Featured in Nova magazine Oct 09
We need to reclaim our natural power!
You walk into the supermarket, what do you see? …. walls of monoculture, junk food outlets, fashion franchise, electronic goods and glossy magazines, masses of mind-numbing distraction, an avalanche of consumer goods. It’s become a kind of ‘consumer madness’, everything is manufactured and mass-produced – if you can’t buy it over the counter then it doesn’t exist! We don’t do anything much ourselves anymore, it’s all done for us and it all comes in little packets. The press button culture. Our ‘hands on’ creativity, our ingenuity and skills have always been akin to our ability as a culture to survive. Increasingly, those skills have been taken away from us, ignored or removed altogether, in the same way as native languages disappeared or were wiped out in many countries by western occupation. Our ability to be creatively involved in our lives has been tossed out the door and made redundant. Quite simply, as a culture, we have moved a long way from where it all began, from our roots in primordial nature.
nature – the provider
The astonishing thing about nature is not only it’s power to startle and amaze, to renew, to reinvent and restore but it’s remarkable and seemingly unlimited power to provide and give without measure, it’s amazing providence!
It is from within this state of grace, this infinite complexity, that new species and their blueprints, including ours, have emerged. And there seems to be an unavoidable wisdom in this, in that things (species, flora, fauna, and life forms) didn’t just come out of thin air but came out of a deep process of variance and selection over thousands of years from complex and multiple cultures. It could be said that nature is all about exploration, and our ability to choose and adapt is our most fundamental tool; that creativity is our natural habitat, a ‘magic broom cupboard’ in which springtime is everlasting and perennial, a wonderland of possibility.
This is the very stuff of humans / the essence of who we are. We actually need those subtle states of difference; we actually need that discordance at times just so we know what our choices are. We are by nature discordant, spontaneous yet vulnerable and complex at the same time. It is who we are, it is how we evolve, how we move forward, just as new species are announced in nature, through the give and take of extraordinary chaos.
By fully understanding and being prepared to look at who we are, we evolve and learn. That is, we need that ongoing personal dialogue as a sounding board to make choices about our lives. Life is jazzy, open-ended and inconclusive and doesn’t run along straight lines or have predictable outcomes. These are fundamental issues. Just as variation in nature ensures the survival of species, so our natural sense of creativity is our most valuable asset.
space and choice
We now live in the most compressed culture in the history of the world. Space is a luxury and it comes at a premium. There is less and less room for deviation or error but more than ever we need that space to chart our experience and position ourselves in the world. There is less and less permission given to be ourselves and more and more pressure to comply.
Debussy said ‘music is the space between the notes’.
What is the impact? There seems to be a set of questions that we all share… the sort of questions we are faced with each waking day. These are the questions that are unavoidable yet completely relevant. That is, issues of pain, alienation, disempowerment, anger, guilt….. the struggle for self recognition and authenticity, the ongoing search for fulfillment and peace of mind….. all questions that are so far from our original state of being or innocence. These are absolutely basic issues, the real currency of our lives. But they are, sadly, often experienced alone and without the knowledge or support of those around us. They even operate us without our full consent because most of us are to a large extent in denial of these issues. It mostly gets thrown in the too hard basket. Life is too busy. ‘I’ll sort it later’. ‘Not today’. ‘It’s too difficult’ etc. But how it impacts us and shapes our lives is often not acknowledged or fully recognised.
So we struggle…. and up go the anxiety levels, up goes the stress and up goes the cost of it all, emotionally and physically. It’s through looking at these ‘internal panoramas’ that we get to see our real territory…. who we actually are, not who we’ve been told we should be and what is expected of us. There are no ‘shoulds’ in the phenomena of natural experience. The ‘shoulds’ are all man-made. Nature is a mysterious and astounding display of charity. It runs the way it runs, whimsically and without limit. Not how we think it ‘should’. It is full of anomaly, variation and unexpected difference, in the same way as water runs in broken rhythms along a stream or the way each wave breaks differently upon the shore or how each flame upon rising flame makes the enchanting and ever changing shape of a fire. It is sublime and elemental. Just as each flower opens in spring according to it’s own natural rhythm, you can neither force people nor anything in nature. Practice rituals of creativity that help you discover who you are, that nurture and look after you.
Each of us is differently written. Our most intimate moments reveal this. Like those flashes of insight that happen when all else is stripped away. That state of inspired innocence within ourselves that the pressure of culture often obstructs. And yet this very question of recognition of who we are, of our ‘primary self’, is at the heart of our quest for happiness.
All the fundamental issues that arise out of this conflict between who we are and the culture that we live in bring up, again and again, those inescapable issues of angst and shame, identity and visibility, even sanity and madness. Without acknowledging this, we deny ourselves the full measure of our possibilities and our most brilliant moments.
