Warm Life-ing

by Fiona Brooks

An unintentional bok choy in one of my food beds

Warm Data: Information that is alive

Four years ago I fell into a rabbit hole of Warm Data and Batesonian theory. I was about to say “it started with an unexpected walk with a friend of a friend”, but of course it started well before that. It started as I became increasingly aware of and distressed by the terrible harms being inflicted on our world by our ways of living. I had a deep desire to see real and life-affirming change. I spent years trying and failing to think of and create a way out of the mess. Then came the unexpected walk, and attendance at a session at Murdoch University held by Nora Bateson, and the decision to attend Warm Data Lab Host training, and … there I was, falling through the rabbit hole.

While “Warm Data and Batesonian theory” sounds awfully theoretical, and indeed can involve deep and rigorous thinking, my experience of this different way of being in relationship with life is juicy and vibrant. I find myself wanting to tend the conditions for life to life, whether that’s in my garden, community or home, acknowledging that I can’t know the answers hence more often allowing life to find a way, and living into better questions and relationships.

Tending the conditions for life to life

These days I garden differently, parent differently, am in community differently. Rather than striving to impose my will upon other living systems I’m more in an ongoing conversation or negotiation with them. We make suggestions to one another, sometimes adopt them, sometimes modify them, sometimes reject them. One tiny example is the bok choy in this photograph. I didn’t intentionally plant it under the grapefruit tree, it just appeared there this winter. After some puzzling I realised I must have accidentally harvested and planted bok choy seeds along with the rocket and lettuce. I’ve accepted the garden’s suggestion of bok choy amongst the citrus trees. The kikuyu shoots? Not so much.

Through the Warm Data community I came across Permaculture via a number of avenues, and I completed Morag Gamble’s (another trained Warm Data Host) online course, The Incredible Edible Garden. This gave me the confidence to begin to transform parts of my garden into a food forest. It’s very much still a work in progress … and I expect it to remain so forever. Or at least, for my forever. I love the attention to the life in the soil. It’s a wonderful reminder that what we can see on the surface of any living system is only that, the surface, and that tending the conditions to support this invisible promiscuity is, quite literally, vital.

With the warm support of others in my local area I also started a local community group three years ago, Growing Community. We’re about belonging, sharing, and supporting one another. We now have over 100 members in our WhatsApp group, a bunch of regulars who catch up for regular coffees, and a board games subgroup which meets every week. People share resources including information and access to equipment, and regularly step in to help one another out. One of the locals who’s lived in the area for 20 years has commented that she used to go down the street and not recognise anyone, and these days she’ll usually bump into a whole bunch of people she knows.

My son is about to finish secondary school, and my new perspective on life has helped me to largely stop trying to shape him and instead support him in making his own decisions. Our relationship is far better than it used to be … although some of that may also be the natural maturation from 14 to 17!

Permaculture and Warm Data seem, to me, to be very aligned philosophies. I’m thoroughly enjoying and appreciating my immersion in both.

Which leads me to make a warm invitation…

Would you like to join us for a series of changemaker and community gatherings in Manning? The main event is 10am – 4pm on Sunday October 15 and includes:

  • Hosted small group conversations in which we move freely around the room and explore our stories of our lives (a Warm Data session)
  • Food, music and Changemaker story sharing in Manning Laneway, and
  • An opportunity to explore future possibilities, together

Live music and some free food will be provided, plus we’d love you to bring more food to share.

If you see yourself as a changemaker we’d love you to also sign up to host a space and share your stories during the Changemaker Story Sharing. It’s just a matter of sitting and chatting with people who approach you. Even better if a few of you can come, so you can take it in turns to wander Manning Laneway, enjoy the music and food, and listen to the stories from the other changemaker groups.

In addition there are two warm-up gatherings for those who can make them, also in the form of Warm Data sessions:

  • Sunday September 17, 2-4pm, Manning Community Hall, and
  • Sunday October 8, 3-5pm, Zoom

More information and tickets ($5) via Humanitix.

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