Our Saving Grace: A Relational Mode of Being

by Charlene Spretnak
Green Horizon Books, 2011

Contemporary society in the West stands at a crossroads, a pivotal moment in time. We have become a culture of individual consumers, our central purpose tied to the accumulation and production of material wealth. Isolated and disconnected, we have forgotten our intrinsic and inevitable need to live in relationship, to participate within the natural cycles that nourish us. This mode of being has led to severe consequences that are undermining our ability to survive on this planet. In light of rising incidences of resource and energy depletion, rampant greenhouse gases, and environmental degradation, it is clear that healing our modern crisis will require reprioritizing our most basic values and beliefs. We must make new choices in support of true psychological, physical, social, and environmental health.

In her recent book, Charlene Spretnak skillfully motivates us to rediscover the essential relationships that facilitate true happiness and health in our societies. She identifies the fallacies of modernity that have led to our current crises by highlighting one very basic point of reference underlying the predominant mode of living today: the mechanistic worldview. She explains:

One simple idea underlies the systems of knowledge that have shaped modernity: that all entities in the natural world, including us, are essentially separate and that they function through mechanistic ways of interacting. In contrast, a very different, yet elegantly simple, idea is now emerging and correcting the extremely limited mechanistic view: that all entities in the natural world, including us, are thoroughly relational beings of great complexity, who are both composed of and nested within contextual networks of dynamic and reciprocal relationships.

By illustrating the ways in which a relational frame of reference is now beginning to change our predominant manner of doing things, Spretnak offers a way of moving beyond the limited and problematic mechanistic mindset, which incorrectly assumes that all life is modeled after static and mechanical operations. The relational view, on the other hand, reflects the interconnected, vibrant qualities that are characteristic of real, living environments and therefore serves as a more appropriate frame of reference for living in sync with the natural processes that we depend upon for our ultimate sustenance.

In this book, Spretnak presents a lucid, elegant, and compassionate critique of modernity and its harmful effects on self-worth, social conduct, and planetary dynamics caused by the failure of our hypermodern culture to acknowledge that reality is inherently dynamic and interrelated. ...

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Karen K. Chen is a festival and community organizer working to develop preparedness and long-term sustenance at the local level. She received her Ph.D. in 2011 from the California Institute of Integral Studies.

Source Citation

Chen, Karen K. 2012. "Our Saving Grace: A Relational Mode of Being." Tikkun 27(2): 49.

tags: Books, Politics & Society, Reviews   
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