Saturday 15 May 2010

The Day The Merry Go Round Stopped

One day you wake up and everything is changed. You know, for example, that you just can’t go to night-clubs anymore. You still love dancing, but the desire to go out is no longer there. Or the person lying beside you suddenly feels like a stranger. These are shifts everyone knows about, even though each of us experience it for the first time. They are shifts of time, of growing older, of dancing with different people until you find the one you wish to share your life with. There are other shifts to do with individuation - shedding your complexes and your cultural conditioning. These are less well known because not everyone explores the depths of themselves or the breadth of the world. But many seekers through time, and poets have documented them.

But there are some shifts nobody knows about. Because they are the shifts of our human evolution on earth. And some of us are waking up at the moment and feeling everything has changed, except we don’t know quite how to express it.

What’s strange about your life? asked Naomi one night at our Strangers’ Circle. Tully said that everything in his house had suddenly broken down and this had forced him to think about how dependent we are on stuff working and being repaired and what would happen when those services were not available anymore. I didn’t get my chance that night but later at the Low Carbon Roadshow rehearsal we picked different futures out of a hat and improvised who we were and what had happened between 2010 and 2110. Mine was Unknown Quantity. When I took the stage I found myself saying: one day people just stopped and started to do something completely different.

What I had wanted to say at the Circle was that I had noticed that a certain drive had stopped inside. And as a consequence life was feeling strange. Once there had been a great noise and now there was a kind of silence.

For thousands of years the merry go round of civilisation has whirled ceaselessly - the wheel of fortune, the wheel of karma, the wheels of commerce and capitalism. It whirls generations round in a frenzy of speed, music and colour. It seems like everything happens at that funfair: everything fashionable, interesting, important. Relinquish the wheel, advises the Buddha. Don’t linger in fairyland, warn the Ancestors. It’s all an illusion. But no one takes any notice. The pace of our lives is tempered by that glittering speed. We are compelled to go faster, bigger, buy more houses, more clothes, more holidays, more movies, more machines, more cake. If we step off the ledge for one moment we can’t wait for our next turn on that great production line.

The world is made of that speed and that drive. It is the drive of the will. The will to succeed, to overcome, to conquer. Even Transition has been party to its ambition. Partnered with the unkind reason of the mind, it is the force that has run rampage over the globe. It runs through all our lives like Alexander. We drink to keep up with it, always late, on a perpetual deadline. 24/7. We cut corners, skip facts, betray our friends, forget the green world outside the window. We are restless, never satisfied, never sure what we want, looking over our shoulder for the powerful people, to be invited to the right party, to wear the perfect suit, to walk with the gods. We fight time and nature with that drive – even Transition - with our passionate intensity, our desire to escape into all the fun and fantasy of the fair.

We are holding that drive, that inhuman artificial energy in our bodies and sometimes those bodies, those minds, break down.

And sometimes we real human beings break through. That’s a 5 Skin thing. A moment when we align ourselves with everything else on earth and powerdown. The drive stops suddenly, the way going to night-clubs once stopped. You wake up and you can’t do it anymore. It’s not that you decided to. It just happened. Sometimes this happens to individuals and sometimes it happens to a people: it happens because something else has begun to go on in the neighbourhood, something our unkind minds and ruthless wills had not considered. A harmonious way of doing things, of engaging in the world, that affects our inner and outer lives in ways we never imagined. Small bands of people coming together, swapping seedlings, sharing things, writing about everyday events, feeling at home. Focusing on the small things: on bees and walnut trees, a fiery soup and the kindness that can exist between people. Remembering what really matters about being alive on the planet.

The politics of the heart, the new government of the world.

Yesterday in Transition: Walking through the bluebell wood; Mark and Josiah (and Iris and Rueben) working on the kitchen table after lunch.


  1. Bi la kaifa+.

    While gardening this spring, I've been feeling like Fenchurch*. Getting connected to the circle of life. But not all at once, every day little snippets of Vogon* come by. And I think the Vogons have their own wheel, something that has been trundling along in a straight line, but that can and will be bent into a circle, and that this is a good thing. But maybe that's just Alexander speaking. (I don't think so, but I'm trying to be open to that possibility.) For the moment it's rather distracting, though, and I apologize for those missed opportunities (not writing the energy section for the resilience plan yet, etc.).

    + Herbert (1965) Dune.
    * Adams (1984) So long and thanks for all the fish.

  2. Dear Erik,

    I know you are saying really interesting things here, except my literary education has not yet encompassed these galactic works (perhaps I'm too attached to this local solar neighbourhood).

    I'm missing the refs. Can you enlighten me/us?

    Who is Fenchurch? And what are Vogons?

    Best green wishes,


  3. Dear Charlotte,

    Dune is an acquired taste, though it stands out as a monumental achievement in talking about the relationship between the environment and human society.

    The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy is simply a must read, and nothing I can say short of quoting all of it would suffice to clarify it. I'll start on that:
    There is a theory which states that if ever anybody finds out exactly what the universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.

    There is another theory which states that this has already happened.

    Charlotte, are you sure you haven't read it, because it then goes on to explain about the dangers of being too attached to this local solar neighbourhood.

  4. I was lucky enough to read Dune while living on the edge of the Libyan desert. It was a profound experience to read it in that context; and it's a much better book than people who have seen the film think it should be.

    But I agree, it is an acquired taste! Much as I loved the first book (and the second), I couldn't get through the whole seven or eight books in the series, nor the numerous spin-offs.