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Read our report on Resilience Lab Bristol-Resilience-Report.pdf

Texts written by Dr Ben Cranfield and Sarah Deco, as part of their In dialogue residences within our practice and Resilience Lab project April – November 2015.

back to where we have not quite been, some response to a listening event by Fourthland

Grandmother’s knowledge. A deep stirring knowledge. A handed-down knowledge. A cut and paste, glued and fastened knowledge: yellowing,annotated, borrowed, gathered and hidden. A knowledge of materials, a material knowledge. Preserve, conserve, re-use and repair. Hang-it, draw-it,pluck-it, store-it, fold it, wind-it, peel-it, core-it, wrap-it, steam-it. Talk about it, write it down, publish it – why not? Record and transmit, but always handle with care, never take for granted, not in vain. Not to own, only to borrow, carry for a while, pass-on.

To be sliced and shared. Loaves and fishes,oranges and lemons, tea and sympathy, round-about-a-pound-a-week. Add a pinch to a mixture, make a wish with a stir; beat with a wooden one, fold with a metal one. Worldly wisdom is hard to come by and easily buried, with letters and formula. Buried not gone. And should Alexandria be burnt again the ashes will fertilize the soil in which the tubas of experience are softly held and from which shoots, like sign-posts in the dessert of ignorance, will emerge.

The Museum of Lost Process does not have glass cases, interpretation panels or visitor surveys. Skills are not learnt, they are found. There is no History here, only tales-told, times-when, memories-of. Rough-ragged, lightly-rolled, exquisitely-hewn, these are congealings of nature-culture, insectmouthed,finger-and-thumbed. A process is lost to be found again. Hands and mouths move silently in the shadows of history.

Home is where we arrive to. We started from another place full of givens, of course, off course. I got a train, she took her bike, making our way through the city using devices that make good-passages from bad. And why? A promise? Perhaps. A commitment and professional interest, a conviction and an idea that you had long ago that one should not always know why or what or how. Because you said ‘yes’, because you always say ‘yes’, or too often say ‘no’. For the love of God. God! For love? A sense of something bigger, not already accounted for, chalked-up, impact-defined,books-balanced. Where I come from, where you come from, they are like this, we are like that. A place, yes, given to us, assigned to us, a starting point over which we had no control. But a home? Surely not. We arrive at a home, temporary, imagined, nomadic, but a home none-the-less. The child who can play is able to overcome the irrevocable gap between inner and outer realities. Creativity is the freedom to illusion and disillusion the world.

Finding ourselves at home we trust ourselves to play – picking out a sound, picking up an object – folding over a word, folding out an idea. I travelled bundled in expectations, tied with labels, already placed in hopes of finding somewhere, no-place, where I could untie the knot of ownership and unfold in common. Home at last.

How do you lose yourself? How do you find yourself? In the moment of encounter we must choose; choose whether to accept or refuse the radical transformation of the encounter. A sound so familiar that it is totally foreign. A sensing of bodies, animate and inanimate, noisy and silent. Do we accept these beings, soundings, movings, stirrings? Do we become one with the affective field, knowing that we must give up the certainty of our selfhood? Or do we resist, say, ‘yes, I know that and that and this’.

Listen for the bell. A crisp call to consciousness that places us back. Back where? Back where we have not quite been, in a space that is not quite the same. A gift has been offered, on the one condition, that you are able to receive it. Not so easily done. This is where it begins. Opening a mouth: silence. These sounds, whose are these? Sounds cannot be owned – even the most private sounds echo through us to be caught as vibrations by another ear. Lost words are found again in a different key, resonating with new meaning in a fresh mind. What if all those words were misplaced, all the labels in the museum brushed away by an over-zealous cleaner who wished to keep the objects free from the dulling dust of language? I lost my words, as she had done on a night when dream became more important than waking conscious desires.

Forgiving, forgetting, forgiving, forgetting. Forewords, all forwards. The words that frame, that tether and tie. Undo the bundle let the words fall away. But not so we can mouth forever in silence, but so we can find words again and hear them like the timely ring of a bell with clarity. Word-objects, object-words unfolding their meaning like a ground on which to play.

