After my divorce and my parents dying in the early Noughties, I went to Kenya as a volunteer, party to have the experience of doing some sort of service but mainly to learn stuff, about myself and about the world.
I learned plenty about me, what I like and dislike and what is important to me.Some of it was not that easy to interpret at the time (like storming out of class and telling my boss I would not set foot in the classroom with the students again: what was the learning in that?), but since then, and partly in response to what I had learned, I have been thinking a lot about what makes people tick, and I’m starting to see a picture.
I learned some pretty important stuff about the world too.Quite a lot of stuff I didn’t like. Or, at least, stuff which didn’t make me rejoice. I was not rejoicing about the poverty and apparent lack of opportunity for my Kenyan friends, and neither was I rejoicing about the rich world I was accustomed to where mobile phone subscribers can get a new handset every 18 months and, in fact, are encouraged to do so. If felt, in fact, as if both worlds were suffering.
My experience as a dyslexic child lead me to choose a career that didn’t entail being examined by writing prose. I found out about my own dyslexia at the age of 37 and it was a profoundly liberating experience. Now I think of IT as a choice, not a necessity in my life. By the end of 15 months in France working as a computer science research engineer I had learned that computer science is just something I can do, and that there are other choices available to me. My horizons broadened and I started to read about other fascinating stuff that I used to believe were off limits to me as a techie kid: personal development, the psychology of change, theory of education, economics, spirituality. And I started looking for a way to be in the world that would give me a sense of working towards helping to heal the suffering.
I became self-employed and started to work fewer days, moved to Cambridge with Nic and started to work on my garden, I’m slowly learning about Nonviolent Communication, Neurolinguistic Programming and transformative eduction. My idea of who I am has changed and I’m feeling happy with it.
My course at Schumacher is called Certificate In Education for Sustainability. When I started it I was a little bit concerned that it might be focussed green living to help stave off chaotic climate change and that this might not be quite what I am looking for. Meanwhile my education has continued; I recently took the time to read a bit about peak oil.
Thanks to Robin for showing this video at his recent talk on Transition Leicester.
When I connect the dots I see a story wherein the availability of very cheap energy has fueled the global economy and contributed to disparities of power and advantage that contribute directly to the poverty of rural Kenyan communities and to my emotional dissatisfaction of participating as a consumer in British capitalism. And at the same time as we used up that fuel in the and political power-play of our time, we were releasing our exhaust fumes into the atmosphere and setting up the global greenhouse that is melting our ice caps in a startling way. Some people, some with notable credentials, say we are doomed. Others disagree, out of ignorance, denial, faith or contradictory data. I don’t know what the future holds. If the planet doesn’t make itself inhospitable, our societies might do so when the stresses of increasing fuel prices come to bear on our economic and social systems. Until I started to look into what I could do to help the present situation, I didn’t even know about those other risks to a comfortable life.
Just as I am feeling ever happier with who I am, I feel I am being called with even more urgency to do something. Best of all, even if the threats of social and economic disquiet and climate chaos should be false foes or foes easily overcome, how fantastic it will for me in my future to know that I did something.
I am challenging myself to begin.