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.”

The Great Humbling S2E7: ‘State of Jeopardy’

In the week before the US election we finally do an episode where we talk about American politics and how it fits into this larger conversation about what it means if we’re living in a time of great humbling.

‘Jeopardy’ was originally used in the 14th century in chess and other games to denote a problem, or a position in which the chances of winning or losing were evenly balanced. It’ss the exposure to or imminence of death, loss, or injury. The danger that an accused person is subjected to when on trial for a criminal offense…

We reminisce about 2016, the Brexit vote, Trump, being ‘election junkies’ and where we were when we were ‘up for Portillo’. 

Dougald talks about Anthony Barnett & Adam Ramsay piece at openDemocracy – ‘Behind Trump’s lies is a hard truth about the US – and under Biden’s truths is a lie.’ And Ta-Nehisi Coates’ related argument a year or so after Trump’s election in ‘The First White President’ – what defines Trump’s voters isn’t that they are downtrodden, but that they are white.

Followed up with an extraordinary blog by Anne Amnesia, The Unnecessariat –

“From where I live, the world has drifted away. We aren’t precarious, we’re unnecessary. The money has gone to the top. The wages have gone to the top. The recovery has gone to the top. And what’s worst of all, everybody who matters seems basically pretty okay with that.”

Dougald talks about ‘when the maps run out’ his letter from three days after the 2016 election – 

Ed shares the post he wrote at the same time:

Dougald refers to a piece he wrote called ‘Is there hope?’ – 

Ed talks about the ‘embodiment’ he experienced at the Findhorn New Story Summit, and on a ‘Mundis Imaginalis’ course at Schumacher

Dougald references Vanessa Andreotti talking about Bolsonaro in Dec 2018 – “a lot depends on whether people feel that the promises [of modernity] were broken, or whether they see that these were false promises all along”

Ed asks How’s your jeopardy Umair Haque? “Our Civilization is Now Reaching an Omega Point — the Point of Irreversible Collapse” 

And we wrap up with some pontifications and an inevitable prediction…

The Great Humbling S2E6: ‘State of Play’

Do grown-ups play? What’s been playing on our minds this week?

Ed talks about the House of Beautiful Business – ‘The Great Wave’, hislove letter to the ocean ( and ‘Wild Solo’…and their playful silent hour farewell…the embodiment of playfulness…mime, secret notes, hugs, smiling with your eyes…  

Dougald talks about Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane, a children’s book for grown-ups and Gaiman’s lecture ‘What the [very bad swearword] is a children’s book anyway?’ and Robert Westall (The Wind Eye, Urn Burial)

Is there something that’s gone missing from our ways of being grown-up, a thread that we drop from childhood? 

Ed outlines the etymology: Old English pleg(i)an ‘to exercise’, plega ‘brisk movement’, related to Middle Dutch pleien ‘leap for joy, dance’. Proto-West Germanic *plehan (“to care about, be concerned with”) and Proto-West Germanic *plegōn (“to engage, move”). Old English plēon (“to risk, endanger”)‘State of Play’ is peculiarly British (and actually usually implies precisely the opposite!) and ‘To be played’…to have a joke, or trick played upon you…

Play appears to provide its own reward, involves breaking rules,  having fun while doing so…

It requires us to be open, vulnerable, loose, present…you have to ‘let yourself out to play, recognise the opportunity and have the courage to take it

Permission to act, lose control in public, play the fool, let the inner humour radiate out? It’s all about the FUN. Abandoning so called competence, norms and self-importance. SILLINESS. Laughing at yourself, even in discomfort

And it can be DANGEROUS!

Dougald outlines the connection between play and work – Edward Deci’s psychology research on ‘intrinsic motivation’, the ‘Fatima’s next job could be in cyber’ advert and Emma Wallace’s description of the different response to ‘Artist’ and ‘Monk’ as answers to the question ‘What do you do?’ and his own essay ‘Childish Things’ and ‘Reading Ekstasis’ by the poet Gale Marie Thompson 

Ed describes the incredible Jonathan Kay – the ‘Theatre of Immediacy’ and the ‘Nomadic Academy of Fools’ Unknowable. Unpredictable. Unbelievable! “The act of “Thinking” is improvisational theatre’s most immediate and persistent assassin”. “A Fool’s job is to frighten people, it’s to encourage danger. It’s to whistle while you’re taking people to the cliff edge”

