few religious disciplines that would help me navigate the fear, isolation, and uncertainty. Little did I know that an extreme racial upheaval and trauma would rock this nation at the same time. As a Black, 67-year-old female who has lived in the inner-city for most of my life, violence is not foreign to me. Even with fasting and daily prayer, I found myself growing numb as the killings, protests, and riots continued. My prayer, hope, and belief is that we can use this time of national discomfort and suffering to propel us to change. In the midst of restarting, I feel we all have a tremendous opportunity to change directions. This would truly be the blessing to come out of the isolation and pain we collectively experienced from the crisis of the global pandemic. —Fabian C. 

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