Creativity and dark ecology.
The other day I found some much-needed encouragement from one of my favorite living philosophers, Timothy Morton, in All Art is Ecological. With characteristic wit and verve, Morton observes that while the bend of the authoritarian machine is toward capital-T truth, the bend of an ecological society (of the sort that must begin to emerge if we are to survive) is toward a much more sublime, surreal, and shapeshifting state, of “truthiness” which necessarily elevates that which cannot be grasped. They have not said this (yet, anyway), but the strong suggestion through this reader’s lens is that pretensions toward capital-R real, like capital-T truth and capital-A authority, are necessarily lies. Someone whose every attempt at telling an honest story completely evades clean lines, take heart. As Lorca observed, “Only mystery allows us to live, only mystery.”
Story of ages, these quiet ruins now submit to the embrace of twisted oak limbs. What solitude erupts through the ghosts of former sermonizers when somber winds replace old battle hymns. From twilight to light on this reticulated branch, snows drumming winter suddenly stop. What music now?
Loosely inspired by the paintings of Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840), whose work has been credited with capturing “the tragedy of landscape.” He is said to have inspired painters such as Dali, Rothko, and Munch. His Moonrise Over the Sea is reported to have inspired Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot.
If loving begins in recognition, then practice reading one another is an essential beginning, and a sincere effort demands that some limits be placed on noise. One of the effects of oxytocin, the bonding hormone, is to turn down the static so the neural signals––of, say, the smell of another’s body, or a distress cry––can come in clearly, which calls to mind some old questions about trees falling in the forest, and the health of forests and one another. If a cry happens and no one hears, what are we? Any loving observer, beholding another’s vivid hues, exquisite detail of sparkling eyes, wonder of resting face, music of laughter––will tell you, mystery. Only mystery.
Loosely inspired by Bob Holmes’ recent Knowable Magazine article, “Oxytocin’s effects aren’t just about love.”
Collect the fallen fruits of old labors by the light of a full moon. Wade in the water to rinse, then pat dry. Meanwhile, dice the insults, the past indignities, the collected impossibilities and memories of grade school wounds, lost pets, and burned skins. Steam gently on low heat. Now return to the bowl of hopes set aside to rise in a dark place. Knead vigorously on a floured surface for the length of three songs, longer if desired. Set to rise again. Cover and repeat. We’ll score it eventually, with some symbol of our own invention. We’ll bake it golden, display it on a special tray, cut into it while it’s still crackling hot, pass out fat slices to all assembled and serve it with the good butter. