Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Breakdown to Breakthrough

Can you know whether you’re living through a time of great change when you are in it? Or is it one of those things you can only see in the rear view mirror? Lately there’s been some talk of the period before the last World War, when the majority of Britons believed in appeasement. Apparently there was a minority who believed that war was inevitable. These people, engineers, scientists, created the blueprint for the Spitfire, and when war broke out there were many other strategies – political, social, practical - in place for Britain to be swiftly galvanised for war.

Not that we are in a wartime situation. But a great change is afoot and deep down we know it. Our initial response is fear, but I also sense the fresh wind of relief, as though from addiction. Do we really want to continue to create a society where our greed for driving is more important than other people’s need to eat (the grain it takes to fill a 25 gallon SUV tank can feed a person for a year – Lester Brown, Earthwatch Institute).

The headlines lately have been dire – and not just the Guardian, but the FT, the Mail and all. Our leaders reassure us that the financial, food and oil crises are just temporary market aberrations, but perhaps we are entering a time of long-term turbulence as we figure out how to change from an industrial growth society to a life-sustaining society. Resistance is futile. But I am optimistic. I hope we can even welcome this Breakdown to Breakthrough.

Friday, 18 April 2008

The Magical Mystery Tour

I’ve just taken our family of six on a Magical Mystery Tour. Having coordinated our diaries some time ago, we told our four children to pack an overnight bag, their swimming costumes and wear a warm coat. The penny didn’t drop until we got off at Newhaven that we were going to France. Amazing how even teenagers thrill in the pleasures of a mystery.

I’d discovered there was a deal for £10 each way if you take the 8am boat and return on a 12.30 boat back from Dieppe the next day. It’s a four hour journey, but easily taken up with a sumptuous picnic, a liberal dose of library books and messing about on the deck with the wind in our hair.

Dieppe is an incredibly unspoiled and picturesque town. On arrival we headed straight for Les Bains, a new thellasotherapy centre at the far end of the beach. The under-18s went for the waterplay area, including a heated outdoor saltwater pool, and the over18s among us booked in for a Turkish bath and sauna. After generally lolling about and exploring the old town, full of one-off shops, we headed off for the old quai for a supper of moules marinieres avec frittes, pizzas and chocolate mousse. This place is heaven for seafood lovers. Later we sodjurned to an ancient hotel whose crumbliness was made up for by starched white sheets and plentiful hot water.

After a breakfast of croissants and coffee the next day, we split off to investigate the castle and the aquarium, before stocking up on supplies for the boat. Around the corner of the hotel was a tiny, unpretentious bakery that sold 20 kinds of home made artisanal bread baked in their own wood-fired bread oven.

The wonderful market yielded salami, cheese, tomatoes, fruit, cakes - we have so much to learn about honouring our farmers, fishermen and food suppliers by buying from them - and we leisurely strolled on to the boat for the journey home. All of which reminded me that adventures needn’t cost the earth – the entire trip for 6 cost £360 including travel, hotel, food, pool and entrances, and was about as light as can be.

Friday, 4 April 2008

The Great Turning

A group of us took the 4.20 to London on Monday to hear Joanna Macy talk. It was the first warm evening of the year, and walking through St James’s Park at dusk, we breathed deeply the first scents, and were dazzled by the thick white cherry blossoms. Even the pigeons were nuzzling each other romantically. It was magic to experience natural wellbeing in the middle of a city.

Macy is an 80 year old deep ecologist. We are, she said, living in an extraordinary time: our generation is participating in the necessary and unavoidable transition from an Industrial Growth society to a Life Sustaining society. And like so many life ventures, like sowing seeds or giving birth, it’s not certain we’re going to make it.

There is, Macy says, a taboo about talking of such things, and people often say, don’t worry; it will be all right. But, she says, that’s because so many of us are afraid of the feelings that might come up on accepting the problem. It is totally appropriate to feel both deep gratitude for and connection with all that is, as well as the great sadness of the earth. Having powerful emotional responses can help us move out of overwhelm to discover untapped sources of creativity, courage and power, says Macy.

Let us start to listen to the voices of all beings. Let us listen to the voices of our ancestors, who lived embedded in the web of life; they are speaking to us now and we are hearing them. If we were to listen to the voices of our children seven generations ahead, what choices would they want us to make now?Joanna Macy calls her approach the Work that Reconnects. That for me sums up the Transition Towns work and the emotional place I live in order to remain sane and effective during this extraordinary Great Turning.

For more information about a weekend in Sussex woodlands exploring the Work that Reconnects please see www.changingworlds.info/courses