Claiming Nonindependence

December 17, 2009 Leave a comment
ice storm

|Photo by Digital Agent||

It was at this time a year ago that I made the trip to Keene, New Hampshire to teach my final weekend Change Models class of the semester at Antioch New England.  Just a few days prior, the entire region had been rocked by an ice storm for the ages.  When the storm hit I was in Maine.  Driving home the next day I heard reports about the worst damage being concentrated in western Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire.  All that had slipped my mind when I got up early on Sunday morning to drive to Keene.  It came rushing back when I got off of Route 2 heading north and the world turned dark and quiet.  Everything in sight was cocooned in ice.  Trees sagged.  Homes along the roadside for miles were without lights.  Businesses were shuttered.  The awesome force of nature really began to sink in.

By the time I got to Keene, the damage was less extreme.  The heat was on and most of the students managed to make it to class.  Everyone had their tales about where they were during the storm.  One that I will never forget came from my co-teacher, Bob, who lives in a town east of Keene.  A few weeks prior, Bob’s wife had been diagnosed with breast cancer.  Bob was due to drive her to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Hospital (an hour away) on what was to be the day after the storm for some important tests.  When they woke up that morning and looked outside, tree branches (and entire trees) were strewn everywhere.  The road was impassable.  As Bob stood in the driveway surveying the mess, a neighbor approached and struck up conversation.  When the news of the medical test came up, the neighbor told Bob to hold on.  Minutes later he returned with a brigade of people from the neighborhood armed with chainsaws.  In less than an hour they had cleared enough of the debris so that Bob’s car could access the main road.

I once heard the singer Greg Brown offer his perspective that unless we really need each other, community doesn’t mean much.  This sentiment was taken further by Bill McKibben in a recent interview during which he said that the real solution to climate change will come when we realize we are dependent upon one another.  In part because of technology (and fossil fuels), he says, we’ve lost the skill of being good neighbors and rooting ourselves locally.  Of course, the reality is that we do need one another, and our coming future may drive that home more than ever.  So why not get ahead of the game?  What if we claimed nonindependence before the storm?  What might that look like?

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  • Linda says:

    Beautiful Curtis. Thank you. Yes!

  • A beautiful idea that has become a thing of the past in this motor car, magical world.

    I believe it is at total odds with globalism. To pull this off, people need to feel as though they are a part of a community. Sadly, the “world” community is far too large for this notion to have meaning.

    However, I firmly believe that once the real big shift occurs and we are forced to return to an agrarian society, we will find our way back to a real sense of community. Not because of a conscious thought to do so, but because it will be our only means of survival.

  • Curtis says:

    I sometimes fear that you are right, Charlie, that it will take a massive breakdown for us to return to local/tribal ways. And clearly there are those who are ahead of the curve, building local sustainable initiatives in pockets around the country. And of course it’s important to remember that we live in a bubble and that a large part of the world is more rooted in community and connected to place and the land. Kind of puts a real twist on progress and adaptive change, huh?

  • Linda says:

    Raises for me a question as well about whether a kind of “barn-raising” can be done when people are NOT in the same place. Oh, here I go again on the taking it to scale questions!!!

  • Gibran says:

    I’m reminded of Margaret Wheatley’s bold proposition that “Whatever the problem, community is the answer.” I’m not sure what new forms of community will look like, though I think we must learn to anchor ourselves locally. I like Adrienne Maree Brown’s proposition that one of the attributes of a community centered society is that it is “miracle worthy!”

  • Isn’t claiming nonindependence the same as claiming dependence? not to be confused with claiming dependants. But then again, perhaps if we could tie in some kind of tax break for dependence people would buy in…. hmmmmmmmmmm the mind is working overtime.

  • Curtis says:

    I just finished Tom Wessels book The Myth of Progress in which he states that our cultural malaise relates to our separation from community, place, and reflective practice. That’s compelling to me. I think any one of those without the other two is missing something big. We are of this planet. To float around like this is not the case feels delusional. To act as if we do not fundamentally depend upon our social and environmental life supports because we feel like we can buy them is crazy. Not sure that I’m making sense at the end of a long day, but I can so that the “getting rooted” instinct feels very strong now. Definitely feeling it here in Maine where people are very tied to and attached to this state and their communities.

  • Linda says:

    I’m with you Curtis – and also have other experiences of community that are not place-bound. My current belief is that there are both. Not in an ungrounded way (the word of which even implies place). But I have questions … more and more … about whether there are other kinds of community that are as important as well. What’s happening in Copenhagen right now feels like that. My scattered family (which I can feel deeply in every cell of my body though we’re not physically near) also feels like that. I am someone very rooted in the real, tangible world. And I do have questions about how that’s shifting, whether it’s shifting, what more may be on its way.

  • Curtis says:

    And I’m with you Linda. I don’t deny that there are other valuable forms of community that are not place-based, I just think that place has been given the shaft and that at the end of the day if we are not paying attention to what is happening at the roots, well then none of us is going to be flying very high. And I imagine your with me on that too. It’s the both/and I suppose, in a way. And I think it’s about shifting the paradigm a bit, perhaps harkening back to my post about “Roots Rising.” What if that was what we really prioritized?

  • Linda says:

    Yes! Yes!!

    And I must say, every place-based “barn-raising” I’ve been part of has been amazing. The high touch variety of community as distinct perhaps from the high tech version. My roots to place run deep – as do my ties to people when place isn’t part of the equation. Deep roots for sure. Thanks Curtis. A great post!!

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