An Interview from the Green Alchemy and the Permaculture Revolution: Willi Paul & David B. Metcalfe

January 17, 2011

By Patrick Brinkerhoff

Mr. Paul is a Green Business Certified Sustainability Consultant.  He specializes in strategic client relations for environmental, green-tech start-ups, and sustainability non-profits. Mr. Paul is CEO at PlanetShifter.com Magazine and has published over 230 thought leader interviews in alchemy, mythology and sustainability with 1750 posts to-date since launching his site on Earth Day 2009.

Willi serves as community relations consultant for DailyActs.org a permaculture-driven community education catalyst based in Petaluma, CA. As co-founder of the openmythsource project, Willi’s current passion and mission targets how we can re-energize alchemy and write new myths for the Sustainability Age.

Mr. Paul’s robust content and social media network has been established to explore and share ideas: PlanetShifter.com Magazine, openmythsource.com, openmythsource – tumblr, openmythsource – reservoir on Facebook, and communityalchemy.com.

Willi has published a new myth series of six visions, published research in sound alchemy, and has multiple posts on the role of permaculture in the sustainability age.

Mr. Metcalfe, an independent artist, media theorist and cultural historian enjoys delving into all aspects (past, present and future) of our beautiful world.

In collaboration with Planetshifter.com Magazine, David is developing the Open Myth Source project. Through conversation and collaboration with academics, business leaders, philosophers, artists, musicians, and the community at large Open Myth Source reactivates myth and storytelling to develop sustainable philosophies for the 21st century.

His illustrations have been featured in various electronic publications, including Planetshifter.com Magazine, The Absurdist Monthly Review, Down and Dirty Word, Richard Stiennon’s IT security blog ThreatChaos, and his own electronic effort, The Eyeless Owl.  A yearlong digital art project hosted by The Eyeless Owl has been transmuted into a collaborative animation featured at select venues in downtown Chicago during the spring and fall of 2010.

The Long Now Foundation, founded by computer pioneer Daniel Hillis and Whole Earth founder Stewart Brand, has hosted one of David’s illustrations in their 10,000 year library vault.

David and Willi Paul have recently published their third eBook in the openmythsource.com – Activating the New Alchemy and Mythologies for the Sustainability Age, currently available in a Kindle edition.

January 27, 2011 PlanetShifter.com Magazine & openmythsource.com will Co-Present the Mythic Mandate Online Workshop: Green Alchemy and the Permaculture Revolution.

 

The interview:

Resource Collaborative: In order for the reader to understand the concept of permaculture, it is important to understand the effect sustainability, global warming, and industrial design have on our world.   Are you able to assist the reader in understanding the terms and how they dovetail into the idea of the new mythologies of the Sustainability Age?

Willi: I am new to permaculture! My understanding of this holistic approach to agriculture and community building is derived from at least  two of my degrees in Ecology and Architectural so my base reference for permaculture is how soil building, water re-use and composting support the design and implementation natural and man-made systems and structures.

I also understand that science must be connected to the spirit, hence the other key corners of a model called “inner& outer system of the sacred”  that I just presented to the Art of Transformations Study Group. More and more I believe that permaculture is a viable awareness and process to a global sacredness.

Resource Collaborative:  Cultural studies is the holistic approach to history and theory combining social, political, historical, literary and other theories to understand the humanistic past.  David, how did you come to know that you wanted to combine your passion for the arts with your exploration of cultures Studies?

David: I’ve been drawing since I was very young, and have been immersed in science, philosophy, theology, folklore, history and the like since I could read. The combination has made for an interesting marriage.

The concept of art has a very broad application in my mind, going back to the traditional idea that all areas of human endeavor have at their base an art form. As a visual artist the process that I use to create a drawing is the same process a historian uses to create a historical narrative, or a politician uses to create their public persona, it’s just applied differently. It’s about creating a feedback loop between what our senses take in and what we then put back out. In between the in and out is when the work gets done to synthesize ourselves with the sensual experience.

When I think of culture it’s what remains over time from our collective movement through this process. Our concepts of society, politics, history and literature are the end product of individuals synthesizing their relationships with the outside world.

