Eating Local, in Season…and with Grace

The other day, my mom brought us a bag of frozen blueberries, because she knew our boys like to have them as a snack, and we were out of blueberries. While I appreciated the gesture, I hesitated. Why?! Why, you might ask, would you hesitate, when your kids’ nana brings them a HEALTHY snack (as opposed to sending them home hyped up on sugar, like many loving nanas are wont to do)?

Well, I hesitated, because blueberries are one of those things that I try to hold a little bit sacred as a food that we eat in season, or until our local, u-pick batch runs out from the previous summer. If the boys didn’t want to stay in the field long enough to get enough berries to last through the entire year in the freezer, tough luck. No more blueberries until June.

Have you ever tasted a sun-warmed Oregon blueberry, fresh off the blueberry bush? Sweet and tangy, warm and luscious: just the right amount of squish and substance.

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Picking blueberries when my now-10-year-old was about a year-and-a-half young. (Look at those cheeks!!!)

Truth be told, my boys generally don’t want to spend any more time in the field because they have eaten so many that they have nearly made themselves sick. We’re working on that…one year at a time.

At any rate, all year long, blueberries remind us of the summer, of seasonality, of waiting and longing and hope. They remind us that sometimes, we go without—something we as Americans are not used to practicing often or for extended periods of time.

Well, we ran out of blueberries recently, and only made it about half way until the next blueberry season.

“Mom, why can’t we just buy more at the store?” asked my 10-year-old.

“Well, because it reminds us to eat things that grow here, when they’re growing, or to think ahead and plan well enough that we have what we need for the whole year,” I replied.

But, my mom took pity on the boys, and got us some Costco blueberries, and I hesitated, but then I said, “Sure.” Because there’s idealism, and then there’s legalism. There are best intentions in teaching lessons through life experiences, but there also needs to be grace for the times we fail to live up to our own (or other people’s) standards.

Anyway, what do we replace the bedtime snack with when we run out of blueberries? Graham crackers! And who knows what is in Graham crackers or where the ingredients are grown or the product is manufactured? Not me!

Lessons I’m learning from this, and you’re welcome to join me:

1) Sometimes it’s easy to get so caught up in one cherished rule or standard (even one set by oneself) that following it has consequences that are the opposite of what your rule or standard intends.

2) Pick more blueberries.

3) Looking back at the last several years to note and celebrate my family’s progress on eating more seasonally and food from our region:

  • 4 years ago, I made the commitment to eat one thing each day that I had grown or acquired locally, and did so almost every day of the year.
  • 3 years ago, I decided to try for at least one thing a meal that I grew or acquired locally, and did this for a majority of meals that year.
  • During this time, I also learned to can and preserve new things, which continues our ability to eat locally or personally-grown food throughout the year.
  • Last year, a friend started the Newberg Dundee Food Buying Club, and a network of folks in our town are able to access food grown by farmers in our region, much of it organic/grass fed/cage free, at relatively reasonable prices because we purchase it together. As this network grows, we’re able to get more and more of our food locally and affordably!

4) Giving myself and others grace when we fail, and celebrating the successes. Baby steps, y’all! We can’t change everything all at once, but we can change SOMEthing. As Margaret Mead put it, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Outdoors with Kids in Chehalem Valley: Champoeg Nature Play Area

This summer, I’ve invited others to join me on Friday “hikes” or nature excursions around our small region. Part of this has to do with my church’s current emphasis on getting to know our watershed so that we can better take care of the space around us. We can only love places that we know, and so we’re getting to know our region better. Also, I’ve invited other friends who have expressed interest in these posts about “outdoors with kids in Chehalem Valley.” I definitely want to give kids the opportunity to get outside this summer and explore our region!

Last week, school got out at lunch time, so we left for Champoeg shortly thereafter. It was a great way to kick off the summer. I met my friends in the Oak Grove parking lot and we walked over to the new nature play area. Having thrown out this invitation to everyone at my church, I got to meet new friends, got to know some others better. It was fun to have an excuse to stand around chatting while our kids played.

Our kids LOVED this play area! There is a large sand pit for digging and creating waterways, a water pump that pumps water through the logs you see in the photos (below), and lots of elements to climb on. There are cute little stick huts made from living branches, so eventually they will leaf out and form enclosed, living huts.

