Back to the Future
I recently was in Dartmoor, the home to several Bronze Age ruins. Grimspound is the best preserved stone circular village dating from about 1450 BC. The remains consist of a large circle with roughly 24 remnants of individual houses. As I walked between the stones, I saw people in animal pelts around the fire, interwoven families looking out for each other’s young; rituals, constellations, hardship and togetherness embedded in the very land on which I stood.
I was reminded of the books Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari, and Tribe, by Sebastian Junger. Both are provocative reads that tangentally shine a light on our tribal roots and why the world we live in today is an unnatural leap from people who thrive on a sense of belonging and purpose.
I read an article recently about the return of the barter system during Covid. People from as far away as Fiji, and as nearby (for some of us) as Kent have found different ways of reinstating this age-old basic economy. In the days of the tribe, each person had something to offer to the group. It was a simpler way, a life of necessity, of teamwork and survival. These days, things like Airbnb and car shares welcome the ‘barter’ label, but they don’t bring us any closer to each other, or to remembering our unique skills or innate gifts that we have to offer, one of the richest parts about the old fashioned tribal barter.
In one of the programs I am enroled in at the moment, the past four weeks have been about stepping out of the ordinary assumed roles we wear as adults, and back to the roots of the things we excelled at as children. I found this exercise a powerful reminder, particularly in listening to other people’s re-discoveries. Some had totally forgotten about past hobbies or skills and veered in very different directions in their careers; others had translated those childhood skills into meaningful work. The fascinating part was that the majority were in one way or another enrolled in the program to realign those past natural abilities into their present day work. There is something beautiful and innate about reconnecting to our essential nature and inviting it back into daily life.
Resolving the Past
A silver lining of Covid is in reconnecting with family and friends from childhood. I have spoken more to my father during lockdown than I have in two decades. I have heard from friends from my childhood who I haven’t seen in 35 years, and sending letters in the post to get reaquainted has been a reason to get on my bike and to the village shop.
These various reinstatements of relationships from long ago have gone hand in hand in bridging the space between childhood and adulthood. Memories, music and even pulling out old recipes have, in a subtle way, resolved years of questions about who I was, and who I am today.
We have all been a part of various tribes over our lifetime. Because of the global world of which we were a part pre-Covid, this meant that all that was needed to end one community relationship and to begin another was to hop on a plane and start afresh. Many of my generation, myself included, have at times, felt ‘homeless’, citizen-of-nowhere, confused and uprooted as a result, despite the excitement and adventure of an exported life.
Travelling back in time, whether that be through looking at old photos, contacting family or reconnecting with friends, is a reminder of who we were, the essence of which we still are. Picking up the ‘dropped’ stitch and seeing it through the test of time is an act of awareness. It requires a level of intention and knowingness that validates us, as humans, as connected; as part of a tribe.
Lockdown 2.0 in England is underway. On the face of it, my life will not change so much, though I am aware many are suffering and face further hardship. Because of my underlying health condition, I have taken the long and far view from the start. In my twenties I ran marathons and I have the same feeling now that I used to get around mile 15. ‘It’s not over yet, pace yourself’, my twenty-year-old runner’s mind is telling my heavier, wrinklier, wiser self.
Some of the best things in life take time: friendships that ripen over decades despite and because of challenges; playing an instrument; creating through a visual art form; raising a child…the practice of yoga. Most things that are truly worthwhile get better with age.
We know, from history, that there will be a resolution to the virus. The question is, what will we take with us from this time? What will we have learned to go the distance, with each other and the bigger global tribe of which we are a part? This time now is so precious. Ironically, it can be a time of reconnection even through the separation – to ourselves, to the people and things that matter.
So….what are you going to do today, to connect with your past and be present with your future unfolding?