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Il faudrait plus d'ouvrage qui comme cela mixte clairvoyance et mobilisation.
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These are the central questions that the book tries to answer.
It is an unusual topic to grapple with. All the other books on the subject of environmental activism that I've read failed to mention it, instead devoting their time to facts and figures that left no doubt about the gravity of the situation, the ways of thinking that have brought us to the brink, and the changes that we'll have to make to dig ourselves out. This suggested an unspoken assumption that informing us about the crisis ought to be sufficient to prompt us to avert it.
My experience has been quite different. Despite being exposed to the problem through various media, I took no interest in it until my late twenties. Once I did, I found it just as difficult to get the attention of others. Some didn't consider it relevant - they had more pressing personal issues to attend to and goals to pursue. To my surprise, there were others who also avoided the subject despite having a fairly good grasp of its magnitude and severity. They felt powerless to do anything about it, so they chose to make the most of the present circumstances and not dwell on tomorrow.
When faced with the same dilemma, the authors of the book opted for a third course of action - to do what they can to bring about the Great Turning, no matter how seemingly insignificant their contribution may be. Depending on where one is in life, this can be a difficult decision to comprehend. While it looks self-evident to me now, I don't think I would have appreciated it when I was younger. It is for this reason that I'm exceedingly grateful to Joanna and Chris for tackling the subject. If the Great Turning is to happen, we will need many more people to take on the challenge of working towards it without expecting to see it realised in their lifetime.
The authors don't spend much time dwelling on the particulars of the global crises that we face, supplying just enough information to set the book's main topic in context. Still, the information that is provided, and particularly the ways in which it is visualised, is among the most stirring that I've seen. I have found it very difficult to read about the dream of leaving a barren, hostile world to our children to inherit, and not be moved to preserve its current life-giving qualities.
Perhaps the most importantly, the book does a great job of presenting alternatives to the dominant assumptions of the modern society. It illustrates how we commonly think of concepts like power and time, how these ingrained ideas have contributed to our predicament, and what alternative views can help us overcome it. Here, it is well complemented by John Broomfield's book Other Ways of Knowing: Recharting Our Future with Ageless Wisdom, which contains a more comprehensive analysis of our unidirectional concept of time and its alternatives, as well as Jack Reed's book The Next Evolution: A Blueprint for Transforming the Planet, which redefines wealth in terms of access to goods and services instead of exclusive consumption derived from their ownership. Noticing, let alone changing, the core assumptions that underpin one's worldview can be exceedingly difficult. This makes these insights all the more crucial.
On a more personal note, the book is a rich treasure of thought-provoking questions and other material that can be invaluable in a workshop setting. This is hardly surprising, considering that it has originated from a series of workshops that were conducted by Joanna over many years. I have found it tremendously useful in my own course work, as well as for personal reflection.
As its authors contend, great revolutions start in the fringes. It shows a "third story": neither "we'll figure something out, just keep doing what you are doing" nor "we are already screwed, what is the point of anything?", but the very human ability to rise to the occasion and finally reach our collective adulthood as a "life-sustaining society", to use their words. I cannot yet say that I have become an optimist, at least not a full-time one. But maybe that is precisely the point -central in the book, to be sure-: is it only worth fighting for something we have good chances of succeeding at? What if we do not have a clue about the chances we actually have, what if we even KNOW that they are slim: does that make the very cause of making our world a place in which life is celebrated, and not exploited, not worth the effort?
I do not think so. As Frankl attests, even in the worst conceivable conditions, nobody can take away from me the freedom to choose my attitude and find meaning in my life. There is a phrase that has been popping a lot into my mind lately. Nando Parrado said it to Roberto Canessa, in 1972, when they made their last attempt to cross the Andes to Chile, 70 days after their plane crashed in the mountains, when almost everyone had given up on them: "If I die, I'm gonna die walking". This book is a priceless compass to do just that.
Just imagine what the world can be like if millions of us choose to acknowledge our pain, our fear, our ultimate freedom- and keep walking.
This would be a particularly wonderful book to share in a book group as well!
And if you're super lucky like I am, you can read it in a group of amazing people, with someone who has attended a Joanna Macy workshop & is working from the "Coming Back to Life" book as a reference to running your little "book club."
Words can't begin to convey the sort of experience I've had working through this book with a group. I've been struggling to try to do so, and have found it so intense that it's hard to not sound like a wide-eyed recent religious convert. In some ways, maybe I am a convert, but certainly not a religious one.
Work that reconnects? You're damned right it does.
Active Hope is not wishful thinking.
Active Hope is not waiting to be rescued
by the Lone Ranger or by some savior.
Active Hope is waking up to the beauty of life
on whose behalf we can act.
Key is the acknowledgment that we don’t know how things will turn out. But we can make a choice about what we’d like to have happen and put ourselves fully behind that possibility. (Think Lord of the Rings.) They hold up three types of activism: 1. holding actions (protecting what is left), 2. life-sustaining systems and practices (replacing the Business as Usual destruction), and 3. a shift in consciousness (that broadens our perspective to include connection to one another and the planet). This involves becoming clear what a good life is for you, what draws forth your deep aliveness. Then redefine success. Making a step in the direction you want to go is success. And make friends with uncertainty. We can never know the outcome. But one thing we are certain of. We will die. Let us die creating a possible wholesome future for all.
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