This past Monday night I attended a test screening of a rough cut version of “Evolve Love,” Velcrow Ripper’s documentary film in progress. Ripper’s newest documentary is the culmination of a twelve year journey that began with the release of “Scared Sacred” in 1999.

In his first film Velcrow Riper headed into some of the most frightening places on earth. He went to the minefields of Cambodia, war-torn Afghanistan, the toxic wasteland of Bhopal, post-9/11 New York, Bosnia, Hiroshima, Israel, and Palestine looking for the sacred stories he believed were hidden in scared places. It was he says, “a transformative journey based on the Buddhist practice of tonglen in which the practitioner chooses to breathe in suffering and breathe out compassion.”

Ripper traveled in search of signs of the sacred where we might least expect to find them and was never disappointed. “Scared Sacred” is a song of praise to the indomitable power of the human spirit.

In 2009 Velcrow produced “Fierce Light” in which he explored the intersection between spiritual practice and social action. This second film led naturally to “Evolve Love,” which Ripper says, “Offers the motivation of love in a time of climate crisis as the driving force that has the power to create the changes the world needs.”

“Evolve Love” paints an unflinching picture of the climate crisis we face in the world. Ripper does not hesitate to present the gloomy realities of the state of the environment we inhabit. But he is not content to stop with the bad news. Ripper is determined to move on from the apocalyptic analysis of the state of the world and find light.

“Evolve Love” is a film version of the tonglen practice. While it breathes in the deep suffering of the world, it breathes out compassion and love for all sentient beings. Ripper is trying to create media that he says will help the viewer to “keep their heart open and spacious in the face of everything.”

Ripper is primarily an artist of hope. He affirms that “We can always keep our heart open, staying spacious in the face of everything. The one thing no one can take from us is our ability to choose how we respond to whatever is going on.”

Monday night was the second time I have seen Ripper interact with an audience around one of his films. In both discussion sessions with Ripper, I have been struck by a disturbing characteristic of the audience. Most of us in the audience on both occasions were of the Baby Boomer generation. It appears that a lot of Baby Boomers are angry and deeply cynical.

We seem to have an uneasy feeling that the world is a bit of a mess and we want desperately to know who to blame. We want to identify the enemy, presumably making clear that we are not in the ranks of the bad guys. In a delightful response to one harangue from a member of the audience, Ripper replied, “Maybe I could just list all the bad guys in the credits at the end of the film.”

It seems to make Baby Boomers uneasy that Velcrow, while acknowledging the reality of the terrible state of the world, refuses to point fingers and identify the culprits.

He is simply unwilling to play this game. Ripper wants to acknowledge honestly the realities we face but then to raise up stories of encouragement and hope. He seems to genuinely believe in the power of goodness and love at work in the world. He has visited some of the most painful places on earth and has seen that, wherever people are willing to focus on the light, powerful movements for change begin to evolve.

I am sad that my generation is so cynical and bitter that we feel uncomfortable with the possibility of hope. It is distressing that we are so reluctant to trust that there may be goodness at the core of all human beings and that this goodness might be a positive force for change in the world.

The bitter cynicism of my generation offers little hope for the world. It will never lead to creative new opportunities and healthy change. It may be that my generation is going to have to step aside and allow a younger generation, who have yet to become cynical and hardened by the pain of the world, to emerge as the new leaders for positive global change.


You can learn more about Velcrow Ripper’s work at