I started this post because I wanted to share something with you – a brilliant manifesto I found and photographed whilst doing my business in a bathroom in Ireland. But I wanted to give some sort of introduction, or hello, or something personal. And that something turned into a manifesto of itself. So catch this rare glimpse into my life and thoughts beyond the world of music, and you will see why I won’t be posting again for a while. I hope you mull the thoughts over for a while and leave some comments to add to the discussion. Happy Solstice!
Tomorrow I’ll to be moving to the edge of a woodland and into a yurt which will be my dwelling-place for the next 6 months. I’m going to be working on the land: clearing rhododendrons and brambles, chopping wood, creating low-impact buildings (a tree-bog compost toilet for starters!). The first few weeks, I will be fully over my head just trying to attend to basic things like keeping myself warm, dry, and fed. But ultimately the work I will be doing will lead towards something much greater than myself. I am planting the seeds of a dream that’s been brewing for over a decade, which I’ve recently been drawn into. As I begin this work, I will be plunging into a prolonged disconnection from computers, amplified music, etc. for 40 days or so, in order to aid my reconnecting process with the quiet and luminous world of the winter forest.
The funny thing is, I don’t know anything about what I’m doing. And yet, I’m doing it.
And, speaking of planting, a month ago at Samhain time, I planted some rice, and put my dreams and desires for the coming year into them. This is scary. I’ve never planted anything in my whole life. Sure, I’ve watered plants that had already sprouted, pulled thousands of ‘weeds’, spread compost and diligently plucked the yellowing leaves from my room’s resident spider-plant. But they all came into being through someone else’s aid. Now, for the first time in my life, I take responsibility for the life of another being. With these few dozen kernels, I commit to ushering a life into the world, and providing it with the environment it needs to flourish.
And as I nourish these seeds, I nourish myself. I am these seeds just as I am the compost in which they are planted, just as I am the water that courses over them. Their desire to grow tall is my desire to become myself. If they flower, with them will flower my dreams. According to all available information, rice cannot grow in Ireland. It’s too cold here. Not enough sun. No one has ever done it before. Likewise, the tackling the challenges of climate change, the economy, the huge degree of inequity among the world’s peoples, a spiritually ailing society mired in the dredges of an unfulfilled post-consumerist malaise, and finding a meaningful and personally fulfilling role to play in transforming the aforementioned headache-inducing mess, seems rather impossible too. But so many things that we now take for granted – flight, instant communication, moving pictures, etc. – were once deemed impossible. What brought them into being was a dream, diligently nourished and acted upon. If we can create dream into being such complex and multifaceted problems for ourselves (every element of which came about as a solution to some other problem, mind you), then we can dream into being a more sane, fulfilling, and sustainable way to approach our stay on this planet.
And if there is to be a change, a real (r)evolution in the way we operate as individuals, as a culture and a species, it will not come as a result of government-directed actions. We have seen the failure in Copenhagen, and though distressing, I know it could not have been any other way. It is as much a failure for our current political system as it is for the ailing environment. It would be easy to criticize Obama for his obvious posturing and unwillingness to do anything of value, and his covert loyalty to the military-industrial complex, but once again I know it could not have been any other way. Ultimately, our politicians are a reflection of ourselves. The only power they have is the power we have given them; they are corrupted by the corporations which was continue to fund. How can we expect them to reform when we are unwilling to reform our own lifestyles? They will only change when we take back our power and initiate the changes ourselves. But how? The mounting crises are so vast! How will we change in time?
It just occurred to me that the whole drama of the banking collapse is a reflection of our relationship with nature. We have been borrowing, and borrowing, and borrowing her resources, and continually putting off the payback. In the olde dayes, if a people cut down their forest, polluted their water, or over-hunted the animals, inevitably the floods and droughts and poisonings and scarcities that followed would wipe them out or drove them away. Natural consequence. Nature foreclosed on their property. Then, since the land couldn’t support people, no one would settle there for a while and the land would have a chance to rejuvenate, and build up its resources again.
