If the time is not ripe, ripen the time: The Wednesday 1-2-3

As a global society, we are in a time of immense change.

There are catastrophes everywhere we turn, all set against the broader backdrop of technological revolution, late-stage capitalism, white supremacy, institutional change, the challenging of democracy as a political philosophy, and an existential climate emergency.

In such an overwhelming context, it can be easy to slip into despair or denial – and even easier to slip into apathy and inaction.

But in the midst of these kinds of moments, there is also an invitation to be part of the ripening of time.

Dorothy Height, a civil rights and women’s rights activist, had a favorite saying:

“If the time is not ripe, we have to ripen the time.”

For her, this meant working and organizing for social justice and exposing the ways in which the status quo oppressed Black women across the United States. Her actions and life’s work were to embolden Black women to demand and use their voting rights to re-shape the way in which political power was leveraged, especially in the South.

Her work ripened time in the United States, pushing it toward a new way of being. (A new way that is still emerging.)

Like Dorothy Height, we are invited into this process.

Here are just a few ways we might work to ripen time (many of which flow together):

1. Act as if the future is now.

Another phrase for this might be imaginative action. This is the process of embodying the values we wish to see more of in the world in the present moment. Whether it's at work, with family, amongst a faith community, or just while walking down a street, how are you working to embody the norms, language, behavior, and values that live a possible future into the now?

Examples might include:

  • Altering spending/buying habits
  • Changing meeting structures
  • Creating new weekly rituals
  • Practicing mindfulness

2. Confront the shadows of the moment.

Dorothy Height loved to quote Frederick Douglass who said the three most effective ways to fight for justice are to "agitate, agitate, agitate."

By confronting the shadows of the moment, we refuse to leave unsaid and unquestioned the ways in which harm distorts our view of the inherent dignity of the world, of others, and of ourselves. By challenging what has been accepted or made "the default," we create space for new possibilities and ways of thinking.

Examples might include:

  • Organizing communities for healing + justice
  • Naming how systems of oppression operate
  • Challenging harmful narratives
  • Asking more questions
  • Protesting regularly

3. Engage a process of eldering.

An Elder is someone who has grown older and learned a posture, practice, and language of resilience and curious imagination. (This is my definition – feel free to create your own based on your experiences.)

By learning to embody this way of being, and then modeling it for others, Elders ripen time through their own journey of aging.

Richard Rohr writes this kind of personal ripening (eldering) "is always characterized by an increasing tolerance for ambiguity, a growing sense of subtlety, an ever-larger ability to include and allow, and a capacity to live with contradictions and even to love them!"

Some examples of intentional eldering might include:

  • Practicing curiosity
  • Letting go the need for control
  • Participating (not necessarily leading) in community
  • Engaging in personal and communal inner work practices


  1. How are you participating in the "ripening of time?"
  2. When you look at the examples above, which resonate the most with you? What is one thing you might do to participate more deeply in this movement of ripening?


⏪ If you missed last week's email:

I shared a beautiful poem from James A. Pearson.

Hope you're well or well-enough,


The Wednesday 1-2-3

Inner work frameworks, practices, and questions – all in a five-minute read. Delivered to your inbox every Wednesday morning before you even wake up. Written and curated by Andrew Lang.

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