I’m an avid reader and have a knack for remembering with crystal clarity the oddest stories. Maybe it’s how we’re all wired if I remember correctly the account from the New Scientist about blood containing a cassette-tape like substance which records our most instrumental experiences. The article was addressing the connection between brain, mind and memory. I remember 2 other cool stories.
A tribe deep within the Columbian rainforest, known as the Elder Brothers, have a tradition that, to a Western mind, is incomprehensible. From a shamanic lineage, a child in every generation is isolated from their community, housed in a cave and given access to just enough of the elements to survive – light, food, water. Forced to only deal with his internal world for the majority of the time, the practice continues until the child enters his teens. When the cave door is finally opened, the majesty of the world, his world within the lushest rainforest, is revealed. The profound impressions of both experiences must surely rival each other, if nothing but in their polarities. The purpose is to create a leader who is so astonished and moved by the beauty of both worlds that his life is a dedication to its guardianship. He truly embodies the knowledge of the preciousness of life, both internal and external.
The other life story I remember is that of the Arctic moth who stays dormant for most of his life except to awaken for 13 summers, and in each summer, he eats as much as he can before he falls asleep again. He is solidly frozen in the arms of Morpheus and then, in the 14th summer, he finds a mate, enjoys himself then dies.
They are both bizarre stories but nothing about either of these stories is inherently right or wrong, cruel or unfair; they provide novel metaphors for our own story. I have always been drawn to stories of indigenous tribes and undoubtedly, in some way, they have made me reflect on the definition of modern working ethos. After a deep division from what I considered to be my driving force and joie de vivre as a late teen, I reluctantly hopped to sensible academic study of languages. Ever since then, I’ve tried my hand at working mostly out of my comfort zone; imagery, fashion photography and sewing had become such an unconscious driving force that I was to begin consciously stepping further and further away from it in my early twenties, into deepest unknown.
Lyrics from David Bowie Major Tom
Rainforest picture from letsbewild.com
I like to think that the narrowness of my vision of the world, seen so much through magazines, colour, fabric and the music I would absorb myself in during hours of creating, lent the tiniest glimpse of the effect of the Columbian cave upbringing insomuch as the worlds I was to discover outside boasted with all the lustre, and terror, of virgin rainforest. The adventure from security or familiarity has been difficult but solo expeditions outdoors would absolutely provide comfort by reminding me of that endless inherent wonder and curiosity in me, sometimes to the extent where I was/am incapacitated to make decisions about the next step forward. Everything seems wonderful, equally. In service to something bigger than ourselves, we stay grateful.
I'm about to drive in the ocean
I'ma try to swim from something
bigger than me
- lyric extract from Frank Ocean Swim Good
And yet, of course, it’s not perfect. Work, dedication, stamina for the day ahead…drain even the most enthusiastic person. Fundamentally, though, the navigating force of being on a mission to discover my values has stayed the same and now as I make more onward plans from the yoga retreat in a few months, my dreams still don’t seem as important as duty.
Story and myth are themes that continue to fascinate me because of the mammoth effect they impart on the many choices we make. And, in developed countries as reasonably well-off people, we float on the ethereal smoke of stories - the library of the stories that came before and who we consider ourselves to be now. We have the choice of many lenses through which to see; most of us are not subsistence farmers. Our environment, our consciousness is drenched in the magic of Everything. And now, many of us are motivated to live cleaner, greener, healthier lives. Naturally, we opt for food, water, air that is chemical-free. These are all powerful choices that connect us to the earth.
|Author's photo shot at Peaceful Valley, nr Monchique|
What many feel they aren’t cut out for, though, is the hard work that it takes to keep those systems flowing. When I first painstakingly collected raspberries or took wheelbarrows of pumpkins up a hill, or picked enough spinach leaves for 40 box scheme customers or almost froze my hands to the bone hammering in fence posts in Lancashire in Autumn, I was definitely ready to pick up i-D magazine and turn my back on the inherent brutality of the natural world. Recently, I was caring for a sick chicken in our coop – the first time ever. It was weird and gross and uncomfortable … but necessary. I do hope that yin and yang somehow mean that glamour is on its way.
To me, gardening, animal care, water upcycling and practices considered sustainable do not come naturally or, at least, they are finally now beginning to because I have been conscious (sometimes single-mindedly and brutishly) to install practices that seem more obviously healthy for us and the planet. I didn’t need to pack up, move to the forest, shed my clothes, grow a beard and go mental…but I did need to seriously take stock of my priorities.
|Gucci menswear Spring 2016|
Of course, I still adore music, fashion, films…and they are a big part of my leisure life and keep my story fun, light-hearted and fresh. But now I no longer consider peripheral the types and manner of thinking, of resources, of attitudes, of priorities, of networks that has brought such meaning and joy to my life. They can be more important than the job itself. The kind of ‘biosphere’ of all those things are what makes the occasional drudgery of more manual jobs recede.
While I don’t tolerate the doomed talk I often hear from green-necks (educated and reasonably well-to-do folks that go and get the Good Life in the country), I do fully support the intention to not only wish the planet better, or Like an environment initiative, or pledge a donation to Greenpeace or sign an Avaaz petition….but, for integrity’s sake, to just get on and get my hands dirty, dutifully and with humility. Which in turn feeds the dream of a beautiful future. If I can make the evolution from a cleanse-tone-moisturise Vogue-reading fur-wearing space cadet Himbo to a rather ordinary (clean) happy human being, then so can you.