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  • Writer's pictureAlex Toogood

Places of Initiation in our Search for Utopia

It is possible to think, particularly from the outside, that the Bubble is a place of arrival: that what has been established here is an answer to the troubles of the world. We might arrive here thinking that the hard work has already been done, and that this context of land-based community will support our blossoming. All we have to do is learn how to till soil and chop wood, and we will flourish. It is a beguiling thought, perhaps partly because it does contain some truth. And yet, when I look at my experience, and that of other residents and ex-residents, it does not reflect our reality. Something else is going on here.

The naivety of this hope is perhaps in its linearity - it assume that we can leave one world and arrive, fairly seemlessly, somewhere better. But our journeys have more flesh to them than that - we are propelled, parabolic, by life. The trajectory of us encompasses space, grasshoppers lurching into each unknowing, trusting leap. But the arc of it does not occur in empty space. Like the hero's journey, the time between leaving and arrival is where the story is. That's where the soul is crafted. It seems more accurate to relate to the Bubble as a container for that journey. As a catalyst. A place of initiation. The rules are different here, and require more of us than we can see.

When I think of this place as a home, my thoughts will tend towards comfort and the establishing of a good life. But the re-frame of Initiation asks different questions: what is required of me? What are we being initiated into? I have guesses, rather than answers, and they are personal, and delicate. What I see, again and again, is that the hope that this place is home makes for a bumpy ride. Home suggests rest - it suggests that there is not more to do.

There is more to do.

In the doing of it I find myself expanding, becoming capable of more, catalysing more. This is not the showy beauty of blossom. We must continue on; the flower is not the journey's end. It is an inexplicable foretaste of the long work of ripening, as fruit-set turns to swelling. This requires seasons, and patience. It is ripe fruit that feeds the belly, not flowers.

As I look at the trajectory of these journeys, I wonder at where they might land. And I wonder, too, what arc the Bubble is streaming along. For whilst the Hero needs the initiation - she needs the story - she also needs the place of return, her community in which to be known. She does not arrive there in passivity, but lives out the ripeness of stillnesss and activity, in elderhood.

Our culture, in the modern west, is cracking under the demands of initiation. We mist learn how to lean into these challenges, how to understand ourselves within them. And we must also create places of sanctuary; still, wide pools which reflect the sky, to receive us after the intensity of the rapids. I visited such a place recently, in which it felt possible to belong to a gentle sacredness. We talked of the things I write of here, and of how few places of culmination there are. I have come across a handful in the UK, and scattered others. The Bubble is not yet one of them. I would like it to be, and sometimes there is some foreshadowing of that possibility. The land here holds that potential.

The way towards that potential is not a clear one. I cannot know what we are becoming, or how we will get there. Instead, there is the relentless arc of the seasons, the jobs done or undone, and the requirement that I find more in myself, so that I may care for this land and participate in this community more fully. For now, that looks like re-cobbing my house, blighted tomatoes, and a late hay cut tomorrow morning. And in amongst it there are glimmers of expanse, as our local volunteer days pick up momentum and our harvests start to come in.

I wonder at what it takes to be a sanctuary. There are some ingredients that we already have here in abundance. Living among trees, and regularly having hands and feet in the soil are more important than we can understand. Re-connecting with our food and the ecology of food production are necessary personally and environmentally. The context of community, of mutual dependence, and the celebrations and challenges that its interconnectedness brings, is necessary too.

And so, here-and-there, without us really knowing how, all this sometimes adds up to more than the sum of it's parts. It creates something to offer, the flowing of a natural abundance and embodied generosity. Perhaps at the centre of this offering is an open-heartedness, a capacity to care that expands itself amidst the knocks and responsibilities of life.

This is the initiation that I feel the Bubble is asking of me, and I suspect is happening in many other places too. My capacity to care is being broadened out, in a way that requires me to re-think how I engage with this world, and to live out this care through my actions. I must do what there is to be done, but ask also why it is that we are doing it this way, and whether there are more appropriate ways to contribute towards the wellbeing of this immediate, whole, world.

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Life is constantly offering itself to us in moments of vividenss; moments that ask more of us as we engage with the world.

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