Tuesday, July 8, 2008


“It is perhaps not too much to say that, in the first decade of the new millennium, humanity has entered into a condition that is in some sense more globally united and interconnected, more sensitized to the experiences and suffering of others, in certain respects more spiritually awakened, more conscious of alternative future possibilities and ideals, more capable of collective healing and compassion, and, aided by technological advances in communication media, more able to think, feel, and respond together in a spiritually evolved manner to the world’s swiftly changing realities than has ever before been possible.” -Richard Tarnas

I found this book on my roommate's shelf a few months ago and was immediately intrigued by the title. In my urban life of over-commitment and busyness, Blessed Unrest sounded like the best example of an oxymoron. The subtitle made it so clear, though: How the Largest Social Movement in History is Restoring Grace, Justice and Beauty to the World. This book essentially discusses how the wide variety of social justice and environment groups are bringing about real change...and how we need small groups in all different places to be actively pursuing the health of our planet and its people.

I have long been convinced that so much in this world needs healing and that greed has done so much of the damage that afflicts humanity. Working toward this healing isn't restful, but it is good and blessed. This book challenges some of the accepted realities of the world and of the United States and asks the reader to reconsider his or her thinking. I cannot respond to this book as a whole because it is merely too rich in information...I can only recommend that others read and think about what it addresses.

I am convinced that our country cannot be about the only the financial bottom line--but that we need to figure out how people can be the bottom line and how markets can be a healthy way to support human dignity and what makes life worth living. Below is a list of some of the most thought provoking quotations that I read along the way.

"To those who carp about low wages and poor working conditions in developing countries, free market advocates argue that freedom and prosperity require time and sacrifice. But whose time and whose sacrifice?...The world's top two hundred companies have twice the assets of 80 percent of the world's people." (page 119)

"Why must such groups [that argue, demonstrate and litigate for human rights] operate at the margins of society simply if they believe that social justice and human rights should not be sacrificed when corporations shift their manufacturing to the lowest-wage countries?" (page 126)

"As effective as markets are, they are tools, not reality. Markets make great servants, but bad leaders and ridiculous religions...Trade is not the salient issue; the critical question is: Who sets the rules and who enforces them? There can be no sustainability when institutions whose primary purpose is to create money are dictating the standards." (page 135)

"When small things are done with love it's not a flawed you or me who does them: it's love. I have no faith in any political party, left, right or centrist. I have boundless faith in love. In keeping with this faith, the only spiritually responsible way I know to be a citizen, artist, or activist in these strange times is by giving little or no thought to 'great things' such as saving the planet, achieving world peace, or stopping neocon greed. Great things tend to be undoable things. Whereas small things, lovingly done, are always within our reach." (page 188, quoting Duncan)

So I suppose my closing thought is that change is within our reach--because if we bring this love of humanity into each of our spheres in life--our homes, our friendships, our workplace, our places of worship, our neighborhoods--that is when change will begin to occur. And that is when we will all begin to remember--on micro and macro levels--what makes life valuable, and that it typically has nothing to do with money at the end of the day.

Human Rights Watch
Natural Capital

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