We were made for these times


When I picked up Active Hope from the new arrivals shelf at Terrace library a few days before the unthinkable happened and a racist, misogynist demagogue was elected into the most powerful political office in the world, I didn’t know how much I was going to need the book. I picked it up because I knew about—but not enough about—Joanna Macy’s Work That Reconnects during this time she calls the Great Turning.

From her website:

Joanna Macy, PhD, is a scholar of Buddhism, systems thinking and deep ecology. A respected voice in movements for peace, justice, and ecology, she interweaves her scholarship with learning from five decades of activism. As the root teacher of the Work That Reconnects, she has created a ground-breaking theoretical framework for personal and social change, as well as a powerful workshop methodology for its application.

I don’t know about you, but in the aftermath of the US election, I need a ground-breaking framework for personal and social change now more than ever. And Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in Without Going Crazy (Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone, New World Library, 2012) might offer that. It certainly echoes a truth I hear in these words of John O’Donohue on healing and transformation:

The world is not decided by action alone. It is decided more by consciousness and spirit; they are the secret sources of all action and behavior. The spirit of a time is an incredibly subtle, yet hugely powerful force. And it is comprised of the mentality and spirit of all individuals together. Therefore, the way you look at things is not simply a private matter. Your outlook actually and concretely affects what goes on. When you give in to helplessness, you collude with despair and add to it. When you take back your power and choose to see the possibilities for healing and transformation, your creativity awakens and flows to become an active force of renewal and encouragement in the world. In this way, even in your own hidden life, you can become a powerful agent of transformation. There is a huge force field that opens when intention focuses and directs itself toward transformation. ~ John O’Donohue, excerpt from To Bless the Space Between Us.

I was talking to a close friend last week and I told him I think more good will ultimately come from a Trump win in the US than if Clinton had won. He thought this might be an example of delusional hopefulness. But had Clinton won, it might have been all too easy to return to what Macy and Johnstone frame as one of three stories of our time: Business as Usual—the assumption that there is little need to change the way we live.

And we so clearly need to change the way we live.


What I see in response to the election result is a rising tide of people who acknowledge that we can’t any longer proceed with business as usual. I hear a crescendo of voices refusing to accept injustice, hatred, genocide, and the destruction of the Earth for the profit of a few. In all directions, people are coming together to resist and respond.

Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone write in Active Hope:

We live at a time when the living body of our Earth is under attack and when the attacker is not an alien force but our own industrial-growth society. At the same time, an extraordinary process is under way, a vital creative response we call the Great Turning. What helps us face the mess we’re in is the knowledge that each of us has something significant to offer, a contribution to make.

We were made for these times.


6 Responses to “We were made for these times”

  1. Sarah Fleury

    I so enjoy the generosity and wisdom of your writing, Leslie and glad that you are posting frequently. It gives me a lift to see there is a new piece from you.

    • commatologist

      Thank you, Sarah. It gives me a lift to read your comments when I post!

  2. Liz

    You definitely have the ability to see things from all sides Leslie. I so hope that the downright terrifying election result will make it through 4 years without too much calamity for the people most threatened. I will definitely check out Active Hope!

    • commatologist

      Liz, one positive thing I see coming out of this mess is that a lot of people have realized we have to be a whole lot more involved in our political and civic processes. It’s not enough just to go to the ballot box every four years. What Macy and Johnstone are talking about in Active Hope is the power of individuals and groups to make a real difference. Yes, many people will settle back down to business as usual, but many others won’t. I’m hoping we’ve reached a tipping point.


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