Walking Away

BLOG Walking Away

nevar whitfield sand creature
Photo by Second Life artist Nevar Whitfield

Several of you gave me a hard time over my article on co-ops, specifically because I said I wouldn’t personally be part of the co-op movement. I’m not sure whether the objections are semantic (i.e. if I’m writing about it, I’m part of it) or substantive (i.e. if I’m not going to do some of the real spade work, shut up already). I won’t argue semantics, but I will argue substance.

Let me try to say it more clearly: I am walking away. I give up on trying to fight civilization culture in the trenches, inside the system. Call me a quitter or a coward, that’s fine. It is not in me to struggle for years to try to make hopelessly broken and dysfunctional systems work a little better. It is not in me to work hard against people who are too stupid to understand they are killing this planet, people who have money and power and momentum and numbers and who have billions of ignorant people following them blindly and obediently and doing precisely what they tell them to do, for no other reason than that it’s the only life they know.

I love activists, but I am not an activist at heart. I am an artist and a dreamer. I write reasonably well, and I imagine possibilities reasonably well. That is what I am going to practice, mostly, in the years to come. That is what I enjoy doing. I think it is useful. Whether it is valuable right now to those fighting the good fight, whether it is enough not to disappoint you, is no longer my concern. I am through with rising to other people’s expectations.

We live in a prison culture, and in this horrifically overcrowded and unnatural civilizational prison we have all become mentally ill. As David Suzuki says, we are in a huge vehicle headed at light speed towards a brick wall, and we’re all arguing over the seating arrangements. There is no helping us. I’m bailing out before it gets messy.

This is what happened when previous civilizations ended. As they slid into precipitous decline, a large number of the members of the civilizations that Ronald Wright and Jared Diamond have chronicled, just walked away. They rediscovered and relearned a simpler and easier way to live and make a living, one that was small-scale, community-based, egalitarian, resilient and principled. The civilization and systems they walked away from simply became more trouble than they were worth.

We’re there again, at that tipping point.

I’m out of here. I’m going to find someplace natural, someplace warm and peaceful, probably near forests and ocean beaches, perhaps build a cabana or a yurt, live mostly off local and home-grown foods, and reconnect with uncivilized life, with my instincts, with my senses and emotions, learn to pay attention, live in now time, play, reflect, explore and learn about the local ecosystem, and just be present. And from that stillness, I’m going to imagine and write about what’s possible.

You’re welcome to come and visit, and stay as long as you like. You can tell me how civilization is becoming unbearable, hellish. But don’t try to recruit me to fight against those trying to make civilization serve their self-interests a little longer. That’s a war I’m through participating in. It’s a civil war, and there will be no winners.

I’ll keep writing about intentional communities, natural enterprises, gift and other alternative economies, co-operatives, the value of innovation and collaboration and research and consensus and facilitation and other model behaviours and ways of living and making a living. And I’ll keep applauding the brave and energetic souls who build these models and embody these practices. But this weary body and tired heart will be elsewhere, living a life of modest joy.

earth…had better things to offer — crops without cultivation,
fruit on the bough, honey in the hollow oak.

no one tore the ground with ploughshares
or parcelled out the land
or swept the sea with dipping oars —
the shore was the world’s end.

clever human nature, victim of your inventions,
disastrously creative,
why cordon cities with towered walls?
why arm for war?

(Ovid, 60 BC)

Category: Our Culture

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14 Responses to Walking Away

  1. Way to go, Dave. :^)

  2. Nicola says:

    Hi, this sounds like a really healthy way to live, I wonder if you’ll get bored though :-) I think you have figured out so much, I am still reading through many great bits of writing here – and thinking – whatever you decide to do I wish you the absolute best with it and at some point I will contribute more to a discussion than this comment, just struggling with words and bits of puzzles that are not interlocking yet :-)

  3. Ivor Tymchak says:

    It’s been absolutely fascinating reading your blog for the past few years Dave, the highs and lows, the anger and despair. It’s like observing someone evolve into a different species. I imagine you will become a kind of ‘guru on the mountain’ figure. If so, let this blog be your mountain and I will climb it to listen to your wisdom.

  4. Gerard Joyce says:

    You will have no argument from me, I wish you the contentment you seek. I cant help wondering if it is really possible to adopt the life you describe without a progressive yearning for things left behind.I guess you will be able to answer this soon enough,all the best.

  5. Paris says:

    Then I wonder if you haven’t answered yourself the question: “are coop usefull?”, no so I’m walking away.If you’re not convinced yourself, how can you convince me? us and the others?This last post reflects how much you don’t want to relate to others in realty but only in ‘intention’ or virtual communities.The fact you left your wife (real life couple), for online loves was a first ‘symptom’ of your asocial turn. The awful truth is that majority of human beings are not fine to live with, as neighbors, coworkers or family members.Does that mean we shall hope to build a society of loners? elitist loners?

