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Issue 249
July/August 2008
Music for Transformation

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Five-minute Interview
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Cover: Minature steel drums in a craft market Tobago Photograph: Anna Watson/Axiom

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Five-minute Interview

Donna Duggan talks to Satish Kumar about idealism and inspiration on behalf of Mind Food magazine.

Q1. What's one message you would you like to share with the world?

Many of our personal, social, spiritual, economic and environmental problems, including the problem of climate change, are caused by a deep disconnection - disconnection with nature, disconnection with communities and disconnection with ourselves. In order to reconnect we need to slow down. The industrial age has been the age of speed and this has led to disconnection. Now we need to slow down. Instead of working 5 days a week maybe we should work 3 days a week. Maybe we should have less money but more time - time for ourselves, time for friends, time to meditate, time to be creative, time to dance and sing, time to go for a walk, time to enjoy and time to be.

Q2. What do you say to those that call your views unrealistic?

Where has the realism led us? The world is currently run by realists but they have brought wars, global warming and pollution of the land, rivers and seas. Obviously realism has not worked. Now the time has come to complement realism with idealism - we need both. Without idealism, realism leads to materialism, consumerism and the disintegration of human spirit. All the great teachers in history from the Buddha and Jesus Christ to Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, and in our time, the Dalai Lama, have been able to integrate realism and idealism - that is the way forward. In the hands of so-called realists the world is suffering from poverty, ill health, wars and environmental destruction. So let's put realism in its place and not on a pedestal.

Q3. What do you find inspiring?

There is nothing more inspiring in my life than nature itself. My god is in nature, and nature is my god. Inspiration for my writing, activism, teaching and living comes from nature. For me, nature is the source of creativity and imagination - in the wild I am filled with awe and wonder. I am inspired by the generosity and beauty of nature. When I sit under a tree, I am inspired; when I walk among the bluebells and primroses, I am inspired; when I sit by the sea and gaze into the horizon, I am inspired; when I watch the birds gliding, I am inspired. Of course, I am also inspired by great poetry and great art but ultimately even poetry and art take their inspiration from nature. Even humans are nature. The word 'nature' means 'to be born, and to die' - the words 'natal', 'native', 'nativity' and 'nature' all come from the same root. The cycle of birth and death and everything in between is filled with magic and mystery, and that fills me with inspiration.

This interview was first published in Mind Food magazine www.mindfood.com

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