The Year Ahead

From the Editor

winter creativity change leadership Marie Edwards

2020: A time for sublime madness?

Marie Louise Edwards

As the deep stillness of winter starts to recede around us, we are likely to have had some time and space to gather our thoughts and wonder what the year 2020 has in store for us. The onslaught of rapid change and extreme scenarios in our world appears set to continue. Meanwhile we carry on embarking on changing the world, each of us in our own personal ways, whether it is through childcare, the arts, teaching, generating community, exploring the sciences and many, many other admirable efforts. Those of us contributing to and reading this newsletter may also continue to demonstrate a commitment to supporting permaculture, resilience and sustainability in our localities.

We will have been impacted, not least emotionally, by the ecological crisis escalating in various parts of the world, particularly in Australia and feel at a loss as to how we can support those who are on the opposite side of the planet to us. The sense of powerlessness during such challenging times can feel overwhelming and our persistent endeavours towards generating the life-enabling world that we envision can feel futile, as there are no guarantees that life on this planet will survive. Yet, many of us know that there are few other effective ways forward than fully embracing the whole-systems thinking, as emphasised in permaculture design, that could truly generate diverse and flourishing ecosystems.

I was reminded recently of the concept of sublime or divine madness which refers to unexpected and unconventional behaviour that renders spiritual service to the world. In summary, doing the right thing, regardless of the outcome because it is ‘the right thing to do’. We may be in the quest of reaching apparently impossible aims and ideals, but let’s just do it anyway. Those who embark on such acts are often viewed as radical or mentally unstable by conventional society and the dominant paradigm. Yet, the ingenuity and acts of love demonstrated by those who engage with ‘sublimely mad’ behaviours suggest that we can pursue another way, despite all the odds being stacked against us. How would life be if we were to shift our attention to what we can bring into fruition if we work together, exercising the vast range of skills that we all have and acquiring new abilities in the process. What kind of world can we dream together and bring in to being?

In 2014 I recall attending an exhibition called Disobedient Objects, at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. This featured objects, art works, tapestries, forms of alternative media and more that had been used in humanitarian protests and civil uprisings across the globe spanning the last few decades. I was moved by the true power of the human imagination and the ability of people to rise, unite and mobilise from all walks of life under the most oppressive and limiting of circumstances. If we think about all of the time, money, effort and energy that goes into maintaining the dominant system in which we exist, I often feel that a collaborative movement that lifts others up in a wave of cooperation and mutual support would be a phenomenal experience to have. It is likely that such events cannot be orchestrated and so we simply need to wait for the time in which the conditions are ripe for this…

We are grateful to those of you who wrote in to share your thoughts with us about why we have had limited responses to our editorials to date. We will be returning to those in future issues. We appreciate the perspective of some of our readers who wondered if the popular narratives in mainstream discourse have diverted attention away from permaculture activity globally with the focus being more on directly addressing world ‘leaders’. This may be so, and there may well be ample room for this dialogue on our global stage, but there is also a need for many rippling changes, big and seemingly small, as we move towards establishing harmony and wholeness on this beautiful planet. We hope you will carry on accompanying us through 2020 as we steadily continue our work in service to Life however we can.

  “He who shoots at the mid-day sun,
though he be sure he shall never hit the mark,
yet as sure he is
he shall shoot higher than he who aims but at a bush.“
  Philip Sidney - The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia  
Mist on lake
"Misty Refection" by Steve Edwards

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