Written By Dr Ben Cranfield, Director of PhD in Humanities and Cultural Studies Birkbeck University


Resilience and the Mythic

Re-acquainting ourselves with the timeless, universal world of myth may seem to be the opposite of what’s required when facing the very contemporary problem of climate change. But the transformation we face represents such a sea change in how we understand our identity as a species, such a deep and
overwhelming re- orientation, that heading into the world of folktales, myths and wonder-tales, is more than just a comforting diversion.The prospect of climate change, challenges us humans to look very deeply at who we are. It requires us to re-calibrate our collective compass.

Tranformations on the level we’re facing, as far beyond the everyday as they can possibly be, cannot be encompassed by ordinary thinking and states of mind; we need to go to the most fundamental and profound level we can; we need to look towards the bedrock on which human culture is based, to look for where the cultural ‘stem- cells’ live that define how a society grows and develops. Potential doors to this level are the universals of human experience: sensory and tactile experience, music and storymaking.Myths, fairy tales, and wonder-tales can evoke what Martin Shaw calls ‘Bone memory’; and the telling of and listening to such stories, evokes a particular state of being.

“This is participation mystique. This is a time-wrestle; when as a teller you know things you should not know, bear witness to the moment where the horses of past, present and future all drink from the deep trough. ‘“1)The call for a ‘new story’ by Thomas Berry, catholic priest and ‘Ecotheologian’ has become a rallying cry for many; as has the idea that there is an underlying narrative at a cultural level, which is responsible for the destructiveness of our behaviour.This is sometimes interpreted to mean that one new overarching story needs to be found, a new myth that we can all live by. But it is, I believe, not the wrong narrative that is the problem, but the shallowness of our engagement with narrative, the loss of story diversity, and the loss of contact with the ‘mythic’ realm itself.

To draw on a Permaculture analogy, the single narrative, or new story represents something like a mono-culture, whereas what’s needed is a forest garden, a diverse, resilient, multilayered community of stories alive with possibilities for cross pollination.This shallow engagement has caused us to lose our skill and adeptness at engaging with story at its mythic level. If we lose our powers of discrimination about stories, forget how to recognise the true or the ‘pseudo’, we become prone to being swept along by a ‘psuedo myth’ that promises much but offers very little. “We think we tell stories, but stories often tell us, tell us to love or to hate, to see or to be blind…..The task of learning to be free requires learning to hear them….”2) A corpus of stories passed down in an oral tradition is usually in the form of a lattice, an interweaving body of connected stories, which present multiple pathways and possibilities. This kind of storytelling, which has composted down over generations, is multi-layered, and often puzzling, allowing a hint or glimpse of a mystery beyond.

The telling of stories such as ancient myths or wonder-tales, is a collective undertaking. The teller and the listeners create something together in the space between them. This opens the door to an experience of profound collective understanding; a transformative experience of deep collective awe or‘communitas’ to use the anthropologist Victor Turner’s term. The ancient world it seems understood the need for rituals of this kind to enable communities to connect deeply and evolve, becoming more than the sum of their parts, weaving a matrix of symbolic understanding out of which the shared emergent reality could begin to take form. The problems of climate change require a level of collaboration and collective decision making the like of which has never been demanded of us before. Our mythic story heritage has much to offer here.The new world dawning, one in which we come to full awareness of just how much damage we have done, is as yet largely unexplored. While the planet runs out of uncharted places, we have created a whole new undiscovered landscape called… the future.

We will do almost anything it seems, to avoid taking an imaginative step into this new landscape. We continue to believe that what’s to come will be acted out in an environment very much like the one we’re accustomed to. We now know that this will not be so; we know and yet it seems we don’t know, because our actions do not reflect that knowledge.We have to explore it, this painful territory, we have to reveal and face its realities, its wastelands and devastated areas. Our chances of psychological survival in this future will depend on the quality and quantity of these explorations, these expeditions into the unknown. Unless we familiarise ourselves with this land and face it squarely; creating new paths across it, telling stories about it, envisioning and visualising it in as many different ways as possible; it will remain ‘unthinkable’ and the probability is that then, when its reality bites, we will just not be able to bear it. Creating new paths across the unexplored future requires storytellers of every kind to engage in depth with the mythic. It needs artists film-makers,writers, and visionaries of all varieties to spin tales across the void, weaving together old and new narratives to create a new (and old) resilience.
. 1) Martin Shaw, West Country School of Myth Blog: Curating Echoes
. 2) Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby

Written By Sarah Deco, Group Analyst,Psychotherapist and storyteller