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Miha Pogacnik: The Synergy of Deep Ecology with Deep Culture

Dear Ministers,

It was great pleasure to give a lecture and perform for you and your colleagues, the Ministers for the Environment and the delegations, last Friday, 11 April, in our National Gallery.

The topic of discussion of the Informal Meeting of Environment Ministers was the synergy of climate change, biodiversity and sustainable use of forests.


Synergy of Deep Ecology and Deep Culture

My contribution was highlighting yet another synergy which needs to be added to the ecological sustainability strategy of EU policy if we want to be successful: the synergy of deep ecology with deep culture. At the very least, for two reasons:

1) Only societies with a deep cultural environment can be expected to act in a genuinely sustainable fashion and bear the consequences of sacrifice and self-education to the issues. Acting from a low cultural level results in crude short-term self-interest, a search for diverse policy loopholes and the production of ‘green books’, as is the case with numerous global companies.

2) Even if we for a moment imagine having extraordinary success and seeing global warming reversed, with the environment fully cleaned-up and nature’s health restored, we must ask: WHAT IS IT FOR? What would be the point of living in such a perfect natural environment if we let our cultures be degraded to the point of barbarism?

What is at stake is the synergy of sustainable ecology and deep culture, and the key to success is the education of our societies through the interdisciplinary application of Art processes – as I, for instance, demonstrated with the orchestral workshop after my speech. This is my appeal to the policymakers of the EU: to help create the opportunity for an experimental pilot project of this kind, where we could explore the interdisciplinary power of Art as an important element in the transformation of society. This is something different from supporting the traditional institutions of Art.


The Vision

As it is essential for our body to breathe clean air, so it is just as essential for our soul and spirit to breathe deep culture. If we discuss the sustainable use of forests and biomass, let us not forget those forests where every single tree bears its own unique and timeless name: Bach, Rembrandt, Shakespeare, Raphael, Palestrina, Beethoven, Dante, Mozart, Pushkin, Sibelius, Goethe, Bartok, Prešern – forgive me if I don’t go on to name more of the thousands of trees of our ecologically endangered cultural forests! It is not enough for these sublime creative qualities to be safely ‘protected’ in the greenhouses of cultural institutions so as to be available as an entertaining and often exclusive ornament to life, we must explore additional opportunities for this genius ‘Art-Biomass’ to be available as a PROCESS, as a transformative power and technique everywhere where we deal with the most critical issues, dilemmas, challenges and decision making in our modern world.

I started my presentation by reminding all the participants – who were sitting among the musicians of the symphony orchestra – how our Slovenian forefathers and mothers responded to the tragic challenge of industrial revolution 100 years ago: On account of the introduction of farming machines in the USA, low wheat prices in Europe forced thousands of our farmers to emigrate to the New World. But their love for our land was so deep that they could not imagine their fields turning wild and, despite knowing they would not return, they planted the very forests we are so proud of today!

And now, 100 years later? The challenges we face are 100 times greater, we face a convergence of many forces: Enormous environmental degradation, global warming with all its consequences, financial crisis, loss of job opportunities, a widening gap between the few rich and the many poor, the rise of fundamentalism and ‘sub-culture’, religious clashes, abuse of power, corporate and other wars ... to name but a few.

If we single out the challenge of ecological sustainability, we can see a short- and long-term strategy:

The short-term solution is to send out fire fighters if the house is in flames.

The long term solution would be the synergy of deep ecology and culture.

I later demonstrated through my workshop (using Beethoven’s violin concerto) that it is possible to hear and re-discover the elements of nature as they become individualised through the genius of the composer into masterpieces of Art. In this way the synergy of deep ecology and culture can be understood as healing and creating nature.


The Implementation of Vision, European-Style Leadership?

In the course of the evening I then introduced the participants to the violin concerto as a musical implementation strategy. The resounding patterns of music can be experienced as a journey of development through various stages to its own glorious completion. The heroic journey to ‘wholeness’. From linear (left brain) to polyphonic and intuitive, from ‘one bottom line’ to multiple bottom line, from shareholder value to stakeholder value, from the interval of the prime to the octave, from ‘ego’ to ‘I’. We asked the question, “Can we find the qualities which would characterise ‘European-style’ leadership?” And the answer came as the experience of the unfolding higher meaning of the masterpiece.

We demonstrated different qualities of leadership by performing with the orchestra certain passages of the masterpiece and I made additional comments by painting symbolic icons on the flipchart:

  • The most essential leadership capacity to be continuously aware of is the presence and metamorphosis of the identity of the masterpiece (theme, brand, essence, big picture);
  • The particular supportive relationship of musical lines that can be experienced as ‘servant leadership’ (counterpoint weaving around the theme, feeling enlivening an abstract idea, on the organic level the blood capillaries nourishing nerves);
  • The experience of crescendo and subito piano at the high point: the leadership mastery of ‘productive resignation’ (Goethe) (the Tao of ancient Chinese wisdom, grafting of crab-apples in agriculture);
  • And first and foremost, to hear in the music one of the most essential elements of any real learning: the ongoing cycles of birth, death (crisis) and renewal.

Then I introduced to the participants the structure of the classical ‘sonata form’, which is the musical architecture of the first movement of the violin concerto. We could experience the deep meaning of the four stages of this sonata form as they unfold, reflecting archetypal stages of human biography: youth, midlife (crisis), maturity and integrated wisdom, taking the form in music of exposition, development, recapitulation and coda.

We could then experience how, at first, the orchestra (without the soloist) reveals in exposition the entire journey as a VISION. It is only then that the soloist enters the scene and IMPLEMENTS this exposition in a productive oscillation of tension and harmony together with the orchestra: a deeply meaningful example of relations between leaders and their teams.

The last step of the workshop was meant to demonstrate the relationship of the masterpiece to the elements of nature. We listened to the process of the ‘development’ section of the first movement of the concerto, how the music expresses at first the melancholic earthly quality of musical identity, transitioning in organic fashion as if from the character of the roots of the plant to the unfolding greening of foliage, alive, growing, increasing playful until, at the high point, as in ‘productive resignation’, the identity turns into the red of the rose, opening in most innocent and devoted, gentle and vulnerable gesture towards the warm and airy sound of sunlight and concluding with an overpowering crescendo to the mighty entry of the entire orchestra, thundering the identity theme in its most fiery form. We could hear music on various levels at the same time: earth, water, air, fire; roots, leaves, flowers, seeds; lifeless, enlivened, deeply sentient and fully human. Through music a truly sacred space was created at that moment and it was as if Nature could be heard calling to us from everywhere:


The workshop concluded with the performance of the entire concerto.

With warmest regards,

Miha Pogacnik


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Date: 22.04.2008