from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Friday, 23 January 2015

we are one another

Something relatively simple (in length, if not in scope) for you today: a short excerpt from a back copy of the New Statesman (July 2013); an article by poet and novelist John Burnside on Mark Cocker's book Birds and People.  (And yes, you're right that I'm [also] avoiding work on The Book.)

As Burnside says, it's impossible to write a book about birds without addressing the tragedy of species loss, habitat loss, deforestation and all the mindless ways in which we humans demonstrate how little we care for Other, especially the non-human other.

And of course it's always relevant, and poignant, to apply to our human-to-human relationships as well.

How would it be to live as if we really were what we really are: utterly interconnected each with each other? I bang that drum a lot, I know. Repeating the question keeps me enquiring into what it means to live a more sustainable life; which has to be better, I guess, than 'the unexamined life', even if it feels too little too late much of the time.

I came across this article in the muck-heap of papers on my desk of which I wrote yesterday. So here's the excerpt.

'"We are all responsible for everything and everyone in the face of everybody," says Dostoevsky... Taking that declaration as a starting point, Emmanuel Levinas created a philosophy in which each of us is confronted with what he calls "the face" of the other, which both implores and challenges us not to do it harm, but to respond to it from a position that goes beyond mere respect or even compassion – a position that, because it understands the necessity of the other to our own continued  being, approaches the deeply unfashionable condition of reverence. That we can see reverence for birds as old-fashioned or sentimental is merely another indicator of our own outmoded thinking with regard to human success, a solipsistic way of thinking that takes such absurd indicators as GDP or the Dow Jones as measures of prosperity.

'As Cocker points out, "To assume that we alone are all that matter and to contemplate with any kind of equanimity the loss of these other species, or a part of them, is to risk losing our very souls and silencing our own imaginations."'

Hear hear.


  1. The probation service that I used to work in has been dismantled. The 'advise, assist and befriend' ethos is no longer fashionable. Where do people with my ideals work? It seems to me, human beings are also treated as 'other' and their take on how we live together eroded. Your earlier blog about us doing what we can despite the seeming impossibility of making a difference, is the best we can do. love Marg

  2. May I join the orchestra, Ro? If you bang the drums I will pluck the harp and perhaps if there are enough of us forming that unconventional orchestra, its music and harmony will fill the spheres and make others listen one day in the not too distant future!!
    B xx

  3. Marg and Bea, thank you for the care and support. It's good knowing many of us now support these ideas; maybe critical mass is not as far away as I sometimes fear. At least - we need to act as though it isn't...

    Marg, that and so many other crucial services. But there are organisations (like CAB and the Samaritans as well as many charities) who could really use your skills and kindness. Trouble is, paid posts are fewer and fewer.

    Let us not give up.

    With love


  4. Yes... Completely in harmony with my own post yesterday...

  5. Oh, I lead poetry workshops in a residential home for people with neurological disabilities, so it's not that my take on life doesn't have an outlet. Simply, that those offenders who previously had access to an open mind, the possibility of change, may find such an approach less available. And that lack affects us all in the same sort of way as our thoughtless treatment of the 'other' in the natural world. Marg, who will try not to give up!

  6. Marg, yes, of course. 'Shortsighted' in relation to Government policies doesn't start to describe it, does it? I realised you'd still be doing plenty of worthwhile things, of course. x

    Robert, thanks. Will head on over - had missed that post.


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