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World as Lover, World as Self: Courage for Global Justice and Ecological Renewal Paperback – October 9, 2003
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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About the Author
Eco-philosopher Joanna Macy, Ph.D., is one of the best know spiritual activist in this country. She is a scholar of Buddhism, general systems theory, and deep ecology. A respected voice in movements for peace, justice, and ecology, she interweaves her scholarship with four decades of activism. Her wide-ranging work addresses psychological and spiritual issues of the nuclear age, the cultivation of ecological awareness, and the fruitful resonance between Buddhist thought and contemporary science. Her group methods have been adopted and adapted widely in classrooms, churches, and grassroots organizing. Her work helps people transform despair and apathy, in the face of overwhelming social and ecological crises, into constructive, collaborative action. The author of 10 previous books Mrs. Macy travels widely giving lectures, workshops, and trainings in the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Australia. She lives in Berkeley, California.
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For real spirituality, for a view of the self and the world both exhilarating and useful -- see Joanna Macy. Put her picture in the dictionary next to the word 'visionary'. She is helping us re-imagine time, the world and the self. She's not skipping the pain and she's telling the truth.
We say "everything is interconnected" but what does that mean? We produce depleted uranium with a half-life of 4.5 billion years -- how do we even start to think about that kind of time? What if it's already too late? Am I just a drama queen when I cry thinking about the polar bears who drown because they can't find ice on which to rest? These are the questions I have -- and this is the book for them.
I read an earlier version of this book when I was nineteen, sitting in a college library. I remember writing "the forests are my lungs outside the body" and understanding a little bit and reeling. For a week, I staggered around like a man hit on the head with a plank.
If our species and civilization are going to survive, we have to take a humungous leap. Recycling cans and eating blueberries is not going to be enough. Al Gore, Thomas Friedman, Lester Brown are lined up with suggestions but where does the strength and vision necessary for transformation come? For that, Joanna Macy is the best guide I have found.
This is a collation of Amazon and Goodreads readers’ responses to Joanna Macy’s book, “World as love, world as self. (up to Oct., ‘13). My voice, in italics, structures and adds comments. Joanna’s voice is mostly indirect, seen through the mirror of her readers; readers identified by initials. The average reader ratings of Joanna Macy’s book were sky-high for both Goodreaders (n=126) 4.35 of 5, and Amazon rankers (n=11) 5.0 of 5.
Joanna Macy’s work* brings my mind, spirit, and action home. She writes, “The one question threading through my life here on this beautiful Earth is about how to be fully present to my world—present enough to rejoice and be useful—while we as a species are progressively destroying it. This book is my attempt to answer this preoccupation, as well as insight into the relief and guidance I have found in the teachings of the Buddha.” Intro, p. 11
Her words invite us to learn our world anew, to notice, to feel deeply, to change, and to act.
Learning from Joanna Macy’s words:
“I can’t even begin to put into words how important this book is. It focuses on our interconnectedness with the natural world, the psychology behind our apparent disconnect… and how to begin to change it, to come back to our rightful place in nature. If you want to heal your relationship with the planet, this is a must read. “ (MK)
” …uniquely large scale meditation on social justice and ecology…. At the same time, it promotes philosophical approaches to despair, shares heartening poems, and guides readers through meditation exercises.” (JU)
“Macy merges Deep Ecology, Buddhism and systems theory to address the many environmental crises we face.” (NM) “ The book’s title… suggests [that] people tend to view the world in one of at least four ways: as battlefield, as trap [‘in which the world is viewed as a tempter, ensnaring us in its web, and that our job is to transcend this existence to free ourselves from it’-TOD], as lover or as self.” (RG)
“Her foundation is firmly in Buddhist thinking and practice, and she spends the first half of the book giving us a compelling history of Buddhist thought and its place among other religious and spiritual traditions. “ (KC) “The parts of this book that deal with Dependent (or Interdependent) Co-Arising, the history of Buddhism, and the parallels between Buddhism and Systems Theory are very good….” (CHA).
