Rose Swan is a family constellations counselor and workshop facilitator. Her partner, Jeremy Clough teaches at a Waldorf School. When Rose invited me to stay with them, I looked up Union, ME on the map, explained that it would be a haul to get there, but I’d aim for 7:00 p.m. on a Friday night. That proved challenging. When I finally arrived, after eight o’clock, Rose had assembled thirteen people to talk about tomorrow. They included teachers, farmers, therapists, and dancers. Some were born in rural Maine, others relocated there. They shared a conscious decision to live a simple, remote life. Here is a recapitulation of our conversation.
Human beings have energy zones that are independent of our muscular and kinesthetic energy, yet are related to them. Our movement informs our mental state. Much of contemporary life – computers, TV, movies – agitate our staccato energy. Staccato energy is exciting, but it needs balance in order to avoid tripping into anxiety. There is no legato. Our energy is no longer balanced.
Our electronics provide one level of connection but they mask other elements of connection. We rely too much on visual and written messages. We lose subtlety and body language.
And yet we get contradictory messages. The stimuli coming at us are exciting, but children are expected to sit still in school. The normal activity of the child is to move, not sit at a desk. So we put them on Ritalin to curb their natural impulses.
Is tomorrow utopian or dystopian? There are conflicting forces at work. Technology is the wedge that drives us apart, yet it also allows us to advance in phenomenal ways. We can’t go back on it, yet we must acknowledge that it is not only changing the way we view the world, it is actually altering our fundamental being. Just like the printing press made reading widely available. It changed the way we understood the world and simultaneously changed the way our brains developed. In the extreme, we could evolve into two completely separate species: the technical and the non-technological.
When I think about resources, I believe they are finite. At some point they are going to have to be rationed if we are to survive. How can they be allocated in ways that enhance human connection rather than technological disparity? Moving forward, solving problems is not going to work the way it always has; we’ve never accepted the limits of our earth. I worry about having the imagination to address ever more complex problems.
Enough of this! Every generation has their Achilles heel. Ours is technology. We have to learn how to grapple with it and make it serve us, but I’m sure that we will. Every other generation has addressed its challenges. I have hope.
I agree. Framing tomorrow in terms of technology is a very narrow frame of reference, especially when compared to the totality of human history.
But we’ve never encountered anything quite like it. Facebook is like eating Little Debbie snack cakes – no one admits to it but everyone eats them. Technology, especially in the form of social media, is like mental candy – a constant rush of sugary stimulus.
Human development mirrors societal development. In the Waldorf School approach, we mirror the curriculum and expectations to human development. We want to teach children age-appropriate skills and values that they can take into the future. Our work revolves around myths and fairy tales in second grade, when children’s imaginations are prominent. We teach the Greeks in fifth grade when Idealism is ripe. We teach modern history and war to seventh and eighth graders, when they are developmentally rebellious.
History shows that adaptability and change are the only constants. When you realize that you can ask a question, that your voice can influence and affect, that’s when the world changes.
Rose explains why she values studying constellation modalities in relation to this question: “People have forgotten where we have been. History helps us understand our place in the fabric of existence. If we have a context, today, of where we are from, we will be prepared for tomorrow. We shape tomorrow by standing in truth today. We need to acknowledge our place. People are experiencing a lot of anxiety because we have lost context. Myths and stories give us context. They root our place in this world.”
We have so much stuff. We can’t keep having so much stuff. I grew up in a village. We looked after each other. When there was a physical village people didn’t move. Now, we can stay in touch so easily, the village is the globe. The resources available are much better, but something is lost.
We’ve lost that sense of community. How do we find a sense of community?
There is a schism between people and the land. People leave the land. They move to the city. They get jobs to buy food grown by others and live in houses built by others. They lose their sense of control.
The earth does support us. But our society doesn’t support us.
You can live off the land, but you can’t make a living off the land. We have become used to higher standards than our forebears enjoyed. We ‘need’ a toilet; we ‘need’ the Internet. The land can’t give us that.
So now we have to create community consciously because it doesn’t happen organically. The mutual support that was required in an agricultural community – everyone helped everyone else during haying or disease – is gone. We don’t all go to LaGrange balls and Sunday church suppers. Our community can be the entire world, and that makes it more difficult.
Technology gives us unlimited connection, and yet it limits actual connections. In the old days you picked up the phone when it rang and said, “Hello.” Who does that anymore? Now we screen our calls, talk only to those we know and like. Nothing is random or unexpected.
The start of community has to be us all here, sitting and talking.