Friday, January 15, 2010

World As Lover

In my post on 'Mutual Causality' (12/18/09) I mentioned that the language of Joanna Macy's book Mutual Causality in Buddhism and General Systems Theory was 'dry and academic'. It's probably not the best book to read if you just want to understand the interconnections of Buddhism and General Systems Theory, or if you want to understand the Buddhist idea of 'dependent origination', or even just to see how Joanna Macy views everything as interconnected, everything as being in relationship. They are all in her book on Mutual Causality, but much of it is also in her book World as Lover, World as Self, which is a much more readable and fun book.

In fact, World as Lover, World as Self is a good introduction to much of Joanna Macy's work. She includes essays on how she got involved with Buddhism, her time with Sarvodaya in Sri Lanka and what we can learn from them, the basics of her Despair and Empowerment work, and quite a few bits from what she has done with Deep Ecology and The Council of All Beings.

Here she talks about us being more than our small selves, that we can open ourselves up to the world. In the title essay, she talks about how we can see the world as a lover, and learn to love 'everyone and everything we encounter'. Then she talks about how, as we open ourselves to the world, we can see it as a larger self, just as we are a small part of the world. She echoes that thought in her essay on "The Greening of the Self", that all the parts of the world are parts of our 'Self' and we should remember that the damage we do to the world is damage we are doing to ourself just as the healing of the world is the healing of ourself.

She also talks about the Tibetan prophecy of the Shambala Warriors--something I've heard referred to in other places but never understood. A brief version is that at a time "when all life on Earth is in danger" (sound familiar?) the Shambala Warriors will arise. They are trained in the use of two 'weapons': compassion and insight. (It certainly sounds like the type of warriors we could use now.)

Finally, she talks about the 'Turning of the Wheel' in Buddhism. She claims that the original Turning of the Wheel was when the Buddha spoke of a way to end suffering. She says that the 'Second Turning of the Wheel' was with a piece of scripture that appears five hundred years later called the Perfection of Wisdom which Joanna Macy claims features the 'Mother of All Buddhas'. This was the scripture that inspired Mahayana Buddhism, that features the ideal of the Bodhisattva. She ends this book by suggesting that we might be at the point of a 'Third Turning of the Wheel' where not only Buddhists but everyone sees the interconnectedness of everything in this world.

Even if you are not at all interested in Buddhism, there is much to learn from this book. She is clear that the reason we are destroying our world is our belief that we are somehow separate from it. There is a focus on not only understanding this but feeling it. She includes meditations from her Despair and Empowerment work and her Council of All Beings work to help us be in touch with what all this means.

My one regret is that this book doesn't really talk about her ideas about The Great Turning (see my post of 11/15/09 for more on that); but that's because this book was published in 1991 before Joanna Macy began talking about that. But clearly the underpinnings of these ideas are here.

Unless you are a scholar of Buddhism, general systems theory, or philosophy, forget the book Mutual Causality in Buddhism and General Systems Theory. World as Lover, World as Self is a much better book to understand what Joanna Macy is talking about.

Quote of the Day: "Our mission is not to escape from our world, or fix things by remote control, looking at charts and pushing buttons, and pulling levers, but to fall in love with our world. We are made for that because we co-arise with her--in a dance where we discover ourselves and lose ourselves over and over.
"In this Third Turning we build community." - Joanna Macy


Michaelann Bewsee said...

I really like this quote!

MoonRaven said...

Thank you!

So do I. (Of course I'm a sucker for anything that ends in building community.)

I'm always appreciative of your comments as well as all the good work that you do.