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Here are some details:

  • Champoeg costs $5/car for a day pass, so it’s a little expensive in terms of visiting a playground. Instead, you can purchase a 12-month pass for all Oregon State Parks for $30, or a 24-month pass for $50, so if you really like the play area and think you’ll visit more than six times a year, get an annual pass! Then you can go to other state parks for “free,” too.
  • There’s no parking near the nature play area because it’s in the RV camping section of the park, so unless you’re camping there, you’re not supposed to park there. We parked in the Oak Grove parking lot (over by the disc golf course), which gave us a nice half-mile walk over to the play area. The walk is mainly on the paved bike trail (or across parking lots), so you can bring a stroller. My kids brought their scooters, or you could bring bikes. There are also many trails for walking and biking, so you can make a day of it and do more than just visit the play area.
  • Since the nature play area is so new, it’s not yet on the map, so see the map below for the location of play area and the path we took to get there.
  • There’s sand and water, so you’ll want to bring a towel, have your kids wear swim clothes, and/or bring a change of clothes.

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Outdoors with Kids in Chehalem Valley: Magness Tree Farm

IMG_20160610_114030391Well, sometimes when you go hiking with kids, you have to admit your failures…at least if you’re me! So, we went hiking with my friend Lotus and K’s friend N to Magness Memorial Tree Farm (which, by the way, is not a tree farm, but is a demonstration forest with hiking trails, a covered picnic area, and several cabins, in addition to some great trails). Magness is about 15-20 minutes from Newberg, just east of town on Parrett Mountain.

IMG_20160610_112829669_HDRSince I’d been there several times before, I thought, “Piece of cake,” and didn’t really worry too much about maps. It was just the four of us, and we were happily wandering through the woods, exploring every side trail to the creek, some of us throwing rocks and sticks (guess which ones?), munching on wild berries, and eating snacks we brought.

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IMG_20160610_112729847Usually when we’ve gone to Magness before, we’ve gotten to the bridge along the Nagel Loop and gone left and done the Woods Tour and/or the Archibald Hike, including the fire lookout, but the boys wanted to go right because it went by the stream. I thought, “Sure, it loops around, so we’ll just do it in the opposite direction.”

Well, somehow we missed that important juncture where we would have stayed on the Woods Tour, and instead chose the Heater Trail. We kept thinking it would just loop around eventually, but then we finally found ourselves coming out on a road. IMG_20160610_122751033Thank goodness for GPS on my phone, because it told me which road we were on and which way to go to get back! We did eventually find the trail again, but not until after it poured on us while we were “hiking” along a paved road, five-year-olds not particularly happy about the whole thing.

IMG_20160610_115505548The Heater Trail is apparently not very well used, and was somewhat overgrown in places. The trail was clearly evident, but for kids, there were tall grasses and blackberry vines swinging into their faces.

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Three kinds of ripe berries: salmon berries, blackberries, and thimble berries

We found a small garter snake, and K and I stopped to look at it while Lotus and N walked on across a little bridge. Then, when K and I went to follow them across the bridge, we heard a bunch of angry bees. K stopped and started freaking out about the bees, and I said, “Keep going! Keep going!” I finally picked him up and carried him past the bees and couldn’t figure out why he was still crying, until I realized he’d gotten stung. Ouch! We later found some nice, cool, creek mud to put on it, and Lotus, being a nurse, helpfully had a full first aid kit with her.

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You can’t see it very well, but there’s a tiny garter snake.

This is probably something I should carry with me from now on, now that I think about it! She whipped it out and put on a Band-aid.

IMG_20160610_124426128Drama also ensued regarding special sticks. (Note sticks in hand in the majority of these photos.) We had to go back several times after the boys forgot their sticks and refused to go on without them. This was after the bee incident, and during the walking-on-the-road incident, so we humored them.

After we finally made it back to our car and drove home, the boys had apparently forgotten the more negative parts of the journey, and were saying they’d had a great time. I hope I didn’t ruin hiking forever for N!IMG_20160610_125305362

Magness Tree Farm is a beautiful location, and you should definitely go there. It is (usually) very kid-friendly and a wonderful place to hike and explore. They also do outdoor education, and they have little cabins, and it looks like you can book them and/or the picnic area for events, even weddings. (I went to a lovely wedding there once!) I’m not sure if you can just rent a cabin as a family, but it could be a fun alternative to Champoeg’s yurts if you want to stay in an outdoorsy location in the area.

