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Widening Circles: A Memoir [Paperback]

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Item Number 278120  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   300
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9" Width: 6" Height: 0.67"
Weight:   0.97 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jan 1, 2001
Publisher   New Catalyst Books
ISBN  1897408013  
EAN  9781897408018  

Availability  138 units.
Availability accurate as of Oct 23, 2016 11:29.
Usually ships within one to two business days from La Vergne, TN.
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Item Description...
In this absorbing memoir, well-known eco-philosopher, Buddhist scholar, and deep ecology activist/teacher Joanna Macy recounts her adventures of mind and spirit in the key social movements of our era. From involvement with the CIA and the Cold War, through experiences in Africa, India and Tibet, to her encounter with the Dalai Lama and Buddhism which led to her life-long embrace of the religion and a deep commitment to the peace and environmental movements, Macy's autobiography reads like a novel as she reflects on how her marriage and family life enriched her service to the world. Widening Circles reveals the unique synthesis of spirituality and activism that define Macy's contribution to the world.

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More About Joanna Macy

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Eco-philosopher Joanna Macy, Ph.D., is one of the best know spiritual activist in this country. She is a scholar of Buddhism, general systems theory, and deep ecology. A respected voice in movements for peace, justice, and ecology, she interweaves her scholarship with four decades of activism. Her wide-ranging work addresses psychological and spiritual issues of the nuclear age, the cultivation of ecological awareness, and the fruitful resonance between Buddhist thought and contemporary science. Her group methods have been adopted and adapted widely in classrooms, churches, and grassroots organizing. Her work helps people transform despair and apathy, in the face of overwhelming social and ecological crises, into constructive, collaborative action. The author of 10 previous books Mrs. Macy travels widely giving lectures, workshops, and trainings in the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Australia. She lives in Berkeley, California.

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Product Categories
1Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > General   [56054  similar products]
2Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Memoirs   [7850  similar products]

Reviews - What do our customers think?
Widening Circles  Jul 25, 2006
Joanna writes using all of the senses to 'catch' the reader's interest. I am inspired to say the least by her journey, her response to it and her willingness to share so candidly.
Coming to Understand Who We Really Are  Oct 29, 2001
I live in the Pacific Northwest. We are experiencing a rather intense conflict over whalehunting by the Makah Indian Nation. Many non-Indian (and some Native) environmentalists and animal lovers oppose the whalehunt, mainly on the grounds that it sets a poor precedent to restart it after a 70-year hiatus, and that it makes a mockery of attempts to preserve the natural environment. Some, in my opinion, have been particularly disrespectful of tribal elders and customs, publicly stating that the whaling traditions of the Makah are long since dead, and that since Indians now live in modern housing and hold down jobs like the rest of us, whaling is no longer relevant to the native culture.

The Makah insist that whalehunting is part of their treaty rights, and for others to pick and choose which rights they are allowed to exercise is similar to allowing another nation to decide which articles in the Bill of Rights Americans should be allowed to enjoy. They see whalehunting as an important part of their cultural heritage, which they are seeking to preserve. They, too, however, have spoken as if blind to the efforts of environmentalists over the past four decades to preserve and protect whales and their habitats so that whalehunting could even be a question.

Both groups share something in common: anger and grief. Environmentalists grieve for a time when whales freely roamed the seas, when Pacific Coast forests covered the landscape, when the Puget Sound region was not simply a slash of highways and cheaply built (but high-priced) housing developments, when cities and towns were not choked with garbage. Certainly, global warming and the pollution of the seas - neither of which can be attributed to the Makah - have accounted for more whale deaths than the Makah could ever accomplish. But still, for them, the hunted whale - the single whale that the Makah are likely to catch and kill each year using ancient technology - is a symbol of a world gone awry, of a vanished world (which may or may not have ever existed) in which humankind and the natural environment were locked in harmonious and continuing embrace. And while they are in grief, they haven't learned how to mourn.

The Makah are angry, too, though many are slow to display it to outsiders. They are angry about having their lives and culture wrenched away by invaders, but perhaps more so by the lure of modernity upon their young people. They seek to recapture a rich and ancient culture, rooted in the earth and sea and sky, but which most of them, like the environmentalists, have never really known. They grieve for a past which they know, deep down, they will never be able to fully recover, a world for which a single, lonely hunted whale has become a symbol.

Dealing with anger and with grief - for oneself and for the world - is the common thread that runs through Joanna Macy's compelling memoir Widening Circles. Having first met Joanna in 1977 at the protests against the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant (I make a cameo appearance in the book as the kazoo-playing pamphleteer and Sanskrit scholar), and later as her first publisher, I have watched with awe as Joanna has sought ways to transform our anger and grief into power, the personal power that gives our lives meaning even as we are stretched in our personal, political, and ultimately spiritual struggles.

Joanna's life spans five continents, and she is no stranger to grief and anger on any one of them. It has been an unusual life -- from New York French-speaking schoolgirl raised by an abusive father and long-suffering mother to CIA intelligence officer; from wife of a Peace Corps director in India and Africa to student of Buddhism and systems theory; from motorcycle-driving scholar of community development in Sri Lanka to futurist - Joanna has an uncanny ability to step back from the everyday fray of our frazzled lives and focus on who she - and we - really are, or can be.

