Yes, it has been a while since my last blog, but I’ve been busy. I’m sure you’re busy too. We seem to spend our time filling up life with all manner of activity. Whether it’s going out to work, spending money or just writing a blog. It gives us a sense of purpose, a reason to be one of the seven billion plus humans occupying planet Earth. Or does it?
I helped the Understandascope stage an event last month at Melbourne’s great annual Sustainable Living Festival. It was a panel discussion about the problems Economic Growth is causing. There was a terrific response with well over two hundred people joining us. At the end, our young artist, Sarah McConnell drew up the graphic bubble above. (See full graphic at: http://understandascope.org/multimedia/illustration-growth-to-save-planet ) In her one drawing, Sarah summarised the conundrum we have created. It’s easy to be caught up in this cycle, busily doing stuff to earn money and buy more stuff and often getting into debt to get even more. Yet, somewhere in our innards, we sense its not very satisfying and we should be using the precious time we are alive for something more than just buying stuff. Much of the great wisdom tradition of humanity says as much and as Albert Einstein said,
“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead.”
I’m pretty sure no consumer item has yet been created that can offer us that experience of the mysterious, and cause us to stand “rapt in awe”. Yet doggedly we keep the cycle going. Even when we can sense it is not bringing us a better life, and even when we can see the damage it is doing to this one world we share. This is the paradox. On the one hand, we are a rational thinking machine creating a reality that the cycle of growth must continue, while on the other hand the broad understanding we get by tuning into all our senses brings a conflict of meaning. So, with two versions of understanding and little time to spare, we simply go along zombie-like with society’s flow. Except when we don’t!
At times, something comes along which knocks us out of the flow and we see the inconsistencies in our lives. In my case, as many of you know, I went for a long walk. As I recently explained in a magazine article, by the time it ended, something had happened. Cold soaking rain, bruising terrain and nightly exhaustion seemed to have inflated my spirits and made mere physical aches an irrelevance. I didn’t understand why, but I was smitten like a 16 year old, who just couldn’t get enough. Despite the confusion churning within my conscious brain, my body had sharper instincts. It had found a place of peace amongst this vast web of life.
After the walk ended I felt I’d had an out-of-world experience, but gradually I came to the realisation it was quite the reverse. I had stepped into the actual physical world and seen through the human construct that shrouds society. I had been able to see things through fresh eyes, with the preconceptions we live by pulled back as morning curtains to reveal the sunlight. I strove to understand why our way of living was so disconnected from the great web of life I had stumbled into and which I now knew supported us and gave life its very meaning. These were new avenues for a brain more used to the esoteric distractions of balance sheets and investment returns, but it was as if Mother Nature had taken the duster to the blackboard of my mind and wiped it clean.
And of course it’s not just me that has had such an experience. More and more people are finding themselves drawn away from the material world of stuff looking for something to stop them, “rapt in awe”. Just yesterday, I was introduced to Stacey, a young woman intent on walking for three weeks along the coast of Australia. Without much back up or pre planning she senses the physical experience and time spent in nature will be more worthwhile than shopping in the city. I know she will not be disappointed.
As for me, I’m ready for another walk. Later today, I’ll head off with my two sons to help reacquaint them with the land of their birth. And how better to do that than to walk about 350kms across some of England’s finest unspoilt countryside, from Coast to Coast. It will be a special experience at many levels. Father and sons bonding for sure, and who knows what other paths will open up for us. Perhaps even Mr Badger will grace us with a sighting. In the meantime, my wish for you is that bubbling up from somewhere deep inside comes a yearning to engage more fully with life’s true joy. After all, as Paul Kingsnorth says,
“Civilisation has always been a project of control, but you can’t win a war against the wild within yourself.”