The dreadful multiple tragedies unfolding around the globe are truly overwhelming and too depressing to think about. The mainstream Western media play a major role in feeding our anxiety by skillfully focusing on the stories that often target certain religions, ethnicities, and/or races. People are becoming not only hopeless but also desensitized to the suffering of others. Taking into consideration the painful realities of our time, the authors of Active Hope, Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone discuss how we can face the mess we’re in without going crazy. This process begins “by acknowledging that our times confront us with realities that are painful to face, difficult to take in, and confusing to live with” (p.2). This is a starting point, the authors say, “of an amazing journey to strengthen and deepens our aliveness” (p.2). To guide us in our pursuit to bring about the desired transformation, the authors introduced their theory of Active Hope. According to their definition, Active Hope is “about becoming active participants in bringing about what we hope for” (p.3). It is a practice “we do rather than have” (p.3). The authors contend that “[w]hatever situation we face, we can choose our response…the kind of responses we make, and the degree to which they count, are shaped by the way we think and feel about hope” (p.2). Apparently, the freedom to choose is a privilege that is not held by everyone in the world. And for those who live in circumstances that do not allow them to make choices, this lack of choice will influence their thinking and actions in bringing about what they hope for. I do believe that we need to hold on to hope to navigate through our present challenges.
Furthermore, the authors identify three stories being enacted in our time. The first story is “business as usual.” This story regards economic growth as essential for prosperity. The second reveals the destructive consequence of the business-as-usual mode,…the third is about the groundswell of response to danger and the multifaceted transition to a life-sustaining civilization” (p.14). When I think how the above three stories enacted in my country’s context, I notice evidence of our society being led toward what the authors’ call, the great unraveling. One recent example is the excessive force by Ethiopian government against Oromo university students’ peaceful protests of plans to extend the borders of the capital city, Addis Ababa. The government’s heavy-handed reaction to any criticism of its policies challenges the society’s capacity to choose the story they live from. What is more difficult than not having a freedom to express ones thoughts freely? If people are targeted because they hold a different opinion, they have no option but to keep their thoughts to themselves to survive. In any oppressive, tribal based, and secretive leadership, people suffer from lack of clear view of the realities they exist in. Despite the problems, we can still find a good story we can participate in to have a “sense of purpose and aliveness.” Also, the three key steps of Active Hope might be helpful depending on the situation: “First, we take clear view of reality; second, we identify what we hope for in terms of the direction we’d like things to move in or the values we’d like to see expressed; and third, we take steps to move ourselves or our situation in that direction” (p.3). There is also our Lord’s timeless wisdom “be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” This means we need to be practical and artful when dealing with people and institutions.