Authors: Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone
Review by Mike Grenville
Published fifteen years ago, Coming Back to Life first introduced American author Joanna Macy’s indispensable work on helping us to reconnect our lives. Having written a number of acclaimed titles since, her new book, Active Hope, is her most accessible yet, and the most timely.
Co-authored with Chris Johnstone, a specialist in positive psychology based in Bristol, the authors look at the familiar concept of hope with new eyes. Rather than passively hoping for an outcome, ‘active hope’ is seen as a practice – something we do rather than have. It’s about engaging with what we want to happen and taking steps towards it, letting our intention be the guide.
“We are part of something larger than ourselves, there is a bigger story going on,” says Chris. “Something different and new that wants to happen through us.” He points out that when a group of musicians improvise together, the whole band thinks through its members. He describes it as “distributed intelligence.”
The book aims to help the reader embrace and honour this deep interconnectedness. The key is the idea that while there is so much disturbing information that we’re now exposed to, it’s what we do with it that matters.
“It’s true we are at a crossroads,” said Chris, “and I don’t know if we will make it. But if I was to live at a point in history where what I did would make a difference, it is now. Change can be steady and incremental, but if you look at history it is punctuated by sudden surprises that were not predicted. Crisis can be a turning point, collectively as well as individually.”
As the subtitle of the book suggests, Active Hope will help you face the mess we’re in without going crazy. But more than that, it can help you to see what is happening with new eyes and bring forth qualities you didn’t know you have.