But we’ve created such a hall of mirrors now. What happens in one part of the world affects another part, so that with advanced technology and abundant oil, we’ve been able to delay the natural consequences. And they’ve been snowballing behind us as we run, and they’re catching up in the form of ‘natural’ disasters and unprecedented changes in the elements. We bailed out the banks because we weren’t ready to wake up yet. At Copenhagen we bailed out the polluters, for the same reason. No one has asked “Why are we giving money to the banks in the hope that they’ll lend to us again?” or “Why are we still supporting an economic system which is vastly unjust, unsustainable, disempowering, and if left to its own devices will destroy us in the name of never-ending exploitative ‘growth’?” Or, rather, no one is listening to those questions and finding the courage to answer them. Is this denial rooted in the fabric of our cultural world-view and spirituality? Do we favor denial by nature or does it come because we are unwilling to face our own shadows, because we are afraid to see death as a natural part of the rhythm of life?
I do not believe humans are inherently destructive or bad for the environment. There have been cultures who maintained the ecosystem which housed them so well, and kept it in such perfect balance, that when these people were moved out or killed, the landscape fell to ruin as well. And the power of human creativity and love can surmount any obstacle. It must be stressed that the situation we’re in came about not from some evil person’s ill-intentions, but from a great many life-styles that were conducted without a sense of the greater picture. The current situation we have is not wrong, it’s just out-of-balance. Vastly out-of-balance. We can re-balance it. But we have been conditioned to believe that we are powerless. We have complicitly given away our power away in exchange for a kind of comfort and stability. We have sacrificed our freedom without even knowing it. And in exchange we have been given a god named Convenience, to whom we sacrifice many more things. But we have made the situation from which we now suffer, and complicated as it is, we can unmake it. Because you and I can change, this community and civilization can change. But how?
Change begins in the hearts and minds of people; healing and growth come from within. Change begins with one person deciding to take responsibility for their own life, deciding to live neither as a victim nor as an agent of violence. Change begins when one person overcomes the barrier of social awkwardness and starts a conversation with someone they don’t know about things that matter to them. Change begins when one person decides to love themselves, and proceeds to spread that love to those around them. Change begins when one person decides to leap into the frigid and bottomless waters of the unknown and pursue a dream which by any reasonable estimation is absurdly, outrageously impossible. Change begins when one person remembers how immensely beautiful, powerful and great they are, and decides to embody and radiate that greatness. Change begins when one person picks up a spade and turns their green pointless grassy lawn (or better yet – roof!) into a budding vegetable garden. Change begins when one person gives thanks for the rain that falls, the food that grows, and the billion rats and ants and plants and people who clean up our messes. Change begins when one person, who has been academically educated to the point of paralysis gets up off their arse and actually does something! Change begins when we let a child be a child and discover for their self who they are in this world. Change begins when we allow that same magnificent freedom to our own starry-eyed and beaming inner being. Change is the most natural process of life. It will happen whether we want it or not. But right now, we still have the power to choose how it will come.
One the few social or environmental movements I think is actually on the right path is the Transition movement. It is community-powered, viral, and dynamic. It tackles a number of challenges (peak-oil, climate-change, turbulent economy…) with a multifaceted and evolving solution based on building local resilience and taking advantage of everyone’s unique and different skills. It essentially takes a permaculture approach to creating community, and a ‘be the change’ approach to the global crises. It is a brilliant initiative and spreading like wildfire. But it is a social and material solution to a social and material problem, and our culture is also ailing spiritually.
The system which has fostered the climate crisis is the same system which has bankrupted the social and spiritual health of our society. It is founded on a materialistic worldview, and has fostered a cult of the individual ego. Our whole educational system is founded on this materialistic worldview and ego-worship. It has systematically stripped the mystery and greatness of ourselves as it has stripped the Earth of the diamonds in her shadows. In its glorification of rationality and the 5 gross senses it has denied the magical and powerful world of the soul and the subtle senses. This has in turn produced a gaping hole in people’s psyches, which is most often filled by over-consumption of goods, over-dependence on words, and sensory overstimulation (I’m not sure which among the 3 is the most damaging). Community was sacrificed to the cult of the personality, and the personality was glorified through goods, words, and sensory artifacts. We have made gods of ourselves, but only on the outside. Still, we are parched for the healing waters of the soul. Poetry is the healing of words. Art and music the healing of the eyes and ears. Exercise and gentle touch the healing of the body. But the greatest and most neglected healer of all is Nature. She is here, waiting, always willing to give, but we hardly take notice. We search so far and wide for happiness and healing, but so often we search in vain.
Happiness is not an ends to be achieved, but a means to be chosen. It comes from within. And, like Love, it is a choice always present. And Love is the most powerful currency for transformation that exists. By loving myself, my wounds will heal. By loving the people around me, community will be born. By loving the great Mother that gives and sustains life, by whose fruits we are nourished and upon whom we rest at night, the rift that has grown between us will close and we will find the way back into balance with her. With Love, balanced by Wisdom and Power, anything is possible.
