Celebrating soil, soul and society

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This year, we also re-launched our Soil, Soul and Society series as a collaboration between Lynedoch, the Sustainability Institute and Eve Annecke, Bertha Fellow – taking form through a serious of intimate dialogues and deep questioning about the matters that matter most…

Your thoughts are a veil on the face of the Moon. That Moon is your heart, and those thoughts cover your heart. So let them go, just let them fall into the water. Rumi.

It’s easy to relegate the exquisite words of the 12th century Sufi mystic, Islamic scholar and poet to a tiny corner, visited only when the Important Stuff is complete – if at all. Satish Kumar sees it differently. Indian co-founder of Schumacher College, UK, long time editor of Resurgence, his living tradition is bringing a trinity of soil, soul and society together. Where poetry and beauty form life itself, in elegant simplicity. At 83, he has inspired work across the world, including our own at Lynedoch and the Sustainability Institute.

The Tabatznik family, long friends of Satish, have added ‘celebration’ to the mix. In their Bertha Foundation’s support of an independent fellowship exploring the art and power in retreat, we have begun a collaboration in a small, new series at Lynedoch that takes spirit in activism as a given.

Faced with the immediacy of the world’s urgent challenges many of us ache to act. Then, with the best of intentions and predictable regularity, we crash into unwittingly replicating entrenched patterns, frequently hitting seemingly inevitable burnout. In harsh reality, we don’t change things and, worst case, we may even make them worse.

These obvious ways show up as self-congratulatory, holier than thou and occupy an oxygen-sucking moral high ground. Why is it that as activists we become the very thing we’re claiming to change? As we change ourselves does the world change simultaneously, or is that a naive cliché? Can spirit in activism exist without earnest and contrived sanctimony?

Are there different ways in activism that do make a fairer world? Where nature, soul and spirituality combine with excellent science, technologies and social organisation to generate social and ecological justice?

Some of the most profound social, political and environmental changes have been achieved internationally by people with compelling vision and/or practice: Greta Thunberg, Wangari Maathai, Petra Kelly, Slum Dwellers International, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Vandana Shiva and Nelson Mandela, to name a few. As vital as they are, are these now movements and individuals who have become palatable to the status quo, who we are to emulate if we are to be ‘good’ activists?

There are ways that are disruptive. The subversiveness of silence. Quiet moments of spirit and soul. Uncontrived ritual. Simple ceremony. Uproarious laughter. Mystery. Myth. Recognising that perhaps the most endangered of all is a radically honest and simple life.

Many activists regard spirituality as at best a side-issue, ineffective in action and an excuse for quietism, rejecting any appeal to other ways of being and knowing.

Can we face and integrate shadow sides of activism, and not let these turn us away from effective, grounded action? Could other ways of knowing and the poetics of being guide us when we are unconsciously replicating existing and damaging systemic patterns?

Even without labelling it ‘activism’, how might everyday work, communities, families and homes provide places for deeply significant change… without fanfare, grandiosity or fuss.

A series of celebrating soil, soul and society began on the 26th of February 2020, outside in the Lynedoch gardens, at a liminal time when dusk arrives unobtrusively. An intimate space with a limited number of people, in ways softer, tender and also a little circumspect. It’s a series that will find the path by walking it together. No fame required. No talking heads. Just the invisibility of a kind of quality of being that arrives in joy.

We look forward to more, with many thanks.