We hope that our email finds you well and warm, or that it doesn’t find you at all, as you are far away from your device resting and restoring. As we come to the end of the Gregorian year we’d like to share with you our favourite cultural experiences of the year which embody the values we would like to see more of in the world.
“Back in the Summer my fifteen year old daughter and I set out to walk across Knoydart and Glen Shiel to Kintail in Scotland – several days’ hiking, carrying a small tent and a few bags of couscous. Three days into the trip we stopped at a high pass near the Forcan Ridge in Glen Shiel. We pitched the tent in driving rain at the top of the pass between two lochans, and spent a full day sheltering inside it. On the fourth day it was a bit drier and we climbed a hundred metres higher, to the top of the ridge as the sun broke through the cloud, and we glimpsed the whole of Kintail before us – mountains upon mountains as far as the eye could see. It’s said – Martin Shaw attributes it to Aboriginal elders – that Western culture is three days deep. There’s a moment then, on the fourth day, when, in Shaw’s memorable phrase “you may get dreamt by the land itself”.
It doesn’t feel that it does justice to the experience to try to fit it into a social psychologist’s model of values – it was too vivid and numinous. But I have no doubt that it was about connection rather than ego, and feeling rather than knowledge, and therefore wholly intrinsic!”
“In a year where having young babies, the continuation of the pandemic and the rising cost of living have made it more challenging to be ‘in the world’ as much as I might like; I have travelled the universe in the words of others. In poetry I have found, and felt, the possibility of systems in balance and at peace, laughed and cried at the depth and breadth of visions conjured of more just, compassionate and harmonious realities. I feel so fortunate to be part of a circle of women who share poetry with each other every week – it has been a balm for the soul and has connected us in such beautifully intimate and universal ways.
Poetry has the unparalleled power of being able to show us up to ourselves; laying bare the truth of who we are and who we are capable of being. I know it is central to manifesting the intrinsic values in mainstream culture we would like ot see. In her 1977 essay “Poetry Is Not a Luxury” Audre Lorde writes:
“Poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action. Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives.”
You can read the full text of Lorde’s essay (and I’d recommend you do!) here. I also really welcome you sending your favourite poetry for me to read!”
From Ruth T
“This year I read ’Station Eleven’ by Emily St John Mandel, a post-apocalyptic novel set in Canada where a virus wipes out 99% of the world’s population. I won’t give too many details about the plot in case you haven’t read it and would like to, but I’m sure it hits different reading it now in a world which continues to be affected by the coronavirus pandemic! Why this book was so enjoyable to me was because, unlike many dystopian-type of books, Station Eleven choice to focus on the more compassionate side of human nature. The author manages to emphasise community, solidarity and care in a time of great suffering and grief, which is something I find myself wanting to see demonstrated more in the popular culture I consume. The book also poses some pretty big existential questions about what it means to live a good life, where people only weeks before the virus hits were consumed with earning money, being successful and buying more ’stuff’. A wonderful read, which reminded me that the world can be redesigned in line with our more intrinsic values – although hopefully without the aid of a international catastrophe!”
From Ruth P
“This year, I was lucky enough to take part in the artist Ingrid Pollard’s magical camera obscura workshop, outside the Thelma Huppert gallery in Honiton, Devon. The workshop accompanied the artist’s exhibition, Three Drops of Blood, a deeply humanist exploration of the invisible threads that weave the English landscape with its colonial entanglements. Immersed in a small tent in front of the gallery, the light diffracting onto the floor and across the walls was a relational, physical, spiritual, experiential, and emotional experience. As we played with small white boards to bring the images relayed through the hole in the tent’s ceiling into focus, we saw and remarked on details together – cradling walkers with our boards as they made their way along the pavement outside. The process induced a profound sense of connection with, and care for, the world we are all part of and the living beings we share it with. Art works in which we can all participate have huge potential for cultivating intrinsic values. I’ll be seeking out more in 2023.”
We would really love to hear from you about your own cultural experiences from 2022 (or indeed from any time) where you have felt intrinsic values being embodied – this could be a book you’ve read, an experience you’ve had, a film you’ve watched, some art or music you have encountered – all are welcome. Feel free, as always, to get in touch via email or on Twitter.
We wish you joy, peace and restoration through the winter (if you’re in the Northern hemisphere), into next year and beyond.
With appreciation, love and solidarity for these times and always,
Elsie, Ruth T, Tom and Ruth P