Common Fire

Reviewed by Jean Barker
Issue #28, Winter 1997-8, p 25


Common Fire, Lives of Commitment in a Complex World,
by Laurent A. Parks Daloz, Sharon Daloz Parks, Cheryl H. Keen, and James P. Keen, Beacon Press, 1996, 247 pages, $15 paper.

What unites us in our time to renew our commitment to healing the Earth we love so much? One thing is the stories of those who have not given up.
The tough problems this book addresses -- from urban conflict to a polarizing economy to environmental degradation -- require people who can shun cynicism and despair, accept new responsibilities, build new connections, and sustain themselves over the long haul. 
Common Fire looks at one hundred people in many walks of life who live and work on behalf of the common good. The voices of these people and the authors' careful analysis, show that family and community relationships, education, the workplace, the arts, religion, and media all matter; they can all help or hinder the formation of a life of commitment. 
The authors' definition of "common good": "the well-being of the whole earth community -- its safety, the integrity of basic institutions and practices, and the sustaining of the living systems of our planet home."
The authors "hope the reader will recognize the common fire of spirit, compassion, imagination, realism, and the hope that animates committed lives. Such people have learned to trust appropriately and act with courage, to live within and beyond tribe in affinity with those who are other, to practice critical habits of mind and a responsible imagination, to manage their own mixed emotions and motives, and to live with a recognition of the interdependence of all life manifest in a paradoxical sense of time and space. They help us imagine ways of building a more promising future."
Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, writes on the book jacket, "Common Fire is a perceptive, groundbreaking analysis of inspired lives, adding to our understanding of skilled compassion, commited citizenry, and lives lived in alignment with a deeper purpose. This is a guidebook for the soul." 
At this season of giving even beyond the new year, what could be a better gift than this book?   ###

Jean Barker is a member of the EarthLight Committee and a committed teacher and activist working on behalf of the common good.


Authors Laurent A. Parks Daloz and Sharon Daloz Parks were among the founders of the Chinook Learning Center. They are the new program directors at the Whidby Institute in Seattle, Washington. 
Authors Cheryl H. Keen and James P. Keen share the position of vice president and dean of the faculty at Antioch College.

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