Tag Archives: “On Being

A Hero for our Time: Joanna Macy

Jane in Africa 2012

This morning, while dealing with a crazy, incessantly barking dog,  I listened to “On Being” with Krista Tippett.  Her guest was an “environmental philosopher,” Joanna Macy.  I was only half listening at first, since I had never even heard of this woman before, but the interview ended up blowing me away.  Macy is an 85-year-old woman who sounds like a twenty-year-old in her wonderful, enlightened thinking.  Here’s a quick bio of Macy from Wikipedia:

Joanna Rogers Macy (born May 2, 1929), is an environmental activist, author, scholar of Buddhism, general systems theory, and deep ecology. She is the author of eight books. She graduated from Wellesley College in 1950 and received her Ph.D in Religious Studies in 1978 from Syracuse University.  She is an international spokesperson for anti-nuclear causes, peace, justice, and environmentalism, most renowned for her book Back to Life: Practices to Reconnect Our Lives, Our World….She has created a theoretical framework for personal and social change, and a workshop methodology for its application. Her work addresses psychological and spiritual issues, Buddhist thought, and contemporary science.

And here is her picture:

Joanna Macy
Joanna Macy

But I wasn’t blown away by this woman because of her impressive resume or her open appearance.  I was blown away by the things she said.  First, she talked about how Buddhists don’t put much stock in trying to have hope, since it takes too much effort.  The important thing is just to be as aware as we can of what is going on around you.  She said that our earth is “not a supply house and a sewer” for humans, and that we have to stop treating it as if it is.

Here’s another great picture of her:

joanna macy laughing

All I can give you is a quick intro to Macy, but I urge our readers to check her out.  Here are two more quotes that I wrote down from when she was talking about her work in  translating Rainer Marie Rilke’s Book of Hours:  Love Poems to God:  “There is a song that wants to be sung through us, but we need to be present to it in order to sing it,” and “This moment you are alive, so you can just dial up the magic of that any time.” Continue reading A Hero for our Time: Joanna Macy

Vincent Harding and the Beloved Community


I heard a wonderful man being interviewed on NPR’s “On Being” yesterday morning.  His name is Vincent Harding, and he was an activist in the Civil Rights Movement.  He talked about how this country is still a “developing nation” when it comes to having a true “democratic encounter across real difference.”  He said that, maybe for the first time in its history, America is starting to have a national conversation about how we are going to make democracy work—and what that actually means, on a day-to-day basis, in a world where we have all different kinds of people, with different aims and different cultural backgrounds.  To describe the ultimate goal we should all be working toward, he used a term from the Bible, which Martin Luther King used:  the “beloved community.”  

Mr. Harding stressed how important it is to “love our children into new possibilities,” to teach our children to value things beyond material wealth or fame or prestige.  He talked about how important it is for children to grow up feeling that they are part of a larger community, one that that they feel responsible toward.  Our children need to know that they are capable of “being the creators of a new possibility for the whole nation.”  It is important for all of us to establish the “beloved community” if it is ever going to come about.   

In listening to Mr. Harding talk about the concept of a “beloved community,” I couldn’t help but think about our congresspeople fighting over the debt ceiling while there are children going hungry in cities right under their noses;  I thought about the tea party loyalists saying they would not raise taxes on the rich, under any circumstances, while our schools cannot pay our teachers a living wage; I thought about Latino teenagers being deported back to their parents’ country of origin, even though they have lived in the United States for as much of their lives as they can remember; and I thought about right-wing Christians who are so far removed from the teachings of Jesus that they discriminate against gays and teach a doctrine that says that people can only get into heaven if they live, act, dress, talk, exactly the way they do. 

Vincent Harding

I think we are pretty far from a beloved community in this country, but I can’t help believing that it is certainly an idea whose time has come.   

Mr. Harding gave lots of examples of people across this country who are working in their neighborhood, their city, their region, to improve people’s lives.  I’d like to hear from our readers about people they know who are working hard, every day, to try to move us all toward a “beloved community.” 

To hear the original interview, go to http://being.publicradio.org/programs/2011/civility-history-hope/.