On human frailties

I’m home now, post-Uncivilisation, and exhausted. This weekend saw the culmination of months of involvement and assistance, the last six weeks of which became relentless and overwhelming, eating up every spare moment of an already busy life and demanding unhealthy amounts of my attention and personal resources. I was anxious about the size and the scale of the undertaking, carried as it was by a tiny group of strangers scattered across the UK, all of whom struggled with competing priorities. But frustration and anxiety are demotivating, when there is a deadline: no time to open things up, just keep it to yourself please and keep your eyes on the prize – this is going to be fun!

Ironically, I began to feel like a lone doomer voice, questioning systems and anticipating collapse points. Of course, questioning systems in which much has already been invested is naturally unwelcome. It can even be construed as malevolent. I began to wonder where I might ever find this space, referred to in Amelia’s Magazine, “this other kind of space, where it’s safe to feel things and have conversations you might not do with your colleagues or your friends back home.”

So what does it mean, to be ‘exhausted’? Spent, used up, empty? To be fair, I’m not totally exhausted, because there were some incredibly good things about the festival that replenished my spirits, not least that so many people attending found it inspiring and useful. Like Big Star I want to say “thank you friends” to the people who made the weekend worth my while:

  • M – for his dedication, patience, thoroughness, his sharp and sustaining sense of humour, his wry analyses, and his sensitive leadership from behind and from the side. A generous soul through and through.
  • K – for her great good sense, her calm support, and her incredibly kind heart
  • S – provider of perspective and wisdom, and a most grounded sense of the bigger picture
  • C – whom I was so happy to finally meet and with whom I shared a most lovely, unexpected early morning walk that was ‘my favourite bit’
  • J – who offered me two delightful out-of-the-blue bear hugs, both of which arrived uncannily at moments of sorest need, like messages from the universe reminding me of its wellness
  • A & R – for their buoyancy and their reassuringly practical and sensible help, straight and to the point and getting things done
  • C, M and Z – offering fellowship and affirmation from out of a seeming nowhere
  • A – pressed into service unexpectedly and helping so generously throughout all of Sunday
  • And finally, most importantly, E – for tagging along, carrying heavy bags, fetching and minding and sitting still and waiting, and not least for having endured weeks of distracted neglect, emotional fallout and shoddy meals.

From the back of the room, in between book sales and taxi chasing and volunteer deployment, I caught snippets of the ‘Future of the Dark Mountain Project‘ session, with its open and welcoming circle of chairs and its invitation to support two unwitting and harrassed project leaders. It reminded me – infuriatingly, poignantly – of why I’d put my name down on a list, way back in October.  And it brought to my mind a song by the Handsome Family, a song about our inevitable frailties:

A Beautiful Thing
Don’t you remember that snowy December when we went to see “Singing in the Rain”? I shouldn’t have smuggled in that bottle of gin because after the film, I could barely walk. But darling don’t you know it’s only human to want to kill a beautiful thing…. We should have been dancing like lovers in a movie, but I fell and cut my head in the snow. I wanted to tell you all the ways that I loved you, but instead I got sick on the train. But darling don’t you know it’s only human to want to kill a beautiful thing.