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Letter to a Young Activist During Troubled Times

For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plane of engagement...
Letter to a Young Activist During Troubled Times by Clarissa Pinkola
Estes, Ph.D.

Do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered.
They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world right now ... Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often
righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.

You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children,
elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not
spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is - we were
made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this
exact plane of engagement...

I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been
more able crafts in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another
as never before in the history of humankind... Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters
with you. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing
your prow and rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold
its own, and to advance, regardless.

We have been in training for a dark time such as this, since the day we assented to come to Earth. For many decades, worldwide,
souls just like us have been felled and left for dead in so many ways over and over brought down by naivete, by lack of love, by being
ambushed and assaulted by various cultural and personal shocks in the extreme. We have a history of being gutted, and yet remember
this especially - we have also, of necessity, perfected the knack of resurrection. Over and over again we have been the living proof
that that which has been exiled, lost, or foundered can be restored to life again.

In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on
that. There is a tendency too to fall into being weakened by perseverating on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be.

Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails. We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet
resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn't
you say you were a believer? Didn't you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn't you ask for grace? Don't you remember
that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater?...

Understand the paradox: If you study the physics of a waterspout, you will see that the outer vortex whirls far more quickly than the
inner one. To calm the storm means to quiet the outer layer, to cause it to swirl much less, to more evenly match the velocity of the
inner core - till whatever has been lifted into such a vicious funnel falls back to Earth, lays down, is peaceable again. One of the most
> important steps you can take to help calm the storm is to not allow yourself to be taken in a flurry of overwrought emotion or
desperation thereby accidentally contributing to the swale and the swirl.

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.
Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help
immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good. What
is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take
"everyone on Earth" to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or
hundredth gale.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on
deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters
to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these -- to be fierce and to show mercy toward others, both, are
acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it.
If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.

There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it; I
will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate. The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you.
It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good
words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours: They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I
hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not
what great ships are built for.

This comes with much love and prayer that you remember who you came from, and why you came to this beautiful, needful Earth.

-Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Author, Women Who Run With the Wolves
no words 13.Apr.2003 07:45


There are no words to express how much this letter has helped me today, and I know that it will do the same for others. Written to a 'young' activist, this older person has gained from it as well. I had almost forgotten that even the small actions do matter.

truth 13.Apr.2003 09:26

proud captain

thank you to whoever re-posted this letter. the beautiful message brought tears to my eyes on this rainy sunday morning. it struck a chord that resonates to the deepest places within me. i am a proud captain of my own powerful ship, and i vow to shine my lantern on deck night and day, and to unfurl my sails even in these stormy times. and as i sail with courage and conviction, i will scan the horizon tirelessly for other lights shining in the distance. our souls will signal each other, piercing the darkness and sending ripples of solidarity and joy across the waters. together we will form an unstoppable armada of hope, sailing brightly on the winds of change, because that IS "what great ships are built for".

Young Activist Response 13.Apr.2003 20:00


let me start this out just to say that it was great. Really nice. Some problems i might have with it our thus.

For one, the activists that ive seen who have been the most outspoken, educated, and really effective activists have been the kids. They are the ones who have commited to themselves and others that there going to stop this war anyway possible. They have kept that lantern firmly placed on high to shine for everyone. The people that i think would really benefit from this letter are the older folks. The old hippies. They no longer think that they can change the world and in doing so no longer have that light shining. They have decided that they will make themselves feel better by walking around terry shrunk plaza with a big peace sign. Well...Thats good i guess. But all the kids i know actually understand the root problems that war is spawned from. They have educated themselves so that they dont have depend on older folks to give them inspiration. They see each others acts of courage and i for one am filled with amazing joy. But then i look around and all the people that make me sad are the ones that cant use there imagination anymore. The ones who only do one thing and condemn the rest. Who arent upbeat and happy, slowly walking up and down the streets looking forlorn just wishing that they could climb back into there car and go home. No thanks. i would rather get inspiration/joy/love from one of my brothers or sisters who decided that chaining themselves to the federal building would have a better message. No matter how old that person is they still are young in my mind and probably in theres to.

Maybe next time instead of congratulating the writing of this article you could maybe explore a little bit deeper. Notice how at the last peace rally the really cool things that happened were done by kids. And the stuff that dragged on and made you tired was done by adults. Maybe you folks could take a page out of our book instead of condescending us.

Agreed 14.Apr.2003 08:32


marko; valid points you make, but some of adults are not all tired. Still have some piss and vinegar left, and then some. I agree however, that many have lost it - too bad. Life is much too important to be boring.