A radical and reckless act of faith

We still carry the old world’s conditioning- we want to rid ourselves of the burdensome habits of the old- not only do they no longer resonate with who we are and who we are becoming, but we recognize that trapped by those habits, we cannot help but create the world in their image.

To release the habits of separation is more than an issue of self-cultivation; it is also crucial to our effectiveness as activists, healers and changemakers.

Charles Eisenstein– ‘The more beautiful world our hearts know is possible’

Elsewhere in his book, Eisenstein says that many individuals are discovering that the things they know how to get, they no longer want. This casual sentence has massive impact when translated into a life situation. It propels one into an identity crisis which, at first seems only work-related, but when followed all the way down, rocks the foundations of being.

When I, as an artist, am faced with questions of livelihood, the  issues no longer stop at, ‘Do I want to use my energy to uphold the old, money and status based gallery system’, vs., ‘Do I want to use my art in service to the community?’.They encompass the question of which story to I want to belong to and help create- the one of separation, competition and struggle, or the one Eisenstein calls, the Story of Interbeing which emphasizes the interrelatedness of all things.

I know how the old story works and what its structures are. I was successful within its framework and chose voluntarily to walk away from it. But I didn’t succeed in creating new sustainable forms in which to function as an artist whilst producing a viable income. (Eisenstein gives a bit of encouragement here by noting that those of us not working at converting nature into products and relationships into service, probably won’t be financially successful.)

Caught in the space between stories, much of my recent writing has been to explore the feelings of failure (old story) and renewed inner purpose (new story)  that seem alternately to battle for my attention. I’m trying to make sense of my choices, how some of them have empowered me, and others seem to have had the opposite effect. In certain company, I feel as if I don’t count, am talked over, ignored, and I feel invisible. Yet, in other contexts, I feel alive, powerful and on track. We need to ask ourselves what kind of values are we measuring our self worth against, and are they relevant to where and who we want to be?

Eisenstein points out that we cannot hold a deviant story alone, we need allies.

Books certainly help. ‘52 flowers that shook my world, a radical return to Earth’, by Charlotte du Cann, and ‘The more beautiful world our hearts know is possible’, by Charles Eisenstein help because they are personal stories of individuals grappling with the transition from one story to another. Not as an abstract concept, but in life-shaking, crisis making, and identity threatening ways.

Eisenstein’s book doesn’t document his personal journey as much as du Cann’s book does hers, but the former is extremely helpful for bringing clarity and compassion to the process.

Du Cann forces you to travel with her into uncomfortable places, and she is still angry. Both books carry power enough to fuel one’s own tipping process if one is ripe for it.

Reading of du Cann’s ‘time of ashes’, was particularly enlightening for me. I experienced a similar ‘fall’, from being a privileged child and successful professional, to finding oneself in a world where one is alienated, demeaned,and invisible.

Du Cann found out that there can be a terrible catch in walking away from privilege and success. You may slip their trappings, but by putting yourself outside their influences, you remove yourself, too, from the power and credibility they bestow- forces which could help you more easily achieving your new goals.

But these are only problems in the old context. In the process she describes, of coming to terms with humiliation and powerlessness of being treated as a lesser member of society,, an alchemy took place.

Her book may be  about intimate communication with the plant kingdoms, and activist journalism, but above all it is about finding one’s personal power and identity outside the old systems. And reuniting with the part of oneself who is and always has been on purpose, not alone, and deeply rooted in nature.

This knowledge is not easily gained and costs everything. Both du Cann and Eisenstein speak about the need to traverse real despair to get to the other side where hope is- not a naive hope in some new age visionary promise, but a hope deeply rooted radical consciousness change and in small hands-on, acts.

It is hard living in both stories. Eisenstein acknowledges this repeatedly- it is lonely holding the new story alone especially when consensus reality says you are crazy or stupid to do so.

As an artist, I’ve progressively realized that exhibiting not only is a goal I no longer believe in, but one that actually negates the things I do stand for. But that continuing to make work still brings up old conditioning- ie, it is stacking up here, so it must not be – I must not be good enough. So underneath the powerful conviction that selling art in the old ways is not my path, there is still the niggling closet entrepreneur (plus the entire society) reinforcing the idea that if I can’t earn with my best efforts, I have failed.

I think that this kind of split is unavoidable in a time of transition. Until there is some kind of new vessel to channel my creative energy where there is also a flow of return, or until there is a working gift economy, these questions will always remain.

Neither Eisenstein  nor du Cann have arrived at some perfect place of resolution. They are both still in process and transition, thank goodness! If they keep documenting their journey with the same passion and honesty they’ve shown so far, they will continue to provide me and others with at least the coordinates of this new land where we find ourselves. Where nothing I originally wanted or was trained for seems to make sense anymore, and both moving forward and holding still require a most radical, reckless act of faith.

There is a time to act, and a time to wait, to listen, to observe. Then, understanding and clarity can grow. From understanding and clarity action arises that is purposeful, firm and powerful.

