Review: Active Hope by Joanna Macy

This week Zoe is reading Active Hope by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the many crises now afflicting our world this book will empower you to transform your life. It’s based on a process called the Work That Reconnects which aims to give you the tools you need to face the mess we’re in without going crazy.

Climate change, economic meltdown, and the depletion of resources are all pushing social structures to breaking point. Many fear that it may already be too late to change anything and that collapse is inevitable. Living day to day with this level of anxiety and uncertainty is debilitating and soul destroying. You need a way to cope without blocking it out or living in denial, and by using the techniques of Active Hope you can find a way to live positively.

Passive hope sits about waiting for something external to change and bring you what you want. But active hope means actually working towards the kind of future you would like to have, even if things seem hopeless. To do this you need to develop a clear view of reality first. Then you can identify your hopes before working out how to go about achieving them in a pragmatic and realistic way.

When identifying your hopes, think about how you would like to see things done or the kinds of values you would like to see expressed, by you and in society. You don’t even need to feel particularly optimistic about the outcome. Even if you feel the situation is hopeless and we’re all doomed no matter what we do, you can still choose how to respond to that possibility. After all, you’re going to die some day, but that doesn’t mean you sit about waiting for it to happen. You still live your life, despite the inevitable end of death.

Active hope is about living in a way that means something to you and embodying the values you believe are worth living for. If you wait for guarantees or only act when you know for certain that you’ll succeed, you’ll never change or achieve anything. By participating in something meaningful, you’ll find a greater sense of purpose and connection with the world and your community. You may even find strengths and skills you didn’t know you had.

This movement to live in a sustainable and life-affirming way is called The Great Turning. It represents a radical shift in consciousness and a break from the past of business as usual:

“Future generations will look back at the time we are living in now. The kind of future they look from, and the story they tell about our period, will be shaped by choices we make in our lifetimes. The most telling choice of all may well be the story we live from and see ourselves participating in. It sets the context of our lives in a way that influences all our other decisions.

In choosing our story, we not only cast our vote of influence over the kind of world future generations inherit, but we also affect our own lives in the here and now. When we find a good story and fully give ourselves to it, that story can act through us, breathing new life into everything we do. When we move in a direction that touches our heart, we add to the momentum of deeper purpose that makes us feel more alive. A great story and a satisfying life share a vital element: a compelling plot that moves toward meaningful goals, where what is at stake is far larger than our personal gains and losses. The Great Turning is such a story.”

Explore the issues in more depth: Active Hope series


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s