My Flat and the Corruption of Permaculture Zone 0 (Home#1)

My flat is where I can break down and then break through and build up again.

My flat, in the middle of Devon, accessible to Cornwall, North Devon, Dartmoor and Exeter by bicycle.

My modern flat, where I get very lonely, because I have not yet worked out how to reintegrate into the (concept of) community that is vaguely in all our hearts.

My flat, home of revolutionary plans and humble bumblings-along.

My flat in the lovely old Devon village of North Tawton, former home of Ted Hughes, (my empathy for Sylvia Plath). With the village gym (just for locals) down the road that I asked for in my envisioning, and shamanistic mushroom fields nearby.

My flat, in Permaculture terms ‘Zone 0’: the home; where the least effort / energy is expended physically to get day to day needs met; where most stuff happens; where conceptually and then practically, everything in (my) life can be integrated -an integration that serves energy efficiency as well as a resilient coherent replicable culture. Replicable coherent culture -a culture that can be repeated from day to day and month to month in a way that contains and nurtures us- this is key to well-being, to mental health. Human culture being ‘the sum of everything that we are and do’. Zone 0: the home; from where I sometimes wish I was elsewhere.

However sustainably we build our homes; however ingenious we make our ‘zone 0’s to be energy-efficient, ecologically low impact and handily located for food production and consumption, and for work; nevertheless our zone 0’s are fundamentally open to corruption in the modern world.

The corruption of zone 0 is the internet (and to a much lesser extent, the phoneline, whether mobile or landline). Firstly, if we are using the internet all day every day (if we work from home online, for instance) we have to ask ourselves what the environmental impact is. How can we assess the ecological impact of server farms and whatever else that keeps internet-based companies going that we use from day to day? (and not just the big ones like Google and Facebook).

If we can stick to wholesome resources on the net then so much the better; if we can continue to use it to connect to Tribes of likeminded positive changemakers around the world, then so much the better; however, with the events that have unfolded over the past few days in America, the former freedom of net-based connection and research that we have enjoyed, seems to be in doubt. New York Times: FCC Repeals Net Neutrality Rules

In this context, on an ideological level how can using the internet, with all its promises of foreign places and ideas, contribute to the corruption of our homes? When the most powerful corporate internet players now have an increased influence on what we can and can’t access, and the speed at which we can access our chosen domains, how can we retain integrity, from zone 0 outwards?

 

Loneliness

This is really hard. I’m listening to Seth Godin, the marketing guru give me advice on how to connect with people and develop a free blog that people will actually be interested in, in a time-poor and choice-saturated modern world. Surely with my writing skills, envisioning skills, empathy and imagination I can do this?

But I want to do more than just this. I want to provide a service that helps our relationship with the rest of Nature, that integrates society more closely with Nature and itself, that there are no more lonely people; that the multiplicity of possible connections online actually translate better into meaningful face to face connections, and those all-important oxytocin-releasing hugs. (Anyone got a hug for me? I need one.) Here is a great TED talk on Youtube about the negative feedback loops, biological and neurological, that happen as a result of loneliness: The lethality of loneliness

It seems to me, from what I’ve observed and the reading I’ve done, that the capitalist model of society, as it currently exists in its dominant form, prevents a proper integration of culture that could almost eliminate loneliness.

Three examples (which overlap in various ways):