Dougald introduce Keith Johnstone, improv genius – didn’t develop his techniques as a specialist performance skill, but working with ‘unteachable’ kids – in Impro he writes about recovering from the lessons his schooling had taught him

Ed teases in Tyson Yunkaporta on education – Prussia story, ‘manufactured adolescence and domestication of the people’ (outrageous – ‘the most ludicrous, incendiary rant that has ever fallen from my lips’! – but provocative and fun) and a rant from American writer David Bowles on how education as we know it is barely 100 years old. Our understanding of how learning happens is like astronomy 2000 years ago. Most classroom practice is astrology…we’re breaking their souls!

Dougald shares how Ivan Illich makes the (consciously outrageous) analogy between the good teacher in the schooling system and Oskar Schindler during the Holocaust in ‘The Educational Enterprise in the Light of the Gospel’

Ed talks about You me bum bum train/Punchdrunk examples of ‘letting go’/immersion…ecstasy, and Tom Morley’s virtual team-building madness: 

Dougald shares what he learned about the Hindu understanding of ‘lila’, the ‘divine play’ that is the fabric of everything. 

Ed asks Do animals play?’ (

Myth: animals play to prepare for adulthood…turns out that’s bollocks! 

Dougald writes about ‘improvisation’ and our relationship to the past in ‘Remember the Future’

And Ed notes Martin Shaw’s insertion of contemporary cultural references into ancient myths before mentioning Antanas Mockus, former Mayor of Bogota and his playful approach to urban government. 

We end on Kurt Vonnegut: “We are here on Earth to fart around. Don’t let anybody tell you any different.” 

The Great Humbling S2E5: ‘State of Anger’

“If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention” 

Dougald pays to get emails from a very angry man – Mic Wright’s Substack, Conquest of the Useless (which he picked up via Chris T-T’s The Border Crossing newsletter)

Ed shares his  ‘Twitter Hate-storm’ story! ( From the hottest day ever recorded in the UK – 38.7 degrees in July 2019 and worryingly there’s something of a fairly linear relationship between rising temperatures and rising anger (and violence Ref: – increased aggression, heightened threat perception, raised hostility and escalating violence)

Dougald references John Michael Greer’s ‘Hate is the New Sex’, comparing the treatment of hate as an emotion to the treatment of sex in the 19th C:

“If you want to slap the worst imaginable label on an organization, you call it a hate group. If you want to push a category of discourse straight into the realm of the utterly unacceptable, you call it hate speech. If you’re speaking in public and you want to be sure that everyone in the crowd will beam approval at you, all you have to do is denounce hate.”

Ed refers to the ‘Anger Iceberg’ where anger is the visible reaction, but beneath the surface are potentially many other feelings of being afraid, attacked, offended, disrespected, forced, trapped, or pressured.

Dougald recalls the impact Soil and Soul made on him at 25 – you could be driven by anger and full of life at 19 or 25, but it was a lot rarer to meet people who had that combination at 39 or 45. Alastair MacIntosh’s essay for the first issue of Dark Mountain – activist anger has its roots in unresolved issues with our own parents! 

Ed:  ‘Anger is an energy’. But the idioms around anger show how it can easily get out of hand…

‘Up in arms’ (literally!), blow a fuse/gasket/top, come down on someone like a ton of bricks, go ballistic, gloves off, haul over the coals, jump down someone’s throat, vent spleen (Medieval belief that the spleen was the source of anger)…there’s a lot of violence in the imagery…

When the red mist descends, which seems eerily reminiscent of the skies over the San Francisco Bay Area during fire season…And then of course there’s the blindness – blind rage, fury – unsighted, uncontrollable, an eye for an eye, Old testament vengeance..

Interestingly in the context of the secondary emotion aspect we touched on earlier ‘Anger’ actually comes from the Old Norse ‘angr’ meaning ‘grief’ or ‘vex’…comes from pain

Which is why anger management is all about recognising the underlying feelings behind the anger, the injustice, the threat, the sense of outrage and upset, and responding to those in a way that isn’t just about boiling away in your own vitriol…

As Aristotle said: “Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy”

Dougald cites Neil Philip’s book about Alan Garner – A Fine Anger, and Rowan Williams’s book Lost Icons: Reflections on Cultural Bereavement has a similar quality of refined anger to it.

