Sunday, February 19, 2017

What is a Druid?

I am currently reading The Rebirth of Druidry by Philip Carr-Gomm, and read this passage in the preface which really spoke to me:
A Welsh triad lists the responsibilities of a Bard that might give us some insight:
'The duties of a Bard are to study and acquire knowledge; teach others; make peace and put an end to all suffering. To do otherwise is unbecoming of a Bard.'
The Druid tradition, shaped by a fierce sense of social consciousness, has always championed these three charges. As students, philosophers, historians, and keepers of the folk memory, Druids and Bards were and are the intellectually curious people of their times. I love the controversy over whether Druids studied with Pythagoras or Pythagoras studied with Druids. I hope we never resolve it. Nor, for that matter, the intriguing suggestion that some aspects of Druidry might have come from Buddhism or that Jesus may have studied with Druids in Glastonbury! What these controversies tell us is that Druids have always been in the mainstream of human thought and culture. They were never isolated in Celtic or proto-Celtic ghettoes wallowing in their purely Celtic obsessions.

Indeed, the Celts themselves lived on the main roads and riverways of Old Europe, and engaged in farflung trades of iron, salt, tools, jewellery, weapons and, we may assume, ideas: stories, songs and riddles. Whitman not withstanding, Druids have never been solely solitary nor savage (except perhaps in their equally strong need for the wildness of nature). Druids were in the thick of their communities, they were the backbone of their cultures. They studied, learned, acquired wisdom and taught others, including kings and chieftains. The essays in this book are part of that long, noble tradition.
This passage speaks to me because it conjures up an archetype to which I aspire.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Host Your Own Cascadia Guild Meeting

I know that there are a number of people who are intrigued by the ideas I have been discussing here, yet who live too far from Edmonds to have made the trip to be at our first meeting. If you are reading this and fall into this category, I would encourage you to instigate a get-together in your area. The beauty of this is that it really isn't very hard, and to make it even easier, I will provide you the Cascadia Guild Meeting Instigator's Handbook. The entirety of the handbook is as follows:

1) Identify an appropriate venue. This could be the public meeting room at a library (most libraries provide these for free); a room at a community center (nominal fee may be attached); a bar or coffee shop (check out ahead of time that it will be not too noisy - I fell short a bit on this point at our meeting); or other easily identifiable public space.

2) Pick a date and time.

3) Advertise it. Most of the response I received was via advertisements I posted on The Archdruid Report, but also think about emailing people you know who are interested in causes like this, posting on other peak oil or deindustrialization related blogs. Be creative and get the word out.

And then show up. For initial meetings, no agenda is required; I am of the opinion that it is better to start off with an opportunity to meet people, find common interests, and identify things that we may want to work on together. Agendas, organization, and structure can come a bit later in the process.

One final lesson learned from our meeting Tuesday: If you have your meeting in a public venue like a bar, restaurant, or coffee shop, bring a centerpiece, or other identifying marker, as many of your attendees may have no idea who else will be there or what they look like. We learned the hard way of this necessity.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Cascadia Guild's First Meeting

The first get-together of The Cascadia Guild happened yesterday evening. There were nine of us in attendance. I took some notes, but nothing resembling meeting minutes, so this post and several to follow will mostly be summaries and ideas that were triggered by the discussions. Also, since this group doesn't have any formal existence to speak of, everything I write here can only be characterized as my impressions, and not as a coherent group policy or position.

That all being said, here are what seemed to be the most important things to come out of the meeting.

1) An awful lot of the Archdruid's readership does not often get a chance to meet with others who are interested in or engaged with the subjects that ADR likes to tackle, so just having a group to discuss these ideas seemed important to many of the attendees.

2) The majority of the attendees are already making concrete efforts to actually do things in response to the dilemmas posed by peak oil, resource depletion, and the long descent, and everybody that was there seems genuinely to want to do concrete things in response to these issues. In particular, the  idea of "collapsing now and avoiding the rush" is something that many seem to be taking to heart. This is very heartening for me.

3) I composed a list of things that people who attended seemed to want to develop, and which a group or network of like minded people could help with. These are, in no particular order:
  • Developing skills appropriate for a collapsing world, and even more importantly, finding students who would like to learn the skills and teach them what we have learned.
  • Developing trade/barter/gift economy relationships and generally exploring how to demonetize to the maximum extent possible.
  • Creating demonstration projects that will help us identify areas in which we still have more dependence on the industrial economy and/or current economic arrangements.
  • From this, we can identify and fix (or at least plan for workarounds of) vulnerabilities that we as individuals and as communities. Vulnerabilities, in this instance, are defined as things that are dependent on large, complex, and/or energy intensive economic or social systems and which are therefore more vulnerable to collapse or disruption.
  • Have a place where we can discuss with others who are interested any of these sorts of issues.
I will be writing more in future posts and expanding on some of these ideas. In the meantime, feel free to add your thoughts in the comments, and if you were unable to attend yesterday's meeting, please feel free to instigate your own meeting in your own town or city, and I will definitely help advertise it for you.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

About the Cascadia Guild

Currently, The Cascadia Guild is mostly just an idea. The idea is that it will be a society of those who can see the road that industrial civilization is heading down and want to do something constructive that, while it will not prevent the unraveling of our current civilization, will preserve some things of value from our culture and lay the groundwork for a rebirth of successor cultures and civilizations.

