Walk down the street in any large town or city, or in any shopping mall, and you’ll notice two things straight away: the obsession with identicality; and waste. It’s no better away from the city, though: wherever we go, wherever we look, the same corporate messages still clutter the roadside, the newspaper, the screen, or the bandwidth of the Internet. Fifty miles or more from the nearest outlet, MacDonald’s wrappers and other fast-food junk still litter the roads. And drink-cans must somehow increase in weight as they’re emptied: it certainly seems that people have no trouble carrying full cans many miles into the bush or onto the beach, but find them impossibly heavy to carry once they’re emptied. Weird… but that’s the habitat we somehow choose to live in…
Part of this arises from our society’s concept of ownership: ‘the right to exploit without reference to others either in the present or elsewhen’. To the corporate worldview, difference is something to be abhorred: people’s hearts and minds are things to be owned, and choice – individual expressiveness – rigidily restricted and reduced. All that matters is now: this year’s competitive position, this quarter’s profit figure. Yet now is also inextricably interwoven with elsewhen: as one wise native-American writer put it, “only when the last fish has been caught; only when the last stream has been poisoned; only when the last tree has been cut down; only then will you discover that money cannot be eaten”.
And that supposed ‘right to exploit’ also leads to the weird ‘anti-ownership’ of litter: we want it now, but as soon as we’ve used it, damaged it, exploited it, we don’t want it at all – so we try to export the responsibility to the wyrd, to ‘elsewhen’, to anyone or anything but ‘I’.
But it’s not just some convenient ‘Them’ of corrupt corporates or lazy litterbugs that are responsible for this mess: it’s us too. Ever noticed the way that supermarket shopping-bags seem to breed under the sink? Or the way they catch the wind and fly for miles around every suburban waste-tip? Weird, isn’t it?
We’re not just trashing the earth, though: we’re also literally trashing ourselves and everyone and everywhen, through the interweaving nature of the wyrd. Which makes things a bit difficult… As ‘the Earth’ our wyrd habitat is, literally, ‘the everything’: linguistically, the words ‘wyrd’ and ‘earth’ are derived from the same root-word ‘Urðr’, the name of one of the three Weird Sisters, the Nordic variant of the myth of the three Fates. And the wyrd itself is the interweaving of everything, everywhere, everywhen, everyone. Every place contains every other place: ultimately, there is no elsewhen or elsewhere. Which is why that concept of ownership is such a problem.
And yet every place is different, too – and still is, beneath the commercial veneer of corporate sameness. Every place includes and interweaves with every thread of the wyrd: yet it is also an expression of those threads which is entirely unique. The same is true of each of us: we’re each much the same, and yet subtly different from everyone else. Watch the faces of places and people: see the sameness, yes, but notice also the differences – every shopping mall is still different, is still itself, no matter how hard the corporates may try to persuade us otherwise!
Explore, too, the wyrdness of your own world, and the way it interweaves with others’. Notice the paths you weave through your own habitat each day, each year; notice how those threads interweave with those of others, to create a kind of fabric of time and space. And as the British charity Common Ground suggests, it’s worthwhile getting together with others to create a ‘parish map’, recording the places that are significant and special, to you and others, within your local area – or your shared mindspace, for that matter. That way you each discover what you genuinely value: and discover, once again, the weird nature of what real ‘ownership’ really means!