What did you expect?

What did you expect?  or Despair , Transformation and Creativity in an Age of Environmental Collapse By Tim Darby

 OK. I admit it. For most of the last month I’ve been feeling really miserable. What do you expect? I’m working on a community based program (Living Smart) getting  people to think about the environmental impact of their behaviour and (with careful manipulation and a lot of luck) to head off in a more sustainable direction. Imagine trying to do that in WA – arguably the worst carbon polluter per head of population in the world,  in the middle of a mineral resource boom.

Some days I feel like I’m running a mattress maintenance program for Japan’s National Sumo Wrestling Team. Whatever small progress I make each day gets crushed by the weight of incoming bad news a few hours later. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like there’s no reasons to rejoice. It’s just that what successes I have, while often profound and important on a personal level, tend to get lost amongst the litany of eco horror stories coming to you live from all over the world.

Recently, after watching ” The Age of Stupid”, I found myself caught up in one of those ” what’s the point we’re all doomed anyway ” cycle of thinking.

What do you expect?

It’s an occupational hazard for anyone who’s literary consumption extends beyond The West and those 15 year old New Ideas on offer in every suburban GP waiting room, particularly those of us involved in environmental behaviour change.

So what does one do with those feelings of despair? When I spend all day rabbiting on about how “every long journey begins with a single step” and that “we must all be the change we want to see”, it feels a bit hypocritical to stand up half way through my macrobiotic, low food miles, guilt free lentil burger and say ” You know what? I think you might be right. I think we are totally fucked after all.”

So after a couple of weeks of indecision, self-doubt and angst (sometimes I hate being a Libran!) I started to quietly mention it to a couple of fellow “save the planet”ers only discover that they all suffered similar periods of feeling totally overwhelmed and defeated.

Really, I suppose what do you expect? 

So…Wearing my heart on my sleeve I tentatively suggested that we all put aside some time to share our feelings of “less than absolute certainty it will all be O.K.” This seemed like a rather cumbersome title  (and also I’m only a two finger typist)so with the help of my far more optimistic partner Shani I sent out invitations to: “The Heart Night – Worried about the future? Bring along your stories, poems or songs to share”

As the ambiguously named Heart Night approached I was filled with apprehension (not an unusual state of event for me as you may have gathered). I didn’t really know what to expect. Would anyone show up? Would I be treated with disdain for daring to suggest that it really is a lost cause?

Or, on the other hand would I find myself surrounded by hundreds of teary suicidal eco- worriers? (See what I mean about being a Libran?)

As it turned out kind of neither, both and all of the above happened. About 15 people turned up, most of whom I know or had a least met. There was only one complete stranger and she seemed to make herself right at home chatting and sharing tea and bikkies with everyone. She brought her knitting along which seemed like a cosy kind of idea and not at all out of place at a heart night.

After a brief introduction I got things under way gently by singing a whimsical and funny song called “The Snip” about my concerns about overpopulations leading to me getting a vasectomy. A couple of members of the Hulbert Street choir sang backing vocals and provided a percussive accompaniment on garden shears. (the lyrics follow at the end of this blog)

That seemed to break the ice a bit and the evening rolled along pretty smoothly from song to poem to story and back again. Some sad, some hopeful, some funny. I would say that everyone who felt they had something to share felt they had a safe place to express it and perhaps break a bit of the isolation of “am I the only one who thinks like this?” (a few examples follow at the end of this blog)

Probably my favourite part of the evening was seeing the beauty and creativity that can come out of despair.

As the evening wound down and people were swapping phone numbers and putting their salty tissues in the compost bucket, the unknown knitter approached Shani, looking a little concerned.

“I just wanted to tell you that I think you need to change your face book page” she said.

“Gosh really? Could you tell me a little more about what you mean?” offered Shani, well aware that the Heart Night hadn’t featured on any face book page, but still in the mood for receptive listening.

“Well it just wasn’t what I expected. I must say I enjoyed it but it just wasn’t what I was expecting. I think you need to explain it a bit more clearly”.

It turned out she thought she was coming to a knitting group, but had arrived on the wrong night!

Well, what do you expect?

Tim’s Snip Song

(Introduction with scissor percussion)

Well the planet’s getting crowded

Thought I’d make my contribution

With medical intervention

Be part of the solution

But what if something goes awry

And I’m filled with regret (oh)

Walk with a limp, become a gymp,

Move bass to a falsetto

CHORUS

I’ve got an inclination

For cessation of procreation

While engaged in recreation

Without sexual frustration

I want the snip.

