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:
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.
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.