Last year I was asked to write a preface for a collection of short stories published in Belgium under the title of ‘Les Bâtisseurs’ (‘The Builders’). The book is a collection of short stories, aimed at teenagers, by different authors, based on a common theme of change, of what the world could be like, and how we could each be the catalysts of that world. As the back cover states “things can’t continue like this”. I was asked to write something that told the story of how I got into all of this, and what Rob today would say to 12 year old Rob if he had the chance.
These days of the coronavirus lockdown have been, to paraphrase Charles Dickens, the best of times, and the worst of times. My intention in this piece isn’t to share my thoughts on what should come next, on how society might be rebuilt following all of this. Rather I want to give you a snapshot of what these days look like and feel like where I am. To record for posterity how these extraordinary days were lived and experienced through my own eyes. A couple of pages torn, if you like, from a diary to give a flavour of one person’s experience of living through these momentous times.
Yesterday I posted the first edition of ‘From What If to What Next’, my new podcast. I will post it here in a couple of weeks, but people who subscribe to my new Patreon page get early access, plus access to the exclusive ‘Ministry of Imagination’ podcast. This episode featured Sam Lee and Mya-Rose Craig and it was just beautiful. Here is a taste of a part of it.
On Friday I was a virtual speaker in virtual conversation at the virtual Swindon Spring Festival. You can see the conversation below. The local paper also did a rather good write-up of it here. My thanks to the organisers for inviting me. I hope you enjoy it.
If there was ever a time for fresh thinking, for being bold, for being visionary and imaginative – for reimagining everything – this it is. Now is the time to get together and reshape the world. In a couple of weeks, I will be starting a brand new podcast called ‘From What If to What Next’. It will be based on ‘What If’ questions sent in by you, the listener – and my challenge will be to collect together the best people to explore, debate and develop the ideas you provide. Together we will look at how to make that leap – From What If to What Next. I would love you to subscribe and be part of making it happen.
The other day I got up before dawn to listen to the dawn chorus so I could sit and read, for you, the part of ‘From What Is to What If’ that talks about getting up before dawn to listen to the dawn chorus. I hope you enjoy it. Perhaps it might inspire you to get up for a dawn chorus near you?
I found myself reflecting the other day that in many ways that world I have heard expressed now in so many different settings (because these shared visions are usually very similar) has already arrived. Such acts of imagining are so much easier and more possible than they were 4 weeks ago. Just look out of your front door.
A while ago, Australian permaculture educator Morag Gamble came to visit Totnes and we had a long chat about permaculture, imagination and much more besides. I thought you might enjoy it. Morag is the founder of the Permaculture Education Institute.
I haven’t yet written a comprehensive, illuminating blog about these Days of the Coronavirus, partly because many other people far wiser than me are already doing it far better than I would, but also because I am still trying to make sense of it all. So instead I have decided to do something counterintuitive, and write a blog that I really hope you won’t read, because its intention is that that you might instead use the time you would have spent reading it to close your laptop screen and go and do something else instead.
In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was condemned by Zeus to endlessly try to push a large rock to the top of a hill, an activity Zeus had rigged so that as it neared the top, the rock would roll away from Sisyphus. The story captures the ultimate in frustration and activities that take all of our energy but with no end in sight. The whole exercise was rigged against Sisyphus from the outset. The poor sod was never going to beat gravity. Even though it was Zeus’ punishment for Sisyphus’ supposed hubris, you have to feel for the guy. Indeed if you’ve been involved in activism or campaigning or activism on climate change or any of a range of other issues, you’re probably finding yourself identifying with him right now.