 

 

 

Outdoors with Kids in Chehalem Valley: Trappist Abbey

IMG_20160603_125017907I got a little behind in posting anything, but K and I have still been doing our weekly hikes in the area! We’ve been hiking with other people lately, which has been fun.

I’d always heard about the trails at the Trappist Abbey of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and I’ve driven by there countless times, but I hadn’t been there. We decided to try it out. Angelina and her kids, M and L, joined us. It only takes about 15 minutes to drive there from Newberg, out highway 240 and then cutting over on Kuehne Rd and Abbey Rd like you’re going to Lafayette.

IMG_20160603_124235061I probably would NOT highly recommend this site for young kids, although if you were just out there as an adult on a nice, contemplative retreat, it is lovely. Although the people we checked in with were very welcoming and nice, we felt like we had to be kind of quiet in parts of the trail (there’s a sign asking people to be quiet until they’re farther away from the main area), so we felt kind of nervous the whole time, like maybe we were ruining people’s quiet time.

They gave us a map (I couldn’t find any online before we went), but it was kind of confusing, so we thought we were on a different trail for most of the hike. Also, there was a TON of poison oak, so we had to keep to the middle of every trail and make sure the kids didn’t brush up against any. We made it, though! No outbreaks in subsequent days.

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We did the trail I’ve marked in a blue line, in a counter-clockwise direction. (I believe the top of the map is east.) There are some trail markers at places, but not at every intersection. Also, we found that the place that says “¶12,” “Quarry,” and has a circle with squiggly lines, is in fact a pond, not a quarry. The quarry must be elsewhere along those dotted-line trails. The map has lots of A, B, C, and other markings that one would think would refer to a key or legend of some sort, but the other half of this paper didn’t have a key, it just had some info about the abbey.

IMG_20160603_115914860That said, the network of trails was very nice. There were some areas that were like small gravel roads, and some that were more like forest trails. There were different types of scenery, from agricultural fields to forests, oak savannah to creek beds. IMG_20160603_121237879I would definitely recommend going there as an adult, or with kids who are older and wouldn’t be quite so drawn to throwing rocks and sticks in the nice, contemplative water features and yelling at the top of their lungs, like my five-year-old is prone to do! We only explored a fraction of the trails available, so eventually I’d like to go back, once my kids are bigger or just with adults, and get farther into the back 40.

Despite the imperfections, we had a fun time! It was great to be outside on a warm day, smelling the smells of the late spring, hearing the birds and insects, feeling the different temperatures as we traversed different types of ecosystems, and enjoying the wonder of exploring a new place.

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Outdoors with Kids in Chehalem Valley: Bob & Crystal Rilee Park

IMG_20160520_132205638For our Friday adventure this week, K and I visited Bob & Crystal Rilee Park & Equestrian Trails, which is just east of Newberg on Parrett Mountain. According to the Chehalem Park & Recreation District blog, this has only been officially zoned as a park for a few months, although the purchase of the property and a sizable donation donation of land from the Crystal Dawn Smith Rilee Foundation happened in early 2014. Apparently it’s been used as a network of trails known to horse people for years, but now it’s open to the public and is becoming a public park.

IMG_20160520_130135022_HDRThis time, I got my act together and invited a friend to join us, so we went with Angelina and her little L and M. We followed our map out to Rilee Park, and just like the directions say, the Google map takes one to the farmhouse. There’s a parking area a little ways prior to the farmhouse, which is called “Bob’s Corner.” We saw the CPRD sign and parked there and looked for the trailhead.

IMG_20160520_144651403I will say that although we did eventually find the trail, it was not without crossing the road, climbing over a locked gate, tromping through some weeds in what looked like it might sort of be a path, and walking over to the wooden sign whose words we could barely read, then trying to figure out from there which way the trail was, wading through an even more overgrown section including blackberry vines, and wandering a bit to try to figure out if the trail was going to be like this the whole way.
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I will also mention that since this park is really new, the map is not that helpful. There are actually two maps, one that is closer in and has names of some trails but has no roads marked and does not label Bob’s Corner, and one that zooms out and gives a broader picture but is harder to follow. We had to kind of feel our way and experiment the whole time to figure out where we were and where we were going. There were trail markers along the way, but the maps did not always have the same names as the trail markers. In the maps below, I’ve circled Bob’s corner and I show the trail we ended up walking in red.

