Hope Is Confrontation of Darkness
Quite a dramatic statement: Hope is confrontation of darkness. Spoken by psychologist and Holocaust survivor Dr. Edith Eger in the recent Sounds True Activating Hope Summit. (I truly wish I had alerted you and posted the link to access the summit while it was being broadcast for free, November 4-7, 2021. Here’s the link to the entire program now; you may indeed find it a worthy investment.)
Jane Goodall’s new book, The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times, was the anchor for the entire summit. (The co-host of the summit, Doug Abrams, co-authored Jane’s book; he also co-authored The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World based on conversations between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Deep wisdom from our most respected leaders of what makes for true joy, for true hope.
Jane’s book and the summit were organized by four pillars of hope: the amazing human intellect, the resilience of nature, the power of young people, and the indomitable human spirit. And the message throughout the summit was: hope is action, a verb, not a feeling. And that small actions, many, many small actions, are enough to keep hope alive and bring about the change we seek, even in our current world facing so many catastrophes globally.
Dr. Eger was interviewed on the fourth day, a spokesperson for the indomitable human spirit. Dr. Eger’s memoir, The Choice: Embrace the Possible, is her stirring (and NY Times best-seller) account of her surviving Auschwitz and other concentration camps by making the choice, again and again, to live and to help others live. After surviving the Holocaust, Dr. Eger became a psychologist working the trauma survivors. At 94 years of age, she is still practicing psychotherapy, still a role model of the indomitable human spirit.
The conversation I enjoyed the most about the amazing human intellect was Your Brain on Hope with Dr. Dacher Keltner, professor of psychology and founder of the Greater Good Science Center at U.C. Berkeley, Lisa Miller, professor of clinical psychology and researcher on spirituality in psychology at Columbia University, and Dr. Amisha Jha, professor of psychology at the University of Miami and neuroscientist studying the brain mechanisms of attention.
Of course I would be interested in the integration of neuroscience, psychology, and spiritual practice in service of hope. One of the most interesting findings for me, cited by Dacher Keltner, is that one of the most immediate and reliable ways to come out of despair is to act in a kind and generous way toward a neighbor. Go to the grocery store for them, help them clean out the garage or weed the garden, give them a ride to the doctor when they can’t walk or see. Small actions, many, many small actions bring our worries and concerns beyond our personal self to the larger world and instill hope for humanity in everyone.
These were two of my favorite conversations out of 16. And the focus on Activating Hope was truly inspiring in needing to find doable ways to confront the darkness of our times.