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Widening Circles: A Memoir Paperback – January 1, 2001

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Macy has traveled widely and lived deeply: she is an "eco-philosopher" and a scholar of Buddhism. Now more than 70, she writes about her life very engagingly, from the maple tree she loved as a child on her grandfather's farm to her current home in the Bay Area; from India and Africa to Tibet, Sri Lanka, and Washington, D.C. She tells of her controlling father, her love of study, her marriage and children, and her lovers and friends, but above all, she reflects on her life as a spiritual journey that embraces grace, Buddhist practice, and the sacred power of words. Her voice is warm, and her message--that love can endure, that the deepest hurts can heal, and that care for the environment is not only possible but necessary--suffuses all she writes. For those unable to attend one of her workshops on deep ecology or Buddhism, this memoir offers a glimpse and a taste. GraceAnne DeCandido
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


In this absorbing, and sometimes thrilling memoir, well-known eco-philosopher, Buddhist scholar, and deep ecology activist /teacher Joanna Macy recounts her adventures of mind and spirit in the key social movements of our era. Macy's autobiography reads like a novel as she relates her multi-faceted life experiences and reflects on how her marriage and family life enriched her service to the world.

Macy's formative years with an abusive father and oppressed mother set her on an irrevocable path of self-definition and independence. A short-lived stint with the CIA exposed Macy first hand to the Cold War's darkest threats: the construction of the hydrogen bomb and the building of the Berlin Wall. With three children in tow, Macy and her husband traveled with the Peace Corps to Africa, India, and Tibet, where her encounter with the Dalai Lama and Buddhism led to Macy's life-long embrace of the religion and a deep commitment to the peace and environmental movements.

In Widening Circles, the unique synthesis of spiritualism and activism that define Macy's contribution to the world are illuminated by the life-events and experiences that have paved her uncommon path.

Widening Circles has been made available through New Catalyst Books. New Catalyst Books is an imprint of New Society Publishers, aimed at providing readers with access to a wider range of books dealing with sustainability issues by bringing books back into print that have enduring value in the field. For more information on New Catalyst Books click here.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: New Catalyst Books (January 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1897408013
  • ISBN-13: 978-1897408018
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #458,826 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By R. Griffiths on October 26, 2000
Format: Paperback
I read this book because I had already found 'World as Lover, World as Self' to be inspiring. Joanna Macy's combination of Buddhism, general systems theory and deep ecology seems to 'fit' for me, but here it is her sheer humanity that impresses most. In this memoir she is not afraid to lay open her weaknesses as well as her strenghths, her questions as well as her answers. While her story ends in Bodh Gaya, the Indian site of the Buddha's awakening, what struck me most was the distance Macy had travelled to get there - a whole lifetime of journeying, and seventy years of a dramatically changing world to negotiate. A common thread through many of these years is Macy's opposition to the nuclear military/industrial complex, from her two years employment with the CIA and its culture of 'tough-mindedness' (p.65), to her visit to the people of Novozybkov, poisoned by Chernobyl, her insistence on the need to recognise, express and work through grief is constant. Her ability to guide people through despair to empowerment is a highly significant contribution to the world. To read the story of her life is to see how it can be possible to live without cynicism and with hope intact in the nuclear age. Since I had not read 'Coming Back to Life', Macy's nuclear guardianship project was new to me, and I found it extremely brave and moving. Another thread that runs through Macy's life story is the development of an authentic spirituality. Macy says 'the widening circles of my life have not had as their center the Big Papa God of my preacher forebears. I walked out on that belief when I was twenty'. (p. 277) Despite leaving formal Christianity, she tells of how she 'failed as an atheist' and of her many adventures with Buddhism.Read more ›
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful By shantinik on October 29, 2001
Format: Paperback
I live in the Pacific Northwest. We are experiencing a rather intense conflict over whalehunting by the Makah Indian Nation. Many non-Indian (and some Native) environmentalists and animal lovers oppose the whalehunt, mainly on the grounds that it sets a poor precedent to restart it after a 70-year hiatus, and that it makes a mockery of attempts to preserve the natural environment. Some, in my opinion, have been particularly disrespectful of tribal elders and customs, publicly stating that the whaling traditions of the Makah are long since dead, and that since Indians now live in modern housing and hold down jobs like the rest of us, whaling is no longer relevant to the native culture.
The Makah insist that whalehunting is part of their treaty rights, and for others to pick and choose which rights they are allowed to exercise is similar to allowing another nation to decide which articles in the Bill of Rights Americans should be allowed to enjoy. They see whalehunting as an important part of their cultural heritage, which they are seeking to preserve. They, too, however, have spoken as if blind to the efforts of environmentalists over the past four decades to preserve and protect whales and their habitats so that whalehunting could even be a question.
Both groups share something in common: anger and grief. Environmentalists grieve for a time when whales freely roamed the seas, when Pacific Coast forests covered the landscape, when the Puget Sound region was not simply a slash of highways and cheaply built (but high-priced) housing developments, when cities and towns were not choked with garbage. Certainly, global warming and the pollution of the seas - neither of which can be attributed to the Makah - have accounted for more whale deaths than the Makah could ever accomplish.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By D. R Wilkinson on July 25, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Joanna writes using all of the senses to 'catch' the reader's interest. I am inspired to say the least by her journey, her response to it and her willingness to share so candidly.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ravi C. on July 11, 2010
Format: Paperback
Joanna Macy is certainly a leading light of this century, particularly in the areas of eco-activist-philiosophy and engaged Buddhist practice. I'd heard of her, and heard her speak, before, but her memoir really helped me appreciate her and her work much more. It is really an autobiography, and as such, starts off rather slowly and often inserts mundane narrative detail (such as a bird stealing a piece of bread from her mouth in India); but the last sections dealing with her growing ecological awareness and her workshops including the "Council of All Beings" helped me visualize a way to help people get out of their egocentric/species-centric viewpoints and really understand the world and environment from different perspectives. This book, and her work, should be essential reading for anyone interested in environmental and ecological issues, and particularly nuclear waste issues. Well worth the effort, despite the slow start. Thank you, Joanna Macy.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mary Benefiel Dunn on February 22, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A compelling read about and by one of the leading lights of our time. Not only does Joanna Macey's journey inspire the reader, it is a reminds us that passion and curiosity is the fuel for greatness. This book covers an astonishing array of subjects, but in such a personal, warm way, one is drawn along as a friend into matters profound and current. A beautiful, accessible book!
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