Author Archives: Nimue Brown

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings.

All community is conditional

Yesterday I found I’d been thrown out of a large Pagan facebook group (Pagans and Witches of the UK). It was a sobering reminder that all communities are conditional and that any community is perfectly entitled to evict me at any time and for any reason. It’s not the first time I’ve been kicked out of something and I’m sure it won’t be the last – the other two occasions were far more upsetting. There is no point protesting innocence, or appealing, getting angry or objecting, because in any community, the people who hold the boundaries have the power, and person evicted has none, and thus endeth the issue.

I wasn’t rude to anyone. I wasn’t trolling. I thought I wasn’t spamming, but four posts in eleven days is just too much, it turns out. Let me be clear, I failed to pay enough attention and I broke their rules and for this reason they are perfectly entitled to close the door on me. I don’t recall exactly what the posts were – proof enough that I wasn’t careful enough about this group. They will have been, for the greater part, me sharing things I thought were good and interesting that other people have done. It’s what I do, and on that score I remain unrepentant. Most Pagan organisers and creators have little or no budget for promoting their work. I will give shout outs, and share on things I think are good, things I’m asked to share – and yes sometimes things I’m paid to share (but I still have to think those things are good to take them on!). Feel free to ask me, or to make use of the spaces I hold.

I try to make sure that, in any space I’m in, I give enough of value to offset any short comings or mistakes on my part. I do my best to make sure I’m putting things in the hat that have at least the same value as anything I might benefit from. I had been an active participant in this ‘community’ but with thousands of people involved, what I give has little value, while my mistakes (largely that my understanding of ‘advertising’ is not theirs) are noticed.

I’m probably not alone in craving community spaces where I don’t feel this pressing sense of conditionality. Spaces it might be safe to turn up in need, and places where saying ‘hey look, a book!’ would not likely get me thrown out. Places where my value as a human being is good enough to offset my sometimes poor concentration, and my getting things wrong. Also spaces where I can champion other people’s projects and help them along.

On which subject, lovely Laura Perry has an online course running in Minoan spirituality – http://www.lauraperryauthor.com/#!online-classes/cmyn

Gods and Radicals is looking for submissions for its online site and twice yearly publication A beautiful Resistance http://godsandradicals.org/never-submit/   (forest-edged words, I love this so much).

You may not have seen the new online shrine to Rhiannon, which is also open to contributions. http://www.churchofasphodel.org/shrines/rhiannon/welcome.html

Of course it flows both ways, because my participation in any group is also conditional. Why would I want to be part of a Pagan group that wants to limit the sharing of Pagan creativity, events, courses and so forth? This is not somewhere I could ever call home. For me, one of the fundamental aspects of community is mutual support, and another is taking an interest in what each other are doing. I don’t know what you have if you take those two things out, but I do know its somewhere I wouldn’t choose to spend any time at all. You can’t have real world action if you can’t talk about things that are happening outside of facebook.

There is an enormous sense of power in being able to reject – especially the power to throw people out of spaces that mattered to them. The power to hurt and to deny can be a massive ego trip. On the whole I prefer the kinds of communities where every effort is made to include and support, they’re just nicer places to be. I’d rather be in communities where the conditions are very unlikely to force out anyone who really wanted to be there.


Put on my Pagan trousers!

For me, the first consideration when thinking about clothes to do Druidry in, is that it should enable me to spend time comfortably outside. Walking boots are a default – if I’m inside I’ll take them off and go barefoot. I think in terms of waterproof coats, rather than cloaks, I may also don waterproof trousers. Otherwise for a large chunk of the year, warmth is a major consideration, and in the brief summer, not over-heating is high on the list. Most of the time I won’t carry much extra gear to change into because I’m limited in how much I can carry, not having a car.

I take a very different approach to celebrant work, because I’ve found when working with unfamiliar people, and often with family groups that are a significant percentage non-Pagan, looking the part helps them. I do have a slinky black velvet dress and I’m not afraid to use it! People booking a celebrant tend to pick accessible places, sheltered and easy to work in, and they tend to do their celebrating in the warm part of the year, which makes this easier.

