“The greatest distance in the existence of Man is not from here to there nor from there to here. Nay, the greatest distance in the existence of Man is from his mind to his heart. Unless he conquers that distance he can never learn to soar like an eagle and realize his own immensity within.”
Angaangaq – Kalaallit-Eskimo elder
Yesterday I took part in a workshop at St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace, a gathering of people with Angaangaq, a Kalaallit-Eskimo elder and healer. He has spoken at international conferences on climate change and environmental and indigenous issues. He speaks about his work as “melting the ice in the heart of man.” Trying to understand what it might mean to “occupy mind with heart” was one of the purposes of this blog and here was someone whom I felt might have something to say about that.
Its been 11 months since I last wrote here. All that energy I had given to writing this blog has now had to be spent on something closer to what we traditionally call “work” – creating connections, writing emails and building on an idea that germinated at Schumacher College (see 30 October: Schumacher College, coming to an Ecoliterate view of Law). I returned to Schumacher College in February 2013, to take part in a course run by Polly Higgins and Isabel Carlisle called “Voices for the Earth”, to try to create a resource for communities who were facing “local ecocide” threats. It was through this course that I felt a thread being pulled out, to create a meaningful narrative out of events that started with the dance on Hampstead Heath (see About: Heart’s Perspective), all that I had learnt about the mind through being a planning lawyer (see About: Mind’s Perspective), and all that I was learning about holistic science and complexity theory through the “Eco-literacy” course at Schumacher College. I felt this thread could begin to be woven into something that might hold the vision I have been trying to serve through this blog – a vision of a world with intrinsic meaning seen through the very darkness we are often afraid of.
Working with Isabel we took forward the idea of a “Community Charter” to the Falkirk communities in Scotland, where they are facing the threat of coalbed methane extraction from underneath their homes, a process similar to fracking. It is likely to be the first operational unconventional gas extraction facility in the UK (most other places are facing planning applications for exploratory rather than operational facilities). We were invited to hold a workshop there to listen to their concerns and also to ask questions about what their vision was for the kind of community they did want. Through this workshop we distilled principles which became their Community Charter and which was submitted to Scottish Ministers as a representation to Dart Energy’s planning appeal.
What will the Charter achieve? I believe for true sustainability we need to work for change, not only on the external level of what is physical, but also the inner level of how we see ourselves and each other. So, on the outer level the Charter is mobilising a community and is being “applauded” by the Scottish Green Party. On how it may change matters on the inner level, I go back to Angaangaq. He had with him a claw from a bearded seal, beautifully preserved and connected to a thread for placing round the neck. He said that, in escaping the polar bear, the bearded seal can dig its claws into the side of icebergs and climb up. The claw he had represented this quality in people, the quality of always climbing and never falling down. What was it that was most required to keep climbing and never falling down? Self-belief. I am beginning to understand what that might mean. So, I believe Charters will be able to achieve as much as the network of belief it can build to support its vision, mobilising communities to work towards a higher vision of what they could be in harmony with life and Nature.
One intention when I started this blog was to try to keep an evidential record of whether following the feeling of meaningful connections between inner experience and outer events would manifest itself into a narrative, if one took faith in those synchronicities as the rudder for one’s actions (although finding the keel to keep balance whilst using this as a rudder has been a big challenge). I felt that recording something after the event brings in the risk of creating links in memory and imagination that may not have happened when one took the actions. At the same time, there is a fear in standing out, opening myself to ridicule when my beliefs begin to veer away from the way I have been told reality works. But, as Angaangaq reminded me, it is a matter of inner belief whether I climb despite the fear, or whether I fall.
A second intention was to finish this inner journey of digging into the human layers of my truth, from the level of mind to body to heart to the spiritual. Only by such digging could I begin to see whether the connection between inner and outer change was more than just a belief but had tangible results. I have not had enough constancy in feeling towards any spiritual truth to feel ready to write about that. Maybe when I find myself able to write about that, then this blog will feel complete.