We travelled the sharp and bending curves of the road until we reached our final stop. A secluded meadow with a glorious backdrop nestled within the Wales countryside sits a Gypsy wagon. Our home for a few days courtesy of some true and brilliant friends. After setting down our things and placing our belongings around our new home, we talked about living a nomadic life. Us two, treading soft footed through villages and fields as we lived the simplest of lives. A simple and wholehearted life. Imagine that.
In contrast, like many of you my normal life is different. I sit in my worn out armchair, writing and researching “stuff “. Papers spread all around me. I dip in and out of words trying to finish plans and reports. I drink far too much tea and coffee. I am never finished and always on catch up. I spin a long line of plates. I face challenges daily.
I read hardship stories of pain and despair in the news. I have my own. I see and hear starkness. Dark gloomy nights hang over all of us. Turbulent times. Angy times of opposition. Opposing paths. Miscommunication. Lost friends and lost family. Opposing truths. At times despair. Some of us are sick with rage. Moments of huge contrast. Overwhelming kindness housed beside unkind words and doings.
It’s become exhausting trying to stay connected in a way that is good for us all.
The fabric of engagement and connection is a complex and layered one. It has its own itinerary about how we enter into its dance and connect. My work takes me down the path of connection through weaving and shaping layers of matrix systems, thinking, discussions and debates. At times, I have wondered why on earth I do this work.
We know that history plays a huge part in how we engage and interact. Who I am, my story, our experiences as well as our collective relationship to the thing, the place the purpose and everything. A delicate and fragile history will resurface if we don’t respect it, understand it, hold it with love and care and acknowledge it. The Good Friday agreement is one very good example. History has forgotten already. You would think that we don’t need reminding about it but we clearly do. We have stories. Some of us have memories etched and printed on us across generations. Yet, here we are. Change brings with it a casual dismissive regard for the past. It doesn’t fit the new story.
Yet, history itself tells us that we always pay the price for that thinking. Once we disregard the past as irrelevant or inconvenient we are destined to make new often fatal errors. It is a horror to watch.
Yet, I hear cries across social media.
“Why do people always bring up the past. It’s so unnecessary”.
Our collective archive of history. The very thing for learning, understanding and growth.
One of my first ever arts development programmes involved teaming up with a small group of like minded people to research and develop our thinking. One evening, while we collated and gathered paperwork, my colleague turned to me and said:
“See, this is what it is all about Carrie. Life is a series of letters and notes passed from me to you and from you to me and onto someone else. Passing information from one to another, back and forth. Over and over. Forever.”
I laughed politely but felt its sting. Is that it ? A bunch of notes between us all. Information and sharing more information. Data and more data. Back and forth. Registering information over and over in different formats. Telling each other stuff.
Our notes gives shape to our plans. We do need the research and thinking in order to know what’s missing and why. To ask big questions. To find out THE question. To confirm if its wanted and needed. We need it so that we can ask.
We question and re-question our language.
“Let’s all be authentic.”
“That’s authentic, that there. Look, see how authentic it is.”
“I don’t think that it’s authentic enough.”
“How can we measure whether its authentic or not ?”
“What do we mean by authentic ?`’
Suddenly, authentic is not the word. It will be a new word to communicate and pass notes back and forth with. We will use new words that replace the old words. The new words are better, more current and more responsive to change and how things are right now. The old words are irrelevant. Sometimes for good.
So, with that in mind, where in our thinking or passing of notes and data do we make space for love and honesty. Where in our weird systems thinking or energy mapping and community growth do we make room for critical awareness, self empathy, connection and emotional health. Do we make time for this in our project planning or reporting. Self kindness, common humanity and the struggle of everyone. What is the point of any of it if we don’t bring that to the table.
On the way to a meeting the other day, I listened to this. A great listen on the BBC “Only Artists” to Julie Hesmondhagh and Tony Walsh. The two talk and compare experiences of growing up in working class Britain. A wonderful dance of a conversation. Both entered the space with a whole hearted love of the arts. It was great to hear their stories which really resonate with my own experience. Sometimes, its one teacher, a parent, a family member/mentor who notices and encourages you. That connection and paying attention. Acknowledging and respecting who you are and your history. Just offering choice, connection and a chance to examine the earth in a different way.
Perhaps, its bringing back the whole hearted approach to our working and passing of notes to one another. Put the love back in because we need it more than ever.
Over to you.