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13221599_10206231403532101_4335090877003343046_nThat said, once we found the trail, it was really fun! We just kind of paid attention to what direction we were going, and made sure to loop back around when we were ready. There is quite the network of trails out there, and it was so nice to only be a few miles from Newberg but to be out on a trail where we couldn’t usually hear road noise or construction or other human noises (besides our children, and airplanes, neither of which we can really escape).

13244814_10206231403292095_2963232364999070631_nThe section of trail we did was south from Bob’s Corner. We crossed the road and climbed over a gate, then turned slightly right and went downhill, then pretty much went straight downhill (south) for a while, turned west for a ways, and came back uphill. We were probably on the trail for an hour and a half, moseying and looking at centipedes and other points of interest along the way. We could hear many birdsongs.

IMG_20160520_140102744The trail was wooded, with green ground cover everywhere we looked. Besides not knowing exactly where we were going, this was a really relaxing and fun hike. We all agreed we want to go back!

13244900_10206231405132141_6997563357930227860_nThe boys had tons of fun picking up dirt and sticks. K gave me flowers for my hair. L wanted to stop and just look up at the trees. We named different plants, learned (luckily not by experience) not to touch stinging nettles, and kept an eye out for critters. Mostly we just saw centipedes, but also some birds and a squirrel. We also found a big snail shell, but it was no longer inhabited.

10173553_10206231403972112_8424645984276428797_nIt sounds like the City of Newberg is in the process of developing a master plan to decide specifically where the trails will go and what kind of events and activities will happen there. This is going to be a great resource for the Newberg community, and I’m grateful that it’s there. I’ll watch its development into a more user-friendly network of trails with interest and gratitude.

 

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Outdoors with Kids in Chehalem Valley: Gettman Loop Trail

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Gettman Loop Trailhead, Newberg, OR

I took a study/grading break and K and I went for a little walk/hike around the Gettman Loop Trail. This one really only counts as a walk (since it’s short and doesn’t really get out in un-manicured areas for most of the time), but it was fun, especially since it’s right here in town. It goes around the south side of the Chehalem Glenn Golf Course. There are actually several trails over there, though the others are on the north side of the golf course. The Gettman Loop is 1.6 miles. We parked in the parking lot of the golf course to the south of Fernwood Rd., then walked a short ways east to the trailhead. It’s clearly visible from the road, so I saw it when driving by.

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Gettman Loop Trail, Newberg, OR

The trail ranges through gravel at the beginning, packed dirt, wood chips, and paved sections, and there are a couple of nice wooden bridges. Gettman Loop winds around the perimeter of the golf course, so for a good portion of the trail you can see the golf greens and paths, but at the south side of the trail there’s a great forested area that feels more like a “real” hike.

IMG_20160430_161302256K said, “I bet we’ll find some snakes!” Lo and behold, we did find snakes. We saw three: two sunning themselves, and one that slithered off when we approached. That added a sense of adventure! The first one (at left) just sat there and let us get pretty close. The third one, after sitting there for the picture (at right), slithered down a nearby hole. It was pretty interesting seeing it go down a hole, but then also weIMG_20160430_162428585 weren’t sure what was in all the other holes we saw. Usually I think there are just gophers and moles down such holes, but now I have to admit that some of them may house snakes. Well, none of them seemed poisonous. I think these were all garter snakes, but I didn’t let K touch them because I don’t really know my snakes, and these ones were bigger than your garden variety garter snake that I’ve seen hanging out around our house from time to time. We’ll have to take someone “hiking” there with us who knows about snakes sometime.

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K and me on the Gettman Loop Trail, Newberg, OR

Overall, this was a fun place to go to just get outside and not have to drive far. One could bike, although we drove because we were already out getting groceries. It took us about an hour, although it could have taken longer at 5-year-old pace, which includes many stops to look at curious items and entities, such as lady bugs, seeing if there were fish or salamanders in the creeks, and spotting animal footprints. We’ll definitely go back again when we have more time to explore, and also go check out the other trails on the north side of the golf course. We had a great Saturday afternoon adventure on a beautiful spring day.

