Book Review: Beyond the Messy Truth, Van Jones

Review – Beyond the Messy Truth: How We Came Apart * How We Come Together, Van Jones

The recent Sounds True virtual summit, “Waking up in the World: Heal our Hearts, Cultivate Courage, Inspire Action, was tremendous. I only caught a few talks, one of which was Van Jones (VJ), “Breaking out of your Resistance Bubble”. This great interview, with Tami Simon, had me running to the library to get his book, Beyond the Messy Truth. He is a regular contributor to CNN and he hosts The Van Jones Show (wiki link, & his website).

As a sensitive, I’m not the hungriest consumer of political news; afterwards I often need a sanity-protective bubble. (Heard of Highly Sensitive People? description here.) It can be especially  challenging today, when it seems the art of respectful dialogue is largely lost. This is a more recent state of affairs, though.

That’s why I love love love this book. Great holiday gift for both sides of the aisle. I’ll give you the low down here on the benefits it provides, the salvation even, and why VJ’s background makes him the perfect human to express this desperately needed voice. May his wisdom help us all cope and act with courage and kindness.

I invite your thoughts on how you best cope today, in the comments below or, send a personal email; just hit reply.


VJ wastes no time in this tome. First he explains how it all got so f*ed up; how we’ve come apart. This is helpful, because there’s often so much head scratching on how we got here, baldness results. Turns out there were missteps from both sides of the aisle that led to the mess. Next, he writes a separate “open letter” to liberals, then conservatives. In each chapter, he names that side’s positive contributions, their jewels so to speak, as well as their blind spots or flaws. This is again, useful to know. He can name the reasons each side has it view point and stance, and then, alongside these differences, point to the common ground that is shared.

In his view, we’re not really so different in what we’re aiming for. We actually need each other to strike a balance. For example, we need the liberal view to have some of the social programs, as well as the conservative view to keep the spending in line. In an ideal world, we’d respect each other’s strengths and work together.

And that’s the next benefit. He makes the case for how we can band together to solve some of our most humongous problems. His current hot topics include prison reform, the opioid crisis and increasing tech opportunities for young people. We’ll all have our own areas and passions to target. Chances are these challenges and issues straddle the aisle, and can perhaps connect people across the current divide.


Why has our dialogue gotten so heated, when debates are good for democracy? Well, don’t you sense that those in power, the corporate powers that be, the so called 1% – that they might have their own good, vs common good, in mind? This group and its corrupt members do battle with unified, grass root actions; they PROFIT from our infighting. From the hate crimes, which increase due to the intolerant rhetoric. They applaud our lack of tolerance and ability to listen to each other. Our demonizing and disrespecting of the other side. Our acceptance and repetition of negative terms from inflammatory media sources that are inaccurate, overgeneralized and certainly unkind.

Politically speaking, many know it’s really not about red or blue – both sides have flaws, corruptness, and are bankrolled by corporate interests. That funding collusion must be paid back, and it’s often done with legislation that hurt most of the common people.

Let’s hope this silly system becomes obsolete sooner than I get skinny again. Blaming and demonizing internal and external enemies is often a distraction from feeling our own pain. These primitive ways are not our true nature; you know something’s off. In the short term it can help, but afterwards, unkindness raises stress levels and invites bad behavior. Most important, the infighting camouflages important efforts behind the scenes today, by the corrupt powers; these are REALLY messing things up for the collective.

So don’t fall for this wizard of Oz-type show. Both sides have flaws, VJ notes. It’s not accurate, this, “I’m right, you’re wrong” mentality. No. The truth is grey, and a lot messier. Instead of the stone throwing, Jones heralds a call for, “bipartisanship from below”. Brilliant.

Guess who Van Jones, outspoken progressive activist, teamed up with, for a bipartisan effort on prison reform? Newt Gingrich. Fascinating story in the book on how they became team players, and even friends. Here’s a telling quote from Newt in the book on the subject of bipartisanship: “Your ‘ninety percent enemy’ can still be your ‘ten percent friend’ – on every point where you agree.”

Part of how VJ keeps educated, current and conversant is he subscribes to different opinions. There is a long resource section at the end of the book of various liberal and conservative blogs, feeds etc., that you can subscribe to. This is one of his suggestions for how to bridge the divide. And another good way to break out of the bubble when you can.

Here’s an action you can take. Pick one social media site of “the other side”. Maybe twitter is a small step for mankind, eh? Short at least. I need to do this still. I’m thinking it’s ok to share these resources; in case you don’t get the book,  you’ll still be doing the dharma.


From the light worker perspective, Van Jones’ background is a true knee-slapper of a set up. He was born in the Deep South, a hetero African American in a religious family, preachers through generations.  Then he attended Yale Law School, the east coast Ivy League experience. After that he moves to San Fran to live, becoming in his words a “revolutionary”. He starts several nonprofits, works for Obama and grows his voice on the national stage (could any of us be a moderator on Crossfire??). There’s much more – the man’s background is amazing in terms of roots that see the big picture, and bridge diverse opinions. This backdrop makes him THE perfect translator and advocate for unification and understanding.

Love one another? No, he’s not saying that per say, but he’s certainly saying, let’s have some respect, let’s hear each other. Appreciate each other. In this last election, he saw a lot of his southern friends go red. Blacks are traditionally blue, over 90%. He kept dialogue open with his southern peeps, knowing exactly why they switched, and what needs and realities weren’t being addressed by the Dems. Being of both worlds, he had the unique perspective and was able to stay in conversation and connection with friends and colleagues from both sides. He’s hopeful we can work together again to fix this messy truth.

He’s got a lot of cred in my book for his spiritual foundation and ability to keep his mind clear and his heart open. Plus, in 2016 he predicted Trump’s victory.

Helpful Quotes

From the book
“In an emergency, our worst family members always turn on each other. But our best family members always turn to each other. They put aside their differences, come together, and focus on solving the problem at hand. Half the time, it turns out that the differences within the family emerge as sources of strength.”

From the Sounds True, Waking up in the World summit
“It’s in that convergence of spiritual people becoming active and active people becoming spiritual that the hope of humanity now rests.”

Touching Vignettes

In addition to the great resource section, there is some cool celebrity stuff in there, just so you know it’s not all bloody politics. Inspiring stories of Nelson Mandela, Obama, and a heartwarming friendship with Prince that reveals a side of him few knew about. Just sayin’, check out the book.

It’s sure is messy out there, and that won’t change overnight. Scary, these blessed and cursed times. Bipartisanship from below is something we all can practice. If we wait for our elected officials to do their job on that, it might be awhile.

Your energy matters. Creativity will find a way.

Keep me posted on how you’re managing; comment below, or reply back.

Bows and blessings,



I mentioned the Sounds True, Waking up in the World summit, which is over now, but can be purchased or just check out the lineup; join their mail list if it speaks to you.
(not an affiliate link). Here is the Tami Simon interview with Van Jones.


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