Wow. This morning was a gift. Blue sky. Warm sun. Frozen earth. Clear and crisp and beautiful. The sort of morning when you just want to be out there. Seeking the warmth of the sun’s rays to ease the tingling on your chilled cheeks.
The frost paints a fresh picture of our familiar world. Where there is usually soft mud there is hard crust. Where there is green there is white. Where grip – slide. Bend – snap. Dull – bright. The whole world seems thrust closer. Feels bigger. Seems more. That which we have perhaps taken for granted, perhaps not even seen, is suddenly revealed as of the rising of a curtain. The spider’s webs cover the hedgerows with jewelled elegance. Were they there all the time? How did we not see them before? Were they conjured up by the frost’s breath? Given life by an absence of heat?
I stayed outside all day. Unwilling to step away from the sun’s embrace. It was just too glorious to be indoors. I often feel this way. It’s why I always seem to end up writing this blog in the evening. The weather was fantastic today, but even in less balmy conditions, I generally prefer to be outdoors. It just makes me feel better – more alive. I even enjoy “bad” weather – wind and rain have a remarkable energy all of there own which is useful to know. Granted, it sometimes takes an effort of will to go out when it is lashing down, but wrap up well
Admittedly, it takes much less persuasion to be out on a day like today. I spent the morning chopping wood, sorting out the wood pile. In the afternoon, I made reindeer. They are not beautiful. In conventional terms. But I love them. They look how I wanted them to look. I like things that are a bit ugly, broken. I don’t trust perfect. Perfect makes me uneasy. I prefer things to be a bit messed up. And my messed up, ugly, broken reindeer gave me a great reason to be outside being creative on a gift of a day like today. It doesn’t get much better.
Having song my hymn to outside, I feel that, at Christmas time, there is something special about inside too. Even though we all seem to share some strange and unrealistic primal longing for a White Christmas and cover our Christmas cards with outside scenes of snow covered trees, staunchly ignoring the evidence that the 25th will usually be mild and damp, I suspect that the desire for snow is driven by a longing to have an excuse not to leave the house. How many of us will not even step over the threshold on Christmas Day, preferring to rest in the comfort of soft pyjamas, central heating and new slippers. Spinning out the day in front of radiator, table and tv – the holy trinity. There is definitely a movement towards inside at Christmas.
I am not knocking it. There is something undeniably necessary about this celebration of shelter. It is deep within us. It is the cave. Cave men. Very basic needs – shelter, warmth, food. At Christmas we allow ourselves to indulge our senses in them. We decorate our shelters – deck them with light. We gather together for warmth – physical, emotional, spiritual. We feast – we are brought together through food. Which is why, at Christmas especially, it is appalling that people in the UK are still homeless, in inadequate housing, having to use food banks. How have we failed to tackle this? How have we allowed it to happen? Surely there is enough for everybody. Seems like some people are being greedy – taking more than their fair share. How can we redress the balance?
I think that the answer to that thorny question is both outward and inward.
Outward in the sense that we need to look outside ourselves, outside our homes, outside our families, outside our nations and look at the wider picture. We are all connected. Every person. Every colour, creed, race and religion. Connected by our common humanity. What you do to any person, you do to your brother, to yourself. If you bomb, torture, imprison, execute, murder, steal from another person – you do it to yourself. If you love, honour, protect, serve, give to another person – you do it to yourself. “Do unto others….” True words.
What is more, humanity is connected to all life on Earth. We are a part of this planet. We are not separate from it. What we do to the planet, we do to ourselves. And we are not treating either well. We need a major change of attitude. A shift in perspective. And to do that, we need to look inwards. We need to examine ourselves. Why do we as a species behave with such relentless ignorance and greed? You do not have to look far to see that, as individuals, we are capable of acts of great kindness. People, most people, will go out of their way to help other people. I really believe that, I have seen that. We will even go to great lengths to help different species. My friend Debs, for example, who hand nursed an orphaned kitten back to health. She gave unreservedly of her time and money to save that animal. We are not a cruel species. We are capable of banding together to do good. Comic Relief, Live Aid, unions, marches, charity treks – make your own list, it’s not difficult. So what is going wrong?
I believe that we are living on the cusp of a great change. At the border between ages. The old ways are falling apart. Crumbling. Economic collapse. Bubbles bursting. Climate change. Fossil fuels running out. Social collapse. Arab Spring. The old orders toppling. But the old ways will not go easily or quietly. And the new ways are not yet written. And this is the thing – the absolutely crucial thing. THE OLD WAYS CANNOT WRITE THE NEW WAYS. The institutions we have relied upon to run our world are part of the old way. The governments, the universities, the monarchies, the corporations, the banks, the churches, the armies. They cannot be expected to imagine a world without themselves as central. They can only imagine variations on the old theme and that’s not good enough. Just will not work.
We have to look inward, inside ourselves to find the answers. And the responsibility weighs heaviest on those who are most used to looking inward – the poets, musicians, artists, writers, mystics, healers, shamen and fools. It is to them we must look for the sign posts to a new way. It is they who will light the path. They – the outsiders.