Becoming Light

BLOG Letting Go

Bastish swans
Photo by Kevin at the Bastish blog.

For the past 40 years, I’ve led something of a double life. On the surface, I’ve lived and worked mostly within the system, adhering to social norms of behaviour, holding down respectable jobs, working my way up, buying more as I earned more, living in an extraordinary (but orthodox) house in a lovely and progressive (but conformist) community.

But beneath the surface, I’ve always been a questioner, a radical (in the true sense of the word). Those among whom I live and work find my blog troubling, unexpected, too complex and difficult, so mostly I don’t talk with them about these ideas. As I dig deeper into how the world works, and imagine better possibilities, I’ve become more radical and pessimistic, and disengaged from these busy, unquestioning people. I’ve connected instead with those Too Far Ahead, those Living on the Edge. Those like you, dear reader.

I am mostly disconnected as well from the things that bind most people to the status quo, to the Centre: I don’t watch television or movies or read mainstream newspapers, and am appalled when I occasionally hear or see the ghastly propaganda, ignorance and desensitized, decontextualized tripe that passes for information and entertainment in these media. I find the arguments and mores of all the mainstream political parties, churches, economic thinkers, social thinkers, business and educational theorists, and even ‘leading’ artists and scientists, to be preposterous, offensively simplistic and dangerous. I no longer pay them any attention. When I am in the presence of those indulging these stale and untenable ideas, and those who espouse them, I get impatient, and go elsewhere.

These are big disconnects between who I appear to be and who I am, between what I have ‘always’ done and what I am beginning to do now, and between who I was and who I am becoming. I’ve called this process of disconnection and reconnection ‘let-self-change’ and there seems to be a lot of it going on now, everywhere. It’s not easy. One has to be ready for the voyage.

I expect to live to see our massive centralized industrial-model systems (political, economic, social, health, education, media etc.) crumble under their own unsustainable weight and be replaced (after an unpleasant transition) with light-weight, agile, egalitarian, ‘sufficient’ community-based systems. These new local networked systems won’t work terribly well, but we’ll make them work, because we’ll have no choice. This isn’t idealism, just awareness of how the world really works, and always has.

To be ready for this, and to ready my children and grandchildren for this, I need to (re)learn some survival skills, such as the ones in this chart:

Critical Life Skills

But I’m coming to believe that before I can acquire these skills, really learn them, I have to approach them from a place that is unencumbered by all the presumptions and preconceptions that are ingrained in most of us throughout our lives. I have to unlearn not only all the nonsense that we’ve all been taught, but also the way in which we’ve all been subtly wired to see the world and everything in it.

Instead of seeing conceptually I have to learn to see perceptually.

Instead of using the tools of propagandized modern language, I have to learn to use the natural tools of intuition and attention and appreciation and sensation and presence.

Instead of learning based on planning and presupposition (based on what I’ve ‘learned’ before) my learning must be based on openness to all possibility, on appreciation of emergence, and most of all on humility.

Instead of applying complicated, analytical learning methods I must apply the ways of complexity: experimentation, discovery, observation, imagination, and practice.

Instead of learning by the traditional means of separating myself from the object of my study (“the environment”, “the culture”), I must learn integrally, as a connected part of all-life-on-Earth.

I have to relearn to learn how a child learns: authentically (=Gk. being oneself).


For almost six years now this blog has espoused the importance of being authentic — as ee cummings put it:

To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting*.

Or, to put it another way, the importance of getting rid of all the ‘gunk’ that we take on, that adheres to us as we get older and assume the trappings, the costume of civilization, that prevents us from being honest, raw, authentic, nobody-but-ourselves — stuff that others put on us to make us more like them, more acceptable, more obedient, tamer, quieter, more familiar, more ‘like-able’.

To move forward now I have to become un-civilized, wild. Agile. Authentic. Finally, fully, nobody-but-myself.

To do that I must let go of everything I believe, everything I think I ‘know’, everything I fear, everything I think is appropriate (or not), expected, accepted (and acceptable, or not), everything I have unintentionally become and everything I have ‘taken on’. All that baggage. All that stuff that holds me, holds all of us, back, and holds us in place.

I have to become light.

There will come a time, as our familiar, once-comfortable world starts to fall apart around us, when there will be no choice but to let go, to become light.

Now, we have a choice.

What are we waiting for?

What am I waiting for?

* The full article containing this quote, in context, which is about the job of the poet, is shown at the bottom of this post.

