There are several crucial relationships we sustain in life, from the relationship we have with ourselves as individuals to the one we have as a collective with the planet. But the one I want to focus on today is the one you have with the person who stays with you no matter how hard the wind blows. Your partner, husband, friend, colleague, compadre, the one who walks beside you, who feels they have always been with you, without whom you could not make this passage through life.
Here is a picture of my fellow voyager and Transtioner, Mark Watson at the beginning of our travelling years. It's in Guatemala, 1991. We have just left our old lives behind. We have left family, friends, given up our work, sold everything we own and gone on the road. We are writing a book together. The town is beautiful, the sun is shining, the houses are painted in the colours of the rainbow, but our inner worlds are in turmoil, as all kinds of monsters, lurking beneath the facade of the life we once knew, are now coming up for transformation.
We are realising that this journey we have undertaken is as much about the inner world as it is the outer. As we wake up in Central America we find ourselves battling with the history stored in our bodies and dreams, with class and sexuality, with our ancestors and relations, with the Irish famine, with the Victorian workhouse, with the silent wars of our grandparents, with our own childhoods, with past lovers and school bullies, with the archetypes of Mummy and Daddy, god and goddess, with the karma of generations. We are working these things out in a country that is just coming out of the horrors imposed on it by an imperialist shock doctrine. We don't know about that history yet, though we can feel its invisible legacy, as we sit facing one another with the volcanoes all around us.
Many modern relationships are unsustainable. High maintenance, fragile, hierarchical, about power and profit and pleasure. Making sure that the people near you give you what you desire - parents, partners, children - worrying about what your neighbours and colleagues think. Making sure you don't encounter the pain of your inner worlds and compensating for a lack of connection to the earth with possessions and holidays and distractions.
It's not anyone's fault. It's how we have been brought up in an individualist Empire which trains us to be heartless and competitive, to battle with our wills and egos and to escape into our minds. We are not brought up to be our own true beings, governed by our hearts, in synch with the living systems, in relationship with all creatures, all plants, all peoples. We confuse control and fantasy with love. It wasn't until I left the city and my native land that I realised I was a very different person than my family and my friends wanted me to be and that my whole life up to that point (I was 35) was hemmed in by those contracts. It was a kind of gaolbreak Mark and I were attempting in Guatemala.
Why am I writing about something that began in a faraway country between two people 20 years ago ? Because in Transition we need to be different kinds of human beings to weather the storm that is coming. To be honest a blog post is way too small a space to describe the complex untanglings that release us from the constricting, conventional moulds society puts us in. It's not about washing up (or washing up liquid - those "green" matters that divide modern households), or romance or even psychology, it's a lifework you decide to undertake together, in the same spirit you join Transition.
We need to know how to work together, and having unsustainable relationships where we go unconscious and act out the hostile, undealt-with parts of ourselves, hinders (and sometimes destroys) that kind of fellowship. We need to learn to live in relationship with all beings, as initiatives and communities, and foster the kind of relationships where we are free to be ourselves and at the same time fully aware of the other people in the room. Not as projections to suit ourselves and our ideals, but as fellows without whom you cannot make it through the night. To be aware that we are, all of us, changing the inner structure of ourselves, as much as we are our use of energy or water. Powering down those archetypes of empire inside us, as we come to meet each other in completely new configurations.
If we are lucky we have a partner we can do this work with. If we are lucky we have enough time and space to go deep into what it really means for men and women, of all cultures and upbringings, to forge a harmony between them. To turn the legacy of darkness we carry inside into light and warmth. But many of us do not. Some of us have partners and families and friends who do not see it our way at all and contradict our every move. Equally some of us now find ourselves amongst people who feel kin to us in ways we find hard to describe.
Many times I have felt like leaving Transition, flouncing off in the way I used to with lovers (how dare they speak to me/treat me like that!) but every time I have stayed. I would have kept travelling forever if I could, remained in the country (like Chris) that I loved more than my own.
But history is demanding something more from me, from all of us. It's demanding a return. And those of us who know that, deep inside the core of ourselves, need to hold to that feeling, as we turn to swim against the flow, like the salmon returning to the source of his origin. We need to know we are not alone in our endeavours, we are not alone in our houses, in our small neighbourhoods. That each of us carries a piece of the future inside our hearts, the colour of the rainbow. What powers us is not fossil fuel or hatred, ambition or prize, but the one thing that will turn the world around, that turns everything around at the breaking point, as the darkness closes in. It turned our relationship around as it hit the rocks in Guatemala, at the point we realised we were in it for the long haul and would never make it till dawn unless we made a vital opening move.
Your heart holds the key to my liberation.
Transition only happens because of you. Because of us.
Mark in Antigua, Guatemala, 1991; myself in the same town and year; later in conversation, Merida, Mexico; with Karen and Mark in New York, 1992; social reporters in Finsbury Park, 2012; with this Low Carbon Life crew, Norwich, 2011
From topic week on Relationships in Transition