Thursday, April 27, 2017

"Not Man Apart" & the Dark Mountain Project


     "The Answer"

by Robinson Jeffers*
Then what is the answer?

Not to be deluded by dreams.
To know the great civilizations
have broken down into violence,
and their tyrants come, many times before.

When open violence appears, to avoid it with honor
or choose the least ugly faction; these evils are essential.
To keep one’s own integrity, be merciful and uncorrupted 
and not wish for evil; and not be duped
by dreams of universal justice or happiness.
These dreams will not be fulfilled.

To know this, and know that
however ugly the parts appear
the whole remains beautiful. 

A severed hand is an ugly thing,
and man dissevered from the earth and stars and his history...
for contemplation or in fact...
appears atrociously ugly. 

Integrity is wholeness,
the greatest beauty is organic wholeness, 
the wholeness of life and all things,
the divine beauty of the universe.

Love that, not man
Apart from that

or else you will share man’s pitiful confusions,
or drown in despair when his days darken.
photo by MicStephens

I've been trying to find a way to articulate what I feel for a long time now.  This past year especially, I've found myself  overwhelmed with the destruction of the environment, and the immanent changes that are upon us.  Our global civilization, with all its promise,  and yet just in its infancy,  increasingly looks like a runaway train.  To mature, in the little time that has been given us, to meet the challenges of climate change and our evolution and promise  as a common humanity on a small to sustain that dream?

Now that the U.S. has put  Trump*** and what he represents into power, I despair.  He and his Republican  regime are calling global warming  "A Chinese hoax" even as the poles are melting, the permafrost is melting, and islands are disappearing.  They pound their chests and threaten nuclear war as they  withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Accord, prepare to end the Environmental Protection Agency, the Clean Energy Act, renew the pipelines that leak poison into our rivers.    I watch America become dismantled, our Constitution increasingly broken, the tyrant minds of greed and violence like the Dark Lord of Tolkien's books overtaking America.  Yes, that despair I've been feeling for a long time has deepened, and I find myself increasingly asking myself, "How do I live in these times?"

 Every generation, perhaps, has to ask that.  Or perhaps not.  Perhaps many generations behind me lived with a surety of continuity in their families, countries, tribes, environments, that, even if not true (because change is the only constant), was true for their time.  But I have lived in an extraordinary time, when change is too rapid to assimilate, and not only our tribes and nations are threatened, but our very planet, the Mother Earth we take as the ultimate changing, is threatened.   And humanity, for all of our  beauty and brilliance, is still in its infancy.

It's always been with me, this "Before the Deluge" (which is also an important movie) mentality.  It took different forms, but it was always there, the shadow that hung over my generation, born just after WWII with its inconceivable violence, and in the shadow of the nuclear bomb.  For all the prosperity of the 50's, we knew what horror humanity was capable of, and we knew life was tenuous.  I remember the surrealism of the "get under your desk" exercises, the Cold War, and the bomb shelter my father made in the closet, with a barrel of water and stacks of canned beans and tuna fish.  It was always there, the Shadow.

Berkeley was ahead of its time, and in 1970 I remember taking recycled bags to the Food Co-op.  We spoke of "voluntary simplicity", and of  Zero Population Growth, and in 1973 I had a tubal ligation so I would not contribute further to the problem.  We fought for the redwoods, we talked about growing our own vegetables, and we marched, and marched.  We marched against Vietnam, we marched for Women's Rights and birth control and abortion, we marched for Free Speech, and we began to march increasingly for the Environment.  People did sit down strikes at the nuclear power stations that so dangerously sat atop California fault lines, they chained themselves to old growth redwoods to keep forests from being clear cut.    I saw the evolution of the Women's Movement and the evolution of Environmentalism, and then the evolution of Eco-feminism, which saw the profound relationship between the two evolutionary threads.  I remember when Time Magazine did its Endangered Earth edition in 1989.  Almost 20 years later in 2006 I saw the former Vice President of the U.S., Al Gore, produce "An Inconvenient Truth", shown in all major theatres.   Not much changed.

I've come to agree with the founders of the Dark Mountain Project, and their Manifesto.  Our civilization is not sustainable, our worldwide  economic system is manifestly unethical, and our descendants cannot have the hope and privilege we have known.  And as I say that I acknowledge that the majority of human beings on this planet have never had the hope and privilege that I have.   The question is, how do you live with that?

For myself, I'm going to focus on what I love, and hope to learn to be a loving person in the time that I am granted here.  And I aspire to live in as much simplicity and gratitude as I may. Despair, anger, polarization, none of this is helping me.   My work has always  been an effort to share Her image, in many different forms and with many different faces.  I'll continue to make my shrines, and reliquaries, and words of praise to Her, in all of Gaia's vast diversity and indescribable beauty.  It has been a privilege to live within Gaia, and a privilege to live in this time.  It has been a privilege to  live.  Let my life become a prayer of gratitude, and perhaps some of those threads will go forward to those who are yet to come.  Perhaps they will not curse all of us.  But we'll never know.

A manifesto for change

"The Dark Mountain Project is a network of writers, artists and thinkers who have stopped believing the stories our civilization tells itself. We produce and seek out writing, art and culture rooted in place, time and nature."

The Dark Mountain Project was initially created as a journal by the former  deputy editor of the Ecologist, Paul Kingsnorth.  He and colleagues became disillusioned with the narratives of environmentalism, and so they decided to write their own.  Eventually this evolved into a large artistic, literary, and scientific community, as well as workshops and the "Uncivilization Festivals".  As he explains:

"Out of this huddle came a slim, self-published pamphlet that we called Uncivilisation: the Dark Mountain Manifesto. It was a clarion call to those who, like us, did not believe that the future would be an upgraded version of the present, and who wanted to help forge a new cultural response to the human predicament. It called for a clear-sighted view of humanity's true place in the world.  We had no idea if this would resonate, but it did - all over the world. We sold hundreds of manifestos and attracted enthusiastic support from thousands of people. A movement began to coalesce. What was most fascinating – and telling – about it was the common thread running through it. So many of the communications we received were from people who professed a profound sense of relief. They too had been going through the motions about 'saving the planet' but had long since stopped believing it. Coming across other people who didn't believe it either, and who wanted to forge a new way of looking at the future, got a lot of people very excited.

To me, this is the most exciting thing about the Dark Mountain Project. It has brought together people from all over the world, from varied backgrounds – writers, poets, illustrators, engineers, scientists, woodworkers, teachers, songwriters, farmers – all of whom are tied together by a shared vision. It is a vision that a few years back would have seemed heretical to many greens, but which is now gaining wide traction as the failure of humanity to respond to the crises it has created becomes increasingly obvious. Together we are able to say it loud and clear: we are not going to 'save the planet'. The planet is not ours to save. The planet is not dying; but our civilisation might be, and neither green technology nor ethical shopping is going to prevent a serious crash."

*Much of Jeffers' poetry was written in narrative and epic form, but he is also known for his shorter verse and is considered an icon of the environmental movement. Influential in some circles, despite or because of his philosophy of "inhumanism", Jeffers believed that transcending conflict required human concerns to be de-emphasized in favor of the boundless whole. This led him to oppose U.S. participation in World War II, a stand that was controversial after the U.S. entered the war

** Paul Kingsworth on the founding of the Dark Mountain Project:

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