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New World Library Unshelved

New World Library Unshelved

Positive news and inspiring views from the New World Library community


Monday, May 24, 2010
Joanna Macy and the Great Turning
 

Last month, NWL Senior Graphic Designer Tracy Cunningham and I attended a talk with Joanna Macy, renowned environmental activist, Buddhist, and future New World Library author.

Tracy and I had both read Joanna’s memoir, Widening Circles, and after listening to a recording of her speaking with Bill Plotkin, we knew she was an incredibly moving and inspiring speaker. As the event’s organizer and co-speaker, Jonathan Gustin, remarked, some people can transmit their life’s purpose simply through their presence; Joanna Macy is definitely one of those people. She has a powerful aura of joy, deep caring, and immense love for the world.

To begin, she walked us through the three main stories that are being told now: the stories of “Business As Usual,” “the Great Unraveling,” and “the Great Turning.” Business As Usual is the story for those who believe industrial and economic growth — maximizing profits and multiplying products — is the main priority. The Great Unraveling is the story of life on our planet failing fast, with climate change, rainforest destruction, and species extinction happening at an alarming rate.

The story of the Great Turning, on the other hand, is one we don’t hear much about on television, in the newspapers, or from politicians. The Great Turning frames this time as the moment when humanity changes course toward creating a life-sustaining society. It’s the story of activists, revolutionaries, and visionaries who are seeking to slow the destruction, create new technologies and ways of living, and help us shift our collective consciousness.

When Joanna pointed out that the Great Turning is nearly invisible to most Americans, she emphasized the importance of more people waking up to the revolution happening all around us. This point stirred my passion about the work we do at New World Library: we support authors who help readers develop healthy, purposeful, and spiritually aware lives. Reading our books, I can’t help but be more hopeful for the future.

Finally, Joanna gave some heartening advice:

  1. Wake up glad: By focusing on gratitude for the miracle of our lives, we gain the strength and joy we need to create a better world.
  2. Don’t be afraid of the dark: Facing today’s darkness and pain is difficult, but essential — in fact, it is the road to joy.
  3. Link arms: In collaboration we can do things that would be impossible for any one of us to do alone. We need each other more than ever as we seek the Great Turning.
  4. Act your age: The age of the universe, that is. Our bodies are made of atoms that were present at the Big Bang, and those same atoms will continue for eons after our deaths. By remembering that we’re tiny parts of a vast story, we’ll find it easier to serve long-term goals rather than worrying too much about immediate progress. Each moment’s positive intentions, thoughts, and actions sow seeds that will flower with practice and benefit future generations.

Joanna shared the stage with psychotherapist Jonathan Gustin, who draws on the work of our author Bill Plotkin to help individuals discover the deepest, most authentic parts of themselves. His talk presented many of Bill’s revolutionary ideas, including the soulcentric developmental wheel discussed in Bill’s book Nature and the Human Soul.

If Joanna Macy’s work resonates with you, you may be interested in one of our new books (which Joanna was kind enough to endorse): Twelve by Twelve: A One-Room Cabin Off the Grid and Beyond the American Dream by William Powers. The book hits all my passion points — social justice, radical alternatives to the conventional American lifestyle, connection to nature, and shifts in consciousness — and rekindles my drive to struggle with daunting tasks. I hope it may do so for many others as well.

Here’s to the Great Turning!

Jonathan Wichmann
Editorial Assistant


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