I called around to Andy’s

He’d moved up to Mount Rugged

He used to stride out tall and straight

But now he’s all bow legged

Walking like a cowboy

So he’s gone up to the station

Our Andy’s gone with the cattle now

Since he had the operation

CHORUS

I’ve got an inclination

For cessation of procreation

While engaged in recreation

Without sexual frustration

I want the snip.

My hippy mate lit insense

While we listed  to whales sounding

Sipping organic herbal chi

He said “man that’s astounding”

Your inner child will sure be pissed

If you snip your hidden genie

Your chi will all get tangled up

And you’ll block your kundilini

CHORUS

I’ve got an inclination

For cessation of procreation

While engaged in recreation

Without sexual frustration

I want the snip.

I dropped around to Johno’s place

As I was passing by

He helped me build my pergola once

He’s into D I Y

In fact he’s quite a guru

Bunning’s Obi Wan Kenobi

“Sit down son, you just relax”

He reached for his Ryobi.

If you’ve heard this conversation

‘Bout the inflation of population

From excessive copulation

And it caused you consternation

And the thought of reproduction

Doesn’t fill you with elation  

And you’d rather learn macramé

Do another renovation

There’s a medical procedure

That could soon be your salvation

Without further hesitation

Seek a nearby destination

Hey hey hey hey staying alive staying alive

Staying alive  . . . . . .

Get the snip

 

 

I love you my wonderful child – by Amy

I love you my wonderful child

And I’ll whisper it through your curly blonde hair

A million times a day

But what I really mean is

I love you and I’m sorry

If I tell you enough times

Maybe I can equip you for the future

Can I fill your heart with enough love

So you grow up to be brave, compassionate and strong?

For you will need these traits

And many more

I love you so much

Sometimes I wish you were never born

How can a mother say that?

I worry so much about your future

How will my little boy survive?

How will you grow food

without water or topsoil?

Will you be a faceless environmental refugee?

I want you to survive and thrive

And find love, hope and happiness

So I’ll love you and tell you so

A million times a day

I love you my wonderful child

I love you too mummy and daddy

We look to each other and grow

We read and research and think and observe

We share and talk

In my arms are my beautiful boys

My reasons to be bold

So we all take a deep breath

Hold our heads high

And turn away

And fuck it, we will be ourselves:

Amy: No, I won’t fly to Sydney for those workshops,

See we take our carbon footprint seriously

Adam: Let’s grow the best community orchard ever

Quin: Dan’s, If its yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown flush it down.

Do you know what that means Danny?

 

 

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2 Responses to What did you expect?

  1. Avatar for Michael Wilkins
    Michael Wilkins October 16, 2010 at 10:11 am #

    Dear Despairing Tim.

    I’m sitting here in Wollongong, bit like being in Fremantle compared to Perth, without the Little Creatures (that is despair). Was discussing your article the other night with another Painted Fish fan and I said I wanted to respond but didn’t know what to say or what it would matter. I was told I must respond as any support is good support.

    My thoughts first took me to Morgan Freeman in Shawshank “there is always hope”, but funnily enough I’m sitting here reading todays Sydney Morning Herald feature interview with Nelson Mandella (once played by Morgan Freeman).

    Mandella quote – “I am convinced that floods of personal disaster can never drown a determined revolutionary nor can the cumulus of misery that accompany tragedy suffocate him”.

    Perfect!

    5,000 people in your little street – paying attention – they’re listening – you keep going.

    Love your work.

  2. Avatar for Barb
    Barb January 31, 2011 at 6:36 pm #

    Dear Hopefully-No-Longer-Despairing Tim

    I reckon the antidote to despair is having a believable future. The future I envisage is one with neighbours like you. Clearly, you exist, and clearly, I am on your website since someone was so inspired by what you do that they highly recommended I check it out. Thus, I believe we are all well on our way to the future we dream of and hope for with such passion. This is what I expect, and when I do, despair vanishes. Of course, it creeps back. However, when I think of what I want to be doing and what kind of community I want to be part of, it retreats.

    Gerard Manly Hopkins wrote, “What I do is me: for that I came.” When I am reminded of this, I think, “Hmmm, yes”. This also has despair evaporate. I hope this is true for you too.

    Keep on truckin’. Love your work too.

    Cheers

    Barb

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