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Joanna Macy – Complete Interview

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global oneness project Complete Interview This is the most amazing time to be a human in planet Earth; right now, right now, this time we're living Joanna Macy - San Francisco, California - Eco-philosopher and Activist because there are activities that we have unleashed-- forces that are having such an impact on the living systems, biological systems, ecosystems of our planet. And we can either let them proceed unchecked or we can turn and bring in our creativity and our passion for life, and we can see that life goes on on this exquisite, unrepeatable planet. But we have that opportunity with that amazing gift we have to choose where we put our mind. That's called self-reflexive consciousness. But at any rate, we do have that, and we can take part in an amazing adventure that even our ancestors couldn't have foreseen. There are different names for it. It's a revolution. Some say it's the third revolution of our human story, as big in scope and magnitude as the agricultural revolution, as huge in its effect as the industrial revolution. Now, in just these few years we have to create and facilitate a transition to a life-sustaining society as the forces of the industrial growth society go out of control. So, what a time to be alive. And each of us has something incredible to bring to that. I am convinced of that. There are a lot of people, when they look at the situation, the facts, the pollution, the economy and meltdown, the militarism, the generation of yet more weapons, the extinction spasms of the species, of course, who wouldn't be in despair? I mean, it seems like if you're not, you're out to lunch. But that's not the whole story. We have to really not be afraid of feeling pain for our world--number one-- that we recognize that the anguish we feel for what is happening to our world is inevitable and normal and even healthy because how are we going to do the huge about-face, psychologically and socially, that we need to do to create, out of the present disarray, an exquisite life-sustaining, life-respecting society unless we ready to just galvanize everything? So pain is very useful. Just don't be afraid of it. And recognize that the anguish, the horror even, that we can feel over the devastation that we read about or see or experience, that it's okay to feel that. We're tough. Because if we are afraid to feel that, we won't feel where it comes from, and where it comes from is love-- our love for this world. That's what is going to pull us through. So know that the feelings of grief, anger, outrage that can come as you look at how this world is being trashed-- and its people--that that pain is just the other side of love. And if you try to anesthetize yourself, then you numb your whole psyche and that is so boring and ineffective. So this is the time for ourselves to reach and expand into our full humanity, and in that humanity will be our anger and outrage, our imagination, our creativity, our laughter. We are going to come alive now, and we are. I call that The Great Turning. It's really important to learn to see The Great Turning because it is not being reported in mainstream media. It's not on the front page of the "New York Times" or on the evening news. So you have to have detecting ability. And it helps to recognize, realize, that The Great Turning is occurring in three dimensions. We can remember them in terms of parts of our body. One dimension--the most visible--we can connect with our hands. That is that dimension of The Great Turning where we say, "Enough. Enough is enough." "No more mountaintop removal. No more military development." "No more subprime mortgages," etc., etc. This is the dimension which is often understood as activism, and it's those activities that slow down the devastation being wrought by the industrial growth society. After all, it cannot help being destructive because it needs to turn the living body of Earth into commodities and profits and extract more swiftly than the Earth can renew and dump more than the Earth can absorb. So it is by nature a self-destructive system. This dimension of The Great Turning is slow down the deforestation, slow down the walls built dividing our neighborhoods and countries, slow down the terror, the imprisonment, slow down the building of more penitentiaries, slow down the contamination of our food, slow down the destruction of habitat. In this dimension there is such play for courage and fierceness of heart and a good sense of companionship as you link arms with your brothers and sisters. But that's not all because even if every one of those actions should succeed, which they don't--in case you haven't noticed, most of them fail. You spend most of your time looking for money or trying to-- The second is those structures and ways of doing things that are sustainable in themselves. This is the creation of new ways of holding the land, new ways of growing food, new ways of building green buildings, new ways of computing prosperity and wealth, new ways of generating energy. So there is this tremendous scope for creativity in this dimension of The Great Turning, and I don't think there's ever been a time in the history of humanity when so many new things are just popping up. I go like this because I think of them as green shoots coming up through the rubble of a dysfunctional civilization. Yeah, you can train yourself to see them. But that's not enough for The Great Turning. Even if all these actions succeeded, they would not be enough for this revolution. They will shrivel and die unless they are deeply rooted in our values, in what we see as real and important, in how we see ourselves related to each other and to the