I am not talking about hope. I don’t believe in hope.
In the hope for salvation, suffering is perpetuated. Hope is the band-aid over the festering wound of the future that will come if we don’t attend to the present. When we hope for anything outside us to solve our problems, we give ourselves the paralyzing excuse to sit back and do nothing. When we expect politicians, gurus, international humanitarian organizations, etc. to provide the answers and changes we need, we give away our power, agency and will, and become passive spectators to a match that we will lose for never having acted in. We need warriors; we need people who refuse to sit idly by while the things they love are laid to waste around them. The comfort zones we dwell within are being stripped away and reality is knocking at the door. It is as though we are on a ship, and half the people are running around, trading suits and dusting shelves and putting on makeup and the other half are trying to get everyone on the ship to be counted as equals in the eyes of the captain, or trying to turn the stirring wheel by a democratic process, or just criticizing everything, and meanwhile the whole ship is sinking. The time for denial and procrastination is over. A choice is before us: act or perish.
But one must not rush into action too soon. There is a great abundance of action right now, working at cross-purposes. Activists bumping heads.
It must be remembered that the whole situation of the planet right now, our great collection of crises and catastrophes, is the result of our well-intentioned actions, most of them seen to be solutions at the time. Short-sighted, perhaps, and human-centric certainly. But solutions nonetheless. Actions alone are not enough. We need vision: long-seeing, deep-reaching visions. We need dreams.
When action is not guided by the orchestrating vision of a true dream, the result is cacophony – a dissonance of wasted energy – and the solutions are short-sighted and shallow. When action is motivated by a sense of obligation or guilt, it creates a resentment which slowly and silently unravels all that the worker has sewn. But when action is motivated by inspiration and an authentic desire to give service, in whatever way we are called to and suited for – , then, then it will create an unstoppable, divinely-guided change in the world. The most efficient and effective person is the person who is following their heart’s calling. And the most intelligent person is the one who can hear not only their own mind, but also the intelligence of their soul, and those at work in nature. The heart is an organ of perception, a center of intuition and a powerhouse of inspiration. But so many people have denied their hearts for so long, that they can no longer hear the call.
And that, dear friends, is why I’m moving into a yurt at the edge of the woods. I’m not running away from society and community, I’m running towards a more ancient form of community. I’m following the call of my heart. I’m going to plunge into the silence and stillness of the winter woods, and perhaps I’ll discover something that I couldn’t hear before. I’m very excited about the growth that may take place, the wildness that may sprout in me. The paintings that will come, and the music without source. I know there may be times when I’m wet or cold or lonely or exhausted, but I know that since I won’t be able to run away from myself, these experiences will make me stronger.
But I’m not just doing this for my own personal growth. I’m doing it because I feel that I have a part to play in the unfoldment of a dream. I want to build a place that inspires people, opens them up to the magic of life and nature all around them, and educates in the true sense of the word – to ‘draw out from within’. And I’m following the advice ancient Chinese words of proverb “If you are thinking a year ahead, sow seed. If you are thinking ten years ahead, plant a tree. If you are thinking one hundred years ahead, educate the people. By sowing a seed, you will harvest once. By planting a tree, you will harvest tenfold. By educating the people, you will harvest hundredfold.” And I’m also acting on the notion that trees are at the heart the solution to climate change, and that forests provide the best economy, and that forest farming is the most efficient known form of land management. And of course because trees are some of the wisest, friendliest people I’ve ever met, and I have a lot to learn from them.
The days are short now, and the nights are long. The sharp cold of winter draws us inside. The trees stand naked before us, and the mountains go to sleep. Now is the time for dreaming. Now is the time for clearing the fields of your heart and mind, allowing the untold stories to surface and the expired stories to find completion. In the great silence of the warm and infinite darkness within you, the murmurs of your heart can be heard. In this, the darkest time of the year, may you find a home in the ancient darkness within you, the domain of infinite unborn potential, and plant therein your seed of light.
Reality is created by dreams put into action. Go forth, you blessed warriors of tomorrow, dream your dreams and create!
You are all mighty beings, do not forget.
And, without further ado, here’s the manifesto that started this fantastic rant:
The Gaia Enlightenment: A Manifesto