She teaches a challenging philosophy–“There’s a lot of fairly technical stuff about early Buddhist doctrine, which I probably didn’t understand at all.” (SAR)
Mutual causality: “Part Two discusses the contemporary relevance of classic Buddhist teachings, especially the concept of ‘mutual causality’ (RG). Joanna speaks of “deceptively simple” dependent co-arising/mutual causality, “…things do not produce each other or make each other happen, as in linear causality. They help each other happen by providing occasion or locus or context, and in so doing, they in turn are affected.” [p. 33]
Gaia is a self-regulating world: “I loved her [quoting] Australian rainforest campaigner, John Seed: ‘I try to remember that it’s not me… trying to protect the rainforest. Rather , I am part of the rainforest protecting itself.’…This book connects ecological activism, psychology and Buddhism together in a wonderfully encouraging way. I particularly like the guided meditations that are found throughout the book, especially the ‘Meditations in Deep Time’ section where we reconnect with the beings of the past and the future and ultimnately with Gaia herself.” (JG)
*including Active Hope, Mutual Causality in Buddhism and General Systems Theory, Coming Back to Life, and Widening Circles: a Memoir. [move to bottom of page]
Engaging mind through learning demands active noticing. “Macy writes about the Buddhist practice of “Sarvodaya” – which means ‘everybody wakes up.’” (RM) “We say “everything is interconnected” but what does that mean?… These are the questions I have — and this is the book for them.” (GD)
Time,a friend in peril
[This book is] “mostly about future looking. A new idea for me was ‘reinhabiting time’ to be responsible to future generations.” Joanna Macy asks us, through the voices of the Haudenosaunee (Iriquois Confederacy) to listen to the voices 7 generations back and the voices of those 7 generations forward. She contrasts this view with a pervasive “hurry sickness.” (AM)
Capitalism can reward acting at this reckless speed. Yet, we truly are about to become dust and ashes. Can we contribute to our world as we go? Joanna’s political engagement led her to say, “both the progressive destruction of our world, and our capacity to stop that destruction, can be understood as a function of our experience of time.” [p. 171] We are grounded richly by acting for the longer-run, rather than with a temporal horizon of the next micro-trade or even profit-loss goals three years down the road.
“The most powerful point Joanna Macy makes is that we DON’T have to feel sure of success, or certain of failure, to rise up and try to save the world for our grandchildren. There are no guarantees. She provides stories of Tibetan monks who have rebuilt destroyed monasteries even in the face of future destruction. In that same spirit, cheerfully, we need to rebuild our precious planet, with a smile on our face, no matter how unlikely the result. Any effort will do – there are a thousand ways to help. “ (KC)
We can act with ease if, only if, we trust ourselves. as teachers and trust our students, our offspring, as part of us. My passing is the passing of one water drop in a river.
KC found Macy broadening ‘Be Here Now.’ “This author challenges the holy grail of most meditative traditions: the ‘present moment.’ Joanna Macy is impatient with those of us who are content to feel good and be ‘in the now.’ The future, she argues, must be ever-present in our minds, meditations, and actions. Our minds must visualize future generations, who are depending on us to wake up in time to salvage and rejuvenate life on earth. “
Joanna has a “… deep love for the world, the creatures and plants in the world.” (CH). “Our job is to be both fully aware in fully in love! Thank you, Joanna Macy, for this wonderful gift to all humankind. “ (TOD).
