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“Unaware (Unconscious) Violence, and the Seeds of In-action”: Reflections from the Deep Live Gathering 2022 in Montenegro

Thanks to the Deep Adaptation Forum, and in particular Igor Polsky, I was able to personally participate in the Deep Live Gathering 2022 event in Montenegro. Here I share a few reflections from the 4-day gathering.

Earth Ceremony

Our ‘Earth Ceremony’ was held on Sunday morning in the mountains close to Budva, in an area filled with ancient olive trees – many of them hundreds of years old. To make things easier, I arrived on Saturday evening with my mat and sleeping bag, to spend the night there. It was already dark when I arrived, but the paths and gathering spot were well-lit. This was convenient at first, but the brightness of the lamps made sleep difficult. No other people were there, and I was surrounded by silence. Before I fell asleep, I thought about the way some flying insects are attracted by artificial lights…. Quite often, this means death for them; they get eaten by predators, or they overheat.

In the morning, when all the participants had gathered, we sat in a circle and shared whatever was on our minds.

Before we did this, Igor had told us that at the end of this process it’s good to leave something of beauty in the place where you do it; so in fact, our discussion started with what this thing could be – material or immaterial – and on what beauty actually is. Our discussion was slightly interrupted by a 3 year-old girl who was there with her parents. She accidentally dropped a small plastic bottle of sweet yoghurt; so our group experienced its atomic-pink unnatural colour on the ground, and its artificially strong smell in the air. The girl was upset, and cried loudly. It struck us that this ‘yoghurt incident’ demonstrated how often, we bring our industrial-made stuff into natural places, and end up creating more disbalance than harmony.   

As we got back to sharing our thoughts, I raised a question that had occurred to me: 

‘What if these electrical lights, all around the world, created by people for their own convenience – for the sake of luxury, and enabling us to live against the sun’s cycles – these electric lights which, for some parts of humanity, have only been accessible for the last 100-150 years – what if they are one of the reasons why the number of insects is falling significantly year by year?’

This ‘insects apocalypse’ was almost missed by mainstream scientific institutions, until it was noticed by a German entomological society. Now, ‘light pollution’ is a familiar term. Mostly, though, it’s used in reference to human health (for example, in the way that it can disturb normal sleep patterns). But I’ve not heard much discussion about how light pollution affects other living beings. So we may not realise that our night-time electrical lights are destroying species. This is an example of how humans can use technology for their own convenience (even when it’s not truly necessary), and it tells a story of unrecognised, unreasonable violence that is just outside our scope of perception.

In response to my reflections, Igor spoke of a radically light tram which he’d seen in Moscow around a year and a half ago; he said that this was one of the triggers that helped him decide to move from Russia to a smaller country, where such trams would be just impossible. And here were are in Montenegro now.  

Once the participants had finished sharing their thoughts, they explored the area; some of them, including me, gathered to run a small, ad-hoc workshop about the history of Montenegro.

The ancient olives you see in this photo are not in the exact spot where we gathered, but this is quite a typical landscape for this region. I made this photo a week later after the event.

To do reasonable things, stop doing something that became unreasonable.

The next day, we held a pre-evaluation Zoom session about the whole Deep Live Gathering. This was moderated by Pavel Luksha (change catalyst, and facilitator; founder of Global Education Futures). He and Johnathan Kabat, who is involved in Ecosystem Restoration camps, suggested that it’s important for us to have a vision in mind – something that the Deep Adaptation Forum can strive to make a reality. We carried the discussion on, offline, when the Zoom session finished, and Igor shared his essay written a year ago – ‘The Two Wheels of a Chariot’. In this, he points out that, (as I understand it) if we feel ourselves to be a part of ‘the wholeness’, we can’t just observe, we need to act.

But to see clearly what, how and when to act – that needs a calm and clear mind. So, I’d suggest the first thing on the “to do” list should be to try and achieve this state. I’m not confident that I can always do so, but what I’ve found that works for me (after years of practice) is cross off any activities from my “to do” list, that I used to see as normal or socially mandatory, but which don’t, in the end, have significant importance for me.

By stopping doing these things, I find I have much more time for myself. Being less busy, I can find that calmness more often. It has also brought me to a different lifestyle, and often to unexected places. Here are some of the things that I personally have found useful to stop (and for sure, these are my personal choice – I’m not presuming to dictate what others should do):

  • Don’t buy water in plastic bottles. I look for alternatives.
  • Don’t drink coffee or industrially-produced tea. I like the taste of good clean water.
  • Don’t eat in restaurants. I buy food only from green markets. 
  • Don’t ‘buy fresh air’. I stopped living in cities, where you have to buy a ticket or petrol to get to the countryside.
  • I follow the sunlight and use less electrical light.
  • Don’t watch video and films too often (I watch 2-3 films per year). I listen to real people. 
  • Switch off the video function on Zoom; most of the time I only listen, rather than watching, on Zooms.
  • Don’t cut your hair. In my case, it saves money, time and attention. 
  • Don’t have pets. Since early childhood, I have had the sense that I don’t have the right to ‘own’ another living being
  • Don’t buy new clothes; repair them, or buy second-hand. 

And I’d suggest that once we have got rid of these unwanted drains on our activity and attention, we might find enough time and space to see global, and local, processes in a much clearer way. Then we could, in small groups, organise regular revision and rethinking gatherings – ’wake-up seminars’ – to find what actions actually are reasonable to do, and in which directions we should focus our energy and attention.

This was my second experience of joining an ecology-related event in the Balkans. The first one happened in July, and you can see my description of it here: Reflections on Summer School on Environmental Activism and Climate Change. 2022 Novi Sad, Serbia.

DeepLive, electriclights, insectapocalypse, lifestyle, Montenegro, Nonviolence

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