by Donna Sinclair
Wood Lake Publishing,
2019. 175 pages.
$16.00 CAD (paper)
$10.00 CAD (Kindle)
ISBN # 78177331543
“How does it happen that a rather shy and not-terribly-brave individual finds herself getting arrested on Parliament Hill? Why does a woman who prefers to commune with pole beans all summer end up laboriously writing speeches to present at City Hall? There is no need for this. I am 74 years old, elderly. It would be more suitable for me to spend my remaining days quietly reading novels than singing protest songs. What happened?”
These are the questions that sometimes plague Donna Sinclair. A widely-travelled, award-winning journalist for more than 27 years, now retired, Sinclair could easily sit back and simply enjoy her garden, her grandkids, and her remaining years with her husband.
Yet that is not what she has chosen to do. Sinclair, like an ever increasing number of her peers, as well as younger people the world over, has chosen the path of activism. But why?
“I am not alone with these questions. Most activists, I am convinced, do not wake up one morning and say to themselves, ‘I think I will spend today, and perhaps the rest of my life, antagonizing large corporate bodies – with untold amounts of money to spend – and even some of my neighbours, so that I don’t get enough sleep and am constantly making anguished trade-offs about how I will spend my time.’
“This book is an effort to figure out why and how environmental activists fall passionately in love with a lake, a river, or a planet and its people. It’s a primer, or an alphabet, on how to stay strong enough to keep putting that love into action, over and over.
I prefer working in my garden to saving the world, which often seems to
involve meetings and marching… but I still find myself involved in some
form of environmental activism… I am happily retired… What happened?
I am not alone with these questions. Most activists, I am convinced, do
not wake up one morning and say to themselves, “I think I will spend
today, and perhaps the rest of my life, antagonizing large corporate
bodies, with untold amounts of money to spend… so that I don’t get
enough sleep and am constantly making anguished trade-offs bout
how I will spend my time.
This book is my attempt to figure out why and how environmental activists fall passionately in love with a lake, a river or a planet. It’s a primer, or an alphabet, on how to stay strong enough to keep putting that love into action, over and over.
I write as a of person faith, with a particular perspective that will show
here and there throughout the text. My aim, however, is not to exclude
anyone. In fact, I hope the opposite will prove true. My personal faith
invites into partnership people of all faiths and of no faith – because love
is what we should be about, even though it makes us terribly vulnerable
to grief and loss; and because good and evil is what we should be about,
even though that causes us to study, and learn and intervene, trying to
protect. Trying to find hope. Trying to see the divine in this chaos.
So this book is a challenge. The earth our home is in trouble. We know
this. Its climate is changing. Whole swaths of it at any one time are
suddenly on fire or underwater. Citizens become, in the blink of an eye,
stateless refugees. Transnational corporations shoulder aside elected
governments, extracting what they want from the earth without penalty.
Sometimes they even receive subsidies to do so.
So here is alphabetical order are words to declare that – against all
logic and good sense – we can resist this damage.
I offer these thoughts – words in fact – for meditation while you pile
sandbags or breath the smell of forest fires, attend a protest or simply
read the morning news. I hope they will help you delight in your
resistance and your love; I hope they help you be a holy activist.
– copied and interpreted from the author’s Introduction.
A journalist for more than 30 years, Donna Sinclair is an award-winning writer who has traveled widely in Canada, Africa, Central America, Britain, and Eastern Europe. She is the author of The Spirituality of Bread, The Spirituality of Gardening, A Woman’s Book of Days, A Woman’s Book of Days 2, The Long View and numerous other titles. Donna lives with her husband Jim in North Bay, Ontario.
Review By Wayne Holst
Donna Sinclair has, for many years, been writing books that interpret the
thoughts of academics and other formal thinkers into guidance and support for ordinary people. She has also written many articles what interpret the ordinary people of God to each other.
From this rich background, Donna writes here about activism grounded
in faith. As a teaching device, her book is structured around 26 words –
words based on the letters of our alphabet.
These words are as follows: audacity, beauty, courage, discernment,
ecumenical, freedom of speech, grassroots, hope, indigenous, judgement,
kindness, love, methods, no, obedience, prayer, quiet, respect, servant
leadership, trust, ubiquitous capitalism, virtuosity/vision, wisdom,
xerxes, yes, (and) the end (and for some of these she adds extra words).
As a member of the United Church of Canada, Donna brings to this work
a considerable amount of experience – both as a person of faith and a
citizen of the world. She believes it is very important to be both.
Thirty years ago, I become part of a United Church community in
Calgary and have never left it. I feel that what I contributed there,
over these three decades, is overshadowed by what I have received.
An important gift from St. David’s to me has been the ability to integrate
faith and action – or “praxis.” This book reflects that kind of gift.
I hope that you will consider locating this book and making something
wonderful out of the many years of experience it represents.
Wayne A. Holst was a Lutheran pastor (ELCIC) for 25 years. He taught religion and culture at the University of Calgary for a quarter century and co-ordinates adult spiritual development at St. David’s United Church, Calgary.
Colleagues List, Vol XV. No. 5, August 4, 2019