living planet. And that dimension is--we can mark that right here-- that dimension is a shift in consciousness. So these three have been tremendously helpful to me because it reminds me that I don't have to do everything and that there are brothers and sisters engaged beyond my capacity to know in this blessed unrest, this largest social movement in human history. Behind it not only human efforts, but there are evolutionary forces that have been moving us toward complexity and interrelatedness and consciousness since the beginning of space time. These forces are moving through us because this living Earth doesn't want complex life forms to disappear. We can give our lives for that. What's really important--it's been very important for me-- is that we have to make peace with the fact that we don't know if this is going to succeed or not. The Great Turning is happening. But we don't know and cannot know whether we are going to be able to bring it off before the forces that are destroying living, biological, and ecological systems have shredded the web of life beyond repair. This is what David Corton calls The Great Unraveling. So you've got The Great Unraveling--we can see it around us-- and you've got The Great Turning. And here we are and we don't know how the story will end. But I'll tell you something. That helps us be totally present. That uncertainty can be a great gift. It's very enlivening and it's very realistic because you've been living all along with that, without guarantees. When you fall in love with someone, is there a guarantee that you're going to have a healthy, long-term relationship? Or if you go into labor, is there a guarantee you're going to have a healthy baby? Or when you plant seeds in the earth, is there a guarantee there will be sufficient warmth and water to have a bumper crop? No. There's never a guarantee, and that is what brings forth from the human a quality of attention that allows the new to appear. So don't be afraid of that "don't know" mind. Sometimes they call it "beginner's mind." That can help us be very present, like watching the biggest adventure story and, "Don't tell us the end! Don't tell us the end!" [laughs] I think the industrial growth society or the late capitalist consumer society is a perfect illustration of the runaway situation you get into when you think that a being--take a human being-- can live separate from his or her world; that a person or a nation or a group can be immune to what it does to the others and the rest of creation; the assumption that there is an away; that there is a Heaven or a Nirvana or a cruise ship cycling somewhere in between the asteroids that you can go to at the time. And that's what's sobering and thrilling about being conscious in this time is we realize what we at some level knew all along-- and our bodies know it--is our intimate, mutual belonging. We're learning again to come home to ourselves and to each other. And when we do that and realize--that's the main thing; actually, everything else follows from that-- you stop thinking that you can thrive at others' expense, you stop thinking that you can grab now in short-term thinking and not bother about tomorrow, and you open your pores to the evidence all around you that science is helping also to transmit that this is a dance; that we are in a dance of life and we do it together. We do it together. There's a lot of fear right now and it's not surprising. There's a lot to be scared of. We are losing securities that we thought we had and not just money but being able to have a satisfying, respectable job and not just an income but being able to be close to our families. The assumption that we can have the medical care, etc., etc. So how do we live with the fear that is natural when a highly complex civilization begins to come apart because it is destroying itself on these basic assumptions of nonseparateness and the assumptions that breed empire. My experience is don't try to handle it alone. Don't go there. If you have recurrent responses of fear or confusion, this is the time to get together. This is what we've done from the beginning, by the way, since the time we walked through the long millenia as hunter-gatherers. Every step of the way we did it together. So we'd puncture the illusion that we can be captains of our ship and masters of our soul and work together in groups. There is powerful magic there, and the magic is synergy; that what you can't understand by yourself you're not supposed to; you're supposed to understand it with others. The steps you want to take you don't see by yourself you see as you come together with others, and you exult in each other's originality. I've often thought, because they've had such impact on my life, that study circles and study action circles are the greatest social invention of the 20th century. They're really coming in handy now. People can become each other's teachers and companions in learning and in preparing new ways to organize our lives and our communities. This is the time to listen to ourselves with each other. And there are ways of doing that right here. There is such a broad expanse of the new ways that I see around me that are part of The Great Turning. Some have to do with means of speaking truth, like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that started in South Africa and now they're active and some 15 countries are doing that. That makes me think of whole new ways of behavior between perpetrators and victims and the justice system-- restorative justice circles. People are listening to each other and transforming the tendency to hate and blame in the most simplest--it's astonishing--way into capacities to understand. I see new forms coming up with the co-housing and ecovillages, collaborative forms of living, and it's just