Naropa Magazine Spring 2013
Home / 2013 Spring / University News / "Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We're in Without Going Crazy" with Joanna Macy
Joanna Macy lecture

"Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We're in Without Going Crazy" with Joanna Macy

By Lindsay Michko

Naropa welcomed the return of Buddhist scholar and environmental activist Joanna Macy this February for a lecture on "Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We're in Without Going Crazy," as well as a weekend workshop with the MA in Environmental Leadership students. In her lecture, Macy explained that while she used to consider hope a killer that removes one from the present, she has come to redefine it, asserting, "Hope isn't something you have, it's something you do." This movement from noun to verb makes hope active, utilizing our unique human capacity to choose—where to put our mind, what story to follow, and what step to take next.

Macy guided us through three different stories of our present time. The first story, "Business as Usual," presents the perspective of the industrial growth society that assures us everything is okay, setting goals and determining success based on growth of corporate profits. The next story, "The Great Unraveling," pulls up the rug of the industrial growth society, revealing the rapid resource use and waste production that lies beneath the "everything is okay" surface.

The final story, "The Great Turning," tells of a great transition from an industrial growth society to a life-sustaining one, characterized by the recognition of our fragile impermanence and by choosing what can be done without guarantee that we will make it. We do not derive our greatest courage and creativity from assurance that everything will be fine, Macy explained, but from uncertainty and risk. During Macy's Inner Work for Environmental Leaders weekend workshop, which she facilitates every other spring semester, students expanded their connection with past and future generations through experiential exercises, and explored possibilities of advocacy for the well-being of future generations. Emphasizing the interdependence of past, present, and future, Macy asks us to invite a new presence inside of us—the future. "The future," Macy explained, "transforms itself within us long before it happens."