  • A key unit of contemporary capitalism, the monogamous family unit, does not always bring with it an extended network of familial support. Further, when the unit is encouraged to compete with other units in a capitalist sense, this can often prevent a well-connected social embeddedness in a community, or in wider society -especially when waged work is done away from home. Social embeddedness is key to preventing loneliness, felt both on the inside and outside of families. The relative economic predictability of the monogamous family unit plays a role in its prime position in contemporary capitalist society. See The Extraordinary Political Power of Moving Beyond Monogamy But economic predictability is not mental health. Many monogamous families are very happy, but I hypothesize that this norm creates the polar opposite of many lonely people, the incidence of which would be reduced in a society that wasn’t mono- family unit -centric. A properly integrated culture, one relatively free from loneliness, is surely one where the shared identities of everyone are constantly reinforced in face to face interactions, (not just online ones), including at home. These interactions are on some level ‘cultural events’ in that they propogate or carry forward culture, ideally often involving a degree of human touch as well, and not just between lovers, family and friends. This can still all function if you are someone who ‘likes their own space’ (as I do) -that’s fine.
  • In the UK, the relatively large number of single person households (7.7 million in 2016), I think does not reflect the desires of those people for human connection. See Families and households in the UK: 2016 The modern consumerist mantra is ‘I want whatever I want and I want it now’. We are marketed capitalism-driven stories by mass Media that tell us we shouldn’t settle for anything less than the perfect home, with the perfect life partner, and the perfect job. We ‘happily’ continually dislodge ourselves from neighbourhoods in the hope of finding better ones. I contend that this has a detrimental effect on the coherent sense of culture that I think is integral to making meaningful human connections. Many people say they ‘just like living alone’ and ‘can’t share’ but I contend that this is a faulty attitude (which I often have myself, in my own flat!) borne of a lack of understanding or exploration of the diverse private / communal living boundaries and arrangements which are possible, or alternatively a lack of appropriate communal living situations on offer.
  • Economically-driven loneliness is common in modern society. I suffer from it myself. There are different kinds of economically-driven loneliness; I discuss only one kind here. For people who find it difficult to make money, and for people like me who find it difficult to orientate their lives around making money, the financially affordable options for meeting likeminded people face to face are drastically reduced -especially in rural areas, unless you are lucky enough to be connected to charitable land-based enterprises or fulfilling volunteering opportunities. In modern society the ‘likemindedness’ of people is often dependent on the type of culture they spend money on consuming. Although internet-based culture is largely free, if I am financially poor I am by default uncultured by the dominant capitalist model and moreover there are large gaps in my very understanding of the whole culture I live in. It is largely up to individuals to work out a sense of the whole culture they live in, based on what they consume. So the important work of cultural integration in modern society, you could say, is done by individuals and groups of individuals in a haphazard way, depending on what culture they have consumed, largely dependent on what they’ve spent their money on (whether food or cinema trips or academic textbooks), in turn dependent on the capitalist forces of marketing. The financially poor are often emotionally isolated from this whole process, and end up lonely. This blog is my own haphazard project of integration, but by eventually including as many sources (especially integrative sources) and people as possible, I hope that over time it may bear useful fruit. Otherwise, I may just be another force for disintegration, especially if I charge people for what should be free, once the business wing of this blog is developed. I do think capitalism can be reformed or gradually usurped by something more evolved. A re-orientation of society to Nature / land -based socialising and culture must be key.

Possible solutions to these examples of loneliness, briefly (to be expanded on in future posts):

  • More normalisation and society-wide support -including legal and financial -for extended family living units (as used to be the case in this country, for instance), communal living units and polyamorous (ethically non-monogamous) living units. In normalised polyamory living units, the travelling of some individuals between units would be common, in a culturally supported way. This type of living unit is potentially inclusive of individual-types who are failed by the strict monogamous standard.
  • More support in Government Planning and in architectural practices, for more of a diversity of housing designs and living arrangements for single people, including more allowance of self-builds, and different options for managing private / communal boundaries and spaces. On a deeper level, the reduction in power of consumer-driven culture.
  • More opportunities for socialisation and the consumption of culture for the financially poor, especially in rural areas. Alternative localised economies which are not aggressively competition based. On a deeper level, the evolution of capitalism into something which has the whole of Nature, alongside human social justice, at its core.

The internet may be the most powerful tool that we’ve ever had, ironically, to reconnect with Nature and with each other face to face. How can I use the internet to translate the multiplicity of possible online connections into actual face to face connections (and hugging!) ? How can we use diverse connections online to reshape the actual, physical society we live in, in a way that all but eradicates loneliness?

Perhaps this blog -Epic Tomorrows- could be a force for good on this mission. Will you help me? Feel free to comment below. Additionally, see my Heroine Quest -my ultimate remedy for human loneliness.

 

 

Taw Samhain

I’m sat on a rock in the river Taw. Never have I seen it so high. I’m here to wash away the distractions of life that I may focus on the highest stream within me; the stream of servant-leadership. There is no point in leading except to serve whom you lead, or you are only serving yourself. There is no point in serving except to lead whom you serve. In other words, don’t let your leaders become complacent. Let them know how life is for you and if they don’t listen, replace them.

We are two days away from the Gaelic festival of Samhain that has Celtic pagan origins. I love these old Celtic seasonal observances, even though I don’t usually celebrate them outwardly. Samhain is roughly halfway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice -a neat orientation point; something that raises my awareness of the passing seasons and their different characters. Samhain is a festival of spirits and the dead. Apparently it is a time when the boundaries between this world and the ‘Otherworld’ are more easily crossed. Personally I am reminded of my ancestry, especially the recent ancestry of my grandparents. I am lucky to come from rich and diverse stock. ‘Taking stock’ of food supplies and cattle returned from their summer pastures, was another traditional Samhain theme. Personally, I am reminded to take stock of where I am, how I got here and what I have to offer.

