Spirit of an Age

It was the first day of 2009. A cold beginning in Wisconsin, with 3 or more feet of snow and ice chunks on Lake Michigan. A friend and I went for a walk to catch up, as we were both back in towCIMG0041n for the holidays. In long underwear and boots, we trudged across the beautiful icy sand of Lake Michigan's beach. It was a blue-gray as far as the eye could see, with lake blending perfectly into sky. The horizon was an interpretation.

We talked about what we've seen and felt in our worlds. How we feel among our peers a real sense of commitment to making this world a better place. Is it just youthful ideal? Or does hope for something…different really exist?

We see resistance to the dominant models. We see movement. We see dynamism, not static realities. We see relatives, not absolutes. We see creativity. We see change. We see lake blending into sky, elements in harmony, interconnection, interpretation, horizons.

I just read some of Frances Moore and Anna Lappe's Hope's Edge. Some comments of theirs resonated deeply with me in light of the conversations I've been having with my own communities. She connects all of her thoughts about breaking from dominant models of -isms through food.

"…I mean if we look at food, really look,  our world can shift: We might just not only grasp for the first time the biggest ideal limiting our lives, but also discover for the first time whole new ways of seeing the world that release us from our march toward planetary destruction." (14)

Her book continues through stories of people whose worlds are shifting. They have experienced moments of dissonance which spurred them to action for change. This might be a starving child, a ruined field, an unnecessary death, an unjust legal procedure, a drought. Experiencing a shock of paradigm shift means we can never go back to seeing the world as we thought it was. And, hopefully, we have the energy and courage to use that experience to make a change in our world and reach resonance.

Instead of allowing ourselves to be used by the market system, we must be the agents that use the market. Global corporate capitalism, as she calls the dominant economic model, is not the only or the best way. There are alternatives possible even within the market system to ameliorate the damages of globalization.

"…discovering ways to make the market work so it doesn't create exclusion – so it doesn't violate our deepest sensibilities, creating more hunger, slums, crime, child exploitation, prostitution, slavery, and the decimation of the natural world" (295)

How? There are so many answers. Think about what works in your particular setting. Maybe farmer's markets, maybe CSAs, maybe fair trade, maybe non-consumerism, maybe political advocacy. There is no single answer. And there is no finite answer. Some ideas haPA270036ve already been demonstrated. That is a good start. But it is not the end. We must continue to create creative alternatives. 

And, we will do it together. All over the world, people are trying new ideas. Sometimes it means they are in danger because they are challenging the dominant system, and the money. But that doesn't stop them because they are convicted in their beliefs. We must find what we can be committed to. It is different for each of us – trade, farming, midwivery, education, etc., etc., etc., ad infinitum.

"To gain the courage to climb to the next ridge, to learn to 'walk,' we can put ourselves in the company of those who by their very being remind us that the dominant culture — the materialism, the brutality, the isolation, the destruction, the polarization — is the great aberration, arising in a mere blink of historical time. We can walk beside people who express those life-affirming qualities of human beings that have endured over eons." (307)

So, think about what you want your world to be like. And make it a reality, as clear as the winter sun on fresh snow. As broad as the lake-sky horizon. As true as a good friend.


Alexandra is a nomadic herder. She spent a year in urban New York at the Presbyterian United Nations Office as a Young Adult Intern. Then she followed her flock to Long Island to work on an organic farm. She nested in Milwaukee, WI for the snowy season. Soon she will migrate to Lima, Peru at a Presbyterian mission co-worker with Joining Hands (the international program of the Presbyterian Hunger Program) working in a trade justice campaign and fair trade corridor.