Love for the Sake of Life; Live for the Sake of Love

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Book review by Martha O’Hehir

Becoming Gaia: On the Threshold of Planetary Initiation, by Sean Kelly. Integral Imprint Publishing.

Sean Kelly’s new book, Becoming Gaia: On the Threshold of Planetary Initiation, is not an easy read, but it is an important one, because “it takes enormous courage to face our fear.” He helps me find the moral and physical courage Joanna Macy calls forth in the story of “The Shambala Warriors.”

Sean Kelly is steeped in the Work That Reconnects and understands Joanna Macy’s call to a new lifeway for western industrial citizens. He also understands history and post- and meta-modern philosophies and theologies. His grasp of the science of climate change and the current Great Dying is evident. He joins others who see these as the End Times. 

I struggle to read his book because the words and ideas are big and they are true, and they are sometimes scary. I have to read slowly and ponder deeply, especially the beginning chapters of the book. It may not be good news, but at least, I am facing reality. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I am afraid. I am always given food for thought for where we are and how we got here.

I find in Kelly’s book… a way to face and embrace this “planetary initiation.”

At the same time, for practical reasons, like trying to live in the face of global extinctions, injustices, pandemics, genocides, and economic inequities, I have to find a way to get up in the morning. For this, I find in Kelly’s book, especially the last chapter, where he makes distinctions and connections from the perspective of the Work That Reconnects, a way to face and embrace this “planetary initiation.” He brings Joanna’s life message to light in a way that helps me live in the moment while accepting all the pain and joy, the beauty and the moral injury, with integrity, face on, no denial. 

I immediately recognized the last chapter, “Living in End Times: Beyond Hope and Despair,” as the long essay that was initially published online as a response to Jem Bendell’s rather earth-shaking essay/blog of the summer of 2018: “Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy.”(1)   In that essay, Bendell outlined that our planetary jig was up, by our own doing. Kelly’s response did not negate Bendell’s “terminal diagnosis,” but it brought forward important messaging about how to live and face death in the end times. In other words, how do we prepare for “a good death”? 

I recommend reading this last chapter first because, as a WTR facilitator, these words are immediately accessible: easy to understand and useful for workshops. Then, begin at the beginning of the book, and take as much time as you need to ponder and absorb Kelly’s foundational ideas. 

Sean invites us to think of “going forth” more as “planetary hospice workers.”

As facilitators of the Work That Reconnects, we are already hearing less and less about successfully bringing about a Great Turning before the Great Unraveling is complete. There is little time for correcting what is mayo mana, for rethinking our bad ideas that brought us to this moment. Sean invites us to think of “going forth” more as “planetary hospice workers.” Reading this book can prepare us to speak to this new consciousness of a destiny that defies hope and calls for courage as we go forth “to love for the sake of life, and live for the sake of love.”

(1) Bendell, Jem. (2018). Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy.


Martha O’Hehir is an interfaith eco-chaplain and a facilitator for Joanna Macy’s Work That Reconnects. Her primary gifts are her voice, writing, and analytical skills. She has employed these as a musician, liturgist, educator, curriculum writer, retreat facilitator and editor. As an eco-chaplain, Martha joins fellow seekers attracted to Spirit through the Integral Christian Network and Wild Church. As an editor and writer, she serves the American Orff Schulwerk Association and the Work That Reconnects as a member of the editorial boards of their respective journals, The Orff Echo and The Deep Times Journal. In recent years, she has been exploring the kin-dom of plants and their medicine as a way of growing into a more grateful and earth-loving lifeway. Her greatest joys are receiving inspirations from Spirit, journaling, and knowing that her children and former students are blessing the world.

Recorded by Martha M. O’Hehir

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