‘When you know where to look, you begin to see an unprecedented phenomenon now happening in this world of ours’ says the author Joanna Macy. People from all walks of life are coming alive and coming together, impelled to create a more just and sustainable society. But what are their secret that can change the world? Here are 5 ways guidelines that have already served a number of us over the years. Try them out, and make up some of your own.
Come from gratitude
We have received an inestimable gift: to be alive in this wondrous, self-organising universe with senses to perceive it, lungs that breathe it, organs that draw nourishment from it. And how amazing it is to be accorded a human life with a self-reflective consciousness that allows us to make choices, letting us opt to take part in the healing of our world.
The very scope of the Great Turning is cause for gratitude as well, for it embraces the full gamut of human experience. Its three main dimensions include actions to slow down the destruction wrought by our political economy and its wars against humanity and Nature; new structures and ways of doing things, from holding land to growing food to generating energy; and a shift in consciousness to new ways of knowing, a new paradigm of our relation to each other and to the sacred living body of Earth. These dimensions are equally essential and mutually reinforcing. There are thousands of ways to take part in the Great Turning.
2. Don’t be afraid of the dark
This is a dark time filled with suffering, as old systems and previous certainties come apart. Like living cells in a larger body, we feel the trauma of our world. It is natural and even healthy that we do, for it shows we are still vitally linked in the web of life. So don’t be afraid of the grief you may feel, or of the anger or fear: these responses arise, not from some private pathology, but from the depths of our mutual belonging. Bow to your pain for the world when it makes itself felt, and honor it as testimony to our interconnectedness.
When the Zen poet Thich Nhat Hanh was asked: “What do we most need to do to save our world?” his questioners expected him to identify the best strategies to pursue for social and environmental causes. But Thich Nhat Hanh answered: “What we most need to do is to hear within us the sounds of the Earth crying.” When we learn to hear that, we discover that our pain for the world and our love for the world are one. And we are made stronger.
3. Dare to vision
We will never bring forth what we haven’t dared to dream or learned to imagine. For those of us dwelling in a high-tech consumer society, replete with ever-proliferating electronic distractions, the imagination is the most underdeveloped, even atrophied, of our mental capacities. Yet never has its juicy, enlivening power been more desperately needed than now.
So, think of how many aspects of our current reality started out as someone’s dream. There was a time when much of America was a British colony, when women didn’t have the vote and when the slave trade was seen as essential to the economy. To change something, we need to hold the possibility that it could be different. Author and coach Stephen Covey remind us: “All things are created twice. There’s a mental or first creation, and a physical or second creation of all things.”
4. Link arms with others
Whatever it is that you’re drawn to do in the Great Turning, don’t even think of doing it alone. The hyper-individualism of our competitive industrialized culture has isolated people from each other, breeding conformity, obedience and an epidemic of loneliness. The good news of the Great Turning is that it is a team undertaking. It evolves out of countless spontaneous and synergistic interactions as people discover their common goal and their different gifts. Paul Hawken sees this amazing emergence at the grassroots level as an immune response of the living Earth to the crises now confronting us.
Many models of affinity groups and study-action have emerged in recent decades, offering methods for learning, strategizing and working together. They help us uncover confidence in ourselves as well as in each other.
5. Act your age
Now is the time to clothe ourselves in our true authority. Every particle in every atom of every cell in our body goes back to the primal flaring forth of space and time. In that sense, you are as old as the universe, with an age of about 14 billion years. This current body of yours has been being prepared for this moment by Earth for some 4 billion years, so you have an absolute right to step forward and act on Earth’s behalf. When you are speaking up at a city council meeting, or protecting a forest from demolition, or testifying at a hearing on nuclear waste, you are doing that not out of some personal whim or virtue, but from the full authority of your 14 billion years.
The beauty of the Great Turning is that each of us takes part in distinctive ways. Given our different circumstances and with our different dispositions and capacities, our stories are all unique. All have something fresh to reveal. All can help inspire others. And that’s why we need these stories…