(If it seems like this article was written under the influence of magic mushrooms, I assure in advance it wasn't.)
I saw an absolutely brilliant documentary on Netflix last week about mushrooms, called Fantastic Fungi. I'm not going to be able to do justice to this brief summary but the essence of it goes like this. There is a network under the earth, called the mycorrhizal network, that connects trees and plants through tiny threads, that facilitate the health and survival of all other trees and plants. Think of it like the internet where every computer in the world is connected together, except you're talking plants. And the benefit of this is that a tree in danger, or lacking all moisture, can be assisted by other trees around it through this network. It's like your neighbour coming to give you a dig-out when you're in trouble. And the mushroom, in case you were wondering, is the fruit of this network, like the apple on the tree. And it is actually connected to the entire network itself. The whole thing was incredible and I urge you to watch it (there's also an interesting side-angle on magic mushrooms, which is fascinating too). But what's all this got to do with restorative practice? Let me tell you how I see it. For some of you this will be nothing new, just a different analogy for old wisdom. For others this will be a challenging idea that I ask you to just sit with for a while, or at least until the end of this article. Think about the following scenarios:
Is it obvious yet? The ripples of our actions extend beyond us to places we do not and, sometimes, cannot see. They make movies about such things (Crash and Magnolia are two that come to mind from a few years back worth a watch) where the five above scenarios could easily have overlapped and interacted. We don't like to consider this for the most part however. It is a challenge to think that we might be contributing to the violence on our planet by unintentionally shaming a child, or spreading some "harmless" gossip, or suspending/expelling a child who has worn us down and that we no longer know how to deal with. Such a statement probably feels like a judgement. If so, rest assured I am not innocent either of acts of violence in the past (and by violence I mean the type of examples listed above). We cannot change the past however. But we can forgive ourselves and acknowledge we were doing the best we could at that time with the knowledge and skills we had. And then we can aim to do a little better tomorrow. Why? Because the the person you gossip to today, could be the person who shames their child this evening, who may be the one who joins a gang tomorrow, and steals a car the day after, and interrupts your neighbour taking their mother to a hospital appointment, who meets a stressed nurse and..... you'll have to wait until the movie comes out so see how it finishes! Who do we blame? My guess is we'll all blame the bank and go back to our daily lives (that's not a suggestion by the way). A better question is why blame anyone? What good will that do? We can only control our own behaviour after all. Blaming and controlling others is the cause of the violence and trouble we see around us. Yes, but "what do we do instead"? You don't have to shout at me. I can hear you perfectly fine. The answer, as ever, is simple, but..... not easy. Consider the alternative scenarios to my blockbuster movie:
How's that Hollywood? Not bad for a first draft, eh? Ok, I'll stick to the day job then. Seriously, though, and I know this sounds like "hippy wisdom", we are all profoundly interconnected - like the mushrooms. Maybe the hippies were right. You don't have to go out hugging trees but how about a smile for the next person you meet, or a deep breath when you are starting to feel stressed. Small changes. Recognise the humanity in the people around you. Yes, even the bank managers, even the politicians, even the young offenders. We can come to their aid and restore the imbalances like the strong trees help the weaker ones.
That's Restorative Practice
My name is Joe Power and I am the RP development officer for Limerick. I thought I would write about my experiences in developing my own understanding of RP/RJ, as well as in trying to spread it across Limerick (and beyond). The reason for this is that I find that both my own and other people's experiences are remarkably similar and there could well be some opportunity for others to benefit from these thoughts (or ramblings!!). Anyway I hope you gain something from it.
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