• Sarah Patterson

New Year Musings

Published in the Common Interests Newsletter - January 2022

I was initially going to dedicate this section to wishing our Common Earth friends a happy new year and point at actions we could take to move things in a new and better direction for 2022. My interactions with you constantly have me looking at things from new perspectives and challenging my thinking. My approach to this piece is no exception. A participant shared with me her take on New Year’s resolutions as being arbitrary dates to think about new beginnings, and that perhaps it's more useful if we approach each day with the same enthusiasm for a new start. So it is from that angle that I am approaching my New Year Musings.

I spend about an hour with each prospective participant where I try to articulate what Common Earth is all about. I invariably discuss the climate crisis and the underlying paradigms that have contributed to the mess we are in – that we need a more holistic understanding of what we are up against if we are going to change it. That is all true but feels incomplete as it doesn’t capture the power of this community.

Recently I received an email from a participant who challenged me on an off-the-cuff comment I made in class about self-help books. I really had to think about my answer. I told him that I thought our socio-economic system is deeply flawed and is predicated on having all of us hooked on buying more stuff we don't need. This is deliberate in order to keep the economy growing, but the effects of doing so create an enormous amount of both physical and energy waste. One of the most effective ways that this system keeps running is that it has us all convinced that we are somehow broken or lacking and that we can and must keep striving toward some fabricated ideal of what success looks like. Whether this is a physical ideal or a material one, the hook is always the same - buy more stuff! It is a toxic message for so many reasons. My allergy to self-help books is that it is an industry built on reinforcing the idea that you are not enough but - never fear because they can help you “fix yourself” if you just buy their book. Furthermore, it keeps us focused on the illusion of the individual as opposed to focusing on the far more important community or collective.

The course has the first participant who is blind, and he is reminding me that there are so many ways of seeing. So, my new resolve for 2022 is that we look beyond the surface and focus more on seeing each other as intrinsically whole so that we can stop focusing so much on ourselves and our insecurities. We can instead focus more on how we are going to collectively write a different end to the story we are each of us participants in creating. It is easy to hold you in what David calls “Unconditional Positive Regard” because you are each already unconditionally perfect.

There isn't a group of people that I would rather be co-authoring 2022 and beyond with!

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