This is one of the focuses that we try to take when thinking about mythological narratives and how they can aid in developing sustainable solutions. How can we take these monumental challenges and synthesize them into something that can become positive and active both on a personal level, and in the wider cultural narrative?

Resource Collaborative:  The concept of placing eco – emotions on a work of art fascinates me. Equally does it ideas of mythology, but how does one collect images of the possibility and place them on canvas?

David: I am very moved by traditional artwork, and the ability for simple symbolic forms to encompass deeply embedded communications.

Around the age of 7 my family moved to Arizona, it was a new subdivision and I spent most of my time in the surrounding desert. Having that time to be silent and experience the living desert was very profound.

When we moved back to Chicago I had to find that silence in the liminal spaces of the suburbs and the city. It’s in that exploration that I find my inspiration. In that silence you see the cracks in the infrastructure, and the incorruptible movement of the natural world.

Resource Collaborative:  In collaboration with Willi, how do you decide your project theme, such as, open myth source, and how does the topic affect your illustrations?

David: We’ve worked very intuitively. Open Myth Source’s stag image came from an interview that Willi did with the archaeologist Mike Williams. Mike specializes in Paleolithic shamanism, and the stag image came out of a process of synthesizing my study of his research prior to posting the interview.

My drawings for Planetshifter and Open Myth Source have tended to be less grotesque than I would normally draw. Focusing on themes of renewal, journeying, and natural cycles has been a useful meditation. The creative process allows you to understand your relationships to ideas and an experience, so working with these themes develops new connections to the unmediated world.

Resource Collaborative:  David, what would you like the viewer to walk away with when they approach your work?

David: I work under a concept of “raw art”, art that can be made from the everyday, so office supplies are used, recycled material, etc. There’s a lot of rehashed folk art out there, but it seems to me since most people are in the office that’s where the folk art is made, not by artists rehashing old forms. The logo for Open Myth Source is an example, its sharpie marker and colored pencil.

It would be nice for people to realize what’s around them and what can be done with it. The sounds of our day, recycled materials, recycled conversations, and our experiences are our art materials and from these elements we can create digital artifacts, and do so with immediacy. Most people are in the office, in a building, or their home, that’s where the folk art of today is, or can be, produced.

With the addition of the open access we have to the world’s intellectual resources through digital communications there’s no reason this kind of expression can’t have the same dignity of purpose that traditional art forms elicit. Most people are equally as taken by the simple symbolic forms drawn by monks as they are by some more materially refined expression. The charisma of the image comes from the focus and honesty put into it, not necessarily through technical specifics. It’s possible for anyone to explore their relationship to life through creative expression, and I hope that by using the simplest of materials the work I do encourages others to try.

Resource Collaborative:  Why the title ”open myth source”?

Willi:  Like most things “Willi,” my inspirations come quickly and without forethought. I juggle words and needs and feelings and things sprout. As I recall, openmythsource formally created on 9/7/10. It was and still is a play on words: open … source refers to open source code and applications. We want to transmutate the old mythologies, re-charge Campbell and the “old guard” and generate new myths using alchemy and permaculture.

Resource Collaborative:  Myths often belong to a certain segment of a culture or people. If the idea is to teach people a core set of design principles and have them set out to create sustainable agricultural settlements, don’t these same people, also, need to believe in the myth created by the designer?  Would you consider the misconception of sustainability as an educational, social and political misconception and possibly a form of quantum activism?

Willi: We are building participatory resources and collaborative tools for communityalchemy.com that do not subscribe to a “buyer – seller” or top-down regime. openmythsource.com is facilitating the new mythos with workshop participants – not prescribing it! As much I understand “believing in myths”, I take much more credence in actionizing the stories – in solving real problems and visioning.

There is a rich garden growing in Dr. Amit  Goswami, Ph.D.  He has this to say about quantum activism:

‘Right thinking consists of understanding the paradigm shift from a user’s point of view and helping others in our environment to do so. Right living consists of walking the talk, manifesting our understanding in how we live, and becoming guiding examples for the inspiration of others. As such it takes a lot of quantum leaps, openness to being in the non-locality of God consciousness which informs the doing of the ego’s day to day activities;, and the desire to change hierarchical relationships into tangled ones. Right livelihood consists of earning our living in a way that is congruent with our modes of thinking and living and helping our entire society to achieve this congruence.”

