[Parallax Press, 202 pages]
Joanna Macy’s text, World as Lover, World as Self explores our relationship with the future and the future of our planet. In it, she examines what we can do as individuals to influence the outcome of this path we are following.
“Life on our planet is in trouble,” Macy begins. “It is hard to go anywhere without being confronted by the wounding of our world…a world that can end.” How do we deal with our unique place in history as participants in an era that offers “no certainty that there will be a future for humans?” Our children and theirs will inherit the Earth. Herein lies my pressure, my responsibility, our responsibility. How can we make a difference? In the spirit of engaged Buddhism, Macy draws a plan, particularly for westerners crippled by apathy, for grappling with the global skeleton-in-the-closet of our time: the ruin of planet Earth.
As an eco-philosopher and scholar of Buddhism, general systems theorist and deep ecologist, Macy is the best of teachers. She is well-known in peace and justice movements. She was instrumental in helping the Rinpoche lamas of Tibet found the now-famous exile settlement of Tashi Jong in the foothills of the Himalayas. Her insight, knowledge and experience shine through each anecdote, creating a poetic, yet instructive text.
World as Lover, World as Self suggests a problem-solution model of analysis which focuses on applying the jewels of past learning from cultures as disparate as Tibetan Buddhism, German Poetics, and Mohawk, to our unique circumstances, in order to help us prepare for a better future. We learn of a reality that will confound reasoning and frighten the soul. Then, as a tonic for this philosophical reality, Macy recommends adopting thankfulness for life, seeing with new eyes and going forth into the world-as-lover and world-as-self. This final revelation comes about by taking ownership of our awareness of pain in the Earth, in the decimated natural world around us, in its beings and in the Earth’s half-destroyed elements. By facing instead of hiding from such pain, we gain all the spiritual energy and creativity required to actually begin working on global rejuvenation.
In the words of Thich Nhat Hanh, “give me a song, a song for sadness too vast for my heart.” In singing the song and grieving, we sip our first medicine. Naive, though it may seem, I believe that in reading Macy’s text, I might have germinated within myself the tiniest spores required to begin brewing that cure.