The Preface to “Finding Our Way Home”

A long time ago my mother taught me to read. She thought it was a good idea. So did I. I could lose myself in wonderful stories of other worlds. This world always seemed to be such a disappointment. I still read whenever I can find the time and peace to do so.

Many years ago I became interested in alternative lifestyles. I remember a time when we all thought the world was going to end in a nuclear winter, now everything is going to melt. I suspect every generation has it’s own apocalyptic vision. That said, it is evident that modern western culture cannot continue consuming the world’s resources, at the rate it is, indefinitely.

We have a choice. We can either continue as we are and wait for disaster to force our hand, or we can start trying to change things. One ripple at a time. It seems ridiculous not to. The way British society works at the moment doesn’t seem to be very healthy, or happy. Surely it makes sense to start to make a happier, healthier world if we can.

Not to try isn’t really an option, is it? Anyway, talk is cheap, and this is me, talking on paper (or not, if you’re looking at a screen to read this). I have endeavoured to reference ideas when I could remember where they came from. Some have been with me so long that I can’t remember if I made them up or I read them somewhere.

I have read pretty extensively over the years. In my 30’s and 40’s I studied, and then taught, sociology and psychology. I read a lot of “pop” psychology before that. I’ve also read a smattering of philosophy over and above what was necessary for my degree. I have an abiding interest in media and cultural studies.

But for a large proportion of my life I read science fiction, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C Clarke, Kim Stanley Robinson, Katharine Kerr, Anne McCaffrey, Douglas Adams, Iain M Banks, Ursula Le Guin, C J Cherryh, William Gibson, Elizabeth Moon, and many, many more.

In addition to the science fiction I read other fiction writers J R R Tolkein, H G Wells, Daphne Du Maurier, George Orwell, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, I even read Proust! So many different ideas, so many different possibilities. The dismal and the uplifting, the hopeless and the hopeful, the difficult and the easy, I read and absorbed as much as I could.

In the meantime I was trying to cope and make sense of life as I was experiencing it. I got involved with running a smallholding, and bringing up my daughter, my normality was very different from most people’s. I read about self-sufficiency, wrote poetry, fed the chickens, discovered permaculture, milked the goats, tried to overcome my aversion to eating meat, learned to spin…

So, it’s not really surprising if I come at things from a slightly different angle from most people. I always have done. I did even before that period of my life. I can remember my college economics lecturer explaining to me once that when he gave our class the choice of two essay titles, the rest of the students would choose one, and I would choose the other.

I guess I might just have been born ornery. Anyway, my mother is still telling me about the way things are, and I’m still saying “but they shouldn’t be”. In these pages I’m explaining why I think they are, and how I think they could be. I really wish they could be…

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Smile!

In this day of insanity, as so many days before, we need to hold fast to what we know to be right. We are all human beings first, even before the beliefs and experiences that lead us to feel we are different. We survived on this planet long before anyone invented money, and we will do so again, after money has faded away as a bad memory.

We have changed the way we live our lives to a point where we have little contact with the truths that previous generations understood deep in their bones. The reality that life is nasty, brutish and short, life is part of a cycle. In the midst of life we are in death. Tragic but unavoidable.

Last night I watch the faces of the people on their way home after work. There wasn’t a single smile. This is not what peoples lives should be. If you find you don’t smile on your way home, at least at the thought of what is waiting for you there, there is something fundamentally wrong with your life.

When you understand the truths of the natural world, you also understand that it is important to make your life as rich (not materially, but emotionally) as possible. To make sure you smile as often as possible; to be creative whenever you can; to be out in nature whenever possible; to often be with caring, interesting people; to be alone, at peace, when you can; to pursue things that interest you; to help others; to do mundane jobs when they need doing; to learn new things; this kind of variety all helps to make your life richer.

When I was a child I had little self confidence, I was also painfully shy. I had firstly to learn that I could stand on my own two feet, that I was capable of looking after, not just myself, but also others. That I was capable of at least as much as most other people.

Secondly, I learned that I didn’t need to be shy. Many people are only interested in themselves, they tend not to even see other people as real. People who are interested in you fall into two camps, those who are genuinely nice people, and those who need to use you to prop themselves up. The only ones whose opinion you need to care about are the genuinely nice people, and you don’t need to be shy with them, they’re not judging you.

We need to re-root ourselves both in nature and in genuine, caring relationships. We need to relearn that we are capable beings with abilities we would never have guessed if we hadn’t actually tried them.

We also need to step away from the awareness that there are so many people out there who know so much more than we do. All that awareness brings us is insecurity. We don’t need to be insecure. Insecurity is a wedge between people, it pushes us apart. It means that instead of valuing what we’ve got, we focus on what others have, or have achieved.

Each of us has a unique way of bringing things together, a unique way of looking at things, we can all create ripples, not tidal waves. But ripples can travel far and, if repeated often enough, create real change.