Going to Pagan events, I notice that a lot of people take the opportunity to wear and enjoy their more alternative clothing – which is great fun. I’m lucky in that I live in Stroud, a place that’s becoming a byword for hippies and green innovation, and that has a lot of Druids in it. In an understated way, I perpetually look a bit alternative and feel safe wearing things I like, so I just tend to carry on in that vein unless I’m thinking about it.

But I’ve also started thinking about it, because frivolity and play are on the list for this year, and I see a lot of frivolity and play in the things Pagans wear to do their stuff. This is no way to suggest that having special clothes to be Pagan in, is in any way not serious spirituality – I think play is important, and something I don’t do enough of.

I’m not cut out for slinky velvet witchcraft. I’m inherently scruffy, and I can’t really pull it off for more than brief bursts. As a person I’m not shiny – I cobble things together, I improvise, I’m more practical than elegant, and I’m seldom at ease in anything designed to draw attention to gender or sexual possibilities.

Last year I made a tabard – dark green and dark red with gold leaves appliquéd on. It’s lightweight and easily carried, and can be put over or under other garments so is passably practical. As an item to wear to rituals, it’s worked out well for me, and does a decent job of being celebrant kit as well. This year I’ve decided to go a bit further and make a cloak. I’m knitting it. I’ve had a lot of problems with my hands around knitting, so I’m making tiny squares and sewing them together. Most of the wool is other people’s rubbish – always my favourite thing to be working with. It’ll be mostly green and mottled, and at the moment (I have the hood and shoulders) looks a bit like the commons when the summer flowers are out, which is an evocation that pleases me greatly.

Overtly Pagan clothing can be about wanting other Pagans to recognise us and take us seriously. While there’s nothing wrong with that, I’m generally too hung up on other people’s approval for it to be a good idea. I need to work on being accepted as myself, not trying to fit in. Working out what to wear, and which needs I can answer in my choice of clothing, is an ongoing consideration.


Favourite things – of Sloths and Men

It may be a bit of a cheat plugging something I’m heavily involved with as a favourite thing for Steampunk Hands Around the World, but bear with me. There’s considerable justification for me claiming Tom Brown as a favourite thing. Favourite to the point of marrying him. He’s also a significant percentage of how I came to Steampunk in the first place (the other percentage being attributable to Professor Elemental).

When I first met Tom, through a publishing house many years ago, he was writing and illustrating Hopeless Maine by himself. I was entirely smitten – it was strange, gothic, moody and a bit Victorian in look. Tom wandered more deliberately into Steampunk, having always been attracted to things Victorian, but not until recently, aware there’s a whole movement. I trotted along behind, and here we are. Of all the projects I’ve worked on since then, Hopeless Maine stands out as a favourite thing for me. Tom eventually persuaded me to write for him – I was reluctant because I’d never written comics and had no idea how to do it. A long period of close collaboration, and all the wider conversations around it, and we ended up with an emotional attachment that took me across the Atlantic to visit him, and later, him across the Atlantic to live with me. I owe a lot to Hopeless Maine.

Which brings me round to the important matter of Sloths. Sloth Comics have now gone public on their slog, with the news that they are picking up Hopeless Maine. We’ve known this was happening for a while, but there’s nothing like a big public declaration of intent to get things moving. When our relationship with the first publisher – Archaia – fell apart because they’d been bought out by bigger and more commercially orientated Boom Studios, we looked around for someone cool. We liked Sloth as soon as we saw them – they publish comics that aren’t obvious, and formulaic looking. They also make very high quality books, and we’re looking forward to seeing Hopeless with that much better page print quality.

