Warning: Part of a dark series about our scary future

Photo of fog overflowing the Golden Gate Bridge and invading the city. You can see one tower of the bridge in muted red, with cables sweeping down and away from it, artistically, and disappearing into the fluffy white. In the background is the bluish charcoal grey skyline of San Francisco. The sky is a dull blue getting ready for twilight. You might think of the fog as a blanket, but it’s chilly rather than cozy.
Photo of fog overflowing the Golden Gate Bridge and invading the city. You can see one tower of the bridge in muted red, with cables sweeping down and away from it, artistically, and disappearing into the fluffy white. In the background is the bluish charcoal grey skyline of San Francisco. The sky is a dull blue getting ready for twilight. You might think of the fog as a blanket, but it’s chilly rather than cozy.
Photo by Sundry Photography on Shutterstock

It was summer in San Francisco. Hundreds of us had marched to City Hall for a protest. As the afternoon was ending and the rally was winding down, a cold fog blew in. The final speaker jammed the mike against his mouth to blast out a warning: “If you don’t have hope you won’t do anything!”

His tone of contempt implied: “And if you don’t do anything, you won’t be anybody, not anybody worth caring about.”

I shrank into my jacket, not wanting him to spot me because I don’t have hope. Cheers broke out all around and I shrank…


Photo of a cabin in the woods, lush ranks of trees on either side, an opening in front of it something like a yard, but scruffy, done by nature. The cabin has warm yellow light in the windows, but the windows have a couple random boards nailed across. What’s that about? Up in the darkened sky is the hazy moon sugaring the scene with misty light.
Photo of a cabin in the woods, lush ranks of trees on either side, an opening in front of it something like a yard, but scruffy, done by nature. The cabin has warm yellow light in the windows, but the windows have a couple random boards nailed across. What’s that about? Up in the darkened sky is the hazy moon sugaring the scene with misty light.
Photo by Ursatii on Shutterstock

Dogs barking echoes
into the woods
as twilight comes then goes dark.

I pace the square
inside my cabin.

Dogs barking up the hill,
barks bouncing off the moon,
falling back down,
landing in the leaf litter softly.

I ask myself for solutions,
Who? What? When?
Questions that hit the wall hard
and fall empty to the floor.

Dogs barking barks
that slam dance out in the yard.

I talk to the clock:
Move, hands, move!
Take this cup of time from me.

Dogs barking staccatos
like pointillist painters
with palettes of sound.

I fall into bed exhausted
begging the night to find for me
something I can’t find for myself.

Dogs lying all about,
snoring snores,
spilling sawdust everywhere.


Warning: Part of a dark series about our scary future

Day and night, as we broadcast TV and radio programs into our homes, we’re also beaming them into outer space, where they go traveling at the speed of light in all directions. Maybe they’ll sail on into oblivion never noticed by anyone, but what if one day on a distant planet, denizens of another civilization are able to pull in those programs and decode them?

What might they think of us as they watch our goofball sitcoms, our trashy celebrity gossip, our mean-spirited political battles, the hellish stories of our wars, and the relentless, grinding exploitation of humans by humans…


Photo of three domestic geese, white with orange bills, staring directly at us over a woven wattle fence. They each have a stern look on their face. There’s water behind them, then mud, then a wall made of stone blocks. Green branches of a tree are hanging down into the photo with a spot of sun on them.
Photo of three domestic geese, white with orange bills, staring directly at us over a woven wattle fence. They each have a stern look on their face. There’s water behind them, then mud, then a wall made of stone blocks. Green branches of a tree are hanging down into the photo with a spot of sun on them.
YesPhotographers from Shutterstock

My geese this morning
are honking in the hollow,
but listen,
they sound like barking dogs
with a ragged edge to their mood.
I try but I don’t understand their complaint,
Maybe they’re just too mad to explain themselves.


Photo of an American avocet against the intense blue background of the water she’s wading in. Her face is white upfront but transitions from her eyes on back over her head and down her neck into a reddish-orange brown, or light russet. Her body is white with black wings which have a white stripe on them. She’s got long, thin ballerina legs. Her bill is dripping water, and some stringy bits of weeds are hanging there. She’s just harvested a tiny red water creature, perfect for breakfast.
Photo of an American avocet against the intense blue background of the water she’s wading in. Her face is white upfront but transitions from her eyes on back over her head and down her neck into a reddish-orange brown, or light russet. Her body is white with black wings which have a white stripe on them. She’s got long, thin ballerina legs. Her bill is dripping water, and some stringy bits of weeds are hanging there. She’s just harvested a tiny red water creature, perfect for breakfast.
Kerry Hargrove on Shutterstock

Scything the water
side to side
with the curved blade of their bills.
Gentle farmers
who sow not
but reap.


