There is so much uncertainty, upheaval, challenge and change in the world right now. To be fair, for a great many people and communities around the globe, this is their daily experience has always been the case – so what’s new? Perhaps the case was ever thus.
From my vantage point the last few years have been particularly tumultuous at the macro level: Brexit, the pandemic, a war in Europe, death of our longest-reigning Monarch, 3 Prime Ministers in 4 years, the looming energy and cost-of-living crises; and of course, climate change/breakdown and biodiversity loss with accompanying weather extremities, hardship and humanitarian disasters to boot.
Wherever you are on planet earth, it can be easy to become disheartened, demoralised and despairing in the face of circumstances that can seem completely beyond one’s control, comprehension or power. It’s just so BIG and CoMPleX. Overwhelming.
I have had fair few moments – in particular when it comes to the climate and ecological emergency – silently screaming as everyone else seems to be going about their business, wrapped up in their own little world of concerns. Just WAKE UP, already! But also, that way of being is so beguiling and seductive. So much easier, somehow. So easy to slip back into the habits of old, as well – habits of thought, habits of ways I identify and relate with the world and other sentient beings, habits of comforting consumerism, habits of behaviour.
Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone’s book Active Hope: how to face the mess we’re in without going crazy offers readers a chance to broaden and shift their perspective on what can be terrorising and disempowering times. The book’s message is about “becoming active participants in bringing about what we hope for” (p.3), and provides a range of exercises, reflections and tools which aim to prompt the reader to cultivate and apply healthy, honest, practical and ultimately loving responses to oneself, people and earth. Hope is a practice. Something one does, just as we may meditate or play the piano.
We are in a period of time Joanna and Chris call ‘The Great Unravelling’ – overlapping forces of economic decline, depletion of resources, climate change, social unrest and conflict, mass extinction of species. We are in the midst of a fundamental transition where we can – if we collectively choose – evolve towards a post-industrialist society where we act for the sake of life on earth and not purely for our own material, ego-driven human needs. They call this ‘The Great Turning’. Some ladies are not for turning, apparently; this particular lady, however, chooses to turn…
The book has helped remind me of my own agency, to embrace humility along with stepping into my own power, and a recommitment to cultivate practices of hope, gratitude and action in my everyday life.
I read the second edition which was starting to show its age a little due to some of the current affairs examples and latest research. The third edition has recently been published and you can purchase it here.