“Being fully present to what is happening in the world is a radical act that can transform grief into action.”
By Dahr Jamail
In this excerpt from the new anthology “A Wild Love for the World: Joanna Macy and the Work of Our Times,” journalist Dahr Jamail describes how Macy and her work helped him survive profound war trauma and climate grief.
Macy, a scholar and teacher of Buddhism, systems thinking, and deep ecology, is the author of 13 books and a respected voice in movements for peace, justice, and ecology. She originated The Work That Reconnects, a framework and methodology for personal and social change. It is influential work that, in the face of overwhelming social and ecological crises, helps people transform despair and apathy into constructive, collaborative action.
During one of Joanna’s discussions, she said, “The most radical thing any of us can do at this time is to be fully present to what is happening in the world.” For me, the price of admission into that present was allowing my heart to break. But then I saw how, in the face of overwhelming social and ecological crises, despair transforms into clarity of vision, then into constructive, collaborative action. “It brings a new way of seeing the world, freeing us from the assumptions and attitudes that now threaten the continuity of life on earth,” Joanna said.
There is more and more social hysteria, greatly aided by the corporate media and its finger-pointing and scapegoating. On one hand, you have the mass shootings, and on the other, a deathlike closing down under the pressures of the moment when you need to just get food on the table.”
Illustration by Benjavisa Ruangvaree.
I felt like little more than a typist for Gaia as the feelings and words flowed out of me, as I bowed to and held in reverence our magnificent planet. With each passing day, it became clearer to me that my work was truly in service to the planet, each chapter an homage to her. And along the way, she brought in Native American elders, which literally changed the ending of the book I had prepared. It was due to my training with Joanna that I knew what was happening and allowed myself to be Gaia’s instrument.
No matter how difficult life on Earth becomes, we will only be able to withstand these times by sharing ourselves with one another. If nothing else, we can bear witness together and not suffer in isolation as the dominant culture prefers. In being a “we,” humans can live as the deeply interconnected consciousness of Earth that we already are, just as Joanna has taught all of her life.
Yes. But what is the ‘we’ now? We are no longer deeply connected, only ideology connected and fractions are deep within each. Jesus spoke of ‘thou’, you, but contemporaneously it is only ‘me’ and perspectivism. ‘We’ know what needs to be done, but can ‘we’, will ‘we’? Hope is nothing more than a gamble, and we have no more chips.
R A D I C A L T R A N S F O R M A T I O N
…desperately needed, as ‘we’ exist in a state of radical uncertainty.