 

 

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Hope in Ancient Greek: Aristotle on hope, optimism, and courage

Continuing in my study of the term “hope,” I also ran across a really interesting article on Aristotle’s understanding of the term hope: “Aristotle on Hope,” by G. Scott Gravlee, which appeared in the Journal of the History of Philosophy in October 2000. I previously wrote about hope in Hebrew as well as the Greek goddess Elpis, who appeared in the story of Pandora. I also talked about the elements involved in the cognitive process of hoping, according to psychologists. As I’m working on developing an ecotheology of critical hope, I want to find out what the words we translate as “hope” in the Bible meant within their cultural milieu, how the authors of the Christian Testament received, utilized, and transformed these ideas, and ultimately how these stories and concepts have shaped our present culture. My ultimate goal is to then do similar reinterpretation (or “remix,” thanks to Wess Daniels, see my post on his book) of these received traditions to speak to the need for hope in our current context, in which humanity seems to be having a difficult time finding hope for the future, and therefore we’re using up all our planet’s resources right now with no thought to future generations.

In “Aristotle on Hope,” Gravlee clarifies two different Greek words Aristotle uses that are generally translated “hope,” one which means something more like expectation (ελπιϛ = elpis, though it is used in the Christian Testament to mean a deeper hope), and one that gets more at what we generally mean by the term hope: ευελπις (euelpis), “eu” meaning good and “elpis” meaning expectation—in other words, expectations for a positive future, as opposed to regular elpis, which could refer to expecting either a positive or a negative future. A fascinating point is that Aristotle states that one cannot truly hope (ευελπις) unless one has experienced fear: if one feels vulnerable, that one might not succeed. One cannot hope unless there’s a chance that one’s hope will not be realized.

Courage is a hallmark of this second kind of hopeful person, since one must realize that one’s goal is not surely obtainable, and realistically take stock of one’s abilities. A person who hopes for a positive outcome but does not act courageously in the face of his or her fear is, according to Aristotle, not really hoping: he or she does not take the courageous steps needed in order to bring about that good end, it’s just expecting something positive to happen in the future. The act of courage in the face of fear, on the other hand—of willingness to recognize one’s vulnerability and pursue one’s goal anyway—is the agency required in the hope system.

Optimism can be a type of not-quite-hope that does not take any courage. It is a positive outlook because one knows (or at least believes) the outcome is almost assured. When one feels fear, one can recognize that this indicates a hope buried somewhere within. Those who do not hope for anything also do not fear, but are apathetic. Fears can point toward hope if one takes the time to mentally process one’s reaction. When an individual notices feeling fear, s/he can choose either to continue on the route of feeling fear, or s/he can choose courage and move in the direction of hope. Or, though not necessarily stated in this article, one can stop feeling and go in the direction of apathy.

Gravlee’s explication of Aristotle led me to wonder whether perhaps there is a “hope in a negative direction,” as in, an expectation that what we fear will occur. In English we don’t have a specific word for that, although when I was talking to my then-eight-year-old son a few months ago about hope, he expressed this kind of negative hope. He said it didn’t feel like fear and it didn’t feel like despair, but that his body expected the situation to turn out in the outcome he could envision but did not want. While in that space, he had a very difficult time being willing to entertain ideas of how to solve the problem positively, even when I suggested possible solutions, and he instead thought about taking steps to ensure that this negative outcome was inevitable, and would have done so had I not stepped in.

What happened was that he lost a LEGO piece and intensely feared he would not be able to find it. Rather than pursuing solutions, such as looking for it more thoroughly or using a different piece from his LEGO bin, he was going to give the whole rest of the LEGO set to his brother, since it was worthless to him without that one piece. This might be what Aristotle through Gravlee calls “resignation,” a pessimistic outlook that the outcome is going to be negative so there is no point in trying to change it through personal agency or pathway generation, but I usually think of “resignation” as fairly inactive. In this case, my son’s resignation was leading him to want to take active steps to ensure the feared future outcome would occur. His negative hopes would occur and he would reach his goal, so this fits the definition of hope. He would be actively making his expected future inevitable by setting steps in motion to bring about the feared outcome.

