The Great Humbling S4E1: ‘Confessions’

The Great Humbling is back for a fourth series of conversations between Dougald Hine and Ed Gillespie, now as part of the wider patchwork of Homeward Bound.

Our theme for this first episode is confessions, but we start by looking back over the summer that’s gone. Ed offers us Carol Campayne‘s seasonal map of responsible leadership with questions that follow the turning of the year:

  • Spring: What’s emerging? What are the new green shoots?
  • Summer: What’s blooming? What’s in floral technicolor?
  • Autumn: What do I need to give up, relinquish, let fall away?
  • Winter: What can I see clearly now the leaves have dropped?

Dougald talks about the experience of voicing the audiobook of Hospicing Modernity by Vanessa Machado de Oliveira (who regular listeners may know as Vanessa Andreotti).

Ed introduces Nova Reid’s book, The Good Ally, and the uncomfortable memories of his own childhood that it brought back.

Confessions often involve the revelation of personal facts that we would rather keep hidden.

Ed recalls his experiences taking the Earthly Sins Confessional Booth to Glastonbury.

Dougald talks about unexpectedly finding himself in a European airport this summer and the pervasive advertising for a future of fossil-free flying and ubiquitous 5G drone-facilitated ‘easy’-ness.

Ed’s been listening to Tyson Yunkaporta yarning with Adah Parris about ‘Cyborg Shamanism’.

And we close with Raimon Panikkar’s definition of a person as ‘a knot within a net of relationships’.

The Great Humbling S3E8: ‘Now…breathe!’

We begin with some listener feedback from last week’s ‘Get on your knees!’ about prayer…

Before Dougald introduces our final instruction of the workout… Now Breathe!

We talk about the beautiful, simple pleasures of a degree of lockdown emergence, how Build Back Better went from a call for a radical progressive alliance to seize the moment of the pandemic, to a slogan on Boris Johnson’s podium, and Sam Conniff saying he fears our generation’s greatest regret will be that we failed to seize this moment

Ed notes Philip K Dick’s ‘Reality is that which when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away’...

Dougald talks about ‘escape variants’ and the risk of totalitarianism stemming from this and what weak centres of resistance, what practices, what moves we need to practice, how we attend to those fragile, ‘seemingly weak’ threads of relationship.

Ed talks about Bayo Akomolafe asking what if hope isn’t the answer? And more importantly what does not having hope allow us to see?

Dougald refers to an article by Caroline Busta, developing the idea of the dark forests of the internet and L.M. Sacasas – ‘Your attention is not a resource’  and ‘Minimum Viable Presence’ on social media

Ed talks about cancel culture and being cancelled from your own organisation in his experiences at Futerra

Dougald talks about culture wars and the  “weak man fallacy” and a piece by Melissa Phruksachart ‘The Literature of White Liberalism’

Ed references Alan Watts’ ‘the backwards law’ – wanting positive experience is a negative experience; accepting negative experience is a positive experience

Dougald wraps up series 3 appropriately with a poem Rashani Réa’s ‘The Unbroken’

The Great Humbling S3E7: ‘Get on your knees!’

Ed talks about Martin Shaw’s new book ‘Smokehole – looking to the wild in the time of the spyglass’ and the line ‘The mess out there is because of a mess in here’

Dougald discusses the difference between privilege, entitlement and the ‘work that is mine to do’ and references Alastair McIntosh’s four questions:

“Does what I do feed the hungry?”

“Is it relevant to the poor or to the broken in nature?”

“Does it contribute to understanding and meaningfulness?”

“Does it give life?” 

And there’s something else I’ve heard Alastair say, that our work starts from the place where our own needs meet the needs of the world. So maybe that’s a little clearer than the way I’ve spoken about these things before.

Dougald introduces this week’s instruction which is ‘Get On Your Knees!’ Because we’re going to be talking about prayer. Beginning with a story about a Sufi traditional blessing, it’s one of the names of God and it translates as ‘The door is open!’ and you say the name seven times and each time you put your hand on your heart and lift it outwards.