Category: Let-Self-Change

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20 Responses to Becoming Light

  1. Frank Duthrie says:

    It seems like you’re forever on the cusp of this great personal change, and then two weeks later the same slightly reworded posts of insipid narcissistic pseudo-insights with the same useless idea flow charts pops back on your blog. Whatever, man. Sure, become light.

  2. Dave Pollard says:

    Gee Frank, if this one causes you such recurring anguish, maybe it’s time you checked out some other blogs, or got yourself a hobby :-)

  3. John Graham says:

    Dave, I do believe you’re waiting for the Feldenkrais Method ;).And Frank, you’ve got the wrong myth – not narcissus, Dave’s getting Icarus on us today, maybe he needs some Thomas Moore (Care of the Soul). Dave, maybe a wise part of you knows that if you got any lighter you’d be as much useas a helium balloon. I know that’s not necessarily the sense of “light” you meant, but I don’t think it’s irrelevant. Dave why do you *have* to go forward from here? Why light? You’re good at light. Why not heavy, dirty, deep, low?

  4. Dale Asberry says:

    I’m with John. When was the last time you played in the dirt, become one with that musty smell full of life and death?You said ‘humility’ was something you need to work on. I think you have humility down pat – try boldness for a change. You’re afraid of taking responsibility for the actions you truly want to take. It might hurt people. It might be in the wrong direction.On one hand, I believe that you are a creative soul looking for answers to the problems we’re going to face. On the other hand, you’ll keep posting until the internet is no longer available about ‘possibilities’. Where is your Intentional Community? The community that you seek won’t exist until you practice what you preach. Where is your permaculture garden? You can spend all the fun time planning, but it won’t get done until you turn that first shovel-full of soil.Be BOLD my friend.

  5. ps pirro says:

    Unschoolers call it deschooling, and for most of us it’s an ongoing process. I suspect it could last a lifetime.I think John Graham has a point. Heavy, light, it’s all a matter of context. As some friends of mine sing: “I had to dive so I could surface, I had to dream so I could wake up.” (Troubadours of Divine Bliss.)

  6. David Parkinson says:

    Hey Dave,I for one am very glad that you have the courage to talk openly about these waves of forward movement that urge you to let big changes happen, against a backdrop of stasis and stuckness. I think of this as a kind of spiritual peristalsis, and I’m learning to be more comfortable with it, even though my early training and my personality type make me frustrated and down on myself for not progressing as fast as I wish, or in the direction I feel I ought to be going in.Like previous commentators, I don’t think it’s enough to lie in wait for the opportunities to break away from the old patterns, to express the urge to let go and become something new and better… but I struggle too with the fear of making the wrong crazy move.It’s like being a prisoner on Life Row. Waiting for the reprieve.

  7. Jon Husband says:

    To do that I must let go of everything I believe, everything I think I ‘know’, everything I fear, everything I think is appropriate (or not), expected, accepted (and acceptable, or not), everything I have unintentionally become and everything I have ‘taken on’. All that baggage. All that stuff that holds me, holds all of us, back, and holds us in place. Does that mean you won’t be working much longer for an org that epitomizes most if not all of that of which you despair ?

  8. David Parkinson says:

    Does that mean you won’t be working much longer for an org that epitomizes most if not all of that of which you despair?