The work of The Cascadia Guild would be broken up into two broad areas, with a number of subordinate disciplines in each. These are:
  •  Craft Guilds
    • Organic Gardening
    • Solar Thermal Technology
    • Sustainable Forestry
    • Sustainable Health Care
    • Letterpress Printing
    • Electronics-free Mathematics
    • Sailing and Navigation
  • Arts Guilds
    • Performing Arts
    • Visual and Decorative Arts
    • Literary Arts
The original inspiration for the Craft Guilds was from John Michael Greer's post, Seven Sustainable Technologies, and I basically took that idea and ran with it (with a few modifications). The original inspiration for the Arts Guilds is The Dark Mountain Project, which is dedicated the idea that writing and art have a critical role to play in shaping our cultural response to the reality of our converging crises. The Arts Guilds differ from that project in two ways: first, The Dark Mountain Project is primarily a literary project, and I want to expand that to include a wider variety of artists; second, the other role I see for the Arts Guilds is to nurture a regional cultural identity distinct from that of our larger industrial civilization.

The Cascadia Guild has a regional name, and that is not an accident. Although many of these subject areas are relevant beyond the confines of Cascadia, one goal I have is to emphasize local and regional applicability of these various disciplines.

I envision The Cascadia Guild primarily as a network of practitioners in these various ideas. This blog, for now, can serve as a common meeting ground, but the actual work of the Guild is in actually learning about and participating in these areas. One of the main things I hope to see posted here is information about ways people can actually become involved in and participate in making these areas into living practices.

I personally am particularly interested and have some knowledge in the areas of Sailing and Navigation and in the Literary Arts (in my case, writing), and I will be posting primarily on those subjects. I am looking for others who would like to post about areas of their expertise as well.

As I mentioned, The Cascadia Guild at this point is mostly an idea. Bringing this idea to life will require the participation of others. I hope there are some out there who are interested.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Hymn: Ode to Joy

Beethoven's Ninth Symphony is one of the crowning achievements of western classical music. Part of the last movement was adapted as a hymn that is still quite popular in churches even today. On Sunday's service at my church, we sang this hymn, and I was inspired to adapt the lyrics to more closely reflect my religious sensibilities (and to get rid of anachronistic language, such as "thee"). Here is the result.
Joyful, joyful, we proclaim you Lord of Life and fount of love,
hearts unfold like flowers before you, opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of shame and sadness, drive our fear and doubt away;
giver of our vital gladness, fill us with the light of day.

You are giving and creating, ever blessing, ever blest,
well-spring of the joy of living, mother of all healing rest!
Field and forest, vale and mountain, flowery meadow, flashing sea,
chanting bird and flowing fountain, call us to your jubilee.

Humans join the happy chorus; stars of morning take your part;
grace divine is reigning o'er us, telling us of wisdom's art.
Ever singing, move we onward, making peace in place of strife
joyful music leads us sunward in the glorious song of life.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Book Review: Let Us Be Human by Sam Charles Norton

This is a repost of a book review that I wrote several years ago.

A few years ago, I led a study with an adult Sunday School class at my church of Sharon Astyk's Depletion and Abundance. My intention was to explore the issues of peak oil, resource depletion, and the limits to growth, and to discuss what an appropriate Christian response to these issues might look like. Even though it is an excellent book, spiritual concerns are, at best, tangential to the main topic of Depletion and Abundance, and as a result the book was not a good fit to the purpose of the study. In Let Us Be Human: Christianity for a Collapsing Culture by Sam Charles Norton, I have finally found a book that really speaks to the subjects that I had wanted to explore with that Sunday School class.

A nice, concise summary of the topics the book covers can be found in the introduction, which, conveniently, was published in full by the author on Energy Bulletin (see Let us be Human: Christianity for a collapsing culture). As that is already conveniently available, I won't attempt to summarize the contents again. Instead, I offer some of my own observations of aspects of this book that I found particularly striking.

Although Norton is in some respects quite traditional - for instance, his use of He, His, and Him (capitalized, no less!) when referring to God might be somewhat irksome to more progressive Christians who sometimes go to great pains to not assign a gender to God - he is not even remotely fundamentalist or literalist in his understanding of scripture or theology. He understands that much of scripture is metaphorical or poetic, and quotes Tom Wright to emphasize this point when discussing apocalyptic literature (a popular genre of Jewish literature of which the biblical books of Daniel and Revelation are the best-known examples): "there is virtually no evidence that Jews were expecting the end of the space time universe. There is abundant evidence that they knew a good metaphor when they saw one, and used cosmic imagery to bring out the full theological significance of cataclysmic socio-political events."

Norton directly confronts some of the more pernicious ideas to emerge from religious discourse in recent years. In a discussion of poverty, he states "There are still debates about what is the best thing to do about poverty, but it is impossible to be a Christian and not work for social justice." (Contrast this to calls in recent years from some right-wing leaders that Christians should leave churches that promote social justice.) He also condemns the "prosperity gospel" that has become popular in some evangelical circles, and condemns the doctrine of dispensationalism, which forms the foundational premise for the Left Behind series of novels. Progressive ideas are not immune from his criticism, either: private judgement (the idea that, quoting Norton, "this is what I choose to believe and no-one has the right to criticise me, because my choices are inviolate") and liberalism (again in Norton's words, "the idea that Jesus is a very nice man, a good human teacher, let's try and follow his teaching") both suffer under the assault of Norton's pen.

The author is an excellent writer, and he manages to explain fairly sophisticated theological concepts in a manner that is accessible to the average reader yet not oversimplified. One of my favorite examples of this is when Norton discusses the concept of realized eschatology. I have encountered this idea in several other books, but Norton's explanation is the first one I have found that is actually clear and understandable.

Let Us Be Human might not be of much interest to the non-religious, but I would highly recommend this book to anybody seeking to explore the spiritual ramifications of the crises our industrial civilization faces. It is concise and well-written, and possesses the unique strength of being written by one of the few people I am aware of who has an equally solid grounding in Christianity and theology on the one hand and in the issues of resource depletion and the limits to growth on the other.