Is there a word for that sound that we all make when the lights suddenly go out? It’s a sort of ‘oooh’ with a little note of affront and wonder. It’s happened today. The café sandwiches will not be toasted.
Then that little ‘hummy, buzzy’ sound follows: a release signal that everyone can now acknowledge what’s happened, and each other.
Hard to be independent and separate now…
Togetherness has been a bit of a theme this week. (And not just that little news story I can’t quite bring to mind involving something small, like a sort of referendum or something).
The Wigan Diggers Festival took place at the weekend.
Wigan was the birthplace of Gerrard Winstanley, who led the ‘Diggers’ or the ‘True Levellers’ at that violent time of revolution as King Charles 1’s head was removed in 1649.
It’s hard to really grasp how radical their thinking was. The ‘Diggers’ were for equality. Absolute equality. That included equality between men and women. They believed that the land was ‘a common treasury for all’. They lived and worked for a while on St Georges Hill in Surrey. They cultivated the land together and lived together; until they were all mown down by those in power. Their ideas were just too dangerous.
Leon Rosselson wrote a song about this in the ‘70s. It has been covered by so many. Here’s the Barracudas’ version.
‘Selling the earth for private gain’ and a ‘common treasury for all’ still hits home.
There are so many parallels to today.
How is our common treasury faring, now?
(Don’t look at St Georges Hill. It’s one of the most exclusive and expensive residential areas outside London. History sure has a quirky sense of humour.)
And that lovely phrase ‘common treasury’ might now include the worldwide web, culture, arts, public spaces, the workplace..…
The feelings of betrayal, disappointment, and cynicism in the 1640s on seeing so much bloodshed deliver so little change boiled over into looking at things differently. It’s powerful background music, and it may still be tinkling away right now.
Winstanley wrote of ‘men in a mist’. That hits home, too. He concluded that action had to, eventually, take over from words.
And that suddenly felt very real today in this little café place, because togetherness broke out, and it felt good.
With so many daily life habits – our smartphones, how our offices are arranged, our busy-ness, our self absorption – keeping us all separate, it seems a good moment to remember the pleasure of working together. I shall try to think of the workplace as a ‘common treasury’ and see what happens.
As the fingers hit the keys, I heard a voice on another table.
‘Here, have some of this – we can share’.
I kid you not, but the lights came back on.