And asks the question “have there ever been humans who did so little blessing as they went about their lives, who had so little literacy of blessing?”

Ed shares a Shamanic healing with Suzy Crockford from lockdown one last year and the ritual offerings he was invited to make afterwards in gratitude.

Dougald talks about Hans Christian Andersen’s story of the emperor with no clothes – and coins the phrase ‘the empire has no prayers’ and maybe it’s also true to say ‘the empire hasn’t got a prayer’?

Dougald talks about Bible and Empire and and how something has died or gone rotten in the kind of prayer that can do that,  referencing Dara Molloy’s The Globalisation of God how the institutionalised church extinguished the local hybrid traditions such as Celtic Christianity, creating the prototype for colonialism and globalisation

Prayer might not (always) be what we think it is – because it has been part of the ways in which humans have inhabited the world in almost all the times and places we know of, but that the idea of religion which we mostly have is formed (even if only in the negative) by certain versions of Abrahamic monotheism, primarily Christian versions

Ed returns us to our knees talking about how the act of kneeling is full of deep biological, behavioural, spiritual and political energy…it is also mythical as Martin Shaw writes in ‘Smokehole’ and perhaps where we really need to begin. Because…

When you forget what you kneel upon, you are far more easily influenced by energies that may not wish you well.

Dougald talks about an essay that Mat Osmond wrote for Dark Mountain: Issue 17, called ‘Black Light’ – it’s about the artist Meinrad Craighead and her depictions of the Black Madonna. Mat grew up within a certain version of Anglican Christianity, and there’s a bit in the essay where he writes:

Suppose the dying religion I was raised within were understood as a nurse log – a fallen ancestral giant slow-releasing its nutrients, from whose decaying body a tangle of adaptive cultures is even now emerging? Such new, regenerative shoots might turn out to have less to do with belief or exhausted argument than with recovered behaviours. Behaviours which allow us to entrust our lives to mystery – to the unearned gift of being here at all.

Ed connects the ‘nurse log’ idea with the memories of his late father and brother.

Dougald talks about prayer in grief and The Way of the Rose, ‘an interfaith rosary fellowship with a subversive mission: to come together in reclaiming this old grassroots mother-devotion from the various weaponised agendas she’s been enlisted to. A re-wilding of the rosary’ and Beloved Sara Zaltash’s The Call –, plus a conversation between Jay Springett and Gordon White of Rune Soup, where Gordon makes the case that the prayers of the Christian tradition do not belong to the church, or not only – that they are part of your ancestral tradition, they have been prayed in fields and around campfires and over the sick and at times of joy, they have been woven into folk magic and the practices of everyday life for many centuries

Ed shares the Hawaiian Ho’oponopono: I’m sorry, forgive me, thank you, I love you…

Dougald returns to Martin Shaw’s A Counsel of Resistance and Delight

Ed shares a story about praying with the birds on the River Chet

Dougald closes with a few lines from a poem by John Paul Davis Epigenetics

Mentions Prentis Hemphill’s Finding Our Way podcast and finishes on Mat Osmond’s ‘Black Light’:

An English Buddhist priest once taught me that in learning to pray, we learn to get smaller. To get lower, closer to the ground that supports us. Of the many valuable things which I’ve received from the hands of Buddhist teachers, that priest’s idea of prayer is the one I hold closest: when we get down to it, all that we are and all that we value in this life comes to us as unearned gift, and what we cultivate, in prayer, is a grateful awareness of this condition. Which is one of abundance. Which is also one of permanent, radical dependency

Let’s get on our knees and pray together in our own way. Bless you for listening.

The Great Humbling S3E6: ‘Small yourself up!’

Dougald references a long essay by David Cayley, ‘Gaia and the path of the Earth’ and Bruno Latour’s book, Facing Gaia, contradictions ‘must be endured and sustained, not resolved or overcome’ and Vanessa Andreotti on ‘layering’

Ed talks about his first paddle upstream from the Mill and introduces this week’s instruction:  ‘Small yourself up’?! via Jamaican buses and Antarctica.

