THE BLOG

1000 Journals and the Capacity for Hope

10/17/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

What can one person do to change the world? How about add inspiration, beauty and create a community at the same time? Not bad for "some guy," eh?

A few years ago a friend handed me a partially finished journal and told me it was a collaborative journal being written by friends and strangers and, when completed, would be sent as a gift to a soldier in Iraq. My friend told me to add any image I'd like and then pass it back to him so he could get it to the next person, etc. until it was full of materials. Then the plan was that a journalist would sneak this book into Iraq and hand it over to the soldier.

I loved the intrigue and am a part-time artist so I added a figure that I thought would be a positive image, a yellow "dancing man" figure with the words "live" and "dance" written over the top. I didn't know it at the time but I was becoming part of one of the biggest art projects I've ever seen.

The real story behind the journal was that it was one of 1000 journals that an artist, known only as "Some Guy," had mailed, left or handed over in some form or another with the instructions: "Contribute something to the journal and then pass it on to someone else." One thousand journals made their way around the world, from hand to hand, sometimes randomly, sometimes, as in my case, friend to friend, and in at least one case, by mugging!

One at a time in the summer of 2000 Some Guy distributed the journals, thinking if he sent enough of them that he was bound to get at least one back. Finally, in 2003, one journal was returned after a visit to 13 US states, Ireland and Brazil. By then the word had spread further than just the "underground" and people were asking friends for journals: Do you have one, have you seen one, where can I get my hands on one? The three people I know who'd contributed were contacted and scheduled to be interviewed by filmmaker Andrea Kreuzhage (we didn't make the final cut though in one montage you can see my contributed image), who was traveling the world to interview contributors to this project.

The results, at least to date, are that 235 journals have been returned and the project isn't over yet. Articles have been written, new projects have grown from it and the movie has been released as a video, available at Amazon.com here. According to creator "Some Guy," the pages of the journals are filled with "amazing artwork, secret confessions, political rants and everything in between" and you can review the images on their home site: http://1000journals.com/.

So what do I love about it? Aside from the small footnote on my artist's resume that I'm in the project, I love the hope of it all. Here's a guy with a crazy idea, one that most people would say "that's crazy" to and yet he's done it and involved thousands, inspired millions and the project isn't over yet. The agenda was: here's a blank page, please fill it in, pass it on and return it to me. It's simple, straightforward, open and effective.

Not to mention that I love ideas that change the world and create a greater connection and a deeper experience of this life we're living. I love the belief that each of us has in us a genius waiting for expression and a venue if we just look far enough within. I know that all the challenges we're facing right now are linked into this, what my wife and I were calling this "capacity for hope" that Some Guy exhibits when he dreams up a crazy project like this one and actually makes it happen!

So, with no disrespect to the book of a similar title, I'm creating a project that, for now, is called The Capacity for Hope. It came about as my wife and I were taking a walk and discussing all of the crazy s@#t going on with our friends, neighbors and family lately: Divorces, foreclosures, bankruptcies and other issues, all in some way blamed on the economy or some other external force, but all of them creating real and, in many cases, frightening results.

I'm offering a free ongoing seminar, starting in September, for a limited amount of people, to offer ideas on how to overcome the negative influences, to find and get support from others who are struggling and in general to take on creating a positive shift in the world around us. The seminar will be held in the Chicago area for now and we'll see how it grows organically before considering, like Some Guy, to release it virally throughout the world. It may seem crazy but it's no crazier than reading headlines, voicing an opinion and waiting for things to change because it's "been long enough." It's time to roll up our collective sleeves and get into action, not our elected representatives, not our business leaders, and the "others" we put expectations and hopes in when things are too big for us. It's time for US to do what we can and offer the skills that we have in the service of hope and I'm starting with this project, this capacity we all have to give, receive and live in hope (plus action).

If you're in the Chicago area and are interested in attending this ongoing seminar, at no cost, contact me at James@Starofyourownlife.com with "Capacity Huffington Post" in the subject line. I'll have to limit the size of the class so don't wait too long, but I'll do my best to accommodate everyone who applies.

"Some Guy" says on the back of the journal: "This is an experiment and you are part of it." This Guy says, "Ddon't wait for things to change when YOU can make them happen NOW."