A space for conversations in a time of global disruption
Yesterday evening, after dinner with the community I was visiting, we set off down through sodden fields into the valley, guided only by torchlight, towards a fireplace down near the river. Waiting for us and tending the fire was J, a man of few words, who lives with his partner and 18 month-old child in a straw-bale roundhouse in the lee of the valley.
In these remote valleys, a small number of communities like this one are scattered, where people live the kind of lives we all might once have lived (or one day might have to live).
We sat, as the wind funnelled around us and the fire roared, held conversations, recited stories and poems, played music. These were all woven round the kinds of lives that human beings might live if (or when, depending on your point of view) the economic or ecological collapse hits us. These days it seems we are the edge of a big change, whatever this might bring. The last time something like this was building this powerfully was in the 60s, when the civil rights movement and hippy culture invited people to drop out of their materially driven lifestyles.
This time the stakes are higher, and it feels like people like J are dropping into something. They are explicity seeking places – tucked away and wild – where they can live in touch with the earth, living off the land as much as possible, and operating what might be modern versions of a subsistence economy.
Of course this new culture is transitional – dependent to some extent on the faltering economies and cultures that they are rejecting. And there are contradictions and ironies. The event was set up via computer social networking, and I read my poems to the group from the illuminated screen of my iPad.
But at least people are exploring these contraditions and questions. Like the one that Alex, the host of the event, asked us that evening around the fire: “What is it that you most fear losing”he asked “if the modern world we are so used to starts to crumble?”. Our answers were faltering and unsure, but at least the question is being asked.
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