We’re not Sloth’s first Steampunk project, either. Happily, this move puts us alongside Francesca Dare and her glorious Penny Blackfeather, http://www.pennyblackfeather.co.uk/ (this comic I really like, its funny and full of unexpected things) the link will take you to the webcomic. Another canny female lead with a slightly dappy male sidekick, we suspect Salamandra and Penny would get along fairly well. Sloth also have Steam Hammer – an alternate history with a Scottish hero and a Victorian Britain that’s been overrun by steam powered Americans. I haven’t read it, but it looks good. Then there’s The Ring of the Seven Worlds – steampunk and studio Ghibli influenced. There are other non-Steampunk titles too, and I have some reading to do to catch up. It’s great moving to a house and feeling excited about everything they do.

I’ve popped the new cover in this blog – it’s for the omnibus edition that will bring volumes one and two out in the same book, with some other things that haven’t been seen before, and then we head for book three. This is the first Hopeless Maine piece where Tom and I have collaborated on the art – he does the lines, I do the colours, he does the magic and the photoshoppy bits. I can’t claim it as a favourite thing – it was an absolutely terrifying thing, but likely means I’ll be more involved in the art for future books.


Slowing down, a work in progress

One of the things this blog does, is to chart my relationship with the idea of slowing down. For much of my life, feeling financially pressured, and spending time on low paid work (usually writing based) has left me feeling that I have to work all the hours there are.  Slowing down in 2012 looked like trying to step away from 12 hour days and seven days weeks – https://druidlife.wordpress.com/2012/04/12/life-in-the-slow-lane/ – I was very, very busy.

It’s only in the last few months that I’ve managed to get my week reliably down to six days or fewer. I’ve found one day off in seven has an enormous impact on my concentration, and my emotional wellbeing. Time off really contributes to not succumbing to bouts of depression. It also discernibly reduces my experiences of anxiety. I’m not tired all the time, I have something in reserve for emergencies, rather than living like I’m in a perpetual state of emergency.

I’ve learned to drop pace, to not always be working as fast as I can. I gaze out of the window more. I take time to pause, contemplate and gather my thoughts. I’ve come to think of the one afternoon a month taken for contemplative Druidry as a necessity, not a luxury I can barely justify. Time is the most precious thing we have, and we only get to use it once. I’m eliminating the rushing, the feelings of pressure and panic, ever more keen to have a working life that doesn’t make me miserable, and thinking I could manage to be much happier.

There are feelings of luxury to be found in the lie in – getting up at 8 rather than at 7 is enough to give me that. The early night can also feel luxurious and indulgent. The days spent pottering about, and how much more pleasant the domestic jobs are when there’s plenty of time to do them and I don’t start out feeling exhausted. I’ve had the time to rediscover cooking as something I can enjoy. Most days, I now work under 10 hours, sometimes only 6 or 8 – this also makes a lot of odds. The twelve hour days, and longer, leave little energy or brain for anything else. It’s important to me to have time for reading, crafting, music walking, and socialising.

The big leap forward in recent months has been around time management. I’m organising my life with a diary rather than an endless ‘to-do’ list. I start each day seeing what I’ve pencilled in, I add things as I go, and I make sure that my days do not get too full, and that the fun things are also in the diary. I’ve got into a position where I can structure my work across the month, pacing it, and knowing where it’s going – unpredictable demands on my time have been a real problem in the past, and I’ve learned to avoid that. I’ve also learned not to just do what people want from me the moment they email me – having work constantly interrupted by other work is a really inefficient way to go. Demands go in the diary, I let people know a time frame for my intended response, and I get back to what I was doing.

This Christmas just gone, I managed to take a whole week off. I want that to become more of a regular feature. I want a couple of weeks off every year, and I want more patches of two or three days of break as well. I want to achieve more and spend less time doing it, and a big part of that involves looking at who is allowed to use up my time. I want the time to support people who need supporting, but I have to watch out for people who just want to use up my time for the sake of it. Historically, other people’s less than reasonable demands have been a serious barrier to slowing down, but I’m getting better at moving away from the people who don’t respect boundaries or take no for an answer, and the impact this has on my time has been dramatic.


Transport isn’t spiritual?

“Oh no, if you’re walking as transport, that isn’t spiritual.”

