Every year during the winter holiday season, we take time to reflect on the previous year and prepare ourselves for what’s to come, both personally and as an organization. We refer to this practice as renewal, and we do our best to “push back the world”—work responsibilities and to-do lists, for example—in order to focus unhurriedly on the paths that our lives are taking, our contributions to the world and the relationships that support us.
Naturally, this process of personal reflection evokes thoughts and feelings related to larger patterns and stories. As we look back on 2015, we must acknowledge that we have been deeply impacted and unsettled by what is happening in our world. The Syrian refugee crisis; global terrorist attacks throughout the Middle East, in Paris, the U.S. and elsewhere; pervasive and ongoing violence and police brutality in U.S. cities directed at African-Americans and other people of color; economic crises, and the continued degradation of our water, air quality, soils, forests and atmosphere are but a few of the significant stories of the past year.
These realities often inspire feelings of overwhelm, especially when we consider how many millions, likely billions of people, are feeling the impacts of these events far more acutely than we are. The deeply inspiring eco-philosopher and Buddhist scholar Joanna Macy—truly an elder for these times—has described the aforementioned atrocities and other happenings like them as The Great Unraveling, wherein the industrial growth society erodes our common foundation of a life-supporting planet and pits people against one another in a cruel and brutal race to stockpile resources at the expense of others.
We cannot ignore or turn away from these very real and complicated issues. The human species has created them and so, too, must we solve them. But we also cannot approach our solutions with the same divisive mentalities that yielded them in the first place. We must work together, for the benefit of all. That certainly sounds like a platitude, perhaps even naïve, but there is no other way. To do so will require thoughtful work, strong partnerships, a willingness for change, and compromise. What we cannot compromise on, however, is the protection of the planet that we and all beings depend upon for life. Neither can we compromise on the liberation of all peoples, regardless of how they identify themselves or are identified by others.
For inspiration, we turn again to Joanna Macy. At the same time that our common life support systems on this planet are unraveling, so too are a great number of brave and visionary communities marshaling responses. Macy and others have called this The Great Turning. The various efforts within The Great Turning are broad, from racial and environmental justice to habitat restoration to frontlines indigenous resistance of fossil fuel extraction, and so much more. The breadth and diversity of these beautiful responses is proportional to the scope of the challenges we face; and it is also vital for us to see and remember that the hearts of these various responses are united by a common pulse: the deep longing for a peaceful planet within which communities meet the basic needs of their members and support freedom, justice and dignity for all life, including the more than human world.
Many of the economic, political and social systems in place are driving us towards a very different outcome. Diversity on this planet is in grave danger—biodiversity, cultural and linguistic diversity, for example. We must resist a homogenous, monocropped world. It is violent, impractical and ultimately very dangerous, not to mention morally indefensible. The success of The Great Turning hinges on diversity and inclusivity and our willingness to stretch and grow beyond our thoughts and beliefs. And ultimately, it will settle for nothing less than our full participation and commitment. That will look different for different people in different places, but as 2016 unrolls before us, it is a question we are each asking ourselves. What will we do this year, with bravery and commitment, to contribute to The Great Turning?
Weaving Earth is proud to play our part, and we are tremendously grateful to the individuals, communities and organizations that are doing the same—some of them we are connected to but many, many more we have never heard of. May we all become more aware of one another in the coming weeks, months and years, so that our efforts may synergize, amplify and gather an unstoppable momentum in order to effect the critical changes we seek.
At the core of our work is the strengthening of relationships. If those of us called to task in The Great Turning are to take a cue from the rest of nature, may we see and be reminded that nothing exists in isolation. Instead, resiliency is modeled over and over through the strength and diversity borne from interconnectivity. Our teacher and mentor Jon Young has said that a healthy culture connects its members to themselves, to each other and to the land it inhabits. The Weaving Earth Immersion and all of our programs are designed with that in mind. In 2016, we will continue this work, which we consider to be vital to a just and peaceful future. We also look forward to discovering new allies to learn from, and new ways to increase our effectiveness.