Shortly after meeting in Cazenovia, New York in 2009 to design our new organization, Radical Joy for Hard Times founding member Noah Crowe experimented with the practice we’d devised to find and make beauty in a wounded place by taking a small group of friends to a vacant lot near Ventura, California. The group did a version of what has become our standard practice:
- sharing stories of their response to the place
- spending time getting to know it
- and making a gift of beauty for it, in this case a sculpture made of stones and trash on the site
Afterwards, one participant, Lucy Hinton wrote us, “It was as if the place had been dead before, and now it was alive. When it was time to go, none of us wanted to leave. When we first stepped onto the land, we felt like sheepish intruders—would we get into trouble, or cause suspicion or discomfort to confused onlookers for breaking out of social expectations? But by the time we left we felt relaxed, at home, and more like pioneers who had begun the process of breaking an invisible barrier that until now held this wounded place in some kind of soulless imprisonment.”
The Global Earth Exchange, which this year takes place on June 25, is an opportunity for people around the world to explore that mysterious and powerful process of breaking the “invisible barrier” that persuades us that the intimate relationship we have with a place has been destroyed just because the place itself has been harmed.
What logical cause might we ascribe to the effect of falling in love with a gas fracking site, a streetcorner where an act of violence has occurred, or a shrinking lake? One answer is that, by allowing ourselves to be present emotionally, physically, and spiritually to a place, we recognize the universality of hurt and our own ability to witness it, offer compassion, and respond together with creativity.
Why does it work—and so profoundly? That remains a mystery.
How does it work? Experience it for yourself on June 25!