I was in a conversation with someone who had expressed an enthusiasm for embodied spirituality, and was told this. My idea of spiritual walking – namely that all walking is, or can be spiritual – was apparently wrong.  I don’t know how many other people believe this – that to be spiritual, an activity has to be redundant in practical terms – but it makes no sense to me. How can we talk about embodied spirituality, but only have it apply when we aren’t occupied with the physical realities of living? What it means is that Tai Chi and Yoga and standing meditations and walking that is deliberately constructed to be a spiritual exercise can be spiritual, but getting somewhere is excluded.

To do something that has no use to you may seem like a good act of dedication to the divine. Time and energy poured into an act that has no purpose other than to express adoration for the divine. If that’s your path, by all means, follow it, but it isn’t mine and never will be. Central to this is that I do not want this neat divide of sacred and profane. I don’t want to see some things as special and other bits as not special – for me this is intrinsic to embodied, experienced spirituality. All of the earth is sacred. Any act of engaging with the earth can therefore be sacred if we want it to be.

As a Pagan I want to engage spiritually with the physical realities of my existence. I want to live in my breath and my movement – something I don’t always do well. I want to live as greenly as I can – walking for me is part of being sustainable, and being sustainable to the best of my abilities is for me, a key act of Pagan dedication. I need to get places – to work the soil, to share bardic expressions, to buy food and clothes, to meet people. None of these things strike me as being intrinsically unspiritual aims. I seek relationship and survival.

There’s another aspect to this in that green living takes time. I cook from raw materials most days. I hand wash my clothes. I don’t have a car. Things that are the work of minutes for some people take me hours. This does not leave me with a vast amount of time and bodily energy to devote to doing spiritual things that serve no practical purpose. My choice to live lightly is in no small part a spiritual choice.

It doesn’t matter where I am or why I am walking or who I am with – I always pay a lot of attention to my surroundings, to the elements and the wildlife around me. Anyone who is walking can. I am more conscious of the exact shape of the land when I walk than when inside any mode of transport. I feel and acknowledge the wind, the sun, the night time – there’s conscious connection and presence for me. It doesn’t matter if I’ve popped out for a loaf of bread, or am coming back from a party – I could still see a fox, or hear an owl, and I’m alert to all of that.

To walk (or cycle) for transport is to make a big commitment to living lightly. Cars cause all sorts of problems – emissions, contribution to global climate change, wars fought over oil, noise pollution, air pollution, the need for roads and parking spaces requiring land to be covered in tarmac, the death toll of wildlife on the roads, the interruption and destruction of habitats for roads, the deaths of people on the roads… I think anything any of us can do to reduce this has to be good. It is not easy or convenient to do without a car in a culture that assumes car use as normal. It can be socially alienating and makes jobs and key infrastructure – like healthcare – much harder to access. It is, by any measure, a sacrifice.

But of course no one is selling expensive courses in getting from A to B on your own two feet. No exotic walking to work retreats, no walking to the supermarket gurus, and so on. It is ‘pedestrian’ with all that suggests to us. No one gets to be important by walking to where they need to be, and no one will be impressed by how special and spiritual you are if they see you doing it.

We evolved to get around by walking. We have this unusual body configuration precisely so that we can put one foot in front of the other to get where we need to be. Walking is ancestral, it is fundamental, it is intrinsic to being human. Walking to get stuff done is a major part of the history of our species. How can this not be spiritual?


Favourite Things – Retro politics and unblamable men

The theme for this year’s Steampunk Hands around the World is ‘Favourite things’ so I’m going to use today’s blog to talk about why I love retro-politics, and The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing. They are, for those of you who are as yet uninitiated, four chaps with punk influences, guitars, drums, a musical saw, comedy genius and a great willingness to make a lot of noise.

I shuffled into the idea of retro politics quite by accident, while writing Intelligent Designing for Amateurs. It’s a simple enough idea – talking about the politics of the past in order to say something about the present. It’s something The Men are exceedingly good at. In this period of despicable austerity, talking about Victorian England is a really good way of illustrating how backward we’re being, while being funny, and creating enough emotional distance to make it bearable. You wouldn’t go out to listen to a band sing about the terrible air pollution in London, but somehow a song about Victorian smog does exactly the same job while being funny.

