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This is an interview with Lily Rose Sequoia, author of the film, “wetheuncivilised”. A few years back Lily had walked away from mainstream civilisation with her partner, and while on the journey of living at the edge of society, had conceived and become parent to her daughter. Similar in story to mine with my daughter, we’d both experienced a strong need to move away from consumerism, yet found how thoroughly had we been intertwined with it... She proposes a minute of silence and gratitude together before we start the interview. We honour our personal connection and the power of women working together
The children’s fire is a symbolic flame that represents Life; the life of future generations for all living beings. I learnt about the children’s fire from Mac Macartney, one of the first people we interviewed for our film wetheuncivilised. Mac was the founder of Embercombe; an inspirational community and educational centre in Devon, UK. As a young man, he’d had a Native American mentor who taught him about the ancient tradition. Within the elder’s council of Native American chiefs, there would always be a flame called the children’s fire to ensure no decision would go beyond that circle that did not honour all life; a pledge that every decision they would ever make would honour future generations and all living beings. When I think about the children’s fire, then I think about Life: whether it will thrive or not. The purpose of having that symbol is to hold as a navigational star and guiding principle; that before making any important decisions the question is; Is this decision honouring the children’s fire? What kind of society is the one that wouldn’t place the centre of children’s fire in the centre? The answer is: an insane society.
While we speak on of the last days of April, 2019, the Extinction Rebellion is happening on the streets of European cities, perhaps a new ray of hope for effective action upon climate change. Three years ago a grassroots film project was launched in the UK, a film screened by a couple; Lily and Pete, who made a decision to live on the road in a van to explore and show alternatives to mainstream consumer lifestyles. This is how Lily tells me the story of their last eight years: “I met my partner in Brighton where we both had moved from London, disillusioned by the life that only offers people; a house, job, kid, retire, die, maybe with a few nice holidays in the middle of it. We were in a free-fall stage in our lives. We moved to a shared-house community and started volunteering at the permaculture trust. One day as I was having my daily run at the seaside, I saw
a man sitting on his sofa reading a newspaper, drinking coffee by the truck he was living on. A little voice in my head said: you have to go and speak to him. I turned back and approached
him asking how was it to live on a truck. He said, “You just buy a truck and you live” Next week we found ourselves on a train heading to buy our truck. We got married with a big ceremony, then
we moved into our truck in August 2011. That was the beginning of a journey we could never have anticipated. We catapulted into a different community, at the edge of society. Suddenly the walls of our home became thinner, and we got closer to everything.
When I think about the children’s fire, then I think about Life: whether it will thrive or not. The purpose of having that symbol is to hold as a navigational star and guiding principle; that before making any important decisions the question is; Is this decision honouring the children’s fire? What kind of society is the one that wouldn’t place the centre of children’s fire in the centre? The answer is: an insane society.
The community of trucks were really friendly, you could always knock at a neighbour if you needed something. Living in that environment brought us into direct contact with many things; how do we deal with our waste? How do we go to the toilet without a toilet? How do we deal with the community with all of its human challenges? We had a single solar panel to generate electricity to run our computer on. We used candlelight. We had to think about how much power we needed everyday. We had made the conscious choice to move there out of a sense of responsibility as a political decision. We wanted to find a different way of engaging with life.
We borrowed some money to buy a second-hand camera, and sent out emails to change-makers, pioneers like Satish Kumar, Polly Higgins, Mac Macartney, asking them if we could interview them. Soon we got a few replies and off we went. We first visited Embercomb, then many other alternative communities across the country. We arrived to Devon at Imbolc, the time of new beginning, with the tiny hazel blossoms that just popped out. This was the time when our daughter was conceived. There we learnt about two important things that became key to our film; the children’s fire and the Celtic medicine wheel. We structured the film following nature’s cycles, based on our enquiry: What could another world look like? Making the film was a long journey, a huge undertaking, a project funded by crowdfunding campaigns. It took over three years to edit in our bus, powered by one single solar panel, while grappling with our new role as parents.
In Summer 2016, right after releasing the film, we toured the UK with our newborn baby in our bus fuelled entirely on biofuel. We wanted people watching the film to share their most important learning with others. We wanted to galvanise communities of people who lived on the edge land. We wanted to create human connection through the film. We created a solar cinema and workshop space. Our intention was to take that space to different communities as a sacred space. To build community, connecting to one another, to ourselves and to the more than human world.
We shared the film with over 2000 people, at over 50 venues from festivals to church halls, independent Cinemas to off-grid yurts, raising money for local community projects. While touring the film we went back to the communities where we made it. What became clear during the screenings is that the film brought up a lot of feelings in people, we had strong emotional responses and needed to find a way to support people with that. These communities were left after the screenings with an opened heart not knowing how to integrate those feelings. We wanted to give a tool to them to integrate and use these realisations and learnings for their local community.
So we created “fire circles”; a community that holds the fire in the centre. The invitation is that once a community watches the film; have a sharing circle, and then set a fire at the centre. They would meet regularly to look at; How are we honouring the children’s fire in our lives? How can we support each other to honour that more often in our decisions?
In this country many people are doing great things, Transition Towns grow, local community gardens, no plastic shops, etc, but no one talks about the actual human experience of living at this time on Earth. How do we navigate through paradoxes and contradictions of life? What is moving in you that motivates you to do those things? How can we get together as a community and be more effective in moving towards change? The fire circles allow those conversations to happen. To me this opening is important; if I can be there with another human being without all those masks, if we are just together; then I feel a deep connection, I understand them, I want to work with them. Being connected increases my efficiency in a community.
The truth is that it does not only matter how much are you composting, how do you garden or reduce your waste; there needs to be a change at a systems level, and a change of the inner dimension. When I sit with people and ask them, how do you feel when you think about the future and about what is happening in the world? – on that basic level, there is a human response from the inner world of that person. Then there is a seed of real connection. That’s the point, this is why we are here: to make change happen, to support Life in all forms.”
During that hour-and-a-half, while we talked, there were no interrupting phone calls, not even a single new email in my inbox that whole time. Life stopped for a while and listened to us connect and share. I listened to the story of Lily and got inspired to start a fire circle locally.
What would the world look like if all communities, all governments only took decisions that honour this children’s fire?
How do I take all future generations into account in my decisions?
How do I honour the children’s fire in my life?
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