  6. Simon Hazelton says:

    Dave, I hope that this fills your soul with joy and happiness. Walking away does seem to be the only way to escape the slavery that has been imposed upon us all. I wish you the very best.

  7. Dave says:

    I think I know where you’re coming from in regards to activism and activists. I tried being an environmental activist for a few years, but found it very frustrating to keep making the same basic points to policy makers and have them persist in willful ignorance. Plus I don’t care for confrontation, and I found many of my fellow activists to be boringpeople with underdeveloped senses of humor. (I still do act as vice-president for my local Audubon chapter, though, despite not being a real birdwatcher.)

  8. Mariella says:

    Alas y buen viento marinero…. me da la sensación de que finalmente llegaste a ese puerto desde donde se nace otra vez en cada instante.. en cada nueva partida… y siempre con la sensacion de estar donde uno quiere estar.. ojala yo tambien logre llegar a ese.. “mi propio puerto” algun dia… (sorry, but I couldn´t express this in English)…

  9. Hi Dave–This is a chapter–it may last the rest of your life, or you may come down from being the mountain hermit and be something else altogether. Whatever, it is so good for my soul to see you doing what gives you life. You are moving towards something instead of just away from something else. And that feels life-giving.Those of us still fighting the good fight (or whatever it is) have a range of responses and reactions, all and none of them relevant. I like the idea of you shedding your skin and becoming an avatar or pre-prototype for a new species of human. Thanks, Dave. Keep rocking our world, challenging us in new ways, just by living your life.

  10. David Parkinson says:

    Though much is taken, much abides; and thoughWe are not now that strength which in old daysMoved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are,One equal temper of heroic hearts,Made weak by time, and fate, but strong in willTo strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.Thank you for doing what is right for you. If only we all could do that.

  11. vera says:

    Right on the money in my book, Dave! A lovely and healing post, for me too.But where you will end up, the world will intrude. Will you unite with the local peasants in a food coop, or just buy from the local sharpie businessman? Will you put your saving into a conventional bank at an interest that helps you and harms others, or disinvest? But heck, this is where it gets interesting! Once we commit to leaving, a gate appears. And a whole new set of steps. A fresh new adventure. I am in love with your daring and deep deep sense of what must be done. Hugs and hugs.

  12. I relate so well to your sentiments. I ‘know’ that living within an intentional community is the way to go. I ‘know’ that rolling up my sleeves and having a dabble in the permaculture sandpit is what is needed. But somehow it’s ideas that I do best too. Your comments about having “to work hard against people who are too stupid to understand they are killing this planet, people who have money and power and momentum” puts me in mind of the aspie vs neurotypical tension. As for the warmth, my wife and I are thinking of moving further north (southern hemisphere) within NZ. I too am interested to learn where you end up.

  13. Dave Pollard says:

    Thanks everyone. More detailed reply in the Feb 12 followup post comments. To Paris, just to set the record straight: (1) Co-ops are *very* useful, for those who want to continue to work within the system. They’ve been around longer than the industrial economy, and will outlast it. (2) I’ve been open about inviting others to visit and stay wherever I end up; I don’t think that’s at all antisocial. Living outside civilization culture has nothing to do with being a ‘loner’. (3) I did not ‘leave my wife for online loves’ — my wife and I agreed mutually to split up before I developed any serious online relationships, and my most serious online relationships have since blossomed into real-life relationships, and they *are* ‘fine to live with’. (Not that I have any problem with people who want to live in fantasy.)

  14. Amanda says:

    Dave. I think you have finally found where your northern lights are. I’m glad you are finally realizing that the future of the world, of the planet, do not rely solely on your shoulders. You say it is not in you; I say it is not up to you.I know that you know the world is on its own course. Part of the course it is currently on is the largely the result of everything man-made, from the Industrial Revolution to present day. There are too many people in this world. And yet American Evangelicals lambaste birth control and abortion as “going against god’s plan,” all the while they never make a peep when it comes to life-saving innovations in medicine. (Apparently, the religious zeitgeist notion of a life preordained only matters at the point of conception–everything after that is fair game.)The Middle Ages had their plagues. Then again, they destroyed everything Greco-Roman leading up to then; otherwise, they would have known the importance of washing and clean water. Just too many people living too long. When they get to old age they face the threat of either dementia or Alzheimer’s–that is, until we’ve cured that. Never mind accepting it and realizing that that’s what happens to a brain that’s lived so long. So much of how we live today is unnatural. Refrigeration. Internal combustion. Medicine. Indoor plumbing. But just because some things are unnatural doesn’t mean they are all bad for it. It’s about picking and choosing. It’s about moderation. By the way, I love Ovid. ;)Tuzz

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