So, smile! You have much to smile about. Create ripples, the world needs to change, more now than for many generations. Be the change you want to see, and be joyful about it.

Christmas to New Year with stress…

Lots of people talk about the joy of being with family over the Christmas break, and if you have a lovely, warm, loving family, who you see eye to eye with, I’m sure that can be true. But let’s be honest, there is tension in most people’s families, and some families seem to see Christmas as an opportunity for outright war.

If your family isn’t at peace with itself, the extra stress of expectations can be tinder to any potential argument. Those expectations don’t even have to be unrealistic, they just have to not mesh perfectly with what actually happens.

We also have a culture that is obsessed with blame rather than understanding. Blame is a destructive thing, self awareness, as well as taking responsibility for one’s own actions and the consequences of those actions are the positive way of approaching things when they go wrong. Being able to say “it was me and I apologise” is just about the healthiest and most grown up thing you can do, if it’s true.

Being aware that none of us is perfect is a really good starting point I find, especially when spending time with other people who you are not going to be able to escape from for a while.

We tend not to have to spend extended time with other people, so we have lost many of the skills our forebears developed through communal living. I can remember days before central heating and computers, when we spent most of our winters in the living room together trying not to fall out. It was there that we learnt the skill of keeping our mouths shut.

So, if your family is one of those dreadful toxic experiences, give yourself permission to avoid them. Christmas alone can be a joyous, peaceful, fun experience. If you work at making it that way. And many people who have families will envy you the opportunity to be peaceful.

Also bear in mind that whilst you may enjoy the hurly burly of your family interactions not every member of your family will necessarily agree with you. It may seem like gentle teasing from where you are, but the person being teased may find it to be far more challenging and unpleasant than that.

Be gentle to those around you when you know they are under pressure. They may lash out, but it probably has nothing to do with you. Lots happens in other peoples lives that we will never know about, these things are often in their minds when they are unhappy or under pressure.

Christmas and the new year put us under huge pressure, we need the people who care about us to be just a bit more understanding of our difficulties.

I Just Need Some Peace

The noise, the damn noise, there is no let up, there is no peace. A siren from a police car, ambulance, fire engine. The beeping from a lorry reversing. The car alarm, the house alarm… Noise on noise on noise…

The hoover reverberating through the wall from next door, someone shouting at their kids, the constant stream of traffic noise, the bin men, the delivery people banging on the door. Noise, so much noise.

In the garden nothing changes, the helicopter over head, the airplanes heading to places quieter than this, the party music out the back. The fireworks. Too much noise.

And in the park the children shouting, screaming, crying. The parents even louder still. Dogs barking, yipping. And there is no peace.

And I’m worn thin with the constant abrasion. I just need some peace.

Notes from the past…

15/10/11

I’m finally so fed up with this country and culture that I can’t keep quiet any longer. People are important. Self-respect, integrity, love, generosity, sympathy, empathy, respect, manners, the simple beauty of nature, they are all important. Money is only a tool that we adopted when barter became too complicated – can we please remember that!

Rant 1 over… more to follow.

16/10/11

Rant 2

We have media that oversimplify, stereotype & trivialize. They demonise the poor & powerless, at the same time deifying “celebrities” (who they have created in the first place). The criteria used to decide what is newsworthy is not just biased, it is warped, increasing feelings of powerlessness, fear & alienation in the naïve, uneducated (wait til that rant appears), & unwary.

The entertainment media predominantly concentrate on themes of deceit & mistrust to the point that dishonesty seems normal. To want or expect honesty & decent considerate behaviour is viewed as, at best, idealistic &, at worst, naively stupid.

“Soaps” are the worst offenders in all ways. Stereotyping characters in the most negative ways possible. Trivializing & poking fun at those who most need sympathy & understanding. They also underline their own myth that every happy experience will inevitably lead to tragedy. All in the guise (for many watchers) of reflecting real life.

Much of the media treat all their followers as if they are stupid or naïve. They offer little in the way of mental stimulation but much titillation, then wonder why fewer & fewer people engage with them. In attempting to always grab the biggest market share they have forgotten we are all individuals. We will swallow their nonsense for a while, then, inevitably, one way or another it makes us sick.

Life itself, as well as being mundane & tragic, is richer, funnier, more rewarding & unexpected than anything the mainstream can imagine.

12/11/11

I saw a comment yesterday where the person said that facebook wasn’t the place for politics. As this person isn’t one of my friends (and from what I saw of his profile, never will be) I didn’t challenge it. Personally I think this person doesn’t understand what politics is.

Life is politics. Some times written LARGE, sometimes written small. It’s about what you think is important: what you will fight for; what you will fight against. And to quote Rush “If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice”

Eyes closed or eyes open it’s still all politics. To quote another of my favourite bands, Skunk Anansie, “Everything is political”.

Take care of yourselves. If you don’t no one else can.