What makes us angry? What is our unique skill? What is the feeling we are striving for? What is the longing in our hearts that is pointing us in this direction?
So that was 2018
The last twelve months is in many ways a random amount of time but given that many are taking the time to gather their reflections, thoughts, hopes, fears and to reset their intentions, I thought I would take the chance to do likewise.
2018 was chock-full of experiences, opportunities, places, people, ideas, challenges, disappointments, dilemmas and hopes. We are living in uncertain times. The only certainty about 2019 will be its unexpected nature, its surprises and its universal unfolding. Whatever happens, most of us will be in different place this time next year.
For I feel that whilst facing probably the most chaotic and turbulent times I have known in my lifetime, we are also building, as if in parallel, many of the new systems, models and interactions that we need in order to disengage successfully from old and outmoded habits and patterns that are not just broken but redundant. Looking down on the chaos that is Brexit is no better reminder of just how our so-called leaders have truly lost their way.
What made me angry? Incompetence, unfairness, bigotry, cruelty, ignorance, selfishness, a world often ruled by mistrust and fear...
My 2018 started with getting to know my new hometown, Frome and I was very happy to meet such a diverse, creative group of people, many doing some really interesting stuff and often on a different level, whether it is on a more spiritual level or a connection with nature.
My mindset changed this year. Whilst I had enjoyed being out of London for some years after leaving The Big Chill, I found that I was gravitating to the south west and in many ways Frome is at the heart of the transformation. Maybe it's the preponderance of ley lines in the south west or it's rich heritage on non-conformity but there has been an overriding sense that much of the new ideas, the new currency, the new ways of interacting and organising has been coming not from the capital or its commuter belt heartland, but well away from those concentric circles that emanate from London - from the south west in general and not just Stroud, Totnes, Frome or Glastonbury. The influence of Bristol, for example, is on the rise, as was noted this autumn in a blog by @Kate Burgess
I realise now that I have had at least two life-changing moments that I'd like to share :
How change will happen # 1 Meditating in the sunlight on Westminster Bridge on Saturday November 17th
There was a hugely symbolic minute or two that occurred less than an hour into the Extinction Rebellion occupation of Westminster Bridge (one of five bridges we 'took' that day) when a meditation session started on what is usually a hectic transport hub on a Saturday morning. We were sitting in the sunlight, many with our eyes closed while behind us, the Houses of Parliament was a dark outline in the shadows. At that moment, I'm sure I wasn't alone in sensing that some big changes were already beginning to take place.
Here is the film I made of a historic day:
How change will happen # 2 : A new way of engaging with ourselves and each other
Not so much a moment as an entire weekend called Wise Men Wise Women Wiser World, organised by @Scilla Elworthy and Nicolas Janni, with a mission as follows :
Our ambition is to open up our highest potential by uniting men and women through new ways of working together to create change – be it at government, business, the media or grassroots levels.
The aim of this unique, exploratory workshop is to provide a shared space for a mind/body/heart journey through which we will discover and experience a new way of engaging with ourselves and each other.
The weekend, in my view achieved its aims and much more. Rather than reiterate here, I've posted something of a brain dump about the weekend and its far-reaching effects. But I will offer one summary paragraph of what I came out feeling, alongside the calm:
"What I felt alongside the calm was fire in my belly. Fire of anger about the crash landings ahead - lost squabbling politicians caught up in the their own perfect storm of Brexit chaos, the unswerving certainty of their Trumpian dystopia, the blind punchdrunk sense of cocksure certainty, which like many certainties, are arguably the embodiment of a patriarchy that should have long since left the room, of a neoliberal ideology that has enslaved us all for decades in obsessive growth, competition, consumerism, of that same patriarchy that must surely be about to expire as we reach the fag end of a capitalist era that has left us so dislocated from nature, from compassion, from relationship, from spirituality. "
The change is us. It starts at home.
Musically, I was back in the studio for the first time in over a decade and the result was a collaboration with around 30 Campfire members - the track Sa Ta Na Ma was born out of @Tobias Hug's circle singing at last November's Campfire 002.UK.
Here is the story:
I also attended Blowzabella's Workshop Weekend in north Somerset May and made a short film documentary when I visited Sidmouth Folk Festival in August, both musical and social highlights for me. Also returning to the decks for my first DJ set in some while was very exciting and the ecstatic dance style suited me well. I'd love to do more.
August's Campout - a return to The Bridge in Michaelchurch Escley was enlightening and entertaining and proved that the open space format can be exhilarating and liberating too. Have a listen to our Firecasts.
Making Firecasts and filming DIY style documentaries have been one of the biggest pleasures for me, a realisation that you don't need state of the art equipment to capture the moment and that rough and ready documenting can actually capture a lot that might be missed otherwise.
I look back now on a very busy autumn after returning from Paros in late September having decided to go ahead with plans for a week-long retreat on the island next September.
Back in Blighty, a trip to the wonderful Old Tree Apple Festival on the Welsh borders (another of my DIY films!) was a reminder of the potency of a collaborative team effort as apples were harvested and cider made. A model for how future festivals should be.