Joanna Macy teaches, in World as Lover and in Active Hope that the road to hope and connection is through despair for the world. “The cause of our apathy… is not indifference. It stems from a fear of the despair that lurks beneath the tenor of life-as-usual…. The refusal to feel takes a heavy toll. It not only impoverishes our emotional and sensory life– flowers are dimmer and less fragrant, our loves less ecstatic– but also impedes our capacity to process and respond to information. The energy expended in pushing down despair is diverted from more creative uses, depleting the resilience and imagination needed for fresh visions and strategies.” [Joanna Macy, pp. 92-93]
Despair to hope is not easy for CHA to swallow: “Joanna Macy’s approach to the problem of radioactive waste, however, suffers from her own admitted fear and despair of the issue. I’m not eager to be critical of that fear: radioactive waste is a scary-ass problem; however, in order to see the issue more clearly, I think it’s important for readers to be willing to do widen their perspective beyond Macy’s. “
World as Lover… is a catalyst; we are changed by it
“I read an earlier version of this book when I was nineteen, sitting in a college library. I remember writing ‘the forests are my lungs outside the body’ and understanding a little bit and reeling. For a week, I staggered around like a man hit on the head with a plank.” [GD]
“This book will change the way you think.” (MK)
“I can work against depression on an individual self level (AM)…but that there was something else…. bigger.” “Since I slowed down and immersed myself in this book, I have found my own thinking to be more holistic. I have been mulling over the intersections of feminist, anti-racist, anti-poverty, environmental, and holistic health movements.” (JU)
What you see teaches you, can brace you, and determines how you act…
“Macy provides a road map for the rest of us so that we can see the infinite extent of our relations and develop the compassion to act wisely and not get lost in despair.” (NM) “For real spirituality, for a view of the self and the world both exhilarating and useful — see Joanna Macy…. She is helping us re-imagine time, the world and the self.” (GD) “Buddhist, Environmentalist, Philosopher, translator of Rilke all wrapped into a book that helps you when you feel so discouraged by the state of the world.” (AM)
[Joanna Macy promotes the] “desire to help do whatever possible to help human beings survive indefinitely into the future. At one time i believed salvation was my responsibility for myself, to go to heaven. Now I believe, as the bodhisattva believes, that one’s task is to save everyone…. What are you doing for the human race? Do you understand human survival itself is in question?” (CH)
Four readers spoke of action implications:
“If our species and civilization are going to survive, we have to take a humungous leap. Recycling cans and eating blueberries is not going to be enough. Al Gore, Thomas Friedman, Lester Brown are lined up with suggestions but where does the strength and vision necessary for transformation come? For that, Joanna Macy is the best guide I have found.” (GD)
“[Macy’s] careful understanding of Buddhism leads beyond the self and the moment, and requires a focus on the well-being of the world. Come down from your ashrams; rise up off your meditation cushions! Well-being of the world requires political awareness and courageous activism. “ (KC)
“I appreciate Joanna’s efforts to emphasize the necessity of having a spiritual practice if one wishes to engage successfully and mindfully in social activism,” (AL)
“The environmental problems we’re witnessing today will require as much spiritual transformation as economic change.” (RM)
Part 2: “World as Lover…” is crafted….”is a personal and beautifully written book.” (NM)
“The most interesting part for the non-Buddhist were the essays on her experiences studying and doing community work in Tibet and Sri Lanka.” (SAR)
“Not an autobiography, it nevertheless conveys most clearly the author’s personal concerns in the fields of Buddhism, deep ecology and systems philosophy. Joanna says this book contains ‘so many pieces of my life that reflect the pursuits of my heart and mind.” (RG)
Two readers felt some disconnect: “Her writing in World As Lover, World As Self was a little dry and mechanical for me.“ (AL) “This book may be a bit slow going for those who are not particularly interested in Buddhist thinking, but the second half is astounding, motivating, comforting, fresh, and even exhilarating.“ (KC)
World as Lover….. embraces life changes that readers had already made. “I feel grateful when my experience is outlined by…[World as Lover….]. It makes me feel like I am on track.[AM]“ “this book … was like finding gold. I’ve been practicing meditation for years and my experience brought me to the same life-affirming conclusion that Joanna Macy expresses in this book.” (TOD)
Like food, the best compliment is hunger for more.
(CHA) This is the second time I’ve read this book.” (ED) I’m eager to read it again.” “I first read at the beginning of this decade and have reread several times since.” (CH) ”…there is great wisdom in this book and i highly recommend it.” (RM) “I would recommend this book as a primer for those serious activists and nascent Buddhists, as well as a resource of insight for those exploring the connection of social activism and spirituality.(AL) “If Eckhart Tolle… provide first-class “undergraduate work” in human psychology and meditation practice, Joanna Macy takes us to graduate school.” (KC)
“If you want to heal your relationship with the planet, this is a must read.“ (MK)
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