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Lions Roar : July 2016
and environmental issues. As a contributing editor to Harper’s magazine, she is the first woman to regularly write the “Easy Chair” column. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Lannan Literary Award, and a National Book Critics Cir- cle Award. Her book Hope in the Dark was reissued this year. Hope is an essential part of Solnit’s work, and she has come to see that uncertainty is integral to hope. Solnit says that exploring hope requires an investigation of its other side—despair, which she views as certainty grounded in the negative. She hears despair expressed often, in statements such as “We don’t have any power,” “It didn’t change any- thing,” and “Nonviolence doesn’t work.” The implication is that a victory that isn’t final isn’t a victory at all. To counter that despair, Solnit illuminates the beauty, joy, and victories that activist movements, and society at large, have already achieved. “There was this long period when everybody was saying, ‘Oh, feminism failed,’” she says. “I say, ‘Hey, we’re undoing five thousand years of patriarchal culture. Don’t be so shocked that we didn’t finish the job in fifty years. Just look back fifty years to see an almost unrecog- nizably misogynist landscape in which we didn’t even have concepts like marital rape, sexual harassment, date rape, or terms like ‘glass ceilings’ and ‘microaggressions.’ There’s a huge amount of language that’s been developed to describe the realities of discrimination.” Solnit highlights “amazing movements like Black Lives Matter, started by black women; Idle No More, started by indigenous women in Canada; and a wonderful new genera- tion of young feminists who are not intimidated into trying to be nice and placating and who are fearless in telling it like it is. Young people are rejecting these tidy, firm gender boundaries that limit who each of them and all of us can be. There are the victories of same-sex marriage and the growing strength of a climate movement that wasn’t really much to write home about ten years ago and is now effectively challenging pipe- lines, fracking, mining, coal plants, and different pieces of the climate picture.” * * * “The coolness of Buddhism isn’t indif- ference but the distance one gains on emotions, the quiet place from which to regard the turbulence. From far away you see the pattern, the connections, and the thing as a whole, see all the islands and the routes between them.” THE FARAWAY NEARBY Rebecca Solnit doesn’t label herself a Buddhist. She likes the term “bad Buddhist,” which she heard poet Gary Snyder use for people who don’t sit every day, follow the rules, or observe all the precepts perfectly. It’s an approach, she says, in which “Buddhism is your guiding star, not the planet you live on necessarily every day.” For her, formal meditation is not the only way to practice. “Practice is how you’re interacting with everything all the time,” she says, Solnit’s journey into Buddhism was not straightforward. “I had a fairly nightmarish father, but he was interested in Zen Buddhism,” she recounts. “I actually went to Green Gulch Zen Center with him a few times as a kid, and I have fond memories of the zendo, that beautiful wooden barn space. Then my older brothers had this friend who became kind of a creepy stalker who was also very into Buddhism. These not- so-great men really put me off Buddhism until I realized they didn’t represent what Buddhism is.” Solnit says that living in the Bay Area, Buddhism sur- rounds her. “It’s not like some places in the U.S. where it’s still this exotic Eastern thing. I live in a city where there’s almost as many Asian people as white people, where every kind of Buddhism has a strong presence and it’s pretty nor- “Millions of people,” Solnit says, “are walking away from a status quo that doesn’t serve them, and making more beautiful versions together.” PHOTOBYGRAHAMLAWRENCE/ALAMYSTOCKPHOTO LION’S ROAR | JULY 2016 42