Dougald talks about the privilege of taking up space, whether that’s man-spreading on the tube or being quick to jump in and say whatever comes to your mind in a meeting.

Ed refers to the Findhorn New Story Summit  and how the over eager crowd were encouraged to self-police their own contributions by asking themselves whether they would add more to the gathering than a moment of powerful collective shared silence.

Dougald talks about the app ‘Is A Dude Talking?’ and how if you put this podcast through the Is A Dude Talking? app, the answer is 100% yes.

Ed discusses how looking or feeling small is usually associated with humiliation, insignificance or stupidity but how the proverbial roots of ‘small’ often work the other way. Bringing in E.F.Schumacher’s ‘Small is Beautiful’.

Dougald introduces something the Belgian philosopher Isabelle Stengers says, about making the case for slowing down and the 1905 San Francisco streetcar footage, used as a music video by Air for La Femme d’Argent and how Illich talks about “the speed-stunned imagination.

Ed wonders whether the pandemic and the reclamation of road space for outdoor and al fresco hospitality and physically distanced mobility might actually help us tune back in to our speed-stunned imaginations and reconnect with Illich’s sense of human scale streetscape conviviality?

Dougald goes back to Alan Lane from Slung Low Theatre and a post of his from the autumn, on whether it’s the job of arts organisations to be running food banks.

Dougald quotes a line from the political theorist Jodi Dean – ‘Goldman Sachs doesn’t care if you raise chickens’ – and Chris Smaje’s book A Small Farm Future, and the artist Jeanne van Heeswijk – working at ground-level, at the human scale, in the communities where they find themselves.

Dougald talks about an invitation from the composer Lola Perrin’s live-streamed reading marathon to coincide with the hearing where the UK government is seeking to jail the barrister Tim Crosland who deliberately broke the embargo on the announcement of Heathrow Airport Limited’s successful appeal to give the go-ahead for a third runway. And the readings he chose – a short passage from Tyson Yunkaporta’s Sand Talk where he’s writing about Aboriginal law and one of his favourite poems that’s ever been in Dark Mountain, Cate Chapman’s Protest Poem.

When we think and talk big, it’s easy for that bigness to be a refuge from the fragility of being embodied creatures with fist-sized, fist-shaped hearts that beat for a while – John Berger’s Bento’s Sketchbook and ‘the disturbance of distances’

The Great Humbling S3E5: ‘See Double!’

Dougald realises how his work these days has come to orbit around the future and discovers he’s accidentally became a futurist

Ed shares his journey to accidental, reluctant, futurism

Then Dougald introduces this week’s instruction is ‘See Double!’

Ed talks about Double Vision or Diplopia – the simultaneous perception of two images of a single object that may be displaced horizontally, vertically, diagonally – both vertically and horizontally and how its often voluntary.

Ed references Thundercats ‘Sword of Omens’! ‘Give me sight beyond sight!’ (a first for the podcast) and the 2002 movie ‘Double Vision’ about a serial killer who impregnates victims with a black fungus that causes hallucinations, compelling them to kill themselves (don’t do these kind of shrooms!)…based on a Taoist belief that to become a ‘Xian’ (enlightened immortal) one must endure the 5 sufferings…

Frigid Hell, Fire Hell, Disembowelment Hell, Heart-Extracting Hell, and Tongue-Removal Hell

Diplopia can also be one of the first signs of a systemic disease, particularly to a muscular or neurological process, and it may disrupt a person’s balance, movement, or reading abilities. Is our double vision a systemic disease?!

Erasmus derived proverb ‘In the kingdom of the blind the one eyed man is King’ 

Ed talks about one-eyed Norse God Odin and his exchange of an eye for knowledge and wisdom, and he huge symbolism around perception

Dougald quotes from William Blake:

Now I a fourfold vision see

And a fourfold vision is given to me;

Tis fourfold in my supreme delight

And threefold in soft Beulahs night

And twofold Always. May God us keep

From Single vision and Newtons sleep!

