It needs to be said. Repeatedly.
One of the great paradoxes of our humanity is that we are only individuals because of each other. Our distinctiveness, such as it is, is entirely dependent on our social context, for how else can we define our difference, our superiority, our own brilliance? The danger is, before we know it, we forget that we all matter to one another.
This is not a new problem of course, but nevertheless it is one that tends to grow like a cancer under certain toxic conditions. Wide and widening inequality. Fear-mongering by the powerful. The language of scarcity, even in the presence of abundance. Above all, when the distance between each other widens; when we isolate ourselves inside our insulated boxes…
In 1649, Gerrard Winstanley put it like this;
…we shall prove it by the Righteous Law of our Creation, That mankinde in all his branches, is the Lord of the Earth and ought not to be in subjection to any of his own kinde without him, but to live in the light of the law of righteousness, and peace established in his heart.
And thus in love we have declared the purpose of our hearts plainly, without flatterie, expecting love, and the same sincerity from you, without grumbling or quarreling, being Creatures of your own Image and mould, intending no other matter herein, but to observe the Law of righteous action, endeavouring to shut out of the Creation, the cursed thing, called Particular Propriety, which is the cause of all wars, bloud-shed, theft, and enslaving Laws, that hold the people under miserie.
Signed for and in behalf of all the poor oppressed people of England, and the whole world.
Back then, the battle was being fought to preserve the commons; the long-held belief that people should have access to the land, place of nurture and fertility. The place where we are all equal. The enclosures that followed cut us off from our commonality.
But not from our connection to one another. Not from our need for connection. to each other.
Let me tell some stories of connection, and how they can transform us. They are remarkable only because they are mine. You have your own remarkable stories too.
The first concerns our most recent wilderness retreat, at the beginning of last month. 19 men and one woman, camping on an uninhabited island. Uninhabited now, that is. In the past it was a place of monks. We sat inside one of their beehive cells, shoulder to shoulder and listened to some piano music played by an old man who learned tunes from a woman evacuated from St Kilda, and a whole line of human civilisation stretching back into the mists of humanity came to an end.
The music was our last connection with their humanity, but it brought us closer for a while. Friends lifted their armour and showed some vulnerable flesh. We remembered that even though we were on an island, we are not islands in and of ourselves. It was like being held in warm hands.
The second story took place in a field near Perth- the grounds of Scone Palace to be precise. We were there for entirely commercial reasons, selling ceramics. It was all about the money. Shifting product.
Except that it wasn’t, not entirely. It never is.
We make things that make use of poetry. In this way, we like to think that our objects carry meaning. It is not high art, or always very subtle.
I had made a small piece with this poem on it;
Memory, like a magic lantern
Leaked some light and it fell on you
From back when we walked together
Then bid adieu
Some part of you will always stay
As I was wrapping it up, I casually asked if it was for her, or a present for someone else, and immediately felt that crackling in the air that happens when facades start to crumble. With tears running down her face she told me it was in memory of her mother, who had died.
There in the middle of the busy festival, we shared her grief. No-one else knew. I felt deep privilege because despite the hubbub of commercialism, here was something real, something that spoke of the beautiful cost of human love.
These stories matter. These moment matter.
Without them, we are empty.