The question of who we are and the expectations of the culture in which we live are mostly never separated or resolved. If we do not recognise this or somehow lose sight of this, then our choices are either diminished or significantly lessened. We become the involuntary servants of the host culture. In the present case, here in the West, naked consumerism has evolved into what could only now be described as ‘disaster capitalism’.
So this question of choice becomes really important, even critical not only to our emotional survival but to our very physical existence. Those questions – of empowerment, shame, authenticity, love and survival etc. – come up inexorably and repeatedly. If we don’t acknowledge this or affirm that we have the power to make changes, not only to ourselves but also to the culture in which we live, then we jeopardise not only our future but our own unlimited and most beautiful possibilities.
In the history of literature, art and music it is this very issue of variance and particularly individual variance that has been at the heart of the really great movements. It has identified and named the visionaries and major figures in those histories. There never has been fixed ground. What has been classical or representative and authentic about each culture has been these very differences. And what was the truth in those particular historical moments is what has stood the test of time. We all possess an essential truth. The challenge is to find the courage to go on that quest for our own personal truth.
To quote Goethe ‘whatever you can do, or dream you can…. begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.’
Like life itself, it’s all about change. And to not recognise this is somehow naive. So our ability to make choices and decisions and to recognise the existence of our multiple-sided nature is essential for looking at and resolving our experience. It’s empowerment at it’s most fundamental level. We need to completely self explore our experience so that we can keep moving, turn things around, make changes in our lives if we are to start to heal. We need to seek out the manuscript of our birth map so that we can navigate our way through the world.
In our present world, we are faced with dilemma at every turn. If we are locked in or closed down, whether that is emotional lockdown or cultural lockdown, it doesn’t matter, it’s still the same thing. If you are being operated or robbed of your independence in whatever way, then it does not serve you. If your hands are not your hands – and in this press-button, digitalised age of the ready-made and the pre-packaged, so many of us have had our hands taken from us – then this is disempowerment and our natural state of being and our creativity is being dismantled. If our eyes are not our eyes but those of the advertising world, the moguls of the mainstream media, then we are being manipulated and constructed into a geometry that has little to do with our original blueprint. It’s cultural disturbance.
We need to pay homage to our original being and find our natural compass. Even the simplest forest animal knows where home is.
surrender and admission
By admitting our vulnerabilities, by returning to our original state of innocence, our seeing begins and it is in this state of surrender that our stories begin. We can maybe start to get clear, to make a claim on reality, attempt some kind of restoration or resolution and touch upon our real identity. Everybody looking for their signature, everyone looking for their words, everyone looking for ‘their writing’.
Go to Uluru, go to Daintree, go to the Otway ranges, or even go down to the phone box on the corner and what do you see? You see people’s names and initials scratched into rock face, into metal, onto tree trunk, people everywhere searching for identity, wanting to put their name to experience, wanting to document that experience, even in the fractured and dark language of disaffected youth, namely graffiti and ‘tag’ etc. But mainstream culture constantly repossesses and whitewashes. The great irony, the great paradox of our times….. seemingly so much on the shelves and so many things advertised for sale and yet, on a personal level, so much emptiness, so little choice, so little real nourishment and such lack of opportunity. So much hunger in terms of our real deep down needs.
So it would seem imperative if we want to maintain a meaningful culture that we need to develop our creativity as a conscious tool to maintain our social fabric and resonance. Because the mainstream culture is increasingly reducing those options and locking people into recorded voices, monitored menus and virtual narratives. So what is more important than ever is that we recognise not only our right to individual sanctity but that we become more aware of the role of difference and diversity in the maintenance of our health and wellbeing.
If we repress or deny those dilemmas and deep seated primal experiences that precipitate crises and substitute it with junk food, dvd’s, shopping, money, cars, drugs, daytime tv, fashion ‘addiction’ or whatever, then we’ll never develop the power to affirm or find the courage to act and see our way clear of that kind of subtle and yet immensely destructive stuff that prevents us from moving forward and really expressing ourselves. Like experiencing the simple joy of just having an ‘empty moment,’ like a single white cloud in a big blue sky.
Whether one experiences this ‘state of admission’ through meditation, dance, music, drawing, song or simply walking in the woods; or achieves it through a flood of tears, or going mad or through absurd laughter or sitting in the desert, doesn’t really matter; because until you actually surrender and admit 100% your state of being, who you are and where you’re at, you’ll never have the kind of freedom that gives you the empowerment of independent choice.
To actively meditate upon all of who and what you are, means to actively and intelligently witness and express, in an all encompassing way, those things which you are presently inhabited by. And with courage and robust intention to go forth, without fear or favour, to embrace the devil and go sit down with your angels and demons and go say your name and yell it out loud……. indeed, make your mark!
Copyright Ron Curran October 2009