And the layered account of consciousness, described well by Philip Pullman

Dougald describes the warning in the poem against a flat rationalism, an approach to the world which Blake clearly identifies with the emergence of what we think of as modern science, the figure of Isaac Newton – and the point is not to deny that the ways of seeing we associate with science have a place – it’s that to allow this way of seeing to represent the full truth of the world is dangerous and mistaken

Ed mentions Merlin Sheldrake’s work in ‘Do Shrooms’ which echoes the same point

Dougald quotes what John Berger said of Jay Griffiths – ‘Reality is such that both language and imagination have to exaggerate, in order to confront it truly’ and tells a great story of Jay at the first Dark Mountain festival

Ed talks about the dual tension between different strains of what, for want of a better word, we might call activism, and how the behaviour change versus system change battle still rages

Dougald brings in economic historian Karl Polanyi and his ideas of ‘disembedding’ and ‘the double movement’ and how ‘laissez-faire was planned’ The Great Transformation

How do we not feel like fools, for believing that there’s any possibility of things turning out differently?

And the answer is perhaps the double movement – to say, it’s possible that we have at least two trajectories) that coexist, that are moving in quite different directions, and it’s not that one of them is real and the other isn’t, it’s that there’s no way of seeing from here how the interaction between them turns out or which turns out to be the more significant

‘Seeing double’, being able to attend to very different possibilities unfolding and coexisting over time, without the reality of one trajectory having to eclipse the other – it’s a way of holding things open, retaining the possibility of surprise

Ed talks about the MDGs, SDGs, Good Life Goals and Inner Development Goals:, Matthew Taylor’s Reformism vs Radicalism hypothesis is another of these false binaries, misleading polarities and how a former senior Futerra colleague attacked him for his involvement with XR, saying Extinction Rebellion wasn’t very ‘on brand’

Dougald touches on Hospicing Modernity and a social cartography that maps out Soft Reform, Radical Reform and Beyond Reform.

Ed talks about ‘insultancy’ and concludes with a verse from Robert Frost – Two Tramps In Mud Time

But yield who will to their separation,
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For heaven and the future’s sakes.

The Great Humbling S3E4: ‘Do shrooms!’

Dougald shares Lucille Clifton’s poem ‘Blessing the boats’

And this week’s instruction is – ‘Do Shrooms!’

Ed introduces one of the inspirations for the episode Merlin Sheldrake’s book, ‘Entangled Life – How fungi make our worlds, change our minds and shape our futures’

Dougald talks about his fly agaric birthday cake. For his fifth birthday.

And then references Alan Garner’s book Strandloper and a collection of talks and essays called The Voice That Thunders before sharing the story of how he knows and first met the author.

Ed does his etymology thing relating how pioneering psychiatrist Humphrey Osmond asked Aldous Huxley in 1956 to suggest a word to describe the therapeutic use of hallucinogens, Huxley proposed ‘phanerothyme’ – from Greek for ‘manifest’ and ‘spirit’, writing…

“To make this mundane world sublime,

Take half a gram of phanerothyme”

To which Osmond replied:

“To fathom Hell or soar angelic,

Just take a pinch of psychedelic”

Psychedelics…Greek ‘mind manifesting’ or ‘soul revealing’

‘Entheogens’ – from the Greek ‘to be made full of the divine’ – a term coined in 1979 by a group of mythologists and ethnobotanists

Ed introduces Michael Pollan’s ‘How to change your mind’…

And mentions the John Hopkins Psilocybin Spotify playlist: curated by researchers to accompany the experiences of their subjects in their research on treating severe depression

We talk about David Abram and sleight of hand magic – how it confounded expectations, ends up sharpening senses – seeing the world as it actually is, not how we expect it to be!

‘Could it be there is another ground on which to plant our feet?’

