Looking Ahead to 2020

Globally we face some very challenging times. Whether it’s politics, climate change, religious persecution, war, famine, poverty and homelessness, we know that across the world things are moving in a direction which to many increases the fear for our future. The uncertainty, for ourselves, our loved ones and our planet makes us feel like we’ve lost hope, or that the rug has been pulled out from under our feet. Generations of people are pitted against other generations, the old against the young. The blame game is heavily underway, and there are many casualties. Tempers are high, the stretching point is at near maximum. We head into a new decade filled with uncertainty and anxiety.

So what can we do about it? Here in the UK, we’ve been rocked by a recent Trump-esque election result. We’ve seen it happening across the world, with a swing to the right in other countries. There’s a lot of anger and blame raging across the political world. However, it’s not just in the UK and America: in India, in Australia, in Brazil, Hungary, Turkey and the Philippines, the hard right is winning. If we simply blame one leader or political party such as Labour in the UK or the Democrats in the US, we miss the main point that we need to address. We are working with a very unfair system, ruled by media oligarchs and the billionaire press that use lies and sleight of hand to win elections and the votes of those who would previously never cast their lot in that direction. We need to look to countries that are framing the model that we wish to achieve, such as Finland with their new Prime Minister and their resistance to fake news through a very effective digital literacy campaign that has been underway for the past few years for people of all ages. George Monibot explains this very well in his video for the website, Double Down News.  He also offers up the beginnings of a solution, at a grassroots level that seems to be emerging worldwide.

From my perspective, we also need to remember to close the ranks when it comes to our progressive, left-wing allies. In the UK, the Tories are extremely good at closing ranks when it comes to opposition, and on the other side, the opposing leftist or centrist parties are just too busy trying to bring each other down in order to take the Tories place. Instead of working together, they’re too busy fighting each other. It’s utterly ridiculous. No one will win against those odds.

So we need to stand shoulder to shoulder with everyone who opposes the status quo. We need to support each other in order to succeed in creating a progressive, fair and equal system that works for everyone. How do we do that?

With our everyday words and deeds. It’s not just our vote in elections that matters. It’s how we live our lives. And yes, our lives will be altered and framed within the current political context, for sure. We’ll be worse off unless we’re part of the 1% that are receiving tax breaks and sending their money to offshore accounts. We’ll be fighting to put food on our table to feed our children, to keep our houses warm while receiving a tiny state pension, combating those who say that despite disability people need to return to work and then suffering the consequences horrendously while having their benefits cut or removed.  It’s not going to be an easy decade. But we can start at home, with each other, with our everyday words and deeds.

We can be kind to one another. We can support one another, despite political views, religion, race or creed. We can stand in solidarity for everyone in order to make this world a better place. It all starts with us, on a personal level. It means engaging in dialogue instead of closing it down because someone’s opinion is so different from our own. We have become so used to policing each other that it has led to a culture of echo chambers, where we just won’t listen to any other point of view or tolerate a different opinion. We know that We Are Right and that They are Wrong. We are creating such division from this perspective. We become good guys vs deplorables. How can we ever create unity when sowing the seeds of such discord?

Instead of looking out for number one, we look out for each other as well as ourselves. We see this working in Scandinavian countries, with a healthy social welfare system and free healthcare. It is a more egalitarian society than what we are currently witnessing in the UK and in the US. In Sweden, they have a wonderful word that encourages balance in everyday life. It is known as lagom, which means understanding the right balance. Not too much, not too little, but just enough. The word lagom has two potential origins: one from the Viking era, when a communal horn filled with mead was passed around and everyone took a small sip in order for there to be enough for everyone, and another possible origin, which derived from the Swedish word lag, meaning law. Both show an understanding of community and how rules and standards, both spoken and unspoken, can help us achieve the task of no one being left out or left behind.

And this is what I will personally be working with in 2020. I’ve already started, but I will be bringing the concept to the forefront of my consciousness in everything that I do. I might even start blogging about my adventures with lagom here, in order to keep my words and thoughts in right order, and to share them and receive feedback.

