A few evenings ago he was sitting up on his bed looking troubled. His cheeks seemed blotched and his eyes were flicking and blinking, almost as if he was going to cry. But he’s nine, and I think it’s a point of honour with him never to cry. He said quietly, as I bustled around getting ready for lights-out, “Daddy, there’s something that bothered me today…”. I paused for a proper look at him and asked what’s up? “On the way back we stopped in the Chinese supermarket. There were all these fish in the tank. There were so many they could hardly move…”, and that’s where he tailed off. His expression told the story. Continue reading “Fish in a tank”
There’s a simmering conflict at the place I work between the masters of digital technology, whose job is to conceive and construct and continually upgrade exciting new ICT-enabled ways of working, and the frontline colleagues who are required by the ICT (information and communications technology) to dispense with their old ways and get with the programme.
You know how it is when you’re a young goshawk gripping the gloved fist, carried into the urban outdoors for only the second time in your life…
- This image was reproduced across various media in the UK during the past week. I think there’s an anima/soul angle to this, I’ll give it a go…
We the Saami are a native people. We have lived with nature, not against it. — Mio Negga in these climate justice stories from 350.org
I would guess that Saami herders and hunters rely as much on motor power and mobile phones as the rest of us, but also that they’re more inclined to give Nature the benefit of the doubt in decisions small and large. The people who plan, approve and construct a hydroelectric dam, on the other hand, are more inclined to privilege shareholder value, economic growth, personal career advancement, financial gain. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred the dam-makers get their way.
When I was little and had my first carpentry kit, my Dad showed me how much easier it was to saw and shape with the grain of the wood rather than across it. People who live well seem to have that knack in life, and I suspect it’s true of cultures too. By this measure, our turbocharged fossil-fuelled industrial culture does not live well. We have fought spectacularly against the grain of Nature for the past two centuries, and have equally spectacularly got our own way. But only in the short term. Our greatest victories over Nature have been Pyrrhic. We are now re-learning something that smaller, unnoticed cultures, like that of the Saami, never needed to forget.
In the spirit of taking small steps, it’s a question we may ask in our daily choices: is this with nature, or against it?
(photo credit: Abi King, Inside the TravelLab)
If you stop in the woods, or move unobtrusively, and make a point of noticing, you discover there’s a lot going on.
It takes a few minutes, like eyes adjusting to the dark, before your senses re-tune. There are birds and rustlings, and puffs of air across your skin. Your nostrils open to the cacophony of scent. After a while longer, maybe an hour, a kind of spatial synaesthesia has taken over. The area around you is abuzz with conversation. In all directions stories are unfolding, on various temporal scales. Insects whirr and trees sigh. The ripples from your presence on the scene are noted and are fed back to you, and you become aware of that too.
You experience these stimuli as intimately as if your surroundings have become an extension of your body. It feels awesome. The woods themselves are your organs of perception. They and everything that’s in them seem to be doing the thinking for you. What’s left is a kind of heightened sixth sense. Like waking into a lighter and immeasurably more alert state.
Is that how it is for the wild ones, all of the time?
It may have been an effort at first to “notice”, but when it’s time to trudge back to normality you find it’s almost a greater effort to switch off that enveloping hum, to shut your senses down and buckle into the familiar mental harness. There’s a boundless dialogue of life going on out there and the denizens of the wildwood are all a part of it. But we, the tamed ones, mostly blunder through insensate, having fenced ourselves off mentally and physically.
Why would we do that I wonder? How much was really gained in return for all that we lost?