Wednesday, 8 December 2010


“I’ve repurposed my summer trousers,” I declared to Eloise in Sustainable Bungay’s Sunday sewing class in the library.
You’ve what?” she chuckled.

“Yes, it’s a new term I’ve come up with – repurposing*. I’m using an old pair of summer trousers for pyjama bottoms, and they’re great. Not much to do with sewing, but you know, all part of the reuse, repair, recycle thing.”

I can count so many positive changes in my own life since I joined Transition over two and half years ago. The huge social benefits which come from getting involved in common projects with other people preparing for an energy-leaner future. Learning new skills and sharpening up old ones. On an inner level, constantly working my way beyond ‘little me’ to defeat the isolating individualism that’s so strong in our culture, and which seems such a treacherous path to continue on. And just being more relaxed and able to speak with so many more people, in transition or no.

Some of this has come about by a sort of ‘inner repurposing’. During the 80s and 90s I had some (okay, a lot of) new-agey ideas about, well, a New Age. I was into Limitless (personal) Growth and Abundance. I read all the books and did the affirmations. I made a living telling people they could be into limitless personal growth too. I did not think in social terms then or of economics, or see that this 'spiritual' growth (which often came down to 'I want the perfect job, car, house, income, relationship') was predicated on the earth's very limited fossil fuel resources. I just wanted to get what I wanted. I wasn’t religious but I had my own spiritual ideas and I was most liberal about sharing them with others. If they didn’t understand them, well that was their problem. I had my purpose and I was in touch with it!

The first awakening I had that this wasn’t quite right occurred in Venezuela in a hotel courtyard full of flowers in 1996. I was 34. From the reception I heard a booming male European voice fervently declare that we all Create our Own Reality, a New Time is Coming, there is No Separation, We Are All One. On the way to my room I passed the man, who was about my age. I don’t remember the person who was with him. Whoever it was wasn’t getting a word in edgeways.

I didn’t immediately see the correlation between myself and this man. I just felt immensely irritated by him. It took a while to dawn on me. I had not yet realised how the talk of 'no separation' could feel so separating.

There's a discussion going on in the Transition Network at the moment. Michael Brownlee of Transition US believes the 'Sacred' should be at the core of the Transition movement, rather than community. It is well worth reading both his post and Rob Hopkins' response and the ensuing comments.

I once met a man who'd built a healing centre in Arizona with his own hands. It was an amazing place of wooden huts and geodesic domes and always full of visitors. He'd lived on site a long time. I asked him how he responded when people began to talk about their personal spiritual and healing experiences.
"Please don't," he said.

So what has this got to do with the small example of my trousers-cum-pyjama-bottoms?

Well, a few years ago I wouldn’t have even considered the possibility of repurposing - myself or my nightwear. A few years before that I would have actively rejected the idea. Trousers in bed? Darling, I was creating my own reality and I had my silk pyjamas sent to me by a friend in Hong Kong. And I'm not joking.

REPURPOSING n. The changing of the purpose of a thing from its original intended use to another, hence REPURPOSE vb. To give something a different purpose instead of or in addition to its original.

*I've just checked this term and discovered it has in fact been in use for some time, so I can't claim I invented it. However I wrote the above definition yesterday before I found this out.

Pic: Repurposed trousers-cum-pyjama-bottoms with blue woollen scarf repurposed as hot water bottle cover

1 comment:

  1. great story Mark. It is very difficult to repurpose your intentions from those we are socially indoctrinated with, but worth it of course!