“Meetings of nations are always better than not having meetings of nations. I think, however, they should have their meetings on that island of floating plastic [garbage] in the Pacific. They should sit there, and look at that and make their decisions.” — singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn
The G20 is coming to Toronto, and the city is being bent out of shape to accommodate it: concrete barriers cutting across public spaces, chain-link fences erected down the middle of city streets, businesses closed, snipers strategically positioned. What I find most interesting about all of this is that the way we defend our heads of state from the unruly inconveniences of reality exactly parallels the way, within our own bodies, we defend the rule of the head from the nitty gritty inconveniences of reality. And that nitty gritty is what most deeply informs us about the world’s reality.
This is something I write about in New Self, New World. When we live in our heads, we shut out the sensations of the world: we position ourselves in a realm that is largely cut off from feeling. Here’s the main difference: instead of erecting chain-link fences, we erect our ideas about the world, like a set of theatre flats that stand between us and the eloquent flux of ‘what is’. And the way we presume to act and think – not in harmony with ‘what is’, but according to our static ideas of ‘what is’ – is exactly how our heads of state debate policies to shape our future. Cossetted at every turn, spared every possible inconvenience, fed only the information they have agreed to listen to, they inevitably seek to perpetuate the fantasy they have chosen to live. In their deliberate exile from the world’s reality, they cannot do otherwise.
And so I agree with Bruce Cockburn. Send the lot of them out to live for a week on that growing continent, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – which we inadvertently created and contribute to every day. Let them smell it and live with its unthinkable, massive expanse. Let them feel the despair. And then let them begin the conversation.