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Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We're in without Going Crazy
by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone


Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone's "Active Hope" is not a book about optimism, but rather about cultivating hope as a practice – a practice essential for navigating the difficult realities of our time, such as climate change, social injustice, and ecological devastation. The authors argue that facing these realities head-on, without succumbing to despair, is crucial for creating a more just and sustainable future.

The book revolves around a framework called "The Work That Reconnects," a transformative process divided into three key steps:

1. Coming from Gratitude: This step encourages readers to shift their perspective from scarcity and fear to one of appreciation for the interconnected web of life. By focusing on what we are grateful for, we reconnect with the beauty and wonder of the world, fostering a sense of belonging and purpose.

2. Honoring Our Pain for the World: Ignoring the pain caused by social and ecological crises can lead to apathy and inaction. This step emphasizes the importance of acknowledging and expressing our grief, fear, and anger. By fully experiencing these emotions, we open ourselves to deeper compassion and a renewed sense of urgency for change.

3. Seeing with New Eyes: This step challenges us to question our assumptions and envision new possibilities. It involves recognizing the systemic nature of the challenges we face and understanding our role within them. Through practices like "The Great Turning," readers are encouraged to identify and support existing initiatives working towards positive change.

Central to the book's message is the concept of "Active Hope":

  • Not dependent on outcomes: Unlike passive hope, which relies on external circumstances, active hope is a conscious choice and a practice. It is not about guaranteeing success but about engaging in actions aligned with our values, regardless of the outcome.
  • A source of courage and resilience: By acknowledging our pain and choosing to act, we tap into a wellspring of courage and resilience. Active hope allows us to face challenges with open hearts and minds, fostering a sense of agency and empowerment.
  • A collective endeavor: Recognizing that we are not alone in this work is essential. The authors emphasize the importance of community and collective action, reminding us that our individual efforts contribute to a larger movement for positive change.

Throughout the book, Macy and Johnstone weave together:

  • Personal anecdotes: Sharing stories of individuals and communities engaging in Active Hope.
  • Buddhist teachings: Drawing wisdom from mindfulness and compassion practices.
  • Practical exercises: Providing tools and techniques for cultivating gratitude, honoring pain, and taking action.

In essence, "Active Hope" offers a roadmap for navigating challenging times with courage, resilience, and a deep commitment to creating a better future. It invites readers to embrace their agency, tap into their collective power, and become active participants in shaping a more just and sustainable world.