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Iceland dreaming…

Ed Gillespie

09.10.17

A few words written to set the context for our annual Futerra company away-days, which this year were held in Iceland…

An island. Isolated amidst the wild North Atlantic. Arctic chill licks against a tepid Gulf Stream. A stepping stone between Europe and what was once the ‘New World’. A fortress. Sanctuary. Retreat. Refuge.

Ancient broiling mantle once burst from these icy seas. Hot liquid rock forged solid cold crags. Beneath a cratered crust the molten earth still stirs. Fiery fissures breach mountain-tops, layering fresh land over old. Terra-forming. Terrifying. Live volcanoes bring death. Ash clouds ground planes. And after? Lava leavens to fertile soil. Destruction sows seeds of future possibilities.

Frozen heights force snow fluff into ice. Glaciers creep and carve scoured valleys. Weeping meltwater trickles into torrents that throw stones, churning through yielding turf, back to the sea.

The land is alive. Geologically. Physically. Naturally. Magically. Elven Huldufolk dwell in respected secrecy; legacy protectors, discouraging prospectors.

Overhead a heavenly canopy, anthropogenic smoke-free skies sparkle in unfiltered sunshine. By dark only celestial and lunar luminations light the night, save the interstellar particles in their charged dancing across the magnetosphere.

The far Boreal. Where elemental powers ply their trades boisterously. Nature is raw. Visceral. Cruel. Yet magnificent. Beautiful. Humbling.

And for marginally more than a mere millennium, people. Hardy pioneers eking life, if not lifestyles, from an ecology blithely indifferent at best, deadly hostile at worst.

And here we meet, to moot. Far flung Futerran fireflies drawn together, focused on one place in space and time, on one another, on our fierce and urgent challenges, on our mission.

Immerse yourselves in Iceland’s majesty; cerulean pools of penetrating heat, lung-soothing gulps of taint-free air (and occasional sulphurous fogs!), your personal planetarium – a firmament of pin-pricked stars, spectral aurora, thundering clouds and waterfalls. Listen for the laughter of the hidden people.

Reconnect. To the fundamentals, those vital forces that shape our lives and destinies, and for the first time in human history are now being fundamentally shaped in turn by us. To the place, in all its tectonic dynamism, a living lab of terrestrial energy, a culture woven from mysterious sagas and thrones around which many games were played. To each other, to new faces whose gaze you’ve yet to hold, alongside the warmly seasoned exchanges of time’s familiarity. To yourself, breathe deep and long, take respite, reflect and make space in the exhilaration for quiet moments, stillness in the dancing.

And to the work. Our purpose. Knowing that it’s not about hyperbolic techno-optimism, nor a hairshirt, back-to-the-land impossibility, but a tango that takes the two – the very best of our modern ingenuity and nature’s timeless immutable traditions – and blends them elegantly together. Love of soil, not toil. Energy from photons and kinetic forces, not ripped out of the earth and burnt. Bio-solidarity with the family of life not exploitation with impunity. Handicraft and spacecraft.

As the weft of the system changes so the stories that supported it unravel until the well-ordered knots are left loose and fraying. Only a weaving of new narratives can reknit the tangled remnants. Only a persuasive and compelling new story can not just replace but exorcise the old.

We are born co-operative and empathic. Social beasts that thrive on connection. And yet we find ourselves pursuing happiness through consumption.

Material self-interest cultivates individualism and aggressive competition. We see ourselves as flawed, greedy and indulgent, and the perception reinforces the behaviour.

We have lost all sense of common purpose, a belief in the potential of change. Simplistic blame-flinging populist demagoguery exploits the schism with ruthless effect.

But we are better than this. We’re candle-lighters not darkness-cursers. With optimism of the will, idealism of the mind and pragmatism of the hand, we know in our hearts and guts a new world is already being born. A world of brilliant creativity, soulful connectivity and social reflexivity. A world conjured into being by the better futures of our imaginations.

Posted by Ed Gillespie

Ed is the Co-founder of Futerra, a celebrated slow traveller, author, serial green entrepreneur and investor.

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