In Sidmouth this summer, whilst dancing on a hot sunny day amongst all the Morris sides, musicians, singers, poets, storytellers and fabulous creatures, a dark night in early ’80s New York sprang to mind.
I’d been reading about Brian Eno taking a yellow taxi to meet a friend. He thought it was a joke when the driver stopped in a rough ‘no-go’ neighbourhood. “No sir, this is it.” Eno got out of the cab. He was in a derelict street outside a warehouse with no immediately discernible door. Eventually getting into a lift he found it took him up to an amazing $2 million loft.
Asking his host how she liked it here, she said “It’s wonderful. Best place I’ve ever lived.” For her, ‘here’ meant “In this loft.” When outside the door is chaos you feel you can’t control, Eno says, you withdraw. “‘Here’ cannot be the whole situation that affects your life.” And “if you don’t care about your neighbourhood, then you won’t create a neighbourhood community.”
Still in New York he noticed that ‘now’ meant this hour. In Woodbridge, Suffolk, where Eno’s from, it can mean this year. For the Hopi Indians it encompasses all your ancestors and all the descendants you can imagine – so you’re simply a part of the scheme of things. He argues that when we have a concept of ‘now’ that’s very short we become very big in relation to it. Emphasis shifts onto self. It’s given rise to the ‘me generation’. The upshot of a ‘small here’ and a ‘short now’, Eno suggests, is a sense of irresponsibility.
In Sidmouth, I felt that all those working in folk’s traditions are concerned with building community. Their sense of ‘here’ is outward looking, interconnecting with others and the environment. Folk artists tell me how ‘they are bearers of the tradition’. They’re creatively realising it in the moment whilst joining hands with each other through the ages. They dance in line, in a long now.
Well, it would be long if climate-change wasn’t so likely to put a short end to it. Man-made impact on global warming is causing rising mass mortality events, destroying bio-diversity, crops, timber, fisheries, and wiping out entire eco-systems. Dormant bacteria adapt quickly to new environments and are activated by higher temperatures. These kill animals (200,000, 60% of the worlds Saiga antelope population, died on a Kazakhstan steppe in a week). They kill humans and spread disease into new areas.
Climate change demands long-term thinking and a global sense of community.
If on that New York night the taxi had stopped midtown and Eno had taken the express lift in Trump Tower, he might have found the climate change denier – whose ‘now’ is always this second’s Twitter feed and whose ‘here’ is confined to his personal space (though given his new job, the orange madman can wield control over a much wider area). And by explaining the impact of “small here and short now,” Eno may have shed light on Trump’s idiotic, catastrophic egotism, if not his raging insanity.
But wouldn’t it be just as insane for all of us who love dancing in the sunshine, creatively and instinctively engaging in long-term thinking, not to – in any way we can – address the issues that need it?