At the moment, I’m just beginning with a lagom attitude towards 2020. I know it will be tough, and for many people exceptionally difficult. I know I am blessed in many areas of my life. I will accept these blessings and return them to complete the cycle. There may be good luck or back luck ahead. There will be ups and downs, challenges and achievements. But working with lagom means that I work with balance. I’ve done so for many years with eastern philosophies, and so I’m experimenting with a different approach here.

It begins at home. It beings with daily interactions with people. When someone is railing at your political views, for instance, with lagom you can see that there is anger and misunderstanding, and that you can either get upset back or work towards the benefit of the whole. You can support those who need support, and get support back when you need it. It’s very similar to Druidic philosophy, of being a functioning part of an ecosystem, working for the benefit of the whole in a holistic sense. It’s not taking too much, and giving in return. Looking out for everyone.

So, my resolution last night was to incorporate more lagom into my life. In my relationship with my husband, my family, my friends, my community and the wider world. To meet the challenges that are coming with this balanced frame of mind, and to help to make this world a better place for all. To understand lagom in terms of running a household, a marriage, a business. To understand lagom in politics, culture and religion. To live lagom and not just think about it. I may disagree with someone, I may want different things out of life and for my community, but I will learn to work with people in a lagom manner in order to benefit the whole. To find lagom in the raging hormones of my menopausal, 45-year old body. To find lagom in work, and in fundraising and charity. To find lagom in the food that I eat. To find lagom in my environment, and spend as much time as I can ensuring that it’s not just the human community that I am applying this philosophy to, but to the entire sphere of my own shared existence.

I look forward to this journey, even though I know that the challenges are there, waiting for me and for everyone. But I have hope, coupled with a good dose of reality, in a very lagom kind of way.

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Hope

Hope can be a double-edged sword. It can lift our hearts, rally us towards a cause, or it can lead us to the depths of despair when it dies. I’ve often wondered whether it is better to have hope or not, whether hope is a carrot dangling in front of us, or whether it is that very real need to invest our emotions into the belief that we can change our world. Back in 2012, I wrote about the Zen approach, in a piece entitled “No Hope“. The words that I wrote four years ago still resonate strongly within me, even as my relationship to hope has changed.

When we are at our lowest, we might still have some hope that things will get better. This hope may be the only thing that gets us through those long, dark nights of the soul. Then again, that hope may be what is preventing us from achieving things in our own right. Hope may cause complacency. If we work without hope, without expectation, then we may be even more motivated to make a positive change in the world in our own right, for the benefit of all.

With hope comes expectation. When we have expectations, we can be thrown against the rocks of frustration, anxiety, anger and despair when those expectations are not met, when things do not go the way that we would like them to. We want people to behave the way we think they should, for the benefit of all. We want our politicians to think of the people that they represent instead of their own agendas. We want colleagues to pull their own weight, spouses and partners to be there for us, children to love us. When things don’t go according to our plans, or according to our expectations, we might crash and burn. We might dive into darkness at seeing a new President-elect, we might look at the environment and realise that perhaps we have simply gone too far, and there is no remedy for what we have done. When this happens, we can lose momentum, we can get stuck. Hope might be the thing that brings us out of this stagnation, or it might leave us altogether, so that we are in an even worse state than before.

So how do we work with hope? I’ve found it useful in the last couple of years to work with Hope as a god. I’ve worked with Time in the same context, and it has been illuminating for me in so many ways. Working with the gods, we learn to create a relationship with them, one that is nurturing for all involved. There is a give and take, a sustainable and reciprocal feeling to it that means that we cannot rely on them to do everything for us, and vice versa. It is in mutual respect where we meet, where we realise that we are part of an ecosystem, and where we need to strengthen the bonds of relationship so that it functions for mutual benefit. We learn from permaculture that diversity is key, that edges are where things happen. We learn to work with both, and in doing so can make this planet a better place. If we give up Hope in this context, if we give up Hope as deity, then there will be a very real feeling of bereavement in our lives; we will be bereft. That relationship will be gone, and when it is gone then to whom do we relate?

