Interview with New Mythologist Willi Paul by Jeremy Watts, foodforestdesignworks.com
This week I had the pleasure of interviewing a local hero, Willi Paul, a Permaculture/Sustainability enthusiast who is pioneering the new mythological landscape as we transition into a new era!
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JW: The image of a forest that provides for us resonates deeply with me as an ancient (personal) symbol of health, abundance, and stability. Whether you look to the past and see Paleolithic hunter-gatherers or the Garden of Eden, it is an idea that spells sanctuary, home, comfort, in a familiar yet distant and alien way. I feel like we live with a barely-conscious feeling just beneath the surface, that everything our world is made of is so fragile and could very easily fall into disarray. In what ways are the Permaculture and Transition movements replacing that feeling with the hope of a future with more stable footing? Or do you see us as still being in the phase of raising consciousness of the problem itself?
WP: Permaculture needs to move on ALREADY! from its official ban on things spiritual in the PDC. We have too many permaculturists “practicing spirituality in the tool shed.” Integrating the arts and food sciences is already championed by other sectors. Planting crops along with a love for the forest must go hand in hand. With this synergy, respect for Nature can bolster hope. Please understand: permaculture and technology will never “save” us from ourselves.
In my view, raising our collective consciousness is a rich challenge that requires a new set of songs, stories and prayers – a new mythology on Earth. I am unclear what you mean by "… the Garden of Eden, it is an idea that spells sanctuary, home, comfort, in a familiar yet distant and alien way.”
Why can’t we be the new Garden?
JW: I was referring to our distant past with the Garden of Eden reference vs. Paleolithic proto-human images. In both stories, we see humans dwelling within the bosom of an all-nurturing food forest. But we CAN be the new garden! Let's bring this myth back! In fact we may have no choice but to return to it in the long run. And not just for our own sake. All forests are food forests; that is - food for someone! A single tree can provide a home and a meal for squirrels, vines, lichens, mosses, lizards, ferns, fungi, birds, insects, humans. Talking about food forestry has to include shifting from an anthropocentric perspective to a holistic, ecological one.
WP: Very well said. It is important to save virgin forests and to build new food forests now more than ever. Humans play a dominant role in both endeavors. Can permaculturists feed us and create homes for plants and animals? We will see.
JW: How do you see new stories emerging and becoming integrated into our cultural paradigm?
WP: From experiencing Nature primarily. With elders passing old songs down and participating in the collaborative construction of New Myths in schools, at dinner tables and travelling. New Myths will be written by humans for humans with the aid of Joseph Campbell.
Technology can only supply communication channels and protocols to bring the new stories to all in seconds. But social media and web sites cannot “listen and refine” the poems coming now. Will you data mine your heart?
JW: Word. The re-education of our species really has to begin with educating our children. Have you made any attempt to work with schools to bring nature-based narratives into the classroom?
WP: I have interviewed teachers and developed several formal study plans but my work is more focused on presenting subjects that teachers can incorporate into their process, like my work with new symbols sound alchemy in permaculture and transition.
JW: There are so many cartoons, games, et cetera that inundate children constantly. How can we compete with this and what efforts are have you seen or made to work with children's media producers to tell stories that point the way forward out of our mess, or at least tell a more complete and honest story? Or have you seen any good ones that are offering these things? I guess a few stories come to mind: Captain Planet, Avatar, Pacific Rim, Waterworld.
WP: Kids are my main focus and many of my eBooks are dedicated to them. Some mythologists think that the old super heroes are unique- that they are new mythological “heroes” but this only the supports the false value of many movie messages these days. This is a perfect example of how the classical myths are of diminished utility – as the planet crumbles and boils from radiation and killer weather. And Iron Man.
JW: I like your appropriation of urban iconography, aka graffiti. I can see how artifacts, such as the Tree of Life mural in San Diego could be powerful tools in recalibrating the common narrative. How did you come up with this story?
