Second Nature

Our wild nature.

If you act as a pillar of the community, you will be an invaluable part of the collective purpose of giving it stability and making it real. But if you think, in your heart of hearts, as a pillar of the community, you will be a bore: you will be limited to the utterancereductionist, joyless, banal. The mockery and critical faculty of your subconscious and its dreams will be banished until your retirement, or maybe your death.

Second nature calls your bluff: are you really an upstanding member of the community, or just on your best behaviour? It is the enabling folly which makes it okay to engage your subconscious mind, to listen to dreams, to recognise absurdity even if you are its source, to tolerate brilliance even if you are not its source, and to develop judgment.

Our second nature takes us beyond being good citizens who know, privately, that we only have to pretend to be good, since no one will notice the fake. It takes us beyond being the brave and responsible soldier—that hero of Classical Greece and Rome, willing to defend his country, its fields and families. Instead, it belongs in the sacred world of chaos. This is an idea which, like lava, is buried somewhere deep inside all the major cultures, and sometimes erupts in Saturnalian excess (Carnival). You can’t tame it with your controlling and orderly good sense. But you have probably dreamed it, and it is inhabited during waking hours, too, by, for instance, musicians—such as Tchaikovsky when he wrote the symphonic poem Francesca da Rimini—and by poets such as Dante (who inspired the music), John Milton and William Blake. That poetic celebration of chaos and old night can leave us now bemused and puzzled, wondering not only at the allusions, but also at what on earth it is all about. We seem to have stumbled into a place where someone is feeling unusually strongly about something . . .

“Crave not for the mortal & perishing delights, but leave them
To the weak, and pity the weak as your infant care. . . .
Wait till the Judgment is past, till the Creation is consumed,
And then rush forward with me into the glorious spiritual
Vegetation, the Supper of the Lamb & his Bride; and the
Awakening of Albion our friend and ancient companion”.
So Los spoke. But lightnings of discontent broke on all sides round
And murmurs of thunder rolling heavy long and loud over the mountains,
While Los call’d his Sons around him to the Harvest & the Vintage.

William Blake, Milton, 1804–1808. S14

The market economy is a fragile defence against such things. But they are going on under the smooth surface of the well-behaved, and there is a limit to how long it is possible to keep a straight face. Men need wild. Ay, and women, too, as C.P. Estés writes,

No matter by which culture a woman is influenced, she understands the words wild and woman, intuitively. . . . The memory is of our absolute, undeniable, and irrevocable kinship with the wild feminine, a relationship which may have become ghosty from neglect, buried by overdomestication, outlawed by the surrounding culture, or no longer understood anymore. We may have forgotten her names, we may not answer when she calls ours, but in our bones we know her, we yearn toward her; we know she belongs to us and we to her.S15

Lean community, by contrast, will depend, not just on our best behaviour, but on our whole nature.S16

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David Fleming
Dr David Fleming (2 January 1940 – 29 November 2010) was an economist, historian and writer, based in London. He was among the first to reveal the possibility of peak oil's approach and invented the influential TEQs scheme, designed to address this and climate change. He was also a significant figure in the development of the UK Green Party, the Transition Towns movement and the New Economics Foundation, as well as a Chairman of the Soil Association. His wide-ranging independent analysis culminated in two critically acclaimed books, Lean Logic and Surviving the Future. A film about his perspective and legacy - The Sequel: What Will Follow Our Troubled Civilisation? - was released in 2019, directed by BAFTA-winning director Peter Armstrong. For more information, including on Lean Logic, click the little globe below!

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