Interestingly, this shows a kind of hope and agency—in the direction of the negative outcome. He looked at the possible outcomes, he decided which one he could see pathways to get to and that he felt like he had the agency to achieve, and he started setting plans in motion to get to it. I would argue that he didn’t realistically look at all the options, since it’s not that hard to find a LEGO piece when you know exactly where you lost it, and he also didn’t have a very tenacious idea of what he could achieve or a willingness to try something different when his original ideas didn’t work, but low hope is still a form of hope. He chose instead to focus on his fear, rather than generating ideas that might take more courage and effort to achieve. (That this example of negative hope fits so well within the system of the psychology of hope is one of the reasons I think the psychological understanding doesn’t fully explain hope, helpful as it may be.)

Together, my son and I eventually found the missing LEGO piece, and then we talked through the experience later. I had my son repeat back to me what had happened so that he can use the experience as a basis for positive hope next time. Perhaps he will be able to have “courageous confidence,” as Aristotle terms good-hope. Since one cannot be certain of the outcome for which one hopes, moving forward in confidence regarding one’s sense of agency and choosing a path in the positive direction takes courage in the face of fear. Also, trying something else if one’s first idea fails is an important piece of hoping (one that Gravlee doesn’t really address here, but is addressed in other places by philosophers and psychologists). It is also possible to take action that ensures a negative outcome, having given up on the positively-hoped-for outcome.

I am intrigued by this situation, because it may provide an explanation for the self-sabotage that many human beings seem to do intentionally (though probably not consciously) when they know the situation facing the planet with climate change, and take active steps to ensure that the world continues going in that direction. To truly hope in the face of climate change takes courage in the face of real fear, an acknowledgement of vulnerability, and the choice to move in the direction of a positive outcome anyway.

What is it about self-sabotage that seems appealing? I assume it’s a coping mechanism. Maybe it’s easier to not feel. We would rather be apathetic, because feeling hurts too much.

My son said he would rather never have had the LEGO set than to have it and lose the piece. This shows a level of defeatism that has given up and doesn’t want to have to move through feeling fear and any other negative emotions so much that it would rather also not feel the good feelings. I wonder what makes people feel this way. I think it’s probably not learning to acknowledge, name, and be okay with feelings (so this is something I’ve definitely been working on with my kids since this LEGO experience!).

Overall, I find this ambivalence about the direction of hope to be a helpful way to think about our responses to the future. We can be optimistic or pessimistic about the future but take no real action to ensure that either one happens, but this is not really hope. We can also actively “hope” in a positive or a negative direction. In English, we’ve come to use the term “hope” to mean acting courageously to bring about a future we perceive as positive, while in classical Greek the term had not taken on this meaning but was any action taken in order to bring about a future state. Hope involves experiencing fear, and our response to that fear determines whether our action is euelpis (courageous good-hope) or self-sabotaging resignation: whether we’ve recognized our fear and decided to move in the direction of our hoped-for future anyway, or whether we’ve remained frozen by fear and intentionally taken actions (or intentionally not acted) to bring about our feared future. I wonder if this self-sabotaging resignation is the same as despair?

Both of these types of Aristotelian hope (positive and negative) can be distinguished from apathy, in which case we do not even feel fear—or perhaps we have acted so long in a state of self-sabotaging resignation that we are numb to the fear. If we’re feeling fear, we can then choose to act positively or negatively, but if we no longer even feel the fear, that’s when we’ve really moved beyond the category of hope. Despair is different from apathy, because it shows that there is still something that one hopes for, one simply despairs of it happening. One fears that it is impossible, or at least that one has no pathways, motivation, or agency to get there.

So, the presence of fear shows that there is still a spark of hope. If we are willing to do the hard work of acknowledging our fear and working through it, and if we are willing to find the place of courage within ourselves to move in the direction of a positive future even though it scares us to death, we can move out of the space of despair and into hope. In previous posts I’ve mentioned that this isn’t always possible without medication/therapy in cases of mental illness, and in future posts I want to share more about the connection with a community that I think is vital in helping us move beyond despair, transforming that fear and despair through meaning-making and storytelling into good-hope.

References:

Gravlee, G. Scott. “Aristotle on Hope.” Journal of the History of Philosophy 38.4 (October 2000): 461-477.

Image: detail of Aristotle and others from the “School of Athens” by Raphael