In this first blog post for Epic Tomorrows, I offer you a ‘working hypothesis’. It is nothing radically new but I intend that in the coming weeks and months I will show how this hypothesis can be consistently applied in many different contexts. That may be a little radical to some. I hope it’s useful. Please tell me if it isn’t, or help me improve on it.

The hypothesis is simply that a lack of narrative integration in modern society is responsible for a great deal of unnecessary suffering and death. This suffering and death is implicit in globally poor standards of individual mental health and well-being; group, institution and business efficiency and well-being; and the well-being and sustainability of global culture as a whole. The root lack of narrative integration that is to blame, centres on the disconnection of humanity from the rest of Nature. This divorce began at the dawn of civilisation (the agricultural revolution) at the latest.

To demystify what I have just written, us human beings make sense of the world, and of human culture, by the stories and myths that we tell ourselves, as well as, more crucially, the underpinning unconscious narratives that guide our thinking and behaviour. Our individual autobiographies and our collective stories and narratives have become confused, hypocritical and fragmented in modern society, reflecting social and ecological injustice. Lack of integration is the defining pathology of this situation.

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There’s plenty of great stuff going on in the world. I’m looking forward to using this blog to connect up with it more. I also intend to help positive change-makers of all kinds connect up in useful new ways. For me, integration is the key word. I am aware that all this may sound very abstract so far. I will give you a solid oak example by way of my personal history or ‘how I got here’. First, let me quickly explain that I do not blame anyone, including myself, for any lack in my past or present life, but I do take responsibility for change:

My own life narrative of mental health is something that I’m working on. A few years ago it looked pretty shaky. However, the more I detach myself from conventional understandings of mental health -particularly the biomedical model of mental illness-  the more I appreciate my unique journey and the gifts it has bestowed on me, as well as the unique challenges which could be headed under ‘mental dis-ease’. It has taken me over a decade and a half of trial and error to arrive at this understanding. Sometimes I struggle not to feel injured, to feel beaten black and blue actually, by the fragmented society that allowed me to be defined as medically sick and that still sometimes seeks to define me as such. Ironically, conventional attitudes to mental health are actually a contributory cause of mental ill-ness. I will write at great length on this in later posts. I don’t blame individuals or even ‘society’. I am just sharing feelings and observations.

Reconnecting with Nature was key to my recovery from the worst of the dis-ease, and continues to be. Earth Nature as a whole is also key to my new, positive life narrative of mental health i.e. my new understanding of my journey. It is a journey of integration with non-human Nature, integration with the people around me and integration with parts of myself I may have previously struggled to admit into consciousness. I am convinced that ‘integration’ in these ways is key to others’ mental health too. I want Epic Tomorrows to be a place of discussion about this, amongst other things.

I also have a strong intention to develop Epic Tomorrows into a blog-based business. I intend to inspire an Earth-integrated Tribe of co-creators to help me develop products of information, integration and emotional connection that have genuine transformative value in the lives of individuals, groups, institutions, businesses and communities. This will take some time. A few years at least. I have some rough ideas of services I may provide. Things are coalescing in my mind, and it’s exciting. The catchword of ‘integration’ speaks of energy efficiency and mental resilience. Meanwhile, it is my joy to share my ideas with no thought of financial profit. The blog will always be free.

I am immensely grateful to the marketing guru Seth Godin for helping get me to this point, as well as the online business community ‘Fizzle’. Fizzle are an example, for me, of how the internet can be an incredible integrative tool. I am learning from writers, bloggers and entrepreneurs from all over the world. It took me a few years of searching through slimy online business gurus before hitting on these fresh folk. (Good-hearted and environmentally minded entrepreneurs need more help in finding the right resources, and in integrating them -a subject for another post!) I have been set in good stead to remind myself continually that Epic Tomorrows is always work in progress and can always be improved.

It is a day before Halloween, or ‘All Hallows’ Eve’, the beginning of the Christian observance of Allhallowtide: three days of remembrance of the dead. The modern Halloween is a mixture or perhaps integration of Samhain and All Hallows practices. As we remember all the positive change-makers that came before us, what positive tricks and treats of integration -for mental health, for business health, for sustainable culture- can we share with one another?

The sky is clear today and the harvest sun is warm on the wildness of the Samhain Taw.

Please share your thoughts with me! Please comment below.