Relaxing the ego’s trigger-happy command of reactions to people and events. Freed from its tyranny, maddening reflexivity and pinched conception of one’s self-interest – into an ability to exist amid doubts and mysteries without automatically, instinctively reaching for certainty…

Transcend our subjectivity – to widen its circle so far that it takes in everything – ourselves, others and the whole of nature…

Dougald talks about Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing’s book The Mushroom at the End of the World

Ed talks about his personal experiences…from picking mushrooms on the military firing ranges in the Brecon Beacons, to the sublime and the ridiculous

Dougald recalls meeting Vinay Gupta for the first time who asked ‘you’ve done a lot of acid, haven’t you?’

We speculate about whether mushrooms ‘have an agenda’

Dougald talks about his personal experience and references a fascinating essay by the philosopher Justin E. H. Smith about agrarian shamanism in early modern Europe:

Ed refers to Jonathan Haidt – American Social Psychologist’s ‘The Righteous Mind – Why good people disagree over politics and religion’ and the cultivation of the ‘hive mind’

Ed quotes David Graeber: “the ultimate, hidden truth of the world is that it is something that we make, and could just as easily make differently.”

Dougald concludes with ‘getting ‘far out’ is the easy part, it’s finding your way home that’s hard

The Great Humbling S3E3: ‘Be like water!’

Dougald talks about Campfire Convention 

Ed introduces this week’s ‘New Move’ instruction: Be Like Water

Dougald tells a story about meeting Cindy Crabb on a North Sea ferry and receiving her zine, later compiled as the Encyclopedia of Doris, a review at Zine Nation says ‘it’s not an overstatement to say that it’s one of the most important and influential fanzines ever written’ and his own zine ‘Learning How to Drown’

Ed talks about the etymology: Old English wæter (noun), of Germanic origin; related to Dutch water, German Wasser, from an Indo-European root shared by Russian voda (compare with vodka), also by Latin unda ‘wave’ and Greek hudōr ‘water’. Intriguing that the Russians have vodka/voda – like the Gaelic ‘Uisge beatha’ – ‘water of life’ for all our lyrical libations…

Ed acknowledges Bruce Lee…on ‘being like water’ and the Hong Kong protests.

Dougald brings in the Dao De Jing – and his old friend Charles Davies  who made a version of it called ‘I thought I was on the way to work, but I was on the way home’ – his version of chapter eight starts like this:

water knows the way.

it can flow anywhere without trying

and it gives life to everything.

it ends up in the lowest places

and brings them life

Ed quotes the poet Mary Oliver…

“It is the nature of stone to be satisfied. It is the nature of water to want to be somewhere else.”

Dougald goes deep into Taoism with the artist and tai chi teacher Caroline Ross:

“in Taoism water can signify both ‘the highest good’ and ‘danger’. It can signify the exemplary method of non-contention and also the treachery and inescapability of boggy ground, an analogy for overthinking, dwelling on the mundane, or over-involvement in human affairs”

And mentions the madness of the internet and Swedish dramatist Stina Oscarson’s need for ‘provprata’ – ‘test-speak’, to put a thought into words without being tied to it, try out how it sounds

Ed references the ‘dark forests’ beyond the ‘failed states’ of the major internet platforms

Dougald mentions Chinese science fiction author Liu Cixin’s answer to the Fermi paradox, and how silence is how you survive as well as a piece from Yancey Strickler

Ed brings us onto ‘Flow’ with Hungarian American professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

‘Flow’ is all about being ‘in the zone’ or ‘in the groove’ – a state of complete (and content) absorption, concentration and immersion, of intrinsic motivation, where the ego falls away, and thoughts follow seamlessly, musically on from one another – like jazz…

We discuss what being an ‘autotelic’ person is all about

Ed introduces Roger Deakin’s ‘Waterlog’.

“A swimming journey would give me access to that part of our world which, like darkness, mist, woods or high mountains, still retains most mystery. It would afford me a different perspective on the rest of land-locked humanity.”