Charles Eisenstein,The more beautiful world our hearts know is possible’

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2 books of hope and promise

I’ve just finished two books within days of each other, which have left me reeling. It was good to read them together- Charles Eisenstein’s, ‘The more beautiful world our hearts know is possible’, and Charlotte du Cann’s, ’52 flowers that shook my world, a radical return to Earth’.

I read them as a reader, but also as a writer, feeling the discomfort of my own unborn book prowling around the edges of my consciousness, prodding weak spots in my defences, looking for a way out-  while I look for a way in.

When I received these books several weeks ago, on my 64th birthday, I held them both in my hands feeling hope and promise. I chose them because I sensed they would tell me something I needed to know, that taking the journey with both these writers, I would be brought to a new level in my own understanding. I was hoping their passages would give me the courage to set out on my own journey back to my true heart. And they have.

What struck me most about these two writers was how true their discoveries rang for me. And that this truth was a product of them both having navigated one or more difficult periods, falls from professional acclaim, periods of invisibility, loneliness, directionlessness, and humility. And that neither of them have arrived at some perfect all-knowing condition where they will tell us what to do. They both have been hurt and both still have issues to work out. Their travel reports don’t chart the territory that  I have to navigate, but they tell me I’m on the right journey and it is ok that right now I’m walking in a land with no signposts.

It seems that the books we are getting and perhaps need most now are by real people, asking the same questions that are on  our minds, but asking them from a new perspective. Not theoretical, but rooted in a hard won knowing of their place in the world and in their own internal landscape. And that this is perhaps their greatest gift, that they have faced down obstacles of low self worth, isolation, criticism, to emerge whole with a story to tell. A story that can help each of us do the same.

I know I haven’t gone into the subject matter of either of these books in this post, that is for another time. These two books’ gifts to me were of two very different people and their journeys to find their own truth. And their compassion and clarity in describing the movements of their innermost hearts lights the way for me as well.

Into the tipping machine

I’m deep into Charlotte du Cann’s, ’52 Flowers that shook my world, a radical return to Earth’. So far, it is a good and unsettling book- makes you think:

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately, in the light of this book, looking at my own life, what is working what isn’t.

On another track, but related: In an attempt to come off my extreme anti-marketing position and try to work with the channels available, I had a gallery owner here looking at my oil paintings. He liked the work, but it isn’t unique enough, and I myself don’t carry enough of a reputation to enhance the gallery’s ambiance.

I realise that if, at this stage, I want to show my work, I would need to put a huge amount of time and effort to building up an image of my art and myself as desirable and exclusive. Unless, of course, as I did when I first came here, I  go around to libraries and community centres, and frame, hang and show the work for free, then take it all home again- having supplied them nice no-charge wall decorations for a month. the path of exhibiting in galleries, as I felt, is not tenable for me.

Then this: recently I read an article about the new transition type art- mostly shamanistic, conceptual, often with a social message relating to shifting paradigms. And realised that my art isn’t directly about that either!

And while I was digesting this, my husband showed me a wonderful article by the director of a Dutch bank working with alternative values. The author was taking a look at transition and associated terms- the ‘tipping points, the cultural creatives, economy transformers, paradigm shift’ etc. He was asking if these new buzz concepts didn’t leave behind some valuable things. He said that there are certainly things in the  ‘old’ paradigm worth holding onto- but to voice that is a new taboo because, ‘everything has to change-  it all has to go into the tipping-machine’.

My neighbours are just normal people. They take care of the old and ill in the street, work in the community gardens, keep the local billiard club going- they just do these things naturally. They don’t sign petitions for women’s rights in the Middle east, they just do the shopping for the woman next door. They don’t know that you can lease a recycled pair of jeans, but they hardly ever waste things because ‘that would be a shame’. They don’t start a social media community, but they do volunteer work for their community centre.

They like nice, good things- the garden, children, friendship and warmth. And they work together for the benefit of their school, street and billiard club.

All of this completely ‘person-centred’ and ‘sustainable’.

Do they even know that?

Jeroen Jansen Director of the ASN Bank

It is what I keep coming back to: being here fully. Taking time to do the things that need doing well, caring for the home, the garden and others.

And the questions about where my art does or doesn’t fit in aren’t really the relevant ones, though I admit that matters of recognition and success still come up as a result of  being a professional artist all my life.  But I sense that my answers don’t lie with identifying too much with either the transition community or the ‘old’ career ways, but with sending roots down into myself, anchoring in my own story, as well as the local area.

And as far as my painting goes, it is, like Tai Chi, my discipline; it is something I can go  deeper into every day forever, and be led to layers of discovery and insight. It is where I come up against myself, and am lifted above myself at the same time. Du Cann emphasises internals. Questions of success and recognition, or having a visible task, of standing out either here or in the transition community are externals and all depend on validation from outside.  How do we validate ourselves inside? seems to be the task at hand.