Web of life

In his latest blog, Jonathan Dawson reveals the key to the continuing vitality of the Findhorn commu

So, we have come full circle. In my first blog, almost exactly a year ago, I began by looking up into the northern skies to watch the geese fly in from the Arctic to their over-wintering grounds. Now, they are back, lacing the high blue autumnal skies in exquisite sweeping arcs, filling the air with the wildness of their cries.

I made it clear in that first blog that I was making a conscious choice to begin my exploration of what it is to live in an ecovillage not with the visible hardware of sustainability – the wind turbines, eco-housing, waste management facilities and so on – but rather with the quality of our relationships, with other people and with the rest of creation.

The primacy of relationships and of community – the software of sustainability – seems even more paramount to me today. As I look back at over a year’s output of blogs, I can see that the researching and writing of these weekly vignettes has helped me come more awake to the richness and diversity of life within the community and to the multiplicity of ways in which it seeks to serve.

When travelling, representing Findhorn or the Global Ecovillage Network, I am often asked what is ‘Findhorn’s position’ on this or that issue or question. I almost always reply that, in truth, there is no one single position – that the Findhorn community is hugely diverse and one could often find as many views on questions of importance as there are members of the community.

This is a huge strength. Reflecting on almost all of the various initiatives that I have referred to over the last year – the green burial ground, the EarthShare organic CSA box scheme, the recently-opened Moray Arts Centre, the Living Routes educational programme that brings undergraduates from US universities here to study, the wind turbines, the Eko community currency, the link with the Kitezh orphan’s ecovillage in Russia, the cluster of ‘whisky barrel houses and so on – almost none can in any sense be said to have been created by the Findhorn community as an entity.

Rather, pretty much all of these initiatives have been the brainchild of individuals or small groups of individuals within the community. There is no master plan! Inspired, anarchic creativity comes closer to the mark. In this sense, the Findhorn community can be seen as a yin holding vessel that permits the proliferation of yang programmes and projects.

I think that this has been key to our continuing vitality. This is always a challenge for mature organisations; as operations become larger, more complex and inevitably more bureaucratic, how to retain freshness and inspiration? The way I see it, what is happening here is that while some of the more mature organisations within the community are passing into dignified middle-age, the raft of new, visionary initiatives being born keeps alive the spirit of vitality and inspiration.

I would argue that the aliveness and robust good health of the community lies close to the heart of this proliferation of new initiatives. Over and over again, I note that the dominant response to increasingly serious challenges, especially on the climate change and peak oil fronts, is one of determined (and often even optimistic) engagement. This comes so much more easily to a community built around a core of shared values that consciously seeks to be of service to something larger than itself.

So, another year has turned. Another intake of Living Routes students dazzles us with their creativity and sweetness. Another group of 30 or so social and environmental activists from various parts of the world – including Burma, Gambia, Chile, Argentina, India and Nepal – has joined us for our annual month-long Ecovillage Design Education programme.

And, high up in the skies, the geese sing to us of the long, slow turning of the Earth, whose children we all are. The pulse that sends them down to Findhorn Bay in their clamorous throngs every autumn is the same pulse that ties us all in to the web of life.

In the words of Mary Oliver:

“Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”

Jonathan Dawson is a sustainability educator based at the Findhorn Foundation in Scotland. He is seeking to weave some of the wisdom accrued in 20 years of working in Africa into more sustainable and joyful ways of living here in Europe. Jonathan is also a gardener and a story-teller and is President of the Global Ecovillage Network.
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Donald Trump's healthcare failure could be to his advantage

The appearance of weakness is less electorally damaging than actually removing healthcare from millions of people.

Good morning. Is it all over for Donald Trump? His approval ratings have cratered to below 40%. Now his attempt to dismantle Barack Obama's healthcare reforms have hit serious resistance from within the Republican Party, adding to the failures and retreats of his early days in office.

The problem for the GOP is that their opposition to Obamacare had more to do with the word "Obama" than the word "care". The previous President opted for a right-wing solution to the problem of the uninsured in a doomed attempt to secure bipartisan support for his healthcare reform. The politician with the biggest impact on the structures of the Affordable Care Act is Mitt Romney.

But now that the Republicans control all three branches of government they are left in a situation where they have no alternative to Obamacare that wouldn't either a) shred conservative orthodoxies on healthcare or b) create numerous and angry losers in their constituencies. The difficulties for Trump's proposal is that it does a bit of both.

Now the man who ran on his ability to cut a deal has been forced to make a take it or leave plea to Republicans in the House of Representatives: vote for this plan or say goodbye to any chance of repealing Obamacare.

But that's probably good news for Trump. The appearance of weakness and failure is less electorally damaging than actually succeeding in removing healthcare from millions of people, including people who voted for Trump.

Trump won his first term because his own negatives as a candidate weren't quite enough to drag him down on a night when he underperformed Republican candidates across the country. The historical trends all make it hard for a first-term incumbent to lose. So far, Trump's administration is largely being frustrated by the Republican establishment though he is succeeding in leveraging the Presidency for the benefit of his business empire.

But it may be that in the failure to get anything done he succeeds in once again riding Republican coattails to victory in 2020.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.