By Trent Gilliss | Friday, March 12, 2010 - 12:00pm
“It’s that knife edge of uncertainty where we come alive.”
“I see such promise in the human heart and at the same time I see such tragedy. And, so, my heart breaks over and over.”
Remember the name Joanna Macy? If not, she’s the person who collaborated with Anita Barrows (“The Soul in Depression”) on translating Rilke’s Book of Hours. By the way, they recently collaborated on another book, A Year with Rilke, published this past fall by HarperOne.
I stumbled upon two videos of her for an upcoming film called The Great Turning — her concept of a period of transition for our society that she describes as “the essential adventure of our time: the shift from an industrial growth society to a life-sustaining civilization.” She speaks about ecology in human terms of reconnection and references wisdom traditions and work as a way back to sustainability.
What’s interesting is that her efforts don’t simply focus on repairing the physical world. She emphasizes the spiral of connectivity as a way back to choosing a vibrant life rather than apathy: seeing the world and people with new eyes by coming from a place of gratitude and recognizing the pain of the world as a way of seeing anew and then engaging (“going forth”).
She’s a compelling character with a way of speaking that really draws me in — sensual with a gruffness like Vigen Guroian, a little new-agey, I guess, but more along the lines of an engaged Buddhist. She speaks somewhat softly but with a verve, with energy and intensity and a self-awareness of a teacher who has answered many questions and knows many remain unasked and unable to be answered. She speaks about being present, mindfulness, mystery, the interconnectedness of all things — ideas that engage all kinds of people on many levels.
If you want to know more about Ms. Macy and her work, her site is a great starting point. And this interview is helpful too.
In our increasingly secular lives, we find ways to get at a purer distillation of who we are at the broken center of ourselves. A meditation on paying attention and finding prayer in quiet places and through unlikely sources.