WP: Let’s get rid of the common narrative, eh? Where has it gotten us?
Using the Tree of Life Mural to produce a New Myth came flashed in an instant, like many of my ideas and visions. I suppose the image and the resulting process is rife with archetypes and supported by alchemy (a mixture of spirit and science?).
JW: Hopefully the nature-based narrative will soon replace the common one. Buckminster Fuller said "You cannot change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the old one obsolete." I don't think we can get rid of it, but we can replace it by working within it. As the old Permaculture principle goes: "the problem is the solution."
WP: I find it interesting that the nature-based narrative was the one we had in ancient days, only to be replaced by the short-term resource depletion model by Nature destroying Capitalists! Certainty the “problem is the solution” is a clique in the permaculture world but many permies seem to want to start at the solutions now, assuming that we all understand the problems. Are we “fear or problem adverse?”
Ironically, I see solutions for the multitude of problems coming in from a globally (“top”) to locally (“bottom”). Meta models and data can be created and then customized for each community. Any “new model” will be need to be a local hybrid model to fix water shortages, climate change and species depletion, to name a few!
Is permaculture a ”new model for consciousness?” Not until a greater mass of humans signs on. The Transition Movement to far too undefined and under-represented as well to be an actionable model right now.
JW: Have you thought of (or accomplished) collecting these story/artifacts and publishing a book of them?
WP: I have 15 eBooks to date. The digital book is the best information delivery system I have for these condensations. I don’t see a coffee table version anytime soon!
JW: What are your new myths about and are they catching on?
WP: “Selling Like Hot Cakes, Man!” No really, I haven’t had time to check the read counts on them. I do refer to this work in new discussions and posts. Many could benefit from being turned into a video. That would help. Bottom-line: there is so much self-serving data on the web now that much of the good stuff gets marginalized. My New Myths and other content are tweeted each time with 3 accounts to over ~4000 followers. But, alas, I can never share my work to enough folks.
JW: What do you mean by sound alchemy?
WP: Sound Alchemy is an active mixing of media and messages that combines the voices of our spirits with digital channels. Sound Alchemy is an important “wax and crucible” for the New Mythology:
1. Localization – back to sustainability and community; self-sufficiency
2. Nature- Centric
5. Universal themes(s) and message
6. Para-Normal in conflict or characters
7. Initiation, Journey and Hero
8. Permaculture & Transition: values and principles
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Initiation Prayer for Permaculture – Sound Alchemy
How can I practice permaculture each day?
How can I find work in the ethics and principles?
How can we generate more discussion?
How we build community?
How can permaculture play an active role in alt.politics?
How this force be more spiritual and ease the lies from Father’s alter?
Where is permaculture?
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Active in the sustainability, permaculture, transition, sacred Nature, new alchemy and mythology space since the launch of PlanetShifter.com Magazine on EarthDay 2009, Willi’s network now includes four web sites, a LinkedIn group, 3 tweeter accounts, a G+ site, multiple blog sites, and multiple list serves.
In 1996 Mr. Paul was instrumental in the design of the emerging online community space in his Master’s Thesis: “The Electronic Charrette..” He was active in many small town design visits with the Minnesota Design Team.
Mr. Paul has released 12 eBooks, 2140 + posts on PlanetShifter.com Magazine, and over 500 interviews with global leaders (site 1 & site 2). He has created 48 New Myths to date and has been interviewed over 25 times in blogs and journals.
Willi earned his permaculture design certification in August 2011 at the Urban Permaculture Institute, SF.
Please see his cutting-edge article at the Joseph Campbell Foundation and his pioneering videos on YouTube. His current focus is Myth Lab - a project that Willi presented at his third Northwest Permaculture Convergence in Portland, OR.
As a Senior Manager, Mr. Paul has worked for several Northern California sustainability, civil and software engineering firms. He now works part-time as a design / relocation consultant in the Bay Area.
Willi’s consulting work is at NewMythologist.com.
newmythologist at gmail.com