FINDING OUR WAY HOME
A course with Dougald Hine & Andrew Taggart
ÄNGELSBERG, SWEDEN, 4-8 JUNE 2018
“What if the culture you grew up in was broken in ways that you didn’t even have words for?”
We are going looking for the words and the stories that could help us make sense of the mess the world is in.
This mess mostly gets talked about with numbers: there are now 408.05 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere. Between 1989 and 2016, insect biomass fell by 76%. There were 64,000 overdose deaths in the United States in 2016.
The numbers are stunning, overwhelming. They leave us numb. We hardly even know how to think about all the loss that stands behind them. It is too much for any of us to bear alone.
We don’t have to do it alone. That’s one reason to take culture as a starting point, because culture is about being human together. It is about the different ways that people have found of being human together. It draws our attention to what is missing from the maps that shape our current way of living. And it offers us clues to how to keep going when the maps run out.
Five days in June
Here is the invitation. Unplug from your phone and your laptop, leave behind the seductions of screens and networks, and let’s spend five days in slow conversation and hospitable company, as we explore this territory together.
Finding our bearings: We were born into a broken culture, a homeless way of living. That’s the claim with which the week begins – and in the early sessions, we’ll map out what it might mean to take that claim seriously, which aspects of the situation of the world come into focus as a result. The maps by which we do this are not meant to be definitive, they don’t promise to match the omnipresence and omniscience of Google Earth. They are more like the map one traveller draws for another on a page torn from the back of a notebook. And the journeys that brought each of us here will also be part of the maps we are making.
Getting to work: As we reach the middle of the week, the focus tightens. Our guest teacher, Andrew Taggart, has been tracing the rise of Total Work: the process by which, over generations, work came to be seen as the centre and source of meaning of our lives, while even the hours we spend away from work were reshaped in its image. This offers us a route through the landscape which we have begun to map, tracing one of the trajectories by which things came to be as they are. It will also ground the conversation in the realities of our individual lives, as we reflect on our varied experiences and relationships to work.
Turning for home: In the closing part of the week, we look for the consequences of all this – and the possibilities that it brings to light. What does it look like to regrow a living culture in the places where we find ourselves? There is no once-and-for-all answer. We are looking for small practices, creating pockets of generosity, spaces to which it is safe to bring parts of ourselves that were not always welcome in the schools, workplaces or homes that many of us have known. We are looking for ways to connect over distance, ideas that spread like a rumour or a joke, without the tyranny of scaling. The starting point may be as small as a group of friends sharing a meal around a table – but there need be no limit on the number of tables, nor does each of us need to sit at the same table each night. These are the kinds of beginnings we hope to take home with us as the week together comes to an end.
It’s a time of reflection, a few steps back from the everyday, but it won’t be a holiday. Everyone is here because something in this invitation has called to them.
If that’s how you feel when you read this, then take a look at the Practical Information section below – and use the ENQUIRE button to get in touch with us.
Dougald Hine walked away from a career at the BBC when he was 25, in search of another way of telling stories. What he learned in the years that followed led to the creation of a series of organisations, from Spacemakers (a meet-up group that grew into an agency, regenerating underused urban spaces and creating community-owned street markets) to Dark Mountain, which started with a self-published manifesto and became a network of writers, thinkers and artists, ‘changing the environmental debate in Britain and the rest of Europe’ (The New York Times).
The events he hosts have included Redrawing the Maps, a week-long free school inspired by the life and work of John Berger, and The Art of the Impossible, five days of conversations at Newspeak House, London in September 2017. He has written for Aeon, The Guardian, openDemocracy, Resurgence, STIR and his books include The Crossing of Two Lines.
The idea of creating a school is a project to which he has kept returning – and HOME is the fulfilment of that project.
Andrew Taggart is a practical philosopher who teaches individuals and organisations how to enquire into the things that matter most. In recent years, his attention has turned to the phenomenon of ‘Total Work’, first described by the German philosopher Josef Pieper in the aftermath of World War II.
Andrew’s philosophy practice involves regular sessions with a web of conversation partners around the world. He is a faculty member at the Banff Centre in Canada, training creative leaders, and at the Kaospilots school in Denmark, teaching social entrepreneurs and enterprising artists.
He writes for Aeon and Quartz magazines, and has published a series of short books for the general reader, including The Art of Inquiry, Cultivating Discipline Lightly, The Good Life and Sustaining Life, and, most recently, Money Rules for Simple Living.
The course begins with lunch on Monday 4 June and the final session will close at 4pm on Friday 8 June. You are welcome to leave on the Friday evening, or to stay the extra night.
The fee for the course is 6000 SEK (that’s roughly €600 or £530). Included in this are all meals and accommodation from Monday lunch to Saturday breakfast.
The food will be vegetarian with vegan options, prepared under the guidance of our host for the week, Christopher Brewster. As members of the household for the week, you will be involved in the cooking and kitchen duties. We’ll do our best to source all food as locally and organically as possible.
For the duration of the course, we will ask you to put aside mobile phones, laptops and any other technology that keeps you entangled with the network. We will arrange secure storage for any devices that have come with you on the journey to Ängelsberg. In his role as host, Christopher will be the custodian of our school phone – and you can provide this number to friends and family, so that they have a way to contact you in case of need.
If you would like to take part in Finding Our Way Home, please fill out our enquiry form and we will get back to you as swiftly as possible.
Our home for the week
Ängelsberg is a small village, a couple of hours by train from Stockholm. We will base ourselves at the Tallbacka hostel, where accommodation is mostly in two- and four-bed dormitories.
The white house with the tower was built in the 1890s and has been an ironmongers, a telegraph station and the village milk depot. Behind it lies the Stuga, a youth hostel since the 1940s, and Stegfabriken, an old stair factory.
By night, we will fire up the lakeside sauna and watch the sun go down – although at this time of year, it will soon be rising again.
Travelling close to the ground
How does culture go on crossing boundaries without our current dependence on air travel? That’s one of the practical questions we want to work on with the community we are building at HOME. So while we’re not out to make a rule about this, we would invite you to think twice about flying to get here.
Tallbacka is located 200 metres from Ängelsberg railway station and the schedule has been planned to work for those arriving and leaving on the night trains that connect Stockholm to Copenhagen and beyond. Having travelled regularly between Sweden and the UK by rail over the past few years, we’ll be happy to share our own experiences with those who are in a position to take up this challenge.
Once your place on the course is confirmed, you’ll be invited to an online group with other participants – among other things, we can use this to share information about travel plans and logistics.