Dougald references Vanessa Andreotti’s talk called ‘Existence Beyond the House that Modernity Built’:

The Great Humbling S3E2: ‘Move your ass!’

Let’s get ready to humble! This episode’s instruction is ‘Move Your Ass!’ and Dougald finds himself saying words that have literally never come out of his mouth

Dougald talks about finding a place to call HOME.

Ed talks about moving to a three hundred year old wooden Norfolk water Mill and horse skull floors.

As always we explore the etymology: ‘Move’ from Latin ‘movere’ (move, change, exchange, go in/out, quit) via the old French ‘moveir’….

Change of house or business
Go in a specified manner, change position
Make progress, develop in a particular way, maneouvre or plan
Influence or prompt to do something
Propose for discussion/resolution at a meeting
Empty your bowels (!)

Dougald discusses Felix Marquardt, The New Nomads: How the Migration Revolution is Making the World a Better Place and how we need something like an Alcoholics Anonymous for a whole culture, an admission of the depth of the mess we’re in, a surrender of our fantasy of control. And how elite responses are like having a fire brigade staffed by pyromaniacs!

Dougald quotes Martin Shaw: “Whatever myth has to articulate right now must include migration, peregrination and elucidation. There’s many cultures on the move; some elegantly, some not so much. Now I’ve written before about digging into a place, and I stand by it, but I’m not naive enough to presume we all have that luxury.”

Ed talks about Ai Wei Wei’s film ‘Human Flow’ (
And how the average time spent in a refugee camp is over a decade:

Dougald talks about spending a night in a beer hall in Tallinn with Kilian Kleinschmidt, who became somewhat famous for his role in running the Zaatari Camp in Jordan, one of the largest refugee camps for people escaping the war in Syria.

And Tobias Hubinette, a Swedish researcher on Sweden’s ‘anti-racist’ self-image and a text called ‘Swedish whiteness and Swedish racism’

“The melancholic crisis of Swedish whiteness… there is no way out from it other than some kind of a breakdown, which in practice means a psychic annihilation” 

Ed connects this to narrative, and the control of narrative. It’s been suggested that Boris Johnson had decreed that the story of racism in the UK be changed, and the Commission was essentially briefed to produce that outcome.

Dougald brings in Daniel Pinchbeck, psychedelic author, and a piece on Substack called ‘Life and Death in Tulum’

Ed quotes Somali poet Warsan Shire’s ‘Home’:

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well…

…no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here

So to ‘Move your ass!’ can be about survival. It can be about relocation. It can be about a shift in perspective, perception or position. It can be about metaphorically proposing a motion, or literally having one.

And perhaps ultimately it’s as much about moving your heart, as your ass?

The Great Humbling S3E1: ‘Keep it foolish!’

Welcome to series three of the Great Humbling – ‘New Moves’. And given that we’re returning on the 1st of April, which is obviously no accident, your first move is… Keep It Foolish!

 “A deliberately non-sensical parting farewell, popularised in the TV programme ‘Nathan Barley’. It approximately means ‘see you later’ and ‘don’t take life too seriously’.”

‘Totally Mexico! How the Nathan Barley nightmare came true’ by Andrew Harrison – 

We catch up on what we’ve both been up to…

Ed saving ‘The Locks Inn’, publishing his poetry collection ‘Songs of Love in Lockdown’ and his ‘other podcast’ Jon Richardson and the Futurenauts – ‘How to survive the future’

Dougald references John Paul Davis – Small Magic –

Dougald’s got a book just coming out with the glass artists Monica Guggisberg and Philip Baldwin, Walking in the Void, mentions an extract running on the Dark Mountain website and a new Homeward Bound course starting in early May

Dougald reading Vanessa’s book, Hospicing Modernity, which is coming out later this year

Dougald talks about Resmaa Menakem saying I don’t bring white bodies and black bodies together to do this kind of work on embodied trauma, because that’s not going to be a safe environment for the people with black bodies – Resmaa Menakem on the On Being podcast

‘Keep it foolish’, to be willing to see and sense and stay with your own ridiculousness

Ed talks about the origins of April Fool’s Day, Scotland’s ‘Huntigowk Day’ and the etymology of ‘Fool’ and explains why the Old Testament the word ‘fool’ is actually a crude translation of five different Hebrew words, which actually discern very different types of fool…

Dougald references Rilke – “I want to unfold. I don’t want to stay folded anywhere, because where I am folded , there I am a lie.”

