(plus Q and A from an exchange with director Chris Landry)
Take a deep breath. It’s time to refresh. No, this isn’t about ignoring the huge challenges of our era. It isn’t about closing your eyes. It’s about looking straight in the eye of what’s overwhelming us.
To help you do this, spend 27 minutes with “Joanna Macy and the Great Turning.” This calming, elegant, intellectual yoga session outlines -- as well as it can be communicated in words -- what we have come to and how we are to proceed. And although Joanna Macy’s mind and manner deserve the camera on her the whole time, the film deftly cuts to digestibly tough, instructive, and hopeful images throughout this brief master class.
What is “The Great Turning”? It is the third revolution of human culture. The agricultural revolution 10,000 years ago settled us down to productive communities. We exceeded ourselves. The industrial revolution 300 years ago revved us into a frenzy of growth. We exceeded ourselves exponentially.
The ecological revolution – The Great Turning – is trying to bubble up through the mega-dangerous opportunity we are whirring and slogging through. Joanna Macy identifies three dimensions of this revolution, assigning a hopeful vitality to the knowledge that there are no guarantees we will attain sustainability.
First, activism slows down the destruction and buys us time. As well, collective behaviors develop patterns of new infrastructure, including new ways of measuring wealth and prosperity. Foremost for revolutionary success, shifted consciousness roots the necessary understanding that our planet is a living, interlaced system, not a limitless warehouse of resources, not a sewer of segregated poisons.
Take a deep breath. Take a deep listen to Joanna Macy. Give yourself, at least, a placeholder for The Great Turning.
--- Distilled from an exchange with the “Joanna Macy” director, Chris Landry ---
Chuck Jaffee: Did Joanna Macy pretty much say what she says on screen in one take? Is her grasp and delivery as poised and confident and intact as it seems to be?
Chris Landry: Yes, more or less, with a break for lunch. She is remarkable in her ability to tell this story so well.
CJ: To make the most effective film you could around this marvelous spokesperson, what kind of difficulties and decisions did you have to work through?
CL: The biggest challenge was deciding what to leave out, because the film could have easily been twice as long. I wanted it shorter rather than longer, because she packs so much in to absorb. I also wanted something that a community group or college class could watch and discuss in one sitting.
CJ: The first and second human revolutions kindled processes that already seemed to be part of our DNA. The third revolution seems like it’s built more on hope than core wiring.
CL: I’m not sure the agricultural or industrial revolution could have been imagined before it took place. I think we get stuck when we try to guess whether or not we will succeed. It helps me to cultivate detachment from the outcome and take comfort in knowing that I can’t know how the story ends. The other thing is that revolutions of this scale can’t be conceived by the individual mind. We create them out of the hive mind, our collective intelligence. The internet is a great example of that.
CJ: To what extent do you feel you are personally, actively invested in living the transformation that Joanna Macy projects? What are your biggest obstacles?
CL I have two sons. I worry about the world they will inherit. I also have to not dwell in the fear, because that’s not useful. I make my living helping world-changing non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and foundations understand their stories and tell them more effectively. That’s the way I think I can help.