The Enchanted Life – a review

Sharon Blackie’s The Enchanted Life is a non-fiction book about enchantment and re-enchantment. It’s written for people who are suspicious that there are fundamental things wrong with life that they need to fix. The book offers stories, the author’s experiences and useful exercises to help you recognise your disenchantment and do something about it. It includes a solid analysis of how we collectively got into this mess in the first place – the beliefs, values and philosophy that brought us here – and how to rethink that.

It’s a very readable book, it ambles round subjects with the leisurely grace of a wild river and it has a lot to offer by way of insight and inspiration. I think it would be a good book for anyone just starting out on the Druid path as well as for anyone feeling the first yearnings for re-enchantment in their life. For the person a bit further along this road, it offers affirmation, and ideas and may well prove useful.

Most of the time, the assumed reader seems to be middle aged, middle class and winning at life by conventional standards – they’ve got the house, the job, the busy life, the generally accepted signs of success. Many of the people whose work the author draws on seem to fall into this category. They have it all, and then they take a massive risk and jump into another, more authentic, simpler and happier way of being. There’s not much here about how you go the other way – from the pressures and miseries of abject poverty and insecurity towards this more liberated way of life. How do you do it if you don’t have personal resources, or skills? Going self employed calls for a massive skill set, you have to do all the things a company does – the legal and financial obligations, the marketing and building a client base as well as doing the work. It’s not, I think, something everyone could do.

There’s also an underlying assumption here that you are an able bodied person who can walk every day, and sit outside every day. Now, as disability goes, I’m at the not so afflicted end, and I cannot go for a walk every day, and sitting outside in cold weather would cause me considerable harm. I’d like to see re-enchantment work that doesn’t assume an able body.

Sharon Blackie has a lot to say about the rise of stress, depression and anxiety in our culture and the relationship between that and our working lives. I’m very glad to see this getting properly explored and discussed. However, much of the book focuses on solitary, personal re-enchantment, and while that’s a good place to start, I wanted her to go further. I wanted more about how we enable re-enchantment in each other, how we build communities of mutual support. I think one of the big problems in our culture is that we make problems personal that should be seen as collective. How disability and mental health impact on us are fine cases in point.

What can I do, as a person who has broken out to a fair degree, to help someone who is stuck in the consumerist machine still? What can I do to support the people who can’t easily get out and connect with nature? How can I be part of the solution for other people, not just myself?

My guess is that the cover and title will appeal to readers who are already exploring this path. Folk who are reading Robert Macfarlane, and slow movement books, people interested in the Transition movement, permaculture, people who are already looking at sustainable and low stress lifestyles. Probably the people who most need to read this book are actually the ones who don’t yet consciously know they are in trouble. So, here’s my suggestion. If you are the sort of person to be automatically attracted to this book, buy it, read it, figure out who you know who would most benefit from it, and press a copy into their hands.

More about the book here – http://sharonblackie.net/the-enchanted-life/

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

10 responses to “The Enchanted Life – a review

  • Ella

    I have come across several other writings on this subject in various magazines. All of them went from very successful, high paying careers to a simple life. None of these people had anything in common with average folks working to pay the bills but longing to break out. I would like to see a book or article address those of us without a big bank account or expensive home to sell. Or a partner for that matter!

    • Nimue Brown

      Very much with you on this. The amount of privilege underpinning modern nature writing is a real problem. We need answers that are available to everyone.

      • Elizabeth

        I think this privileged oblivion to how life really is for most folk is a most serious issue for our future. It’s alienating so many and contributing to a dispirited and overwhelmed culture. That said more and more folk are calling this out. Time to get real

      • Nimue Brown

        Yes to all of that! Radical change cannot be a hobby for the few, it must be for everyone. It has to be about quality of life for everyone, not profits for the few as well – it’s all interconnected.

  • Wrycrow

    Oh yes, the “inspiring” stories of how a middle aged affluent couple bought a farm and now live off grid rescuing animals thanks to their parents leaving them 500k. Nice work if you can get it. It’s the same with the “follow your bliss” mantra, it’s just not possible for people who need to take a boring and/or demanding job to pay the bills. I’d love a book that offered solutions we can all make use of, but from the sound of things, this ain’t it.

    • Nimue Brown

      It’s got some usable stuff in it for people with fewer options, but it doesn’t recognise really what it means to not have options. I’ve got a book in my to-read pile that I’m hoping will do the trick… I live in hope.

      • wildingmarcy

        Hello Nimue, and thanks for this review. I agree with the points folks are making about how to break free when you lack resources. I’d love to know the title of the book in your “to-read pile” if you’d like to share it.

      • Nimue Brown

        It’s called Primal Awareness, by Rob Wildwood.

  • lornasmithers

    I really enjoyed ‘If Women Rose Rooted’ but am not sure I’d like this one. I don’t feel like I need instructions and exercises to lead an enchanted life. Yet, as you say, I’m sure it will be valuable to lots of other people.

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