Source: http://quantumactivist.com/invitation/

Resource Collaborative:  Describe how understanding mythology and permaculture can change behavior from what we feel we need and what is beneficial to the regeneration of our environment?

Willi: My heart tells me that we need new stories. New heroes, New alchemic initiations, Global, magikal, holistic and deep into ecology mythologies! The glue between new myths and permaculture is the sacred. The land is sacred. Clean air and clean water = scared elements. I think the very idea of “regeneration of our environment” can lead to important insights into the power of universal mythology.

Resource Collaborative:  In other parts of the world, sustainability through land use and design appears to be the norm. In the US, the philosophy seems to be catching on in pockets like California and Vermont. Do you see this movement to be substantial enough to actually make an impact on land use and design?

Willi: As an urban planner, I shrug and bristle at the thought of land owners caring for the land. Land use controls are only a payment away from soil turning. I think that business men have damaged so much “property” in this country that any sustainable conduct needs to start with this forlorn inventory.

It’s sad to see a green certified building shinning all by itself in a former orchard field in Silicon Valley. Isn’t leaving native lands undeveloped the correct POV? I love the vision in Detroit where scarred lands are becoming permaculture havens.

Resource Collaborative:  Society relies heavily on the industrial machine, how do we create a permaculture that is not dependent on the industrial system?

Willi: Localization is key . Tool coops, neighborhood gardens, solar, grey water systems! Read my story: LAO from GreenLoc, CA – A Story for Our Youth  and envision the future of localized living on the planet with me.

Resource Collaborative:   What affects does the capitalistic approach and educations have on the Permaculture revolution?

Willi: Well, that’s loaded question Patrick! I see that we are headed into a precarious period of scarcity and unpreparedness on Earth. The rich are not suffering. Schools are closing. I think that if we have a revolution based on the sacred in permaculture, we have a chance. Capitalism as we all know it is doomed.

Others see some sort of hybrid system, a “business shamanism”:

“To bring about a peaceful and humane alternative would require courage, cunning, organization, and discipline. It would take more than group meditations, mass yoga exercises, or “prayers for peace,” however well intentioned. It would depend on a deeper degree of commitment than progressive movements like MoveOn, CodePink, 350.com, and so on can mobilize. The same level of analytical objectivity that the current ruling elite use to maintain their power and privilege would have to be brought to bear on defining, developing, and mass-distributing the alternative. This requires not just good intentions, but conscious use of the techniques devised by corporations to increase market share and establish brand identification.”

Daniel Pinchbeck, http://www.realitysandwich.com/print/73192

Resource Collaborative:  How do the Arts play a role in this transformation?

David: Permaculture is an artform; the core relationship with nature that creates viable permaculture development is the same that creates a good artist. Our personal relationship with the natural world has to be rectified in ourselves before we can begin to move that into more outward practice. By exploring the Arts we bring ourselves into harmony and can begin to see the interconnected movement of the whole.

The Arts are both a way to guide society towards sustainability through shaping the cultural narrative, and a personal tool to shape our own relationship with nature. Even passive enjoyment of the Arts can bring people to a different relationship if the artist is cognitive of the connections that create the necessary groundwork for thinking about permaculture.

Resource Collaborative:   What is your view on the relationship between spirituality and sustainability?

Willi: I have asked many people if they think sustainability is like a new religion . I am convinced that the major religions of the world have failed to connect the land, creatures, plants and natural energy sources to a set of wise guidelines. I appreciate the rise of green religion movement and cannot say enough about the need to see the sacred as individually recognized and implemented.

Resource Collaborative:   David, explain your approach in keeping with a holistic design process that is sustainable.

David: My research and experiences in my daily life lead to the inspirations for my art. Using mostly found material and commonly available supplies I’m able to create from the environment. In all aspects of my art I try to encompass the idea of refining and recycling.

True art comes from the transmutation of common elements into a transcendent experience. The most common elements around us can be used for the work.

January 27, 2011 PlanetShifter.com Magazine & openmythsource.com will Co-Present the Mythic Mandate Online Workshop: Green Alchemy and the Permaculture Revolution. Please tell us more about this workshop.

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