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December 2005/January 2006
First “Kaboom,” Then “Aha!”

Book Review by Dave Platter

 

Consciousness in Action: The Power of Beauty, Love and Courage in a Violent Time by Andrew Beath (Lantern Books, 2005). $17.95 paperback. 293 pages.

Consciousness In Action is an important book, to be sure. Anyone who has ever felt despair at the self-denying way with which our society plunders the planet will receive reassurance in its pages. Author Andrew Beath has filled them not only with his ideas, but with the stories of 15 equally inspiring leaders and activists, including Julia Butterfly Hill, Joanna Macy and Ralph Metzner.

Beath’s thesis is that we are letting ourselves in for a global environmental catastrophe. There is disruption of the geosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere. This is no surprise. What comes next, however, is not the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments you might expect. He doesn’t quite say it outright, but you get the sense Beath thinks the ecological crisis is a good thing. Like alcoholics hitting bottom or teenage delinquents receiving their comeuppance, Beath believes we humans have to be confronted with disaster before we will wake up. “One optimistic perspective is that the destruction caused by human activity is evidence of birth pains associated with the delivery of the next generation of consciousness,” he writes. “We are on the cusp of a new era, born of our excesses, because we spoil the nest of our creation.”

After a few billion deaths from war and privation, perhaps necessity will force us to see the error of our ways and to change our relationship to the rest of nature. Beath writes, “The only way to end destructive human tendencies like ecological degradation and economic imbalance is for individuals to undergo spiritual self-examination and recognize their responsibility to nature”

In a sort of list that reminds me of Buddhism, he goes on to describe the seven attributes needed to arrive at this change of consciousness: nonviolence, not knowing, introspection, eros, no enemy, vision, and being joyful.

With Consciousness In Action, Andrew Beath consolidates a huge range of societal shortcomings into a relatively small volume. He also provides a kindhearted primer for activists on how to be both righteous and conscientious. But, too often Beath glosses over supporting evidence and arguments to arrive breathlessly at his conclusions. He’s like a preacher directing his sermon to the choir. Still, it is hard not to get a sensuous thrill from the poetic, rolling language he uses to rightfully condemn the consumerism, violence, short-sightedness and greed of our civilization.

Dave Platter is a writer and publicist living in New York. He is the founding principal of Publitas LLC, which represents a diverse clientele, including Buddhists, yoga studios, magazines and real estate agencies. For more information visit www.publitas.net.

 


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