I read a book recently that I loved.
I’m going to tell you all about it very soon, but I am hoping to have a sit down and chat with the author and so will wait so I can write more on the matter.
(Also – I was unfortunately so enthusiastic about meeting this writer that in reply to his email I sent back an essay more or less begging to be his friend. In retrospect I may have come across as a freak and he will politely decline meeting me on the premise of just being ‘a bit busy’ …for weeks. So I’m going to sit quietly for a bit with fingers crossed that, instead, my blatant enthusiasm will come across as strangely charming and, in the meantime, I will write about something else).
This may seem like a very strange post.
But, since finding a couple of people who seem to have gone through a similar thought process to me, I am going to begin to generalise and see if others seem to be on the same path.
I am also going to make up the ending as I’m not sure where exactly I am up to.
Warning: This is a bit of a philosophical post.
This is my story on how someone who has the ability to live comfortably in The Most Liveable City in the World is now living in grey London working for minimum wage at night and volunteering her days in hope of a greater good.
So here goes:
THE TEN STAGES OF (craft) ENLIGHTENMENT
1. General Discontent
This is where a niggling feeling starts that maybe something is wrong, there needs to be more, but you can’t quite work out what. You find yourself in a job or a course that you thought you always wanted… and it’s not the euphoric happiness you imagined. For me this started when I began working a “real job”. I was finally able to spend $500 on a present without blinking. I wandered into meetings feeling important and I’d be sitting alone in my office at midnight gently knocking my head against the desk wondering, ‘What the hell am I doing?’
My corporate clients seemed like bickering school children and I was trying to create beautiful events for them at the lowest cost so they could step on more people up the corporate ladder.
Frustrations at a job not being fulfilling. Exasperation at politics. Bitterness at being stuck in commuters traffic. I think this discontent usually peaks when you reach a goal. You get a promotion, new job, new house/car/holiday and the imagined happiness and sense of achievement is fleeting and the drudgery of the everyday returns.
It can also occur through trust in a system being broken. You feel amazing to be a recycler and then work out that half the stuff gets shipped to third world where it’s sorted by being burnt and sniffed by children who get cancer as a result. You know, that kind of thing.
This is where the “Why?” comes in.
What am I doing?
Is everyone else miserable?
Why am I taking these pills?
Where does my recycling actually go?
Is this it?
Why is my river filled with trash?
What is the point in voting?
This is the part where you start reading. I began with books on alternative therapies after getting sitting-in-the-office-all-day back problems and acupuncture working where GP’s drugs had failed. I started distrusting the medical system.
Then I read about industrial agriculture, factory farms, peak oil, climate change. I became terrified of food, became vegan for a few months before solidifying into vegetarianism.
By this stage I had moved to fashion school and was reading about sweatshops, the pesticides in textile farming, the unfair trading, the chemicals and water usage.
4. Worldly Concern
This stage might also lead to quite a long period of depression. This is where you actually start worrying about the mining in Australia, the carbon emissions, the social problems we face, the desertification of the world. The more you read the worse it gets.
5. Power Struggles
Here, some people opt out. There is always a debate between how much an individual can do and how much it is out of our hands.
Questions range between “Well, what can I do?” to “Should I stand for parliament?”
In some cases people stop at Stage Five and decide they have no power and big banks, corporations and politics are the only answer.
Others begin the change. Buy a bike. Take public transport. Start washing their clothes on cold and not using a dryer. Start growing herbs on the balcony.
Others go a step further and actually join a political party, start acting out, protesting, quitting their job, inventing new systems, learning a trade (or three).
7. Temporary Enlightenment
These actions lead to a feeling of ability. You are no longer reliant on a few politicians to fix your problems. You can grow your own food and not have to creep into the harsh fluorescent lights of the supermarket isles that offer you very red, but utterly tasteless tomatoes beside a selection of wilting spinach. You can hem your own skirt, you get your house off the power grid, you can wizz past the traffic on your bike, you set up a street party so you know all our neighbours and feel less reliant on police for neighbourhood safety. You feel like you have a choice, and you feel like you have the power to change things.
A problem at the moment is that once you’ve made a decision to act positively – there are so many other people who haven’t. Many people are not at the same stage, they’re too focused on still achieving to even have found the Stage One discontent and don’t understand what you’re talking about. And people can be very harsh. I have written about trying to justify myself, my vegetarianism, my beliefs. I think a lot about what I do and why I do it. But it does often feel like the rest of the world either doesn’t care, or is actually against you. You start talking about campaigning and change and people’s eyes gently glaze over.
I don’t think I’ve reached this stage yet – I think I may be somewhere between Stage Seven and Eight – but I think this is where you get over the fact that your impact may not be immediate and it may not be as visible revolutionary as you wanted it to be. Hopefully you retain the enthusiasm of Stage Seven and just happily continue despite the odds. You realise that you are merely the first stepping stone, but nothing is going to start without you.
10. World Domination
This is the awesome end when everyone jumps on board. All buildings and streets are covered in food, manufacturing high quality local goods in beautiful environments. Job sharing. Unfair trade systems abolished and sense of community returns. Cradle to cradle systems and our waste becoming productive rather than hidden in other countries. This is the utopia that everyone has no faith in ever happening, blaming human nature, capitalism and greed amongst other things.
I do feel though. That to ever get to this stage that one must go through these other steps. That it must come from individuals who, despite the seeming impossibility of being able to change anything, are the only ones who can actually achieve this.
So those are my Ten Stages.
The idea is kind of based on Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief and the Mayan idea that we’re moving into a new form of consciousness and I’m not sure these stages are necessarily linear, but I would like people’s thoughts and feedback on this model or their own experiences.
And now I’m off to finish a new garden video.
It will be up soon.
These shots are stills from a bit of videoing I did on a narrow boat trip up Regent’s Canal the other week. Such a beautiful side of London.