One of my favourite songs on this score is Doing it for the Whigs, which pauses at one point for Andrew O’Neill to shout ‘That’s right, votes for women! Fucking get over it.’ I could go off on a long, long rant about the modern men who think women should not be allowed to vote, but I’ll stick with Andrew’s line. It’s charmingly to the point. Their ‘Charlie’ song works in a similar way, reflecting Victorian fury with Darwin suggesting they were all descended from apes, and here we are, all this time later and we’ve still got people pedalling intelligent design. I could get very depressed at our failure to progress, but I won’t, I’ll go and listen to Margate Fhtagn (didn’t we have a lovely time the day we met Cthulhu).

Modern politics are, for the greater part, bloody depressing. Retro politics makes it possible to laugh. And The Men that Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing are a very entertaining outfit, and a fantastic live act. I saw them at Exeter last December. They talked from the stage about the importance of community and getting skills that have a real use. They talked about deliberately keeping their ticket prices and merchandise costs as low as they can ‘so you don‘t have to exploit someone else to be able to afford our shit’. My kind of people, my kind of philosophy. Get angry, and have a laugh and change everything.

“The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing come from a past which probably never happened via a present they didn’t want.” Read more about them here – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Men_That_Will_Not_Be_Blamed_for_Nothing

This is them on bandcamp – https://blamedfornothing.bandcamp.com/

More Steampunk Hands Around the World goodness here – https://airshipambassador.wordpress.com/2016/01/13/announce-hands-2016/


Open Art Surgery

When we do events, Tom and I quite often find there are people who would like to talk to us – or to other already in-print people – about their own work. We’re happy to do this, and it’s something we anticipate doing formally at Asylum this year (massive Steampunk event, August bank holiday, Lincoln). Next week (13th February 2016) we’ll be at Museum in the Park, in Stroud from 11am – 3pm, feel free to seek us out and ask us questions.

In the meantime, here are some FAQs that, to be honest, I’d rather not be dealing with at Open Art Surgeries, not least because there’s very little I can do to help you if I’m faced with one of these…

  • I had an idea for a book. This is lovely, and best of luck to you, but an idea for a book is not a book, and if I take on helping you to move that book from the idea stage to the writing stage it’s going to use up more time than I can spare. Learn about characters, plots, world building, dialogue, etc etc, and then try and write the book. If you want to talk to me, or anyone else about publishing, there’s absolutely no point even asking until you’ve established that you can write. Many people start their first novel and don’t finish it and go no further. Let’s find out if this is you or not before we talk.
  • I started a novel and I can’t finish it and I don’t know what to do! Don’t worry, this happens a lot. Most published authors have some failed attempts along the way. It is ok to ditch the first attempt and try something else, or re-write it in a different way – this is a learning process. It’s ok to feel stuck for a while. If you can get through this patch, you could be the sort of person who writes books. If you can’t get past it, you are not cut out for authoring.
  • Will you read my book? Probably not. If you’re a friend, or I’m really taken with what you’re doing, I might offer, but if you have to ask me, it’ll probably be a no. It’s a time issue. If you are going to ask me to read, be clear about what you’re asking for and why you think this will help you. If you’re looking for reviews and endorsements, I may say yes, if it’s clearly my sort of thing.
  • Can Tom do me some art? If your book is unwritten, and there is no budget for art, this is not a question to be asking. If you want to do a comic and don’t have an artist, you need to find an artist at the same career point as you, i.e. someone who has never done a comic and wants and author to work with. Art takes a lot of time, think carefully before you ask someone if they are willing to give you hours of working time for nothing when they could be being paid. They would have to love you a lot to say yes. Tip – if you want to re-use a piece of art someone’s already done, the chances are they will license it to you for something more affordable, that one’s always worth enquiring about.
  • My child wants to be an author/artist. Then make sure they have some means of earning a living during the long stretch of a creative career when you can’t get paying work and everyone expects you to give your stuff away for ‘exposure’. Currently the industry is a mess and creative people are sorely underpaid. We have no idea what the score will be in ten year’s time.
  • I can’t draw a stick figure. We hear this a surprising amount, and we don’t know why people feel the need to come and tell us this, but we can’t do much to help you except say this. Art is not magic, nor is writing. Mostly it comes down to graft. If you are willing to put in about ten thousand hours (on this, or any other thing you might not have mastered) you will probably master it. That’s all you have to do. Spend ten thousand hours drawing or writing and you’ll be a whole other person.
  • Can you put me in touch with X? Again, we may offer to hook you up with people if we think you are just what they were looking for. If you have to ask, we’re probably going to say no. If you think about someone else’s contact network as something to access and exploit, you’re on shaky ground. What we have is relationships with people built up over time, nourished by care, effort and attention. We aren’t going to give you their phone number unless we have a really good reason to do so.

