We don’t need astrologers to tell us we are living in a period of remarkable turbulence and change. The evidence is all around us: from our teetering and corrupt banking systems, to the declining health of Planet Earth whose dominant species, humans, at current rates of consumption require the resources of three and a half planet earths to sustain us. Amongst many problems greatly on the increase against this backdrop are obesity, social inequality, the social and economic burdens of an ageing population – and fast rising anxiety and depression rates.
Apparently the overall index of increased happiness as material prosperity grew, peaked in the mid-seventies, then declined. The rot, it seems, set in in 1976….
However, humans have always been incredibly adaptable creatures and there is plenty of room for optimism in the midst of the current gloom. We are poised collectively on an interesting cusp, which many people see as the pivotal point of recognition that the materialist project which has so dominated all life since the rise of Age of Reason in the 18th Century is crumbling, and a new world order or paradigm is emerging. Materialism has brought us incredible advances, but is bringing our planet and the systems governing our collective lives, to a dangerous edge.
The new paradigm emerging, in essence, invites us to respect and work with the ecological balance of our home planet. It also invites us to recognise that there are many levels to “Reality” – the material level is just one of these. It is not suggesting that we should attempt to put the genie of progress back in the bottle and recreate a “Golden Age” which never existed.
It invites us to go forward into the future bearing the best that scientific and material progress has to offer, but also the best of what human civilisation has distilled over its six thousand years of social evolution which offers proven nourishment of both a physical and spiritual nature to all life on Planet Earth.
We can see evidence of this new paradigm’s emergence all over the planet in large and small ways. To give just one example, the principles of the “Slow Food” movement which began in Italy over two decades ago have taken root and flourished all over the world.
All of us, at a collective, local, and personal level have a part we can play in this paradigm shift.
What’s happening where you are?
Do let me know! In the meantime, let’s go local to look at interesting developments promoting creative change in my home city of Glasgow, Scotland, UK. I have chosen to highlight the activities of two local communities with which I am personally involved.
They are both making small but significant contributions to reversing the upward trend towards increased unhappiness which excessive preoccupation with material goals has produced over the last thirty years. The first seeks to promote spiritually nurturing links between adults, children and Nature. The second, the spiritually nurturing cultivation of inner peace via silent contemplation…..
At this very moment my friend and colleague, psychologist, researcher, blogger and independent thinker, wife, mother of two and local activist Emily Cutts is busy mobilising us locally through her Enough’s Enough, Ditch the Stuff movement which seeks to get parents and children outdoors, away from computers and expensive gadgets and towards shared experiences in nature. We have a wonderful woodland and meadow right on our doorstep here in G20 and Emily’s efforts plus great support and enthusiasm from local volunteers, have got around a thousand parents and children out there having a terrific time in recent weeks.
A big Ditch the Stuff event is happening in North Kelvin Meadow, G20, on Sunday 15th July 2012 1-4pm. Try to be there!
Meadow in the City
photo: Anne Whitaker
Have you ever been to St Mary’s Cathedral, 300 Great Western Road, Glasgow G4?
Led by Provost Kelvin Holdsworth, the community at St Mary’s – open, inclusive, welcoming to people of all faiths and all spiritual seekers – is also doing its bit at a local level to promote the values and practices of the new paradigm I have been describing, especially in relation to helping those who need to find some inner peace in the increasing outer noise and freneticism of our collective life.
St Mary’s offers a programme of times for reflection – silence in the city – during this autumn 2012. It operates on a drop-in basis, open to anyone needing a time of peace and silence. The Open Silence operates to a rhythm of two one-hour slots per month, lunchtime and evening, available on the following dates:
Sunday August 19th from 8-9 pm, then Thursday August 23rd from 12.30-1.30pm
Sunday September 16th from 8-9 pm, then Thursday September 20th from 12.30-1.30pm
Sunday October 21st from 8-9 pm, then Thursday October 25th from 12.30-1.30pm
Sunday November 18th from 8-9 pm, then Thursday November 22nd from 12.30-1.30pm
These drop-in hours are free, although any donations to St Mary’s Cathedral funds are always welcome! Anyone can come along, for as long as feels comfortable – you don’t have to stay for the whole hour, but please do leave quietly. You can sit anywhere you wish in the Cathedral during your visit. Gentle music and a brief introduction from Vice-Provost Cedric Blakey begins the hour, music again draws the hour to a close. Candles are lit throughout to help you to connect to your time of peace.
Silence, prayer, peace….
Could any readers who would like to promote these valuable local events be kind enough to pass on the link to this post to anyone on their networks who might be interested? Thanks!!
A major inspiration for setting up St Mary’s Cathedral’s The Open Silence was provided by the series of programmes presented by Christopher Jamison, Abbot of Worth Abbey, in 2010, ‘The Big Silence’, in which five participants were “……invited to take the wisdom of silence found in the monastery……” and carry it back into their everyday lives.
Father Jamison is convinced that everyone – atheist, agnostic, lapsed, uncertain, seeking – can benefit from sustained, regular periods of silence. “When we enter into periods of silence, we start to see things with greater clarity. We come to know ourselves, and come in touch with that deepest part of ourselves. That is our soul.”
If readers are interested in reading more about this project, which I – and many others I spoke to – found moving, challenging and inspiring – click HERE.
1100 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2012
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page