Following our meeting, Laurence produced these excellent notes:
What keeps drawing me to these meetings is the unexpected turns our conversations take. Yesterday was no different. Five of us met up at Culmstock. Topics veered and careered round any idea of an agenda.
A recurring theme was the need to wake up to what's around us. Chris talked about the uniformity of thinking and seeing. 'We live a great deal in a semi-conscious state,' he said. 'Are we really ready to get up when the alarm bell rings?' I think he was talking metaphorically. 'We're no longer seeing living things, but objects,' he added. I shouted, 'Did the rest of you hear what he just said?' In an easy-come, easy-go world, wise words slip by.
Chris paraphrased Krishnamurti: 'In order to learn you have to return to a state of unknowing.' We all need to change our outlook but, on so many fronts, people don't see the need for change. Chris, a one-time probation officer, recalled offenders who said, 'I'll end up in prison again. So what?' They used to slot criminals into 3 categories: sad, mad and bad, though bad could also masquerade as sad and mad! He offered the view that there are people so bad that they have no conscience, no redeeming features and no possibility of redemption. Patrick, whose work involves him in dealing with mentally disturbed people said he couldn't write off anyone but went on to say that one psychopath could take up as much of his time as 1600 others. It came down to priorities.
How do you change attitudes? Frivolously I asked Phil whether he'd ever 'converted' anyone. Chris countered that 'we're destroying the planet at such a rate that we don't have time for conversions.’ It may take a cataclysm to change thinking but Mozz stated it was unlikely we'd have a global cataclysm big enough to affect humanity at all levels for about 20-30 years.
Where does that take us? I hoped that a summary of the 3 dimensions identified in 'The Great Turning' initiative might help.
The first dimension is 'Holding Actions': campaigns, petitions, boycotts, rallies, legal proceedings and all forms of direct action against practices that threaten our world and its support systems.
The second, 'Life-sustaining Systems and Practices', buttresses the first: rethinking the way we do things, redesigning structures and systems that govern our society and influencing change by our choices about how we travel, where we shop, what we buy, how we save, etc, helping to shape the development of a new economy.
The third dimension, 'Shift in Consciousness' underpins the first two.
The 'Great Turning' people, Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone, believe the key to inspiring people to embark on projects is a wellspring of caring and compassion that follows from the connected self and anything that deepens our sense of belonging in and to this world. This might involve insights from spiritual traditions as well as understandings from science.
Essentially we're back to attitudes and, I believe, Dark Mountain's potential sphere of influence, if only the new stories we are supposed to be telling are engaging and potent enough. The big question is how: how to reconnect with ourselves and the planet we so easily forget is home.
There were other strands to our conversation. We bit the bone of whether the world has a meaning. Phil felt there was a purpose behind it. Chris didn't agree. Mozz said you can guess at a meaning but thought it was pointless looking. Phil said you have to believe there's something bigger than us. Patrick subscribed to a deeper meaning. Perverse as ever, I toyed with the idea that everything is random.
We tossed around the business of labelling and naming. Chris said that from his experience the naming of a condition meant he could deal with it. But someone else (?Goethe – see note below) said that naming is the first distancing. Patrick said there used to be 11 diagnoses of mental illness. Now there are 550+. It's easy to medicalise behaviour. Chris said, “If we talk to God, it's praying. if you hear God, you're a schizophrenic.”
It was much easier dealing with the agenda which came down to the Last Festival and
(1) What are the plans for 2014? Do we want to organise a Devon DM Fete (?Fate) to cover the gap. Phil suggested Dulverton Camping Barn and Site as a venue (minimum 15 people) Phil to enquire about available weekends in August.
(2) How are we to communicate with the wider DM world when the website offers no contact details?
(3) Where does DM go from here? I suggested that, with the rather autocratic decision to make this the Last Festival, the founders of DM had relinquished control over its future direction. Wasn't it up to us now?!
Mozz's note on words and distancing: John Zerzan said “As soon as a human spoke, he or she was separated”, and Lao-Tzu said “The Tao that can be spoken is not the true Tao; the name that can be named is not the true name”. And finally Charles Eisenstein said “Our entire civilization is built on a story, a story of self. The separate human realm is not in fact separate—just look at how it has altered the planet. In the future we will wield the world-creating power of word consciously, to tell a new story, and thus usher in a consciously creative phase of human development.”