If you’ve established that you can write, or draw, if you’re trying to figure out how to take your work, or your project to the next level, do come and talk to us. We may be able to offer advice and insights, and if we like what you’re doing and we can think of a way to help you, then we will.


Outlandish, magical and unlikely things

Books I have recently read…

No Fire Escape in Hell- Kim Cayer. I picked this up because I really enjoyed Kim’s thoroughly mad tale ‘Lights, Camera, Dissatisfaction’ and her second novel is equally crazy and charming. Kim writes madcap middle aged romps, in which unlikely heroines with improbable ways of life face outrageous and bizarre challenges and somehow pull through.  The heroine of No Fire Escape in Hell is trying to buy off her abusive husband so he’ll leave her be. To do this, she lives in her car while delivering singing telegrams to the Toronto area. Laugh out loud funny in places, but also a serious look at what it means to have nowhere to live, especially the social alienation it causes, and the way in which living with abuse can get you making insane choices.

More information here – http://www.roundfire-books.com/books/no-fire-escape-hell

 

The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm. So it turns out that what we think of as Grimm’s fairy tales comes from the 1857 edition, massively edited and re-written and a long way from the original stories. This is a translation of the first edition, in which fewer tweaks had been made to the collected stories. Some are just fragments, many are bizarre and a lot darker than the versions we’re familiar with. There are glass slippers, but not in the Cinderella story – they turn up at the ends of tales ‘and I was there, in my glass slippers’ being a way of saying ‘and this is total nonsense.’ A fascinating read, somewhat repetitive with versions of the same stories, but a must for anyone interested in fairy tales and the possible Pagan subtext of fairy tales. (I may come back and blog about this properly some other time.)

More information here – http://press.princeton.edu/titles/10300.html

Pagan Portals Candle Magic – Lucya Starza This is an excellent little book for people starting out on a witchcraft path or interested in exploring magic. A light accessible writing style not dissimilar to Rachel Patterson, lots of things that can easily be undertaken and ways of working that can be flexed to suit your situation – broad theories of how to work rather than lots of terribly specific – and therefore often  irrelevant – spells. It’s a book that encourages flexibility and creative thinking, rather than offering a set of instructions. Absolutely ideal for younger witches, and for solitary witches, but perfectly usable for anyone new to candle magic, and for group work. At the moment, spells are not a significant part of my life, but I’ve enough of a background to feel confident about saying that this is a good and useable book.

I’m running a Thunderclap campaign to draw more attention to this books, if you can loan me a tweet, tumblr of facebook post it would be greatly appreciated (it’s easy, quick and painless) – https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/37263-pagan-portals-candle-magic?locale=en

More here – http://www.moon-books.net/books/pagan-portals-candle-magic


Why you need a Tweazel

I’m a big fan of Matlock the Hare. I met Phil and Jacqui Lovesey through the medium of Twitter quite some years ago, and instantly adored Jacqui’s artwork. Through their regular posts, I met some of the creatures of Winchett Dale, got to know the magical hares at the heart of their books, and came to the conclusion that I needed to read what they’d created. I bought The Trefflepugga Path, and then The Tillian Wand, and now I’m waiting (and I’ve been waiting ages) for The Trial of the Magical Elders. I need this book. So, this is a plea – support the kickstarter because that’s how we get book three and I’m going mad with not knowing what happens next. Book 2 finished on a serious cliffhanger.

