If you’re born into a travelling circus surrounded by highly skilled misfits then growing up to do a normal job may not be an option.
I ended up writing stories. Strange ones, with stones that can transform into birds, and cities that reveal themselves according to the quality of attention you pay them.
Vivid, multidimensional characters breathing the soul of the world back into their communities through outrageous acts of courage and genius. That’s the goal, and that’s what I’m trying to lean my life towards.
What would an outrageous act of courage and genius look like for you?
A story unfolding at the pace of your breath
Back in 1996, the physicist and deep ecologist Frijof Capra published these words in The Web of Life:
“We are now at the beginning of such a fundamental change of worldview in science and society, a change of paradigms as radical as the Copernican Revolution.”
But transformations in culture happen so gradually it’s hard to see them, and they never happen one at a time. Right now we can be sure that there are multiple conflicting and complimentary worldviews gestating in the darkness like cocooned leviathans.
At a Bioneers conference in 2014, Paul Hawken shared the beginnings of a list showing 130,000 organisations worldwide committed to a fairer, more deeply satisfying, ecologically intelligent world. He emphasized that the true number was likely much larger. How big is it now?
What this list doesn’t include are the countless people quietly tending to the work of soul-making in their own communities; an unmapped mycelial college of green witches, hedge wizards, and ordinary people living with courage and beauty in face of all kinds of hardship.
To follow your calling in a way that helps the world; easier said than done.
Writing is what I love most and find most difficult. I treat it like a job, a vocation, a craft to which I am dedicated, though as yet I make no money from it and there is no guarantee I ever will. But that doesn’t matter. The only point of getting paid to do something is so you can do it more. So I spend hours every day working on the craft that has seized me and won’t let go. Many skills to learn and failures to learn from.
The stories demand it.
Language is not just the clothing they wear, it is their bone, muscle and pulsing organs. They live in me and I live in them. We are both embryonic, vital to each other. If they cannot find expression then it has been a wasted life.
After sixteen years of committed practice, only now I am getting anywhere close to having the skills necessary to get the stories out in way they want to be expressed. Not saying they’re going to be especially good, this is just how long it’s taken me to get to the beginning.
Yet as vital as writing is, it’s only part of the puzzle. A great book is a high goal, but dare we dream even bigger? What if we lived the essence of our story?
Vivid, multidimensional characters breathing the soul of the world back into their communities through outrageous acts of courage and genius.
What would that look like for you? I’m interested to know.
For me, apart from daring to write the stories I wish existed, it has involved projects like Transition Towns, Sentient Cities, studying Permaculture and systems thinking, installing micro-hydro power stations, facilitating nature connection workshops and helping more woodland to exist in the North of England.
I see all of this, writing included, as being a contribution to the re-enchantment of the world.
Over-ambitious? Delusional? You have to remember I was born in a circus. I watched my father get devoured by a forty foot dragon every night, then be back in time for tea.
And for anyone suspicious of the word ‘enchantment’, I’m not talking about the kind that lulls you to sleep. I’m talking about the true and noble kind; the kind of enchantment you had in great abundance as a child, where even a handful of crushed leaves was a shivering mystery.
What is it about our culture that erodes that sense of awe?
Thankfully, despite all the statistical gloom, there are people who have somehow summoned the courage to make an artwork of their lives. If you are reading this and feel even a whisper of longing for something you can’t define, then welcome! The mycelial college is doing its work.
The word ‘newsletter’ feels a bit drab. ‘Talismans against boring culture’ is more accurate for this. A fortnightly spell landing in the palm of your hand. Yes, it’s words on a screen, but I’d like for those words to remind you, and me as I write them, that we are part of a story unfolding at the pace of our breath.
So I’ll stop there and leave you with some words that have been a talisman for me these past few years.
“I think something more is needed than the idea of sustainability. It’s got to be something much more profound that touches the heart, and it touches the heart if you realise that our job on the Earth is to love it, to fall in love with it, and you only fall in love with it if you are aesthetically alive to it.” – James Hillman
Let’s get to it.