Saturday, 22 September 2012

The Urb and the People are One pt 1

It's easy, when you live up a hill in the middle of nowhere, to imagine that the land is eternal and unchanging; that the spirits and powers that rule it have always made their homes there; that the people who live upon it and work it are the same people that have always done so. That a pact has been made between the Land and the People that will endure forever, winter and summer, century upon century, a communion that grows ever deeper.

Thankfully this is just a horrible fantasy, and often a product of what one sly magician - who prefers anonymity - has described as a "sub-Wordsworthian delight in the natural world". Spiritual serfdom is as gut-wrenchingly awful as any other kind. You need spend only twenty minutes in the depths of the Urb to realize that the land has changed, irrevocably; the spirits are multitudinous and often as foreign as their immigrant children; that the people change, day by day, year by year, in constant migration and flux. That any pacts are a matter of individual choice and likely of short duration, an endless series of communions that punctuate the heaving rush of transitions that are life in the Urb. How many folk live in the same flat or apartment long enough to get to know their neighbours, let alone the nebulous construct of The Land? We do not live in a mythical nineteenth-century Golden Age of Merrie Englandism and bucolic folk faiths. Nobody ever did. Nobody, given the choice between maypoles and indoor plumbing, would want to. It is a zombie of imagined paganism, conjured up by those who have never tried agricultural work. There's a reason all those songs talk about killing John Barleycorn.

But, but...

It's a seductive lie, isn't it? Aren't we all, even the most hard-faced Urbdwellers, secretly longing for a sense of belonging, a part in a scheme, a membership of a clan or community? Isn't that why some of us entered the Urb in the first place? Inherited spirits and a sense of place go together, it seems. Take heart, would-be maypole dancers; the Urb is your Land and it will, with some cajoling, provide for you. Over the next few posts, we'll find out how.