Thursday, June 09, 2005

Inclosure, failure, and other things


I'm reading more of Chellis Glendinning's, Off the Map and found an interesting link to my work with the Gabriola Commons project. At the workshop on Saturday some people were sharing where the concept of commons had come from and there were questions about its history and dates and such. Today, on page 53, I found:

Beginning in 1770, the English Parliament privatizes 6 million acres of previously commonly held fields, meadows, wetlands, and forests. Other arrangements, illegal, strip a near equal acreage from communal use. The upshot: 97 percent of all land in England comes to be owned by individuals and companies poised for the moneymaking promises of industrialism. A way of life dissolves. Traditional cottagers, freeholders, and tenants are forced off the land, are turned into hired hands, become factory wage slaves, deteriorate into welfare recipients and beggars. No more cutting fuel and furze, no more small-scale farming, no more pasturing, no more foraging, fishing, or hunting. "Inclosure," as one man 1804, "was worse
than ten wars."

Freedom is what draws me. I have always wanted to work in fostering more of it as widely as possible. It is interesting how in a society that considers itself free and open, working to increase individual and communal freedom is often seen as subversive and disruptive. Another quote from Chellis:

Back and forth, back and forth: control versus freedom, fascism against democracy, order fights nature, kings against natives, ideology challenging experience. In the context of the control required to maintain imperial order, the urge to freedom becomes irrepressible. It erupts; it is crushed. It erupts again; it is crushed again. You may hunch your shoulders in resignation. Such is human nature, you may sigh. And yet in our not-so-distant past, before the maps and the roads, before the kingdoms and the concentration camps, the urge to freedom is daily asked and daily answered. Only the iron clench of what social philosopher Lewis Mumford calls "the Megamachine," meaning imperial order and its attendant technologies, casts freedom as the losing proposition.

I was talking to Cheryl Honey (a sister Open Spacer) today about her program for weaving community and the possibility of piloting it here on Gabriola. It is an Open Space practice for growing grassroots community (villaging) that allows for freedom to emerge alongside the responsibility we take for each other. It works outside of all sanctioned systems, although many of the systems choose to join as active members. I am excited about it (and will keep blogging about how it goes). As the gaps in the system widen, it creates the necessary chaos for new patterns to emerge. Will freedom stick this time? We'll see...

The concept of inclosure and its links to our current sorry state was echoed by Dave Pollard in his post yesterday about the gigantic cattle feedlot in Coalinga, California (originally posted on Sprol). Here's an excerpt.

A nation wired for everything except the truth. If we were exposed to truths like this, and truths like what is happening today in Darfur, and what is happening in our own neighbourhoods where children and spouses are trapped and endlessly victimized by heartless abusers, and if we were unable to turn our heads away until we really paid attention, it would all end tomorrow.

I'm not sure about that. I have blogged before about what usually happens when we are overwhelmed by evil. Dave sees it too, we turn away. If we could only shift that turning away to a turning inward. I am beginning to wonder about a combination of inner softening and acceptance that allows for space to open and compassion to arise. When compassion arises, we can turn back and look at what horrified us before--because we are now capable of experiencing our interconnectedness. I am wondering about the combination of this capacity with positivity. Stories, myths, dreams, designs of positive futures, ways of being, cultural practices and supports. What if we hold the space for this to emerge into, while learning and sharing practices of opening with each other?

Chris Corrigan had an interesting post today. He was up a ten-metre pole on a rickety platform contemplating a leap into space (really). Here's the bit that is sticking with me:

I wanted to know how it would feel to miss, and how it would feel to actually leap, safety net be damned.

This is going an interesting place for me. About twelve years ago, I went caving at Riverbend Cave, Horne Lake, and purposely pushed at my edges. About two years after that, I survived a Model Mugging course (awesome, do it women if you haven't yet) and pushed beyond what I thought was my breaking point. A couple of years later, I sat my first 10-day silent meditation retreat...a marathon of intense mental and physical pain if there ever was one...and pushed more edges and opened even more deeply to myself and the world. I was going to say it had been a while since I had engaged deliberately in a physically and mentally challenging activity, but now I am remembering childbirth.

I was going to say I was thinking about what purpose it might serve to deliberately plan an activity that I thought I would fail at...just to see "how it would feel to miss". But I remember now that I have been to that edge. With the twins, I almost died from complications after undergoing intra-uterine surgery to save their lives. With Gareth, I pushed for four hours, unsuccessfully. Who knew all 9-1/2 pounds of him were sideways? So I know what it's like to have tried your hardest, to have gone to edge of physical and mental exhaustion, and to have been unable to achieve the goal--even with death staring me in the face.

These experiences have stripped me down. I was never big on social convention to start with...but living through all this has left me with a desire for a deeper communion with kindred beings--to go beyond the acceptable to the unknowable possiblity on the other side of risking essential self. It has left me with a need and a drive to experiment and test and push through my weaknesses to serve a larger emergent vision.

I'll blog about failure and business tomorrow...maybe...

Other things

Something was niggling in the back of my mind about T.C. McLuhan. After a bit of bouldering to get to the unending chaos of our library shelves, I did indeed manage to find my copy of her first book, Touch the Earth. I read it a bit more than twenty years ago and treasured it so much it was one of the few that made the move west with me. In it I found some of the first voices that echoed my sense of the world. Here is a little excerpt from Chief Luther Standing Bear:

The man who sat on the ground in his tipi meditating on life and its meaning, accepting the kinship of all creatures and acknowledging unity with the universe of things was infusing into his being the true essence of civilization.

The book is beautiful, filled with the vivid photographic record created by Edward S. Curtis in the early years of the 20th century.

Tim Bray has little reflection on time at his blog, ongoing today:

Its extent is fixed, inelastic. Some of the time you spend leaves a mark on the world, some not. Some is pleasurable, some not. Some is necessary, some not. The waste of time is the only waste that is irrecoverable, even in principle. But you gotta slack off sometimes or you’ll go nuts.

The wild folks over at Key23 have been talking about a lot of the same things as everybody else I know...impending armageddon and all that...or perhaps I should say the immanentizing of the eschaton...but from the perspective of ceremonial technomages...recent topics...working with ancestors and the Christian-Right's rabid response to the Burning Man Festival.

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