Sunday, January 19, 2014

#127 Confidence

Dear all,
Well, the flurry of the holidays is over--what a treat to have that time with our three guys, two wonderful partners and two irresistible little ones, and see the two-year-old so excited about his one-year-old cousin!  Now we're in the midst of cold and snow, slowly picking up the threads of the rest of our lives. 
I've been learning lessons about the limitations of independence, and the sweetness of help--more on that next time.


One end of the drawstring of Chuck’s gym shorts had disappeared deep into the waistband.  He had tried getting it out without success and asked for my help.  I have sewn plenty of waistbands in my day, working elastic or a drawstring through them with the help of a big safety pin fastened at one end, so I was a good person to go to.  It was a challenge, since I didn’t have access to the end of the drawstring.  All I had was the knot, deep inside the waistband.  But as I worked at that little knot, I could feel the potential for motion.  Slowly, slowly, I worked the knot closer to the opening, till finally it came through—and the gym shorts were back in business.

This is a very small story—in itself hardly worth remembering, much less retelling.  But as I came upon those gym shorts one day, taking them out of the washer and out to the line to dry, I thought about the confidence I had brought to fixing them—and confidence is something worth talking about.

Confidence.  Sitting in the trolley, I think about how my mother would have approached that word.  “Confidence.  It comes from the Latin.  ‘Con’ means with, and you can hear the root, ‘fides’.  Think about the word ‘fidelity’.  It means ‘faith’.  So confidence means ‘with faith’.”

I approached the gym shorts with faith in the outcome.  Chuck’s experience didn’t provide him with the faith that he could fix them himself.  But he had faith in me.

I think of that little knot, invisible to the eye, and barely discernable to the touch.  I think of how hard it would be for somebody else to know that this was the movable part, how hard to believe that it could be moved so far, how easy it would be to give up.  And I can’t help but wonder what would be different if we had confidence that bigger things could be moved, fixed, or changed.

What if we could tap into a deeper well of confidence?  It wouldn’t provide any shortcuts.  The work wouldn’t be any less challenging.  But we would be much more likely to take on those struggles that we care about so passionately, and to persist openheartedly when no change was visible on the horizon.

Where could we find such confidence?  In each other for starters.  In the experience of others who have tried—and failed but also succeeded—in endeavors that are foreign to us.  In those who have found strength in very different circumstances, and those who have a long track record of endurance and hopefulness.  In the seasoned elders of our communities.  In the wisdom of our cultural and faith traditions—and the faith traditions of others.

Most of all, it means holding an expectation that faith and confidence are there to be found and are worth looking for.  It requires confronting our defeats and discouragements and not accepting them as the final reality.  It requires building our own confidence by daring to try new things.  It requires exploring for the confidence of others, more deeply and farther around the edges of our experience than may be comfortable.  But every bit of confidence that I have can be useful to others if I can find a way to share it—and if I reach widely, intentionally and persistently, there will always be more to be found.

Imagine:  A new economy is possible!

Cap and What?

Two big economic strategies being considered to help reduce carbon use are cap-and-trade and cap and dividend.  Cap-and-trade involves giving each polluter an allocation of emissions. If it doesn’t use up that allocation in a year, it may sell those emission allowances to another company that polluted more than its allocation.  Cap-and-dividend, in contrast, involves imposing a carbon cap, auctioning off all carbon allowances, and returning the revenues generated to all households on a per capita basis.

Cap-and-dividend avoids the pitfalls of carbon trading, which can be as easily manipulated and abused as has been financial securities trading.   Carbon dividends would help offset the increase in price of most goods that would come with reducing carbon.  If the money were returned to people on an equal basis, higher-income and higher-consumption households would pay out more (in higher energy and product costs) than they would receive back from dividends. But lower-income, lower-consumption households would receive back more than they pay.  Also, by offering a cash incentive, a cap and dividend strategy could spur all households to try to reduce their carbon footprints.

For more information:

Some things that have made me hopeful recently:

White ranchers and landowners, threatened with eminent domain and the loss of the right to their own land by the Keystone XL Pipeline, who are beginning to understand what the native tribes experienced during colonization, and to notice a shared pride in the land that's the source of both culture and livelihood. As they work together to oppose the pipeline, an 'us' and 'them' is turning into a 'we'.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn's championing of the city's divestment from fossil fuels.
Native peoples' successes over the past year in reintroducing fading species--including a record return of Chinook salmon to the Columbia River, restoring habitats and challenging big industry.

Uruguay's recent legalization of marijuana--aimed at breaking the link between the lucrative marijuana trade and organized crime--that has kicked off a trend in a region wearied of the bloodshed, expense and failed results of Washington’s “war on drugs".

More resources

Posts on other people's blogs: 

NEW:  Check out my friend Daniel Hunter's new book, a narrative of direct action campaigning:  Strategy & Soul: A Campaigner's Tale of Fighting Billionaires, Corrupt Officials, and Philadelphia Casinos:

Muscle Building for Peace and Justice; a Non-Violent Workout Routine for the 21st Century--an integration of much of my experience and thinking over the years:  (or just google the title), a website that I've contributed to often (check the archives), a home for all the parenting writing I've done over the past 20 years. START: a way to study and work together with others to create a better world.

For earlier columns, go to  I'm currently posting at

My favorite magazine:  YES! Magazine reframes the biggest problems of our time in terms of their solutions. Online and in print, they outline a path forward with in-depth analysis, tools for citizen engagement, and stories about real people working for a better world:

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