Beauty as Activism – Just Pretty Pictures?
Wild Nature tends to our heart and soul. It is the source of most of our most ancient stories. The Ancient and Sacred Trees 'CommuniTree' sparks our imaginations. It brings the trees, woods and forests not just to our door but directly into our houses, into our homes where we feel safest, and where we let our guards down. AST vocalises the stories and our connections to the land we have mostly as a culture forgotten. The beauty and the stories being shared by members have actually turned out to be a lot longer lasting than a dream say, or an advert or an event. Something unusual for social media where what is here today is gone tomorrow.
What I am proposing through Ancient and Sacred Trees is something different. It’s the opposite of throw away, it’s about sharing what we care about, what we love. Talking about the things we treasure is anything but throw-away. Of course, the real beauty of it is that love is contagious. We love to see beauty, we love to feel good. It’s not just a temporary panacea, as members share repeatedly about how the group has become a part of their life. In fact, they find it a refuge from the ills of wider social media. They tell me about how group has brought healing, friendship and for many it has given them a voice that has struggled to be heard elsewhere. Here they find a depth to experience and a deeper truthful way of expressing themselves.
Trolls have told me it’s ‘nothing but pretty pictures’. I've had some activists demand I should turn the group over to streaming images of destruction and misery. There are plenty of platforms doing that already. Social media delights in misery and rage. But how does consuming a never ending diet of destruction and heartbreak feed people and empower them to do good? Given the choice between feeling good and feeling nothing but misery which are people eventually going to choose?
I don’t propose for one single minute that we stick our heads in the sand and ignore what is happening around us! There IS a place for righteous anger, and there IS a place for grief, but those feelings have to be tended to with care. They have to be tempered in such a way as to become useful tools for change. That change only comes when you recognise the foundation of these feelings. (And yes posts are allowed to the social media groups on these topics BUT we expect them to contain ideas for Positive Action to inspire people to help).
We in the Ancient and Sacred Trees community are all stood on common ground, a shared love for trees. It is a community is made up of a real disparate collection of individuals and with a very wide ranging set of beliefs from all kinds of backgrounds. We have Christians, Muslims, Druids and countless others from different religions and belief systems and some with none. This group has the word ‘sacred’ in its title. This is about encouraging us all to develop our own personal connections to the natural world, in whatever way that is meaningful to us.
When we engage, we connect. And when we connect we develop a relationship, and when there is a relationship there is dialogue, and when there is dialogue there is the opportunity for greater understanding. To understand and love something is to really see and acknowledge what is there, what is present.
Nature has pretty much become invisible for many and so when members share their conversations on social media it encourages others to have them too. We have scientists, foresters, ecologists, artists, writers, and so very many more who generously give input into members posts and questions as well as posting their own experiences. We also have folks who know nothing about trees and nature but want to learn and they too share photographs and comments.
When someone speaks from their heart, when they really care about something, it shows. You can’t fake that kind of truthful engagement. Even without seeing someone moving and speaking it’s obvious in the words and images they share.
Ancient and Sacred Trees is a movement about Love and unashamedly so.
It seems to me that more and more people are really feeling this love connection and they know they are in a safe space where they can share what they love too. That’s the bedrock of real cultural change. That’s where you find fertile ground for seeds to grow. So, we as a CommuniTree are nurturing seeds.
These seeds are growing across the world. People will only protect what they love, that’s the bottom line. So yes, it’s a community (and a collection of groups on social media) about ‘pretty pictures’ among other things.
However, you cannot engage with that kind of epic beauty on an epic scale, on a daily basis, without it having some kind of an effect.
You look at a car crash, it makes you feel bad. You look at a beautiful image of a tree and it makes you feel good. It’s not rocket science to see which one people are eventually going to engage with more and stay with them for longer. As a teacher this was something I learned a long time ago.
Real community is when you realise that we humans all have to help each other, that we all have different things we can bring to the table. The trees have helped us create something special. A place where humans are engaging with nature in a way that isn’t taking anything but is actually giving back by witnessing its’ beauty.
I don’t propose, in any way, that Ancient and Sacred Trees is the be all and end all. It’s part of the jigsaw, it’s not a complete solution. It is, however, a tool. Not just in learning how to identify various trees or how to grow them or where is good to go visit, it's much, much deeper than that.
Ancient and Sacred Trees shows people what there is to love.
So, what can you do to help Trees and Mother Nature? Keep sharing the love, keep sharing images of beauty. You can plant trees with us! In the tropics, or you can plant Oak in the UK. Check out our shop here where you can buy a book, an ecard or e'certificate, an organic teeshirt etc.
We are all celebrating our ancient and sacred connections with trees. Love is the reason members share their pictures and it is love that is spreading out across social media. It is free to join us and get our Good News Letter.
This is the activism of beauty, it has the power to inspire.
PS Jack In The Green ethical gift shop plants trees with every purchase.Treasures for Trees! www.jackinthegreen.org