    That sure sounds like a gauntlet hitting the ground…

  9. Paris says:

    Hei Dave,At first I thought you might be already too old to change, but I have somewhat make my parents (same age as you) change, so…On a second thought, all your post about “change” really sound as if you think wild people like me are very different to you. Maybe that’s why you still hesitate to take the BOLD step to change.Sure it’s easier for young and bold people to walk away freely and don’t care about what the old conformist ‘adults’ are saying/thinking: most hippies were young, and forgot about their ideas as soon as they got children.So on a thrid thought I thought it might be your own family that’s holding you back.Overall I have come to know that it’s because I’ve been so much proud of my own thoughts and feelings (since i’m 3 years old), that I have never let anyone (school, parents, medias, etc…) impose on me their civilised ways…I used to write WILD on all my schoolbooks (as soon as I’ve learnt few english words)If you REALLY want to change you first have to be confident, and deeply convinced that YOU are right, then BE WILD! Here are few step (from less demanding to the most) Marvel at the sky color anytime you walk outside, listen to birds songs anytime you’re out, watch out nature’s changes everyday, walk barefoot, sleep on the floor, eat with your hands, sit on the floor, walk and run very often, sit or lay down on the grass barefoot, go out lightly dressed when it’s raining hard and run, forgo all prossessed food, ditch all chemicals in your house and replace them with natural alternatives, eat fresh sprouts and raw meat, learn how to sew and make your own soap and bread, spend some holiday time on naturist camping sìte, stop buying anything else but plants and fresh food for few months (can you?), smile to people but don’t follow their civilised ways, teach yourself plant medicine (with local canadian ones, maybe need a native?), sell your big house and buy smaller one (ideally a little farm to develop permaculture). Any step you take brings you closer to your SELF. Freedom is addictive, don’t fall back to the pitfull of lazy slavery. You ought to be the change you wanna see in the worldO and on a final thought: don’t wait for others to follow you (intentional communities, etc…) Start and you’ll see who’ll come, or not. I believe it’s our social ties that are the biggest hurdles to wildness.Are you ready? Yes we can!a weird but really wild question: Can you tell by the smell wether a poo is the one of a meat eater, or the one of a grass eater?

  10. Jon Husband says:

    That sure sounds like a gauntlet hitting the ground…Not intended as a gauntlet or any kind of confrontation, just curious. I’ve followed Dave for a very long time, through his cashing in of chips on his first 27-year career, several years of revving up into his ongoing change process, his book(s), and now this. So, just curious.

  11. John Graham says:

    @Dale Asberry: I don’t know, isn’t BOLD sometimes just more Charge of the Light Brigade? I hear “Be Bold!” in the same voice that says “What are you waiting for?” – it’s somehow not new. There’s a time for bold, but how about meek, stagnant, swampy, scared witless? I’ll believe Dave’s humble when he lets go of being Too Far Ahead and lets himself be the hare who lost to the tortoise. Or even just a regular schmo. I fin it valuable when you wink at us from inside that corporate life, you don’t have to throw that in…Hope you don’t mind being challenged like this, Dave…one rabbi says the scripture say this”, another says “ah, but the scripture also says this”…

  12. John Graham says:

    Comment version 2.Dave I respect that you notice that you’re waiting for something. Yesterday my counsellor reminded me of that great Gestalt therapy practice, adding “and I am responsible for that” to each thing you notice you’re doing, in each moment. (he also told me that this is very bad news for a part of me).I’m waiting for something, and I take responsibility for that.Me? A minute ago I noticed I’m waiting for the scary world to go away, and I take responsibility for that. *gulp*

  13. Dave Pollard says:

    Hmmm…lots here to talk about, maybe even enough for another article, but I wouldn’t want to put Frank through that anguish :-)John: re Feldenkrais, yes I think more body/sensory awareness/connection is part of what I’m after. Along with that, ‘lightness’ refers to radical simplicity: The cover of Merkel’s book portrays a feather whose shadow below is a light footprint in the sand. As for Gestalt and responsibility, I’m not so sure — I have used responsibility as an excuse for *not* changing, for putting up with the status quo. I like your point about being responsible for our own actions — and inactions — rather than for others and their expectations of us. I have to go forward because for many years I have been stuck, with ideas and intentions running ahead of my capacity to act. That is now changing.Dale: Great point. I am of course a great believer in permaculture… but I am a lousy gardener — uncoordinated, impatient, and inattentive to details. Whatever I am intended to do (and I think this will be the year I will learn what that is, probably by just trying a bunch of things I never dared try before) it is not permaculture — though I expect I will live in a community that uses permaculture as its means of feeding its members self-sufficiently, and I’m prepared to lend a hand and learn the basics. In my May 26, 2008 post (this blog’s comment server is alas no longer accepting HTML) I described “who we’re meant to be” as the combination/overlap between (a) what we (would) love to be e.g. in my case playful & self-sufficient, (b) what we are good at being e.g. in my case analytical and reflective, and (c) what others need us to be e.g. in my case perceptive and sensitive. While no one will ever reach nirvana (all three of those things perfectly in sync) for me the “nine things” I keep saying I do best are I think what I’m meant to be, and “becoming light” for me is stopping doing all the things that prevent me from focusing all my energies on those ninethings. Becoming light doesn’t mean being superficial or detached, on the contrary it means being free to delve into those nine things more deeply, instead of just dabbling in them when I can. It means a lot of changes for me in 2009, some of which (see note at end of this comment) will be quite bold.To PS (Pirro): Thank you, and I agree. And I’d love to read more about un/deschooling on your blog. David: You are one of the boldest people I know, my friend, and I appreciate the reassurance and the encouragement.Jon: There are pros and cons to my current job. It allows me to talk to Canadian business leaders about the importance of sustainability, and hearing their encouraging responses and willingness to do much, if we can make it easy for them. It allows me to get my book into the hands of Prince Charles. It allows me to sponsor a centre for entrepreneurship that holds the promise of helping thousands escape from wage slavery. Against that, it consumes a lot of my time, and progress is slow. The jury’s still out on what I will do about this, but it’s not preventing me from making other big changes while I contemplate it.Paris: Excellent advice, and most of it I’m already doing, with other steps in progress. Don’t expect to eat raw meat though, and I have no answer to your poo question. I’m no longer waiting for my intentional community to form — it will have to follow me.To all: You may detect in some of my recent and most personal posts a reticence to divulge certain details of what’s happening in my life. There is a very good reason for this, which if you’re patient with me will become clear in time. There is more happening in my life than I have revealed. Thanks for your understanding, and putting up with my ‘narcissistic’ posts!