Indeed, one of the things Widening Circles is really about is identity. Joanna's many travels, coupled with untrammeled curiosity about her world, has allowed her the luxury of finding identity, in the present moment as her Buddhist teachers would instruct her, but also in the lives of others, in the past and in the future, and well beyond the limits of her own skin.

And this is the gift Joanna has given us. Environmental problems are, at their core, human problems, questions of who we really are, and how we organize ourselves as a community and as a society, and ultimately how we see ourselves. When our grief and anger control us, we become prisoners of our little selves, and despair, when unexpressed, constrains us to a narrow focus upon the immediate, the here and now. Joanna's life work is truly an invitation to all of us to widen our circle, or in the words of William Blake, "To see the world in a grain of sand/And heaven in a wild flower,/Hold infinity in the palm of your hand/And eternity in an hour."

Whales, too. Read the book.

(Published in EarthSpirit Magazine)

A life worth living  Oct 26, 2000
I read this book because I had already found 'World as Lover, World as Self' to be inspiring. Joanna Macy's combination of Buddhism, general systems theory and deep ecology seems to 'fit' for me, but here it is her sheer humanity that impresses most. In this memoir she is not afraid to lay open her weaknesses as well as her strenghths, her questions as well as her answers. While her story ends in Bodh Gaya, the Indian site of the Buddha's awakening, what struck me most was the distance Macy had travelled to get there - a whole lifetime of journeying, and seventy years of a dramatically changing world to negotiate. A common thread through many of these years is Macy's opposition to the nuclear military/industrial complex, from her two years employment with the CIA and its culture of 'tough-mindedness' (p.65), to her visit to the people of Novozybkov, poisoned by Chernobyl, her insistence on the need to recognise, express and work through grief is constant. Her ability to guide people through despair to empowerment is a highly significant contribution to the world. To read the story of her life is to see how it can be possible to live without cynicism and with hope intact in the nuclear age. Since I had not read 'Coming Back to Life', Macy's nuclear guardianship project was new to me, and I found it extremely brave and moving. Another thread that runs through Macy's life story is the development of an authentic spirituality. Macy says 'the widening circles of my life have not had as their center the Big Papa God of my preacher forebears. I walked out on that belief when I was twenty'. (p. 277) Despite leaving formal Christianity, she tells of how she 'failed as an atheist' and of her many adventures with Buddhism. These range from the intellectual adventure of studying 'dependent co-arising' to the practical adventures of being thrown out of Sri Lanka and, later, trying to smuggle herself into Tibet illegally. Macy seems too much of a free spirit to sign on the dotted line of any religion, and she is able here to critique as well as praise aspects of Buddhism as she has encountered it. A quote on the back cover of the book is worth repeating: 'A gem for all young people seeking to create a life of meaning, passion and purpose'. I would endorse this, and widen it to include the not-so-young. Its interesting that much of what Macy is known for today was achieved only after her fortieth birthday...
Engaging journey.  Oct 3, 2000
Joanna Macy is an activist, a Buddhist scholar, and the author of many worthwhile books, including one of my favorites, WORLD AS LOVER, WORLD AS SELF (1991). Her inspiring memoir shows that a life of engaged spirituality is not only possible, but an adventure.

The title of Macy's autobiography is taken from a Rilke poem: "I have lived my life in widening circles/ that reach out across the world." Joanna was born into a Protestant family on May 2, 1929. Her abusive father was "controlling" (p. 24) and "reclusive" (p. 25). Her mother was oppressed. Joanna's childhood was "lonely" (p. 16). She enjoyed Presbyterian "Quiet Time" (pp. 36-37). After attending a foreign language school, Lycee Francais de New York, she enrolled in Wellesly, and majored in Biblical History (p. 46), before "walking out." Then, at 21, Joanna received a Fulbright scholarship that allowed her to study in France, where she read French existentialists Camus and Sartre. It was on a half-price student trip to Marrakech, however, that Joanna's life took a turn: "I had walked New York and Paris in search of myself," she writes, "but here in Marrakech I was walking inside my own body" (p. 61).

Upon returning to the U.S., Joanna then worked for the CIA for two and a half years (p. 65) prior to marrying her husband, Fran, in 1953. They had three children, Chris, Jack, and Peggy, before travelling to India in 1964, Tibet in 1965, and Africa in 1966 with the newly-created Peace Corps. At 36, after driving to Dharamsala to meet the Dalai Lama (singing "Hello Dalai" along the way), Macy experienced Buddhism: "I had turned inside out," she recalls, "like a kernel of popcorn over the fire. My interior was now on the outside, inextricably mixed with the rest of the world, and what I had tried to exclude was now at its core" (p. 122). Macy realized then that she was only present about 5 percent of the time, living her life "in absentia" (p. 105). "For this wasting of my life I had only myself to blame" (p. 115).

"At forty," Macy writes, "my mind was an eager horse" (p. 128), and she enrolled in the graduate religous studies program at Syracuse University, where she studied Buddhism and general systems theory. In her fifties, Macy participated in liberation Buddhism in Sri Lanka, and the entered Tibet illegally at age 58. In more recent years, she has become well known for her anti-nuke activism, and for leading workshops on despair and empowerment, deep ecology, and nuclear guardianship practices.

Macy's fascinating memoir offers inspiration to anyone, regardless of age, interested in travelling a more meaningful path, or widening the circles of their own life.

G. Merritt


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