The Frome branch of Extinction Rebellion's Funeral for Extinct and Endangered Species was an extraordinary combination of the potency of of theatre and the triumph of getting a message across through well targeted peaceful protest. It brought my town to a standstill and started a whole range of animated conversations.
In November I worked on developing a new skill - design. Aside from the odd flyer, I had never really dabbled in design and putting together the first issue of Ignite challenged and inspired me. I hope you have enjoyed reading it.
To end the year, a delightful couple of days spent with my son Joey, who came down to Frome for the first time. Inspired by listening to Guy Garvey's Radio 4 documentary on Recording Dad we have pledged to make our own recordings and for me to start to get down some of the stories and tales of my life so far. I'm sure he will do likewise as he grows and flourishes.
I may have a few years left on this earth yet. My immediate priority is to build this social network as a tool for hope, for building resources and for brining people together, those who are doing the good work redesigning communities, reshaping our world, but also joining the dots between those who are inspiring others and those who are looking for their own inspiration and focus. Most of all, once this network moves into profit, it has potential to introduce its Kudos scheme which aims to allocate a percentage of profits to its own members, those who are most engaged in helping the community. I see this as my life's work now and having spent my savings to get to where we are now, I have been encouraged to attempt to crowdfund Phase 3 of our development (thanks Doug from Geneva who attended Scilla and Nicholas' weekend I mention above earlier this month for giving me the confidence to try this). Hopefully it will work and I'd love anyone who reads this who would like to be part of the support team to help spread the word to get in touch.
Reset for 2019
1 How we engage with ourselves and each other
A move from extrinsic to intrinsic values, less about competition, fear, celebrity, one-upmanship, I'm alright Jack mentality, possessions; more about how we can work for the good of all, learn to feel centred and calm in ourselves so we can listen to others and honour our differences. Learning deep listening skills. Feeling as well as thinking. Trusting gut instincts. Trusting trust! Pronoia above paranoia. A transition from the ego to the heart. It can take courage to listen to the heart, and a quiet, settled mind - one often cultivated through meditation - will best be able to hear this innermost call.
2 How we look after the earth
Feeling part of nature not fighting it or destroying it. Extinction Rebellion have set a whole lot in motion for many and amplified the sense of urgency. Much will flow and follow from this movement that is impacted in ways we never imagined just a year ago. In terms of what we can do practically, have a listen to @Indra Adnan's inspiring interview where she proposes a badge ranking system based on what we can change and / or give up. See also Daniel Pinchbeck's checklist for practical stuff we can do to make a difference.
3 Changing habits : Mobile phone, social media addiction...
Lots of potential issues here. How many of us are ruled by / addicted to our mobiles and what do we intend to do about it? asked @Emily Rose Croucher (Emilyroseletgo)@ on Campfire recently. Also we need to think about material possessions, perhaps buying, less stuff, being wholly conscious of the effects of advertising in this relentless growth cycle (see George Monbiot's blog)
4 Europe and international relations
The dark days of Trump and Brexit offer opportunities, for change and for modernisation to a post capitalist world that creates new models and puts to rest the outmoded ways. Check out DiEM25's future vision on Europe and also Paul Mason's thinking on how a new Europe could rise from the Brexit fiasco.
5 How we do politics
The models of alternatives to Westminster are already out there. Now is the time to start embracing them so that we have a system that's already working for us at grassroots level while the so-called leaders dither and bicker. Citizens assemblies would be a good place to start and we are starting to build resources around that subject. You would be very welcome to join the Project.
6 Different forms of media
Conscious Media is the working title for our suggested alternative to BBC's outmoded Question Time, launching in April 2019. Are you yet ready to leave Facebook or thinking about alternatives? We are also building resources about the social networking monolith after much rumour and speculation about their surveillance capitalism model this past year. Campfire will be aiming to building resources and encouraging collaboration and more evolved social media in 2019, especially after we have made the software transition to Drupal 8 which is work in progress right now.
7 Connecting with nature
I am planning to continue my love affair with the nature that is all around me in 2019. Tree hugging - the first time I had done it since I was a young boy - was a revelation last month and my throwaway post about it on Zuckerworld attracted the most comments and feedback that I have received in a long time.
8 Doing something for someone
There is no better way of honouring others around us by consciously doing something helpful or useful for someone else. Taking time out to surrender ourselves for the good of others.
9 Imagining the better world you want
Don't stop dreaming. Never stop dreaming. But match the utopian visions with action steps that are realistic and achievable.
10 Celebrating through coming together
We often forget to celebrate life on earth just as we often forget to breathe consciously. Neither should be taken for granted and we should remember to be thankful and grateful. I offer up a 5 day period at the end of August to come together and celebrate ourselves, each other, the spontaneity, creativity, joy and uniqueness of our shared experience here.
So I'm striving for connection and strength through community. My skill, I think, is bringing people together and joining the dots. My burning passion is to be part of leading the changes in our world where I see fear, disagreement and unhappiness.
There is a strong sense that it is our time - a time to be productive within a joyful healing space.
Hopefully, see you at the summer Campout...
Sunset of the year. Worth Matravers, Dorset, June 23rd