Active Hope is about finding, and offering, our best response to the crisis of sustainability unfolding in our world.
It offers tools that help us face the mess we’re in, as well as find and play our role in the collective transition, or Great Turning, to a life-sustaining society.
The book Active Hope by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone (2012) has turned into an international movement that is practiced across the world, including the USA, UK, Australia and NZ.
Below is a snapshot of what Active Hope is about, taken from a radio interview with Joanna Macy. Active hope is not about being optimistic, it’s something you choose and cultivate.
Below are the Active Hope Vows that you can tell yourself when feeling despair
- I commit myself on this day to the healing of my world and the welfare of all beings and to live on earth more lightly in the food, products and energy I consume.
- I promise to draw strength and guidance from the living earth, from the ancestors and the future generations and our brothers and sister of all species.
- I promise to support others in our work for the world and to ask for help when I need it.
- I vow to observe a daily practice spiritual practice that clarifies my mind and strengthens my heart in observing these vows.
(You can simply recite these vows or stop to love your world by).
Joanna Macy offers that we are lucky to be alive now when we can take part in such an adventurous and profound change.
There are three stories going on at this time:
- Business as Usual: economic growth with no change.
- The Great Unravelling: we are destroying the cultural, biological and ecological systems of our planett
- The Great Turning: a transition to a life sustaining society- the people involved in this don’t want the Great Unravelling to have the last word.
Key themes from the book
Doing Active Hope
The word hope has two different meanings. The first involves hopefulness, believing our preferred outcome is reasonably likely to happen. If we require this kind of hope before we commit ourselves to an action, our response gets blocked in areas where we don’t rate our chances too high.
The second meaning is about desire. It is this kind of hope that starts our journey — knowing what we hope for and what we’d like, or love, to take place. It is what we do with this hope that really makes the difference. Passive hope is about waiting for external agencies to bring about what we desire. Active Hope is about becoming active participants in bringing about what we hope for.
Active Hope is a practice. Like tai chi or gardening, it is something we do rather than have. It is a process we can apply to any situation, and it involves three key steps. First, we take in a clear view of reality; second, we identify what we hope for in terms of the direction we’d like things to move in or the values we’d like to see expressed; and third, we take steps to move ourselves or our situation in that direction.
Since Active Hope doesn’t require our optimism, we can apply it even in areas where we feel hopeless. The guiding impetus is intention; we choose what we aim to bring about, act for, or express. Rather than weighing our chances and proceeding only when we feel hopeful, we focus on our intention and let it be our guide.
Three stories of our time
In any great adventure, there are always obstacles in the way. The first hurdle is just to be aware that we, as a civilization and as a species, are facing a crisis point. When looking at the mainstream of our society, and the priorities expressed or goals pursued, it is hard to see much evidence of this awareness. We try to make sense of the huge gap between the scale of the emergency and the size of the response by describing how our perceptions are shaped by the story we identify with. We describe three stories, or versions of reality, each acting as a lens through which we see and understand what’s going on.
In the first of these, Business as Usual, the defining assumption is that there is little need to change the way we live. Economic growth is regarded as essential for prosperity, and the central plot is about getting ahead.
The second story, the Great Unravelling, draws attention to the disasters that Business as Usual is taking us toward, as well as those it has already brought about.
The third story is held and embodied by those who know the first story is leading us to catastrophe and who refuse to let the second story have the last word. Involving the emergence of new and creative human responses, it is about the epochal transition from an industrial society committed to economic growth to a life-sustaining society committed to the healing and recovery of our world. We call this story the Great Turning. There is no point in arguing about which of these stories is “right.” All three are happening. The question is which one we want to put our energy behind.