Saturday, January 03, 2009

Holy Books of Guttersnipe Das: Joanna Macy

World As Lover, World As Self
2nd revised version, Parallax Press, 2007

I read a lot of spiritual books. So many, in fact, I fear I am becoming immune. Most spiritual books seem awfully cheap and flimsy lately. Out of touch. Our world is gravely threatened and all most of these books can offer is a slimmed-down, buffed up self. Washboard abs for a gutted earth. The air is full of carcinogens -- but at least my teeth are white!

For real spirituality, for a view of the self and the world both exhilarating and useful -- see Joanna Macy. Put her picture in the dictionary next to the word 'visionary'. She is helping us re-imagine time, the world and the self. She's not skipping the pain and she's telling the truth.

We say "everything is interconnected" but what does that mean? We produce depleted uranium with a half-life of 4.5 billion years -- how do we even start to think about that kind of time? What if it's already too late? Am I just a drama queen when I cry thinking about the polar bears who drown because they can't find ice on which to rest? These are the questions I have -- and this is the book for them.

I read an earlier version of this book when I was nineteen, sitting in a college library. I remember writing "the forests are my lungs outside the body" and understanding a little bit and reeling. For a week, I staggered around like a man hit on the head with a plank.

If our species and civilization are going to survive, we have to take a humungous leap. Recycling cans and eating blueberries is not going to be enough. Al Gore, Thomas Friedman, Lester Brown are lined up with suggestions but where does the strength and vision necessary for transformation come? For that, Joanna Macy is the best guide I have found.

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