Alongside reason (logos), the ancients believed that myth (mythos), was an equally important aspect of truth; they meant the primordial images and symbols – older than recorded history – which are still the fundament of the human psyche; Jung called these archetypes.
At the time of Confucius (500 BC) the Chinese concept of heaven (Tian) “embodied the natural order and the will of the universe.” The term ‘mandate of heaven’ was used to affirm the authority of rulers – but the mandate wasn’t unconditional – flood, famine, plague etc. were interpreted as heavenly displeasure with the regime; lose the mandate of heaven – and you get replaced. I believe that our reaction to Covid19 – a human calamity – is as much about mythos as logos; our unconscious wants to know what the universe is trying to tell us; the growing clamour for change includes ‘loss of mandate.’
A garden story. Years ago, I planted an invasive strain of bamboo – which went out of control – took months to quell; behind this thicket, forgotten, was a section of the curved stone wall of an 18th-century stable, now exposed. Watching evening sunshine on this beautifully crafted masonry, I suddenly ‘connect’ – one of those fleeting moments we are occasionally blessed with – when the universe speaks to us directly.
Later I recall this quote from the playwright Peter Shaffer: “Life is only comprehensible through a thousand local gods… spirits of certain trees, of certain curves of brick walls… of certain fish and chip shops if you like… I’d say of them: worship all you can see, and more will appear.”
Along with others, I started Senscot in 1999 – a network of thousands of individuals who operate social and community enterprises. Symbolically, today, I depart in favour of the new entity being created through the merger of Senscot and Social Firms Scotland – formed by the same values and principles that Senscot has sought to establish over the years. Buona Fortuna – Buon Viaggio. If you want to remain in touch with my ramblings, you can subscribe here.
For reasons that may be not entirely conscious (mythic) the post-pandemic demand for societal change, might become intense; pundits are trying to gauge, whether we’re expecting a squall or hurricane. Absolutely everyone is writing reports about how to rebuild the economy – from Scottish Govt’s official Economic Advisory Group (77 bureaucratic pages ) to Commonweal’s latest radical instalment (excellent short summary). Scotland has no shortage of perspectives for a new economy; left – green-social-degrowth-wellbeing-wellness-cooperative etc. But these discrete initiatives seem unable to coalesce into an effective movement. As the consumerist ‘normal’ gets into stride – we’ll discover if Covid taught us progressives the importance of collaboration. The Wellbeing Economy Alliance responds to the 77 pages.
AstraZeneca has agreed to supply Europe with up to 400 million doses of the Oxford Covid vaccine – at no profit; while this is encouraging news, the vaccine has still to pass its clinical trials. This article in the FT is much less gung-ho; no effective vaccine is certain.
I much appreciate the journalism of Joyce McMillan – intelligent and wise; this is about the recent ‘racist thugs’ in Glasgow’s George Square: “we are treading a dangerous line – between advising people to go home for their own safety – and simply conceding our public space to far right hate groups”.
Enjoyed this BBC story, from Glasgow’s Shawlands, about tenement strangers, who bonded while reclaiming the wilderness of their neglected back courts. One guy went out – started hacking away – neighbours joined in – together they’ve now created a great community space. This is a good report from ‘Locality’ – about the potency of community action.
Satish Kumar, on the philosophy of Fritz Schumacher.
“Large hospitals, large factories and large businesses lose the purpose of enriching human wellbeing and become obsessed with maintaining and perpetuating the organization for its own sake. Therefore, it could be said almost invariably that if there is something wrong, there is something too big. As in economics, so in politics. So Schumacher believed in small nations, small communities and small organizations. Small, simple and non-violent were his three philosophical precepts.”