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’