Replace them with direct conversation or nest them in direct conversation

This graphic is set against a black background. In the center it says “360-degree Feedback.” Around it is a circle with six segments listing who gives the feedback: supervisors, colleagues, self, subordinates, suppliers, customers. Each is set in a different pastel color; mauve, green, pink, yellow, purple, blue. I put this image here to anchor in the basic idea of a 360 in case anyone is vague on what it is. But I wrote this post for people who are all too familiar with 360s.
This graphic is set against a black background. In the center it says “360-degree Feedback.” Around it is a circle with six segments listing who gives the feedback: supervisors, colleagues, self, subordinates, suppliers, customers. Each is set in a different pastel color; mauve, green, pink, yellow, purple, blue. I put this image here to anchor in the basic idea of a 360 in case anyone is vague on what it is. But I wrote this post for people who are all too familiar with 360s.

The most important work we ever do in our organizations is to deepen and strengthen our working relationships with each other.

360s are supposed to help us do better with relationships. They’re supposed to help people see their strengths so they can build on them. And they’re supposed to help people fix their problem areas, so they can do better work, and so they can be more pleasant to work with.

But in my twenty years of coaching nonprofit leaders and activists, what I’ve seen is this: too many people get their feelings hurt by conventional 360s.

And the result…


Missing the point

Jesus was broadly inclusive. He welcomed into his movement the outcasts of his day. He instructed his disciples to preach the Gospel everywhere — north, south, east, west.

But still he drew a line. And anyone on the other side of that line, he condemned. For example, in Mark 16:16 he said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”

And if that’s not scary enough, he made the fate of outsiders more explicit in Matthew 13: 49–50, where he said: “So shall it be at the end of the world…


Photo or graphic of an empty white-out. The center is pure white, like what people talk about seeing when they’re dying, you know, “Go to the light.” But for me, this feels like utter emptiness. Around the center are drops of white against a background of soft gray. I could have picked a pure white graphic to illustrate nothingness, but this one felt more compelling to me — somethings pointing to nothing. I also looked at graphics of blackouts. but my childhood God was so absolutely white.
Photo or graphic of an empty white-out. The center is pure white, like what people talk about seeing when they’re dying, you know, “Go to the light.” But for me, this feels like utter emptiness. Around the center are drops of white against a background of soft gray. I could have picked a pure white graphic to illustrate nothingness, but this one felt more compelling to me — somethings pointing to nothing. I also looked at graphics of blackouts. but my childhood God was so absolutely white.
Photo by Stephanie Zieber on Shutterstock

When I was a kid in church I was taught that my soul was invisible, immaterial, insubstantial, and incorporeal — all adjectives of nothingness. At the same time it was a divine presence. God shot it into my body at birth from his dwelling place in the heavens above, out there beyond the clouds, beyond the stratosphere where the airplanes travel. No wonder it felt cold. Outer-space cold.

“Soul” is used to mean so many things — essential self, transcendent spirit, deepest calling, driving passion, anchoring force, what makes you you, that something that survives death.

But I use it…


Warning: Part of a dark series about our scary future

I used to love to tell the story about the window of opportunity. When I was young and devoted to activism, I told it to anyone who would listen.

You know how it goes. Even though we’re in mortal danger, we still have a chance to save ourselves — but only if we take action right now, no more talking, no more delays — because the window is closing and it’s closing fast. How much time have we got? That depends. Some say ten years, some twenty, some go as high as a hundred. …


Photo of six pine trees in the foreground, with more ranged behind them immediately and off into the distance. The trunks go up ten to fifteen feet before the branches break out into a bushy crown. Bishops have thick, sturdy, heavy cones that hold themselves tightly together. They’re a work of art. You might imagine a carpenter made them. You wouldn’t ever want one to fall on your head.
Photo of six pine trees in the foreground, with more ranged behind them immediately and off into the distance. The trunks go up ten to fifteen feet before the branches break out into a bushy crown. Bishops have thick, sturdy, heavy cones that hold themselves tightly together. They’re a work of art. You might imagine a carpenter made them. You wouldn’t ever want one to fall on your head.
Photo by Yuriy Kulik on Shutterstock — I don’t know the actual names of these pines. They’re the closest I could get to Bishops. They remind me of my old friends who I knew for many years but only saw open once.

Big bushy Bishop pines,
dignified attendants of the scene,
have always been at home here
wrapped in the cold and the fog
of our seaside city.

But today when the temperature
is an astounding 100 degrees Fahrenheit,
and I’m sweating through my clothing,

as I walk by them,
these trees are crackling
like logs on a winter fire.

This can’t be!

Surprise knocks my mind awry, and
okay, count me in, I like a good mystery.
But before I can get to work on it,
I see all the clues I need,
dozens of them,

tender, tiny, glistening whirlybirds,
a shower…

Rich Snowdon

Author of Love with Fight in its Heart, free at www.lovewithfight.com. And author of a website on post-hope activism: www.advocating4activists.net.

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