Interesting about those meanings of ‘angr’ in Old Norse – it’s actually there in Swedish today, ‘att ångra sig’ is to change your mind, to regret

Hugh Brody writes about the Inuit approach to anger in The Other Side of Eden

Cate Chapman’s new essay, Sick – a wonderful poet, a Dark Mountain editor – writing about her journey with chronic illness over the past few years – if anyone has the right to be angry, it’s someone whose life (as a dedicated activist) is interrupted unfairly in her early thirties by a mysterious and debilitating condition – and she writes about this honestly, without smoothing over the edges of what she has to say, and she draws the connections to the chronic illness of our culture, and the chronic illness of a planet 

We can’t afford not to get angry – and we can’t afford to stay angry, to get stuck there

Ed talks about how Cate quotes from Alistair McIntosh’s Soil and Soul where he says, …”no place is more sacred, no peoples more worthy of honour, than those that have made beauty blossom anew out of desecration” where she responds “This work of beauty-making can take place in many contexts, both with and without an audience, praise, recognition; with and without far-reaching impacts.”

How to feel the anger. Recognise it. Respect it. Understand it’s origins. But then express it differently perhaps?

Sarah Corbett’s beautiful and profound ‘Craftivist’ work – “If we want our world to be more beautiful, kind and fair, shouldn’t our activism be more beautiful, kind and fair?” ( and the work they did together on ‘Mini-Fashion Statements’ – tiny hand-written scrolls with messages on them around ethical fashion, tied with a ribbon and secreted into the clothing pockets of friends, colleagues or in clothes in shops…to be discovered and inspire curiosity, thought and action around beauty beyond the garment… 

Dougald talks about a text from Vanessa Andreotti and Elwood Jimmy – a booklet that comes out of the painful experience of when things go wrong between a Canadian arts organisation that wants to “indigenise” and/or “decolonise” and hires an Indigenous person and it all goes predictably wrong because they don’t realise the depth of what they’re dealing with here and the organisation feels let down and the Indigenous person feels scapegoating

And it’s so obviously a situation in which there is anger and there is legitimate grounds for anger and it’s definitely not six-of-one-half-a-dozen of the other – but the question is what do you do next? And the ultimate aim is that we find ways to make new mistakes, rather than repeating old ones.

Ed says seeing this quote, after last week’s ‘State of Tension’ episode made him a little angry:

“if you’re losing hope, then you’re not doing enough. Activism is an act of hope. Hope is a discipline. And we can do this because we are here to create the future we want. ” 

 Mark Ruffalo

Dougald refers to the amazing Emma Wallace – about picking up hitchhikers and trying on different identities, different answers to the “so what do you do?” question (gardener, architect, accountant, doctor, teacher, carpenter, nurse), and how she quickly found that one answer generated a stronger response than others – “artist” – she says she’d see a life force in people, and then a money/fame force “have I heard of you?” “so do you sell lots of paintings?” and then a kind of bitterness 

“With my Monk hat on people tell me their deepest secrets. That most of them want to be a work of art. With my Artist hat on, people can get very sad and angry and unkind, primarily because they want to be a work of art and think they can’t be and like jealous people in pain they are mean to the artist in us all.”

We finish on a classic piece of McSweeney’s riffing by John K. Peck on the slightly hoary old adage about the ‘Two wolves inside of you’: I spotted this courtesy of Tom Hirons of Hedgspoken Press and ‘Sometimes a Wild God’ infamy… 

“There are two wolves inside you,” said the old man. “They are fighting to the death. One is anger, one is love.”

“Which one will win?” said the boy.

“Whichever one you feed,” said the old man.

“There are two wolves inside you,” said the old man.

“You cannot withstand the storm,” said the devil.

“Try to avoid mixing metaphors,” said the English teacher.

“I am the storm,” said the wolf, before throwing its head back and howling at the single, unblinking eye of the moon.


There is one wolf inside you.

“Was it truly a victory if my opponent was undernourished?” asks the wolf.

“Do you consider it a victory?” replies the therapist.

“I guess? I mean, law of the jungle and all. Still, something about it seems wrong,” says the wolf.

“That’s all we have time for this week,” says the therapist.

The wolf, overcome with rage at the unceasing flow of time, throws its head back and howls [once again] at the single, unblinking eye of the moon.