Individualism 2; time for some poetry…

Imgage by Si Smith, from the book After the Apocalypse

Last year we published a collection of poetry called ‘After the Apocalypse’, written before, during and after the pandemic. It was concerned with anger, hope and desire for change in a world shadowed by all the things we know shadow it. (You can get a copy here.)

They are not hidden after all, but because we see them only through the lens of individual consumers, our only response is to hunker down in the deepest bunkers we can dig for ourselves and our small tribes.

I have shared these two poems before, but I share them again because of yesterdays post, dealing as it was with vitalising ideas, in this case, collectivism.

The poems are both constructed from ways of understanding the wild. The dominant one (arising during the enlightenment) views the world as a great big competition, in which we scratch upwards for ascendancy. The ‘good’ here is that only the fittest survive to pass on their victorious DNA to the next generation, who do it all again, and again. Mapped on to a world of individualsm, of personal accummulation and high garden walls this makes perfect sense.

Hermeneutic #1

Do not think

Trust instead in evolution

To shape the world, if not for best

At least for least worst

Do not act

Worlds are not built, they

Emerge through tectonic friction, they

Were abraded by natural forces

Far beyond your control

So do not rescue

Let weakness whither

Set the fittest free to celebrate


Do not regulate

Let greed sow seeds

Like forest trees, set

Free markets free

However, my contention is that any truth contained in this way of looking at the world (which after all is a total distortion of Darwin’s writing) only reveals itself in geoplogical time, not human time.

It might also be true to say that humans have been so successful precicely because we have learned something we might call intelligent empathy. We learned to co-operate and to appreciate the needs of one another. It turns out that Wiliam Golding got it wrong.

Which brings us to the second analogy (or hermaneutic) which comes to us through an understanding of what is happened in the secret hidden world beneath our feet in that few inches of soil that sustains the whole life of the planet.

Scientists tell us that soil is not what we thought it was. It is not just accumulated inert dirt, it is in fact a living organism.

We are also now beginning to understand how funghal networks work in co-operation with trees, but what we know is already incredible, particularly when set as a contrast to the first hermaneutic above.

Hermeneutic #2

Tree is not tree without forest

Bird is not bird without sky

Man is not man on an island alone

With no fruit there is no fruit fly

Fungus is not just about fungus

It carries the world on its back

It holds under soil the truth of us all

It gives out but also gets back

In places of disconnection

Between the you and the I

May mycelium grow and nutrients flow

Lest all of us wither and die

Simply put, one species depends on another. Or I should say, many others. Here is some of what we know.

In the same way that we need to appreciate and nurture our soil, perhaps we also need to nurture and appreciate our communality, our shared humanity,

What does a society organised on this principle look like? That is the question that constantly nags at me. I call it the voice of the Spirit…

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