Others would say that this might be preferable, and in giving up Hope as deity we then become more self-reliant. But self-reliance is a myth. We are all co-dependent upon everything else on this planet. We do not exist in a vacuum. We need others in order to exist, let alone thrive. We are not separate. Without the innumerable other factors in our lives, beings seen and unseen, we simply could not be. I think that this is why I believe in the gods. The gods are all about relationship, about relating to our world through a means which is personal to each and every being. This is why I’m starting to work with Hope on a new level, when it seems perhaps that all hope is lost. Otherwise, I fear I might spiral into apathy, or depression. If I work with Hope, if I talk to Her and connect those threads of sustainable relationship, then I might be inspired to solve a problem, mend something that is broken, reweave the threads of connection in the best way that I can.

Hope can be the spark of inspiration, the awen that sings to us in the dead of night when all seems lost. Hope can also be a force that keeps us from changing our lives for the better, hoping someone else, someone more powerful or intelligent will do it for us. But when we work with Hope as deity, then things begin to change. Hope will not save us from ourselves. But Hope may inspire us to do better, to be better, to be the change that we wish to see in the world.

Or so one can only Hope.

Communication Breakdown: The EU Referendum

We need to change the way we communicate. Right now. Here in the UK, everyone is reacting to other people’s reactions, in an insane run of events that has led to unprecedented turmoil and upset. People aren’t talking to each other. Germany refuses to talk to the UK parliament until they begin the leave negotiations. Labour ministers refuse to talk to their leader about the best way forward. The Prime Minister is resigning, leaving the talking to whoever takes up the difficult role. Friends are attacking and “unfriending” each other all over social media. This sort of behaviour is based in punishment: an eye for an eye. We have been hurt, we will hurt in response. We are emotional creatures.With the lines of communication closed, we are stuck here in limbo, everyone reacting instead of acting with intention. Reactive behaviour is, for the most part, usually not the best behaviour.

Emotional responsibility is something that is seriously lacking in our society. In fact, any responsibility is met with apprehension, especially personal responsibility. Far too many are eager to find power under the guise of responsibility for others, but when it comes to perhaps changing their own behaviour they will never even consider it. It’s everyone else’s fault, people are stupid, people are ignorant. We will not even talk about changing our own behaviour, lest we admit to something that needs improvement. Sure, we’ll criticise the hell out of others, for don’t we see that every day in the media, from television entertainment shows to the PM’s questions every Wednesday lunchtime? And yet, where is the real communication?

If we are emotionally responsible, we won’t simply unfriend someone on Facebook because they didn’t vote the same way we did. So what if a friend voted for Leave? So what if a Remainer said something stupid in response? They are reacting. We can stop, see their pain, see their fear, try to see why they are reacting in such a way. In that stopping, in that attempt to understand, there is compassion. And where there is compassion, hopefully the lines of communication can reopen, and respectful behaviour ensue. Hopefully then, we are acting with intention, not in reaction.

Sometimes it just isn’t possible, and I understand that. Sometimes someone hurts us so bad, has just been so horrid that we will simply not put ourselves in that position ever again. This is something that has usually happened over a longer period of time, where the behaviour has been repeated again and again. We give them a second chance. And maybe a third. And then, if there is no value, if there is no respect, if there is no honour then we can walk away, in peace. And wishing them peace. But if walking away in anger, without first trying to establish the lines of communication: if this is the first and only thing we do, then there is very little chance of reconciliation, of compassion, of communication. Maybe we just have to accept that humans will be humans, that they will do and say stupid things, that they have opinions, both good and bad, and we will also have ours, good and bad, stupid and brilliant. But if we stop talking to them, we lose all chance of hope for a future together.

There is so much divisiveness right now, in this so-called United Kingdom. There has been blood shed, a life lost, and more death threats to others because of fear, because of lack of communication, because of ignorance, because of poor communication, because of misinformation and manipulation. There is a growing blatant and overt racism and prejudice, fuelled by ignorance, by fear. If we are talking to each other, then maybe this can be overcome. Where we are no longer talking, there is no hope for change.

We need to change the way we communicate. Right now.

 

1,000 Oceans

Another beautiful song that spoke to me many, many years ago and still makes me weep.  Let the earth heal you, let Her into your heart, free Her and yourselves from the cages we constantly build.  Love the Earth, love yourself, love each other.  Let love rule.