The experience of feeling foolish, discovering your foolishness, being willing to own it – maybe it’s like a medical operation, having one of those lies removed, you’re more alive as a result

Dougald talks about Lydia Millet’s, A Children’s Bible: A Novel and how the parents in it are these smart people, successful in their own worlds, are fools once they stumble out of those niches…

Ed refers to “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself — and you are the easiest person to fool.” Richard Feynman

And then introduces Edward Docx ‘The Clown King: How Boris Johnson made it by playing the fool’: 

As Kierkegaard puts it: “There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” Johnson has accomplished both. 

Dougald talks about a fascinating essay by a man called Samo Burja who is a Long Now fellow and a founder of Bismarck Analysis, called ‘The End of Industrial Society’

“We have lost the implicit knowledge upon which our industrial systems functioned even as recently as a few decades ago. That knowledge cannot be regained absent the people who actually built and understood those systems.”

Ed talks about the tragic poetic image of the gargantuan cargo ship the ‘Ever Given’ and the paradox of the ‘Wise Fool’, Plato’s Cave, and the Socratic Paradox ‘I know that I know nothing’! The wisest of all fools?

Are we wise enough to play the fool? Or foolish enough to be played by one? 

Dougald concludes What if the only chance we have is to reveal our foolishness to ourselves and each other? The only possibility of stumbling into some as-yet-unimaginable future. Maybe it’s what I was trying to get at back in the early days of Dark Mountain: ‘stop pretending’

The Great Humbling S2E8: ‘State of Limbo’

We start with a reference to Kenny Rogers to ‘see what condition our condition is in?

Then in  the context of the US election this clip: from Professor Eddie Glaude of African American studies at Princeton

‘White Americans confronting the danger of their innocence’

Dougald talks about Alan Garner’s Boneland and what would it actually do to you as an adult to have been through the kind of things that happen to a child in a fantasy novel? 

Ed explores the etymology of ‘limbo’…

From the medieval latin ‘limbus’: hem, border…edge, boundary…(‘limen’ = threshold, ’liminal’…)

Dante’s ‘first circle of Hell’ for virtuous pagans (is that you and I Dougald?!) who inhabit a brightly lit and beautiful – but somber – castle which is seemingly a medieval version of Elysium, its the ‘lip of Hell’

An uncertain period of awaiting a decision or resolution; an intermediate state or condition

A state of neglect or oblivion

Dougald shares a review in the Economist of Rod Dreher’s new book, Live Not By Lies – that draws out something very interesting, that people from quite different places politically have in common a sense of a time to retreat.

And Gordon White of Rune Soup:

When I’m asked “what can we do?” I know the expected answer is something like “form a group of bloggers and express an opinion about ecological degradation that no one even remotely important will ever notice”. But the answer is that you are in a personal Rivendell Phase. From the perspective of culture and civility, you need to be the Last Homely House east of the Sea. However, with an emerging decentral opportunity, the stage is set for this to be literally true. You have the opportunity to literally create a local sphere of improvement -an Imladris or hidden valley.’

Along with Pat McCabe, Woman Stands Shining who posted:

I feel strangely calm. I spend almost no energy on national events. But then, this is evidence of my lineage, at least in recent generations. The deepest, destructive, machinations have been at work, all around us, without regard for what the human heart is wired to perceive as most precious and vital: children, elders, women, the honor of men. Also, without regard for the instinct to preserve what makes Life possible: Water, Air, Soil, Fire, all the other members of the Sacred Hoop of Life.

