Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Summer Reading

The books by my bed stand or in the back seat of my car or in my hand bag are Andre Codrescu's "New Orleans, Mon Amour," Salinger's "Nine Stories," a compilation of literary journalism (to get a jump on my fall class reading), "Blessed Unrest" by Paul Hawken, Maureen Dowd's "Are Men Necessary" and one my mom just sent me called "Palace Walk," whose author won a Nobel for literature. I tried to start James Joyce's "Ulysses" but couldn't get past the first page.

The one that is most immediately holding my interest and giving me hope is "Blessed Unrest." Hawken is one of the founders of "Smith & Hawken," which started as a "green" company selling "green" goods, but I don't think he owns anymore interest in the company. I'm not sure where they stand now in terms of earth-friendly products. I wouldn't be surprised if S&H had some of their products made by 12-yr-old indentured servants in sweat shops in China. There was a story on mpr this morning about a family who went a year without buying anything that came from China, but I digress. Or do I?

The complete title of the new book is "Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming." It's from a quote by Martha Graham that refers to artists restlessness, I guess: "There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the other." Hawken used it to talk about the one, maybe two, million non-governmental organizations active throughout the world addressing poverty, globalisation, imperialism, peace, climate change and other environmental issues.

But after spending years researching this phenomenon, including creating with my colleagues a global database of its constituent organizations, I have come to these conclusions: this is the largest social movement in all of human history. No one knows its scope, and how it functions is more mysterious than what meets the eye. What does meet the eye is compelling: coherent, organic, self-organized congregations involving tens of millions of people dedicated to change.

I'm only 87 pages into it but so far he's given a history of the environmental movement and explained connections between the social justice and environmental movements, including the influence of Ralph Waldo Emerson on Henry David Thoreau, the influence of Thoreau on Mohandas Gandhi and the influence of Gandhi on Martin Luther King, Jr. I got this book from the library, but I think I'm going to buy several copies to give as gifts to friends who might need inspiration - I know I need an attitude adjustment when it comes to my world view, and I think this book is helping.

If you want to hear/read/watch Paul Hawken talking to Amy Goodman about his book and the "largest movement" no one saw coming, you can do so on her website.

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