Working together as social planning consultants, Karl and I often find ourselves awkwardly straddling the fence between consulting and activism.
Karl will be trying to explain how coastal processes work — ecologically — to a group of wealthy local residents who just want more sand carted onto their precious Lady Robinson’s Beach at Botany Bay! They are rarely convinced, but he perseveres nonetheless.
Stories in a Park, Eagleby, Queensland, 2000
In one community engagement project, we combine the powerful eco-philosophy rituals of deep ecology with park planning, with dramatic results ( J. Macy et al., 2006, Thinking Like a Mountain: Towards a Council of All Beings; Sarkissian, W., 2005, “Stories in a Park: Giving Voice to the Voiceless in Eagleby, Australia,” Planning Theory and Practice 6 (1), March: 103-117).
My heart recalls a sweet memory. On a brilliant sub-tropical winter morning, Karl is facilitating the poignant “eco-milling” ritual for community members in the Eagleby Reconnecting Ceremony (2000).
Karl modifies the Deep Ecology Council of All Beings ritual to suit a park planning project in a small, disadvantaged outer Brisbane suburb. He selects and tapes music in a specific sequence designed to activate both left and right brain hemispheres.
(For a video of the “Stories in a Park” engagement processes in Eagleby, see: https://vimeo.com/65991024)
Karl directing the eco-milling ritual, Eagleby, 2000
Reconnecting Ceremony, Eagleby
About twelve people participate in our 2000 Eagleby ritual. Karl gently guides us through every step, directing us to mill around in a big circle and stop in front of a partner. We hold hands and look into their eyes, imagining the long evolutionary journey that brought them to this human form. Karl asks us to imagine that we might be looking into the eyes of the person whose commitment could save the Earth. This is eloquent, poetic work — silently encountering and receiving another as a living, breathing, miraculous being.
Karl is transformed when he is eco-milling. He is embodying his Giveaway.
When I reread Karl’s eco-milling script, spoken nearly 16 years before his death, my heart opens to his gentle words:
Let the notion surface that this person may be the one you happen to be with when you die…. With this person, close your eyes as you stand with their hand in yours… feel the life energy in it… explore it with your fingers as if you had never encountered a human hand… as if it were the last you might ever touch… (Macy et al., 2006, Thinking like a Mountain).
Karl’s philosophical views
Karl’s philosophical views are fiercely non-anthropocentric (not human-centered). He believes in the equality of all life — not the privileged position of humans at the peak of the evolutionary pyramid. In 1993, his first letter to me (before we’d even met) explains his understanding of the Gaia hypothesis: that the Earth is alive — a single organism and a living, self-regulating entity. James Lovelock and others now call it “Gaia Theory,” regarding it as a scientific theory and not a mere hypothesis, as they believe it has passed predictive tests (http://environment-ecology.com/gaia/70-gaia-hypothesis.html).
As I reflect on Karl’s Giveaway and his distinctive approaches to activism, I sense something new and essential: my road safety activism is opening me to my soul (www.wisdombridge.net).
Deep down, I know that Karl would want me to use the power of my grief to fuel action for reform.
Karl’s academic approaches to eco-milling
Karl pioneers his unique version of eco-milling (with a distinctive Romani introduction) as an undergraduate at Murdoch University with Dr Patsy Hallen in March 1995, earning a High Distinction. In assessing his project, Patsy says this to say:
Your wonderful contribution to the environmental ethics field trip was a truly beautiful tribute to the ecological self. The actual process was very moving and most memorable for each and every participant. You took a lot of trouble with the eco-milling exercise, and your care and compassion shone through that afternoon, just like the late afternoon sun, illuminating our hearts.