The initial shock and horror of this darkness moving over the land, and over the Way of Life, was borne by my great grandparents. It was further digested, like the plastics now lining the whales’ bellies, by my grandparents. And then by my parents, now “functional members of society,” of this mad, society. Until today, here I sit, with little concern over what monster is being constructed “over there” in their dark laboratory of numbed blindness, false power, and destitute wealth.

I only hold that I will be shown a way to move through it …This is how my forebears walked through the valley of the shadow of death, fearing no evil. For centuries. So, forgive me if I don’t show appropriate panic, or outrage, or fear. I am trauma-transcendent-evolved now. Holding the tenuous stream of possibility, a spider’s thread, looking to weave this web, into Life again. Whispering to my body, not necessarily designed for such tests of endurance, but still, an adaptagen to this Life, I whisper shhh… shhh… soon, soon, just a little further, a little bit further. Creator is watching, you will see…

Ed talks about Limbo dancing –  West Indian dance (from ‘limber’ – to bend) and how passing under the bar and then successfully raising your head is apparently symbolic of a spiritual transition, the triumph of death back into life… traditionally the bar started low and got higher to represent that transition from death to life and how its performed as a funeral dance 

He explores Haitian Voodoo spirit Papa Legba, a trickster deity, fond of riddles he is an ‘Ioa’ (intermediary between Bondye – the Good God – and the material world)…appears as an old man on a crutch or with a cane, wearing a broad-brimmed straw hat and smoking a pipe, or drinking sparkling water, he stands at the spiritual crossroads, a gatekeeper, and either gives (or denies) permission to speak to the spirit world…he is known as the ‘Great Elocutioner’, speaks every human language – facilitating communication, speech and understanding…he walk with a limp because he walk in two worlds at once, the spirit and the living, the certain and the UNCERTAIN

Blues musician Robert Johnson sold his soul to a ‘Mr Legba’ (often confused with the Christian ‘Devil’) in exchange for his musical talents…

And returns to the story of The Locks Inn – Pub of the Long Now…saved from limbo and the return of dwile-flonking… 

Dougald shares another chain of synchronicities inspired by a Rune Soup post, a magical trip to a place called Tangdimma in Tasmania, a place where the veil is thin and an encounter on a walk about learning to trust the synchronicities, learning to listen to the places

Ed talks about ‘Legal limbo’ – irregular migrants caught in a state without being removed, or being granted ‘refugee status’ and thus being deprived of basic rights…

Limbo in the film ‘Inception’ – an infinite space of raw consciousness, revealed as an endless ocean. A shared dream space where any dreamer can make drastic and dramatic alterations to the dream. Caution as when in limbo, you can forget you’re in limbo and be unable to wake up…and become ‘lost in limbo’

How does ‘state of limbo’ reflect on our other ‘altered states’? Alert, Grace, Panic, Tension, Anger, Play, Jeopardy?

Perhaps amongst all those states a state of limbo is not unattractive? A space at the edge? A foot in both worlds? A place beyond polarised tribalism? A space of uncertainty but also possibility? 

There’s learning in limbo…but you don’t want to stay there forever…

Dougald talks about Emma Wallace and her Refugi – ‘a deep adaptation mountain monastery for holy rebels, sacred fools and radical artists’ in the Cathar Mountains of the Pyrenees – a historical hotbed of heresy

How it’s a kind of monasticism that he feels more at home withand how he and Anna and have found a place to call HOME – a house that can accommodate a school – Östervåla and another chain of weird synchronicities.

How to make your own Rivendell, your own ‘homely house’ – not as a cold, mountainous detachment from the world, but as a seedbed, one small pocket among many pockets that might just join together

And shares the extraordinary Cryptic Northern Refugia story

Which inspires Ed to quote from the film ‘My Dinner with Andre’

And Dougald concludes Season 2 “It is very dark: but there’s usually light enough for the next step or so.”