What Disney, Vogue and 80s power hair taught me about sustainability
The greatest impressions on me as a child were visual media and holidays. Naturally I’ve attempted to mimic these phenomena in order to re-live the indescribable freedom that I felt then, with more than a nod to that notorious slippery creature – sustainability.
Films, books, poems, songs and music have always evoked in me a core wonder that is my anchor: magazines, books and songs are no less than visual or musical libraries of attempts at capturing dreams. This galaxy behind my eyes occupies a greater amount of space than the world in front of my eyes. It’s my job, my life’s work…my duty, to determine how the space of the 2 worlds can dance playfully, navigated gesture by gesture, choice by choice, then stuck through a sustainable lens.
My parents, conservative working class who aspired for better than they had, introduced me at an early age to the classic fables of Disney. Simple narrative, sensitively illustrated with gentle or grotesque characters, they capture a grace and charm I longed to see, so absent from the suburbs where I spent my childhood. Representation of the natural world in Bambi and Pocahontas is a theme that continues to intrigue me. Visiting Walt Disney World as a child was an enchanting, strange and beautiful dream. Equally, Kipling’s The Jungle Book and Graham’s Wind In The Willows at an early age left strong impressions that shaped my ideas about nature.
Outside of that quiet private world, as I started university, I studied fashion, then languages and electronic music production. At the weekends I took retail work and I found a way to be shy and still meet people. The more people I met, the more friends I made, the more I became increasingly familiar with society’s new Gods: Science and Technology. Rather than art and philosophy shaping decisions, the way we lived our lives, the way we thought and acted, our conversations, our collective sense of humour, I saw how much more mechanistic things seemed. The industrial revolution seemed far from over and the world I saw sometimes seemed full of ‘things’ that we believed we could control, tweak or manipulate. This in turn shaped our thoughts to be reductionist, decisive, binary. We Googled answers. We didn’t wonder so much; we didn’t need to.
I needed a more Romantic path. I first looked for things to do outdoors and so gardening seemed the obvious choice although I knew nothing about it. I travelled through WWOOF, meeting families, business men, intelligent visionaries and awesome ‘do-ers’. Somehow I felt that this world still seemed to lurk shamefully, or apologetically or sometimes violently, on the outskirts of society – even being referred to as alternative. I was confused because I felt both legs were standing in different, opposing worlds, the aesthetic and emotion of which conflicted and competed. Without realising, I was aiming for a homogenous standpoint: a safety standpoint, as my dream world hung by the skin of its teeth in the background. Who needed fashion or hiphop when we needed food? I began learning how to cook.
In many ways, my life was very free as I worked part-time and spent all my spare time taking classes – I learnt high diving, ballet, gymnastics, visiting the theatre. I was very busy and yet something was missing that I couldn’t define, something heart-felt. Since our environment exerts a profound effect on how we think and act, I decided to change that. I found an off-grid project in southern Spain, a country where we had also holidayed as children. I remembered vividly the intoxicating musk air when the aeroplane doors swung open; the unreal blue of the sea where I spent blissful mindless hours. The colours, the perfume, the romance of this vision inspired me again.
The project attracted more ‘mainstreamers’ – even teenagers who were just curious about the meaning of low-impact and sustainability; no crazy commitments to West coast-inspired diet plans, no self-imbibed apocalyptic horror narratives or eccentric spiritual beliefs – just open-hearted regular people trying a new experience, one of many. That seemed sensible to me. I spent almost a year there and now I’m exploring other permaculture and growing projects throughout southern Europe as I keep my hand in with writing, making music, studying and dancing. On little money, nothing is certain but I’ve learnt that no kind of life offers security – the risks force us to learn, to grow, to accept. My lack of career ambition is shaping a more practical life. I am free.
Modifying the very famous line from Scott Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby, I believe experience alone constructs our mind and character through a series of surrendering – not cumulative – gestures that attempt, whether successfully or otherwise, to return to the organic patterns around us. I still look to the natural unrefined world, internal and external, and try to carry the wilderness of my own nature within the confines of a socialised and civilised world. I’m now more careful to not readily absorb the opinions of others although to listen is valuable. And I try more to avoid judging others because it is often my own fear flagging up – rarely is something inherently right or wrong, good or bad. I’m constantly defining the path which gives me strength to hold polarities of action, of thought. To some conservative onlookers, I could be accused of having a chaotic life, drifting from one bubble to the next with no particular direction. And they would
be right: just blind idealism that dares to dream.
Don't forget to Leave A Comment and Subscribe for Email Updates from The Community