Recycle What You Love

Squashed in the line of duty.

Squashed in the line of duty.

How can we learn to live better together? How do we continue the momentum of an engaged and enthused populace, eager and willing to be generous with our time, attention and resources? So much potential has been unleashed in Scotland this last year.

While clearing paper debris from my desk I discovered a somewhat flattened origami swan. This noble creature was tentatively folded by me as part of a day of stories and craft some months ago at a community social enterprise in Alloa. I was dead chuffed with it.

I’m not much of a folder and was unsure but I folded and began to fold. Folding in the stories I had heard of magical, inquisitive creatures I watched as the swan stretched and turned and swung into life. I loved that little guy. I proudly took him home.

Today I threw him into the recycling.

He had played his part. An innocuous piece of paper coiled and sprung into life as a fantastical feathered familiar traveling south to the coast. It perched on a shelf, than another and another until it found its final roosting place in a bed of papery paraphernalia. To keep it longer would have been to petrify it. As its creation became more and more distant it would become flatter and more squashed – a taxidermy origami no longer alive with the possibility and vitality that went into its creation.

Now it is off to be recycled into something new, appropriate for a bird that was made on a day full of evocative Hindu stories. Maybe it will become another innocuous piece of paper thrumming with potential ready to be scrawled or scrunched or used to wrap someone’s lunch.

I loved it but it’s good to recycle what you love. Often we keep things out of a misguided sense that we are preserving them despite the fact that the soul that animated them – the creative or imaginative spirit we lent them – has long gone. Not everything we love can or should be recycled, but perhaps more can than we realise. Perhaps certain views, artifacts and certainties should be recycled, sent out, not because we don’t love them any more but precisely because we do love them. An opinion or judgement that is not tested is like a life unexamined.

A fantastic piece of art or a family photograph has more of a life than its mere dimensions – they stay alive as their meanings stay alive within us. My swan, lovely as it was, would have simply sat, frozen and inert as my life sped past it. It was a great moment. Now I send it ricocheting off into the world to fold and unfold and become something new for somebody new.

There are lots of certainties we have about how the world should work. We put a lot of effort into developing them years ago and they were a great example of where we were and who we were.

But we’re not there.

And we’re not them.

This swan has challenged me to think – what worldviews and convictions do I have that need to be let go? I may have loved and relied on these opinions but it may be time now to set them loose.

As it is they’re just gathering dust.

We do not need to chuck everything away all the time. It is important to preserve what is alive, what we still wrestle and dance with. But some things which no longer mean what they used to, that we keep out of some kind of duty or obligation, we should throw on the recycling. Someone else can then pick it up and explore what it is and it will live again in some new form.

Renewable energy sources are now the largest source of energy in Scotland. Enough electricity was cleanly generated in the month of November to power every house in Scotland. Within a decade most of our energy could be wind, tidal and solar.

Let’s get recycling as we step into this bold new Scotland together.


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