Go here (please, please) https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/934318055/the-trial-of-the-majickal-elders

Why, you may legitimately ask, is this fabulous book needing crowd sourcing to get published? It’s a bloody good question. The trouble is, that the main character is a talking hare, and most of the other characters are creatures. In the eyes of conventional publishing, this means it is a book for very small children and no one else could want to read it. However, the writing is grownup, and sophisticated, clever, plotty, totally unsuitable for very small children. My teenager loves these books. I love these books. The other adults I’ve bought these books for also love these books. These are great books, but they defy the rules, and so publishers won’t take a risk on them. Because, you know, Watership Down, Animal Farm, The Duncton Wood Chronicles – no one has ever written a really successful book for older readers that had talking animals in it. Umm.

There are tweazels in this kickstarter. Alarming and simultaneously wonderful things, tweazels (the orange fellow in the image at the top of the blog). A handmade, lovely thing, there are at time of blogging, several left. I have a dripple (another denizen of Winchett Dale), I can vouch for the quality of these creations. They are superb.

I need books that surprise me. I need books that take me somewhere else, and fill my head with things I’d never have thought of and get me looking at life from different angles. I need to be stretched, and unsettled and uplifted. The first two volumes of Matlock the Hare were, quite seriously, everything I have ever looked for in a book. If you’ve been with my blog a while then you probably like the same sorts of things I do. I encourage you to check out their website – http://matlockthehare.com/page/654816-books.aspx


Being an advert for your way of life

Here’s a question – would people look at you and be persuaded that your way of life is a good sort of life? Out there in the mainstream, this has everything to do with conforming to the standards laid out in adverts and in media representations. It’s simply a case of whether you look as affluent and successful and fashionable as you can. For those of us who have adopted alternative lifestyles, it’s worth wondering now and then how other people see us.

How we look tends to be a direct consequence of how we live, plus the choices we make around appearance. For the purposes of this piece I’m not talking about any inbuilt differences not subject to influence by lifestyle.

Do we want to be taken seriously? And by whom? And does that mean we need to conform to their expectations around appearance? Do we want to be seen as different, or as drop outs, social rejects, hippies, weirdoes… do we want to be accepted and respected in our differences, or do we want to be camouflaged when dealing with people who are not like us?

If we genuinely want to change things in the world, we need to persuade people that the alternatives are good and the conventions less good. We need to function as adverts for our beliefs, because we are competing with the vast advertising budgets of capitalist consumerism. If we look persuasive, we may persuade others that it isn’t all bean curd and hair shirts, and that you can live a low impact life without being miserable. If we took away the commercial advertising and judged conventional living on its consequences, people would be a good deal less persuaded by it.

When I’m walking for transport, I make a point of smiling cheerfully at the long queues of traffic I frequently pass. I generally am happy when I’m walking, I look like someone who is having a good time, and I see the faces in the slow moving cars and know that they are not. I’m the one with the freedom of the open road. However, all some people will see is that I go everywhere in walking boots and that there’s often mud around my ankles. A person for whom shiny shoes trumps everything is never going to be persuaded by me as an advert for walking everywhere.

I’m not an advert for being an author. I have no problem with this. I’m fairly representative of the 95% of authors who do not earn anything like enough to live on. We could do with a lot more realism about how the industry works, and the odds of even earning a minimum wage by writing.

We’re all of us in a constant process of expressing our values and the consequences of our way of life to everyone else – through our actions and how we look and seem. It’s worth taking a step back and wondering how you look to other people, if you’re interested in making change. Are you persuasive? Are other people going to wish they were more like you?

And if the conclusion you come to is that from the outside your way of living is not attractive or persuasive, or that no one would want the kind of life you have, there may be other questions to ask.


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