Marjorie Hope Young '45
At 79, Marjorie Hope Young says she still hasn't found time to retire. Together with her husband James—her "closest colleague and soul mate"—who died earlier this year at 84, Young has written five books, with the latest published two years ago. Now she is planning a sixth, elaborating on a central theme of their work together: humanity's need to be in a collaborative relationship with the earth and universe.
One of Joseph Campbell's students, Young continues to be strongly influenced by the late American mythologist's work, focusing on the universal human need to explain social, cosmological and spiritual realities. Her next book, for which a title has not yet been chosen, deals with the transcendental experience. "Anyone can have transcendental experiences," explains Young, who describes herself as a "Quaker-oriented pantheist."
"You can be in Wilmington, Ohio or Central Asia. It doesn't matter," she says.
Margery and James Young —both of them were sociology professors—met in New York City in 1967 at a seminar on violence during the Vietnam War and discovered mutual interests in Quakerism. They went on to teach at Wilmington College, a Quaker-affiliated institution in Ohio, posts they held until their retirement in 1988. The titles of their books reflect the issues of their time: Youth Against the World (1970), The Struggle for Humanity: Agents of Nonviolent Change in a Violent World (1977), The South African Churches in a Revolutionary Situation (1982) and The Faces of Homelessness (1986).
In their final book together, Voices of Hope in the Struggle to Save the Planet (Apex Press, 2000), the Youngs contend that difficult moral choices lie at the heart of the current global environmental crisis. Exploring the connections between faith and ecology, they portray the lives and ideas of key spiritual leaders and activists—Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Taoists, Shintoists, Native Americans and other indigenous peoples. Each chapter of Voices of Hope contains a brief analysis of a faith's ecological teachings and description of the environmental problems of the countries they visited. The Youngs met with hundreds of people in 16 different countries while writing the book. "At night, in the hotel, we would compare notes," Marjorie says.
"Putting it all into one cohesive piece took a lot of discussion. It was interesting how we would pick up on different things. Jim was the researcher and I did the writing. Longhand, of course."
Now Young has embarked, alone, on yet another inspirational journey—one closer to home.
Describing transcendental experiences and unity with the universe, the subjects of the new book, Young recalls her first such experience occurred in the front yard of a house she lived in as a child: "I was 11 and weeding the garden. When I sat back to rest a bit, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of warmth emanating from earth. It lasted only a few minutes, but it was an ecstatic experience."
She has had similar experiences in Kyoto, at Gandhi's home in India, in Cambodia and other locations. "Wherever they occur, they make us more open, and help us concentrate on what is really important," she says.
Although Young has recently been limited by tremors and a tendency to fall, she refuses to leave the small, "very humble" home she and her husband shared for so many years, on the edge of a forest in Wilmington: "I look out on the trees and the birds. I have everything that matters."
Having "everything that matters" within her grasp, Young says, sums up what her life has been about—and what the newest book will also focus on. "We don't need most of the junk and distractions that we fill our lives with. Sadly, consumerism has taken the place of religion."'
She adds, "We must live more simply, or this planet will deteriorate even more quickly."
— Elsa Brenner