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What We’re Reading (and Watching!) – July 2012

by Donnie Maclurcan on 30th July 2012

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This is part of an ongoing series highlighting what our members are currently reading (and watching!) in the Post Growth and sustainability realms.

I AM (documentary) directed by Tom Shadyac

In “I AM”, Tom Shadyac, director of such comedy films as Ace Ventura and Bruce Almighty, has created a documentary that communicates some of the most important concepts of our times in a light-hearted, graceful way.  The film takes us on two parallel journeys.  One is Tom’s personal journey from a life of Hollywood glamour to one of voluntary simplicity.  This leads him to seek out a better understanding of the human journey, at large, by asking two essential questions, “What’s wrong with the world?” and “What can we do about it?”

In Tom’s quest to seek out the answers, he has conversations with some of the leading thinkers and doers of our time, including Desmond Tutu, David Suzuki, Lynne McTaggart, Noam Chomsky, Daniel Quinn and Elisabet Sahtouris.  These conversations, though they cover a wide array of topics, all come back to one essential point: humanity’s main underlying problem is that we believe we are separate, when, in fact, we are all tightly connected to each other and to all the living systems in which we live.  This fact is explored from a variety of angles, including biology, physics, history, and cultural narratives.

Another important point that the film explores in-depth is that of human nature.  Tom and friends delve into human nature; how our culture tends to interpret it (i.e.- human nature is greedy and aggressive) and how it really is.  In doing so, they don’t dismiss the competitiveness in human nature, which is important, but they expand on what important roles compassion, empathy and cooperation have played in our evolution and continue to play in our world today.

Alongside the discussion of human nature and connection, both of which are vital aspects of the paradigm shift to post growth futures, I was thoroughly impressed with the way in which Tom’s narration and conversations with others weaved together a beautiful story.  This story is told in such a touching, yet playful way that I think it’s one of the film’s most important aspects; the storytelling, itself.  It engages the viewer on a very personal level and, thus, is extremely effective at communicating its message; that love and connection are real and are at the roots of the shift in consciousness that is currently taking place.  – Jen

The Golden Spruce – by John Vaillant

The Golden Spruce takes place on the Canadian coastal islands of Haida Gwaii, simultaneously featuring a mutant Sitka Spruce – two hundred years old, with golden needles – and a logger-turned-environmental activist who took it upon himself to cut the magnificent tree down.

This true story brilliantly weaves together so many seemingly disparate realities: initial contact between Europeans and the archipelago’s Haida people as well as the relations among Haida and other First Nations that preceded this contact, the economic and political aspects of the coast’s globally-reaching logging industry, the complex relationship between mental illness and social marginalization, and even the roles geographical and biological realities play on human behavior and societal development.

Valliant refuses to simplify the complexities at play, and brings the reader to a place where keen awareness of the interplays among past, present, and future can be viscerally experienced. – Janet

The New Revelations: A Conversation with God – by Neale Donald Walsch

The New Revelations

This is an incredible read; perhaps most so for those who haven’t read Walsch’s previous books in the ‘conversation’ series. What I particularly love about Walsch’s work – in documenting his ‘conversations with God’ – is that it would speak to me irrespective of whether I had formal, informal or atheistic responses to notions of a higher power.

The premise of the book is that, in order to enable the behavioural changes needed to ensure human flourishing, humans need to reassess a number of fundamental beliefs about themselves and ‘God’ (including the notion of each being separate). Of these beliefs, I find the outlining of ‘five fallacies’ most poignant to the post growth journey:  1. Human beings are separate from each other; 2. There is not enough of what human beings need to be happy; 3. To get the stuff of which there is not enough, human beings must compete with each other; 4. Some human beings are better than other human beings; 5. It is appropriate for human beings to resolve severe differences created by all the other fallacies by killing each other.

The insights are sufficiently detailed and reiterated (at times exhaustingly so), with little gems such as: if we are selfish, how about expanding our definition of the ‘self’? And: “expressed with love, anger is the discharge of disharmony, not the creator of it”. One particular insight has proven influential in my post-growth work: the reframing from ‘right and wrong’ to ‘what’s working (functional) and not working (dysfunctional)’. Although I sense there remains value-laden judgment in what I determine functional or not, I have found this framing more useful for initially engaging those of differing views in discussions about futures we are collectively working to enable. – Donnie

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avatar Donnie is a co-founder of the Post Growth Institute and an Affiliate Professor of Social Science at Southern Oregon University. He is presently writing two books: How on Earth? Flourishing in a Not-For-Profit World by 2050 and The Not-for-Profit Handbook.

Donnie has written 22 posts on Post Growth Institute. Contact Donnie

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