high time that we tossed off that organized, institutionalized loneliness that is the nuclear family in so many cases This is the part of The Great Turning that is immediately, emotionally so rewarding. Of course, you have to learn how to listen to each other and give up your attachment to having your way all the time, but what's an adventure without a little discipline? In the world that we're creating, in The Great Turning, I can't think of anything more important than imagination, being able to see what isn't there yet. Actually, being able to see what is there because there are conditions going on right now that are so horrific it needs the quality of imagination to see what's here now-- imagining the real and imagining the beauty that is here right now, the nobility in the people that we encounter and see on the street. This is a spiritual practice that you can develop to be able to see your brothers and sisters in their exquisite, precious humanity and to see each one as having part of this solution, and, of course, moral imagination and seeing what wants to come because you can't create anything until you've been able to hold it in your mind, you know. Stories, dreams are so important. Pull the kids away from that rearview mirror of the television set. Let's have some of the good old stories that nurture our capacity to imagine. I think that I have found in the work that I do that a sense of the future ones, the coming generations, the reality of their claim on life can be an enormous inspiration to us. It has been so for me. I imagine them. The work I do around radioactive waste and containing contamination is for them. And so working for them, they enter my imagination and they become so real for me-- very real. They're funny, they have things to say, they keep me at it, they keep me from being too serious, and so all the way along, imagination is absolutely essential. Essential to our courage, essential to our passion, essential to our creativity. I grew up in a culture where there's who you are and then there's the action you undertake is something different. Or there's what you be and what you do. In the spiritual path that I follow, and indeed as in contemporary science, human beings are seen as human doings; that we are really not nouns but verbs. You know who you are by what you do and how you act and how you breathe and how you smile and how you go to sleep and wake up. Life is verbing its way through you. That's very helpful for the activist in The Great Turning because then you think-- it's not, "My responsibility is to assume a large, responsible task," "and I will lift it up and I will carry it on my shoulders." That's really a most unfortunate way of looking at it because actually, we are verbs. As Buckminster Fuller said--I remember--"I seem to be a verb," that every minute you are thinking, you are listening, feelings are arising, thoughts are arising. You're like a river; that's what the Buddha said. Stream of being; that's what you are. I kind of think that that's the way of seeing that's going to characterize the life-sustaining society that is taking form through our efforts. If you think that you're supposed to start a rape crisis center and save the whales and work to get mercury out of the rivers and mother's milk and etc., etc., that is a recipe for getting nothing done. You'll be like the donkey starving between two bales of hay. This is why I love the sense of the web of life that underlies the mindset of The Great Turning, where everything in our universe is interdependent as the leaves and branches of a tree or as the root systems or as a great web or like the jeweled net of Indra. You realize that where we've gotten ourselves in trouble is with some basic assumptions. And these basic assumptions that we can use other beings for our comfort and advancement, that we can own them, those assumptions are what is the cause behind all of these different-- whether it's the rainforest or the oil spills-- all the way it's that basic assumption. So it seems to me that whatever you're working on, you're working on that basic problematique. And if you thought you were doing it all by yourself, you'd be such a pill to live with. It's hard work and kind of boring to be always accumulating so much stuff and filling your closets and filling your shelves and being very aware of the downside of that. We're more open, I think, to the spiritual teachings in all the religions to live more simply, to show some self-restraint. I bet some of you have gone to Gandhi's Ashram with so few possessions and the carefully polished wood in the windows and the rounded mud of the wall; that there is in doing with little an anesthetic and a liberation. I love what the Center for New American Dream is revealing about the good times that people are having as they're finding alternatives to buying and stocking up. I get such a lift when I think of the future generations-- not many; just two or three from now-- looking back at us. And I imagine them looking back at us living in this time, and they are going to say, "Oh, bless them," "those ancestors living back then in the first years, decades, of the 21st century." "They were taking part in The Great Turning," "and a lot of them probably didn't even know it" "and they didn't know whether they could make it," "and they kept going anyway." "They must have loved life." That's what I imagine the future ones to say, and I agree that we're only going to do it, we're only going to make it, if we find again our capacity to love life-- love life. - Footage courtesy of the Pachamama Alliance

Video Details

Duration: 30 minutes and 19 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Views: 267
Posted by: global on Nov 12, 2009

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