  14. Brutus says:

    I identify especially with the part of this post above the flow chart. Describes me pretty well, and I thrash from time to time about abandoning my true self. The rest? Well, we all seek different paths.One underlying theme, echoed especially in the comments, is that one should be bold, wild, powerful in one’s response. John Graham mentioned being meek, stagnant, and scared witless as alternatives (sane ones, at that). Acting from strength of purpose and will is celebrated, but I believe it’s just another artifact of power culture or domination ideology. Considering just how big are the problems, and how much bigger are the solutions, I suspect it’s all beyond our capability to conceptualize fully and act cohesively, and collective action is the only effective response. That possibility is now so remote, whether from grass roots or despotic fiat, that the option of graceful acquiescence (perhaps accompanied by soul-destroying recognition of our self-sealed fate) rather than rebellion and reform seems to me now a more unschooled, honest, realistic response. It’s no solution and more than a bit defeatist, I admit.

  15. Dale Asberry says:

    @John GrahamTo me, “bold” is a positive, active word. Thanks to Paris and Dave for riffing on it!@DaveIf you need a hand with anything, just let me know.@ParisLol, that is SO my philosophy!

  16. you’ve already got at least 2 or 3 communities that we can identify, just by reading your posts, Dave. Are they intimate ones? Ones that can share your burdens and your joy and your wildness and your cantankerousness? only you know.We’re all out here in the ether finding our way through it. I like the question of poo-smelling, though. Keep you grounded and in your body…and ps always has wisdom far beyond her years…We know that your metamorphing, Dave. That’s obvious. And, like any good butterfly stuggling out of its bondage, we can’t touch or help you. But we do marvel and smile.

  17. anon says:

    let-self-change? “I must learn… I have to relearn… I have to become… I must let go”Sounds to me like you are forcing yourself to change. Wouldn’t “letting self change” involve simply relaxing?

  18. There is SO much in this post that resonates with me and urges me to respond to. I once automatically received your posts from HTSTW, Dave, but as you know the RSS (or whatever it is called) feature somehow disappeared. Now, after simply on impulse having clicked back to see what is going on (with your metamorphosis, it seems) it is clear to me that this site is where I’ll need to ‘live’ for a good long while. Expect a longer response to “Becoming Light” shortly.I will say for now that one thing I’m amazed by is how you open yourself up to and keep your head together in spite of what for me would be a plethora of comments–well-meaning though all of them are–that you inspire. If I were able to change in a useful direction I thing I would try and opt for a lack of self-consciousness that would allow me to blog publicly and stir my thoughts around blithely ‘on air’ as it were to construct a coherent personal philosophy. But in many ways you’re already doing that for me! Why reinvent that wheel? So maybe I will restrict myself to tossing a dangerous meme your way from time to time.Better watch out!

  19. Dave Pollard says:

    Brutis, Beth and William: Thanks for your kind words and comments.anon: Yeah, actually I think I do, though relaxing is part of it. Think of a bird learning to fly, and having to push him/herself off the branch the first time.William: Just wanted to note that if you resubscribe now (see sign-up in right sidebar of blog) using the new Feedburner RSS-to-mail service you can again get HtStW in your inbox.

  20. Many thanks for the tip about the new RSS feed. No sooner suggested than carried out.

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