Weaving together the Buddhist principle of “dependent co-arising” with deep ecology, Macy offers a blueprint for positive social change and for reversing the destructive attitudes that have brought us to the brink of extinction. A thorough overview of two decades of this prominent eco-philosopher’s ground-breaking work.
The first great joy of this book is encountering Joanna Macy herself. It always inspires and refreshes to come into contact with a truly alive, spiritual personality. —Currents in Theology
The concerns that animate my thought and work are more than environmental. Nuclear issues and peace and justice issues have summoned and shaped me just as much. My use of the word ecology, as in deep ecology, often refers to the relational nature and structure of reality not just to environmental matters.
When the health of the planet and joys of the planet and other beings become important to you, as you become increasingly aware that destruction of the planet and other life forms is a source of great personal distress to you, it’s not entering into a new strange state but rather coming home to a very natural relationship with the world.
From Chapter 1
Our planet is in trouble. It is hard to go anywhere without being confronted by the wounding of our world, the tearing of the very fabric of life. In the face of what is happening, how do we avoid feeling overwhelmed and just giving up, turning to the many diversions and demands of our consumer societies?
It is essential that we develop our inner resources. We have to learn to look at things as they are, painful and overwhelming as that may be, for no healing can begin until we are fully present to our world, until we learn to sustain the gaze.
There have been small groups throughout history that have proclaimed the end of the world, such as at the time of the first millennium and again during the Black Plague in Europe. These expectations arose within the context of religious faith, of a belief in a just but angry God ready to punish his wayward children. But now the prospect is spelled out in sober scientific data, not religious belief, and it is entirely devoid of transcendent meaning. I stress the unprecedented nature of our situation, because I want to inspire awe, respect, and compassion for what we are experiencing. With isolated exceptions, every generation prior to ours has lived with the assumption that other generations would follow. It has always been assumed, as an integral part of human experience, that the work of our hands and heads and hearts would live on through those who came after us, walking on the same earth beneath the same sky. Plagues, wars, and personal death have always taken place within that wider context, the assurance of continuity. Now we have lost the certainty that we will have a future. I believe that this loss, felt at some level of consciousness by everyone, regardless of political orientation, is the pivotal psychological reality of our time.
From The Great Turning
The shift to a life-sustaining civilization.
“The Great Turning” is a name for the essential adventure of our time: the shift from the industrial growth society to a life-sustaining civilization.
The ecological and social crises we face are inflamed by an economic system dependent on accelerating growth. This self-destructing political economy sets its goals and measures its performance in terms of ever-increasing corporate profits, in other words, by how fast materials can be extracted from Earth and turned into consumer products, weapons, and waste.
A revolution is underway because people are realizing that our needs can be met without destroying our world. We have the technical knowledge, the communication tools, and material resources to grow enough food, ensure clean air and water, and meet rational energy needs. Future generations, if there is a livable world for them, will look back at the epochal transition we are making to a life-sustaining society. And they may well call this the time of the Great Turning. It is happening now.
Whether or not it is recognized by corporate-controlled media, the Great Turning is a reality. Although we cannot know yet if it will take hold in time for humans and other complex life forms to survive, we can know that it is under way. And it is gaining momentum, through the actions of countless individuals and groups around the world. To see this as the larger context of our lives clears our vision and summons our courage.
Personal Guidelines for the Great Turning
Come from Gratitude
To be alive in this beautiful, self-organizing universe—to participate in the dance of life with senses to perceive it, lungs that breathe it, organs that draw nourishment from it—is a wonder beyond words. Gratitude for the gift of life is the primary wellspring of all religions, the hallmark of the mystic, the source of all true art. Furthermore, it is a privilege to be alive in this time when we can choose to take part in the self-healing of our world.
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark
This is a dark time, filled with suffering and uncertainty. Like living cells in a larger body, it is natural that we feel the trauma of our world. So don’t be afraid of the anguish you feel, or the anger or fear, for these responses arise from the depth of your caring and the truth of your interconnectedness with all beings. “To suffer with” is the literal meaning of compassion.
Dare to Vision
Out of this darkness a new world can arise, not to be constructed by our minds so much as to emerge from our dreams. Even though we cannot see clearly how it’s going to turn out, we are still called to let the future into our imagination. We will never be able to build what we have not first cherished in our hearts.
Roll Up Your Sleeves
Many people don’t get involved in the Great Turning because there are so many different issues, which seem to compete with each other. Shall I save the whales or help battered children? The truth is that all aspects of the current crisis reflect the same mistake, setting ourselves apart and using others for our gain. So to heal one aspect helps the others to heal as well. Just find what you love to work on and take joy in that. Never try to do it alone. Link up with others; you’ll spark each others’ ideas and sustain each others’ energy.
Act Your Age
Since every particle in your body goes back to the first flaring forth of space and time, you’re really as old as the universe. So when you are lobbying at your congressperson’s office, or visiting your local utility, or testifying at a hearing on nuclear waste, or standing up to protect an old grove of redwoods, you are doing that not out of some personal whim, but in the full authority of your 15 billion years.”