From the snow-capped mountains I walk across the brown-green fells of the Lake District, up past the noisy waterfall to the placid tarn—a place of mirrors and reflections. As the logs crackle in the fire and sparks explode when they are moved, thoughts move from the past, to the present, to the future... Is it possible to live without conflict?
What of my young friends? I wonder if I might call you friends; you who have been the students with whom I have shared my life during the past three decades and more; where despite the pressure to control, to manage and make demands, maybe there was some sense of affection. And what of the students who, in two days’ time, will return to the school community of which I am now part? In this environment, pressure, control and authority are the subjects of questioning, and affection is seen as an essential element in living. My early life, perhaps like many others of my generation and background, was almost completely devoid of affection—it was not part of the education, an education that was specifically designed to produce rulers of the world! I have learnt affection through my relationship with my wife, my children, through friendship and through nature.
I watch the light on the snow as we drive away from our week of reflection and activity together. Fresh snow has fallen in the night, whilst coming as heavy rain into the valleys. Even from this distance the newness of the snow creates a cleansing effect on the mind and, for a fleeting moment, there is a sense that this mind soars like an eagle, hovers over those softened sharp rocks and gazes down on this magnificent scene.
Our own children are caught in the conflict between the creative and the mundane. And as a family we sit by the fire of a house we have now deserted, consider and explore together the need to earn money to exist, whilst maintaining vital involvement in writing, music and art, which give our lives meaning. Our sons still hold on to their profound interests, whilst all the time they are under siege from the world of exploitation, aspiration and conformity.
So, my friends, as it is the beginning of a new year and I have had the birthday which takes my aging, hesitant steps further into my seventh decade, may I ask your permission to participate in your revolution? I know it is going on. I have seen it in the eyes of the young and not so young in many places of the world. I have seen it in the faces of the children who refuse to be coerced, to fit in despite the weight of the adult world which, in its stupidity and arrogance, thinks it knows how we all should live. I saw it a few days ago as I was sitting on a rock by a lake, eating my lunch after a walk that took me past that noisy, tumbling waterfall. I saw it in the smiles of the two children feeding the ducks and laughing as their big, black dog plunged in to deprive the birds of their food. I heard it in the call and laughter of their mother and the accompanying laughter of strangers. I see it in my grandson in his second year of school, who loves learning; and my other grandson, who is in his third year of life and loves living.
Will you let me join you in negating a world which supports violence, which accepts people being driven out of their homes in Syria, Sudan and many other places in the world? I will question with you the values in life which put the earning of money and owning of things as being more important than treating the earth and all it contains with care and affection. And as I move with that sureness of step which unites us all in death, I will give you what little insight and understanding I have to contribute to the conversation that feeds your revolution. But I will not hate; I will not lead, for that implies followers and then you have already joined the deadly game; I will not specialize in exams, academic theories or intellectual speculation; above all, I will not be part of a movement!
A friend in India once called Maggie and me ‘nomadic cross-pollinators’, as we travelled around the country having discussions with many people and observing the different work that was being done to alleviate poverty, engage with social justice, tackle environmental degradation and bring about a transformation of human thinking. It is possible that this is what I can give to this process of revolution—for the revolution is not like any other that has gone before it. There may be enemies, but there is no blueprint or dominant ideology; there is urgency, but that urgency consists in moving slowly and carefully, for there are many traps; and, above all, there is no separation because it is that very process of fragmentation that has brought us to the necessity of the revolution.
Perhaps we can talk about this?