‘I smell of entrails.’ So said our friend Eric Bear after an afternoon of gutting, skinning and jointing a roadkill fawn. Walking past, Noah sees what’s going on, takes off his shirt and joins in the deer-fest. Bear, who is almost always shirtless, said they looked like ‘two schluppy Jews.’ [They’re both Jewish]. The fawn’s brains and skin are now in a jar in our fridge. I’m not sure how I feel about that…
Food, and the exchange of stories that occurs naturally over meals, is one of the best things about living in community. Whether it’s road kill, a carrot and zucchini muffin, or an icebox of clams off the back of a truck, sharing food is special, and we’ve experienced a lot of that specialness this week.
We had a ‘double-date night’ earlier this week with Marcy and Lee. We saw ‘The 100 Foot Journey’ at the local movie theatre. Way more slow-mo egg whisking footage than necessary, but with smuggled muffins AND popcorn to keep us content, I could just about forgive the cheesiness of the film. (Seriously, two hours of Helen Mirren in a beret and string of onions on a bicycle singing ‘je ne regrette rien’ would have been a more believable representation of the French.) We then headed to ‘Peint o Gwrw’, a *Welsh* pub with a stuffed bear in the window and swapped stories, including one about a very trippy experience at an Indian restraunt. It was a lot of fun, and I want to do it again! On Saturday we spent the afternoon having an ‘elderberry bee’ on the Farmhouse porch. This involved communally picking a load of elderberries off their stalks whilst nattering, drinking tea and eating homemade peach pie. More stories were swapped, including the tale of Spee giving birth to her first child in occupied Gaza. Last night we went to a Mexican restaurant with Bear and Carolyn, rounding the meal off with ‘tres leches’, a dessert that Sara Miles describes as ‘like being breast-fed by the Wisdom of God.’ I concur.
All of this has left me full of food and gratitude, and lots of things to think about. A theme emerging from my recent posts is that of Empire – the system of domination and exploitation benefitting an elite minority. This week, I came across a couple of things that blew my mind in the way they subvert Empire values. Allow me to enthuse!
Agile Learning Centres
From Tuesday to Thursday, a group of young people arrived at QIV-C to take part in Cloudhouse, a progressive home school community that is part of the Agile Learning Centre (ALC) network. Adrian and I fell naturally into the cooking/cleaning rhythm required by such events. This was both greatly appreciated by the organisers, and confirmed to us our gifts in hospitality. As much as we like to be fed, we love to feed others. It was great to get to know everyone, and to see how much the young people enjoyed themselves.
What blew my mind about the ALC approach was that as far as curriculum content goes, it is entirely the learner’s choice as to what they do or don’t engage with. In the morning, everyone announces what they intend to do that day. This is then reviewed in the afternoon. I can’t give a fully knowledgeable account of this process and how successful it is, but the concept of allowing learners to learn what they want is quite astonishing when I reflect on my own experience as a learner and teacher. So much time in school is spent coercing children into doing things that a) they are not interested in and b) are useless outside the school environment. Where else (other than the army, the original model for school communities) are people required to walk silently in single file? Empires require subservience – as little autonomy and agency as possible. The idea that individuals should be in control of their own learning is incredibly subversive. These are all half-formed thoughts, but as with dipping my toes in the Anarchist literature, the ALC process has got me quite excited.
The Generosity Economy
On Thursday I was taken to a Green Drinks event to hear about The Generosity Economy, ‘a group of local individuals who come together to practice fulfilling the Needs & Wants of their lives and of the community, primarily without the use of money, through gifting.’ The financial system of the Empire means that huge financial gains can be made through wars and ecological destruction. This is nuts! Inspired by Charles Eisenstein’s ‘Sacred Economics’, The Generosity Economy forms ‘gift circles’ where members grow to trust in each other’s generosity, and feel more invested in their community.
Although this wasn’t framed in a religious context, The Generosity Economy holds many religious connotations for me. I’ve been praying my way through Romans. Paul talks about dying to sin and living in God through Jesus. In the ‘economy’ of sin practiced at the time of Jesus, you sinned, made the appropriate sacrifice at the temple, and atonement was made. It involved a transactional relationship with God. Jesus calls us to die to that transactional relationship and to live in one based on grace. Grace is a free gift, it cannot be bought or earned. This is what I see reflected in The Generosity Economy.
Grace – the Divine Economy
In community, Adrian and I continue to be graced with wonderful things. The delicious salad of wild plants and cultivated herbs Bear presented to us this evening wasn’t something we earned or deserved. It was a gift out of the abundance of the land and the abundance of Bear’s generosity.
I’d like to end with two examples of grace in action, one from the early Church, and one from the Iroquois of North America, communities that witnessed the violence of Empire first hand:
‘All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. [Acts 2:44-47]
‘In the villages of the Iroqouis, land was owned in common and worked in common. Hunting was done together, and the catch was divided among the members of the village. Houses were considered common property and were shared by several families. The concept of private ownership of land and homes was foreign to the Iroquois. A French Jesuit priest who encountered them in the 1650s wrote: “No poorhouses are needed among them, because they are neither mendicants nor paupers…. Their kindness, humanity and courtesy not only make them liberal with what they have, but causes them to possess hardly anything except in common.”’ Howard Zinn – A People’s History of the United States (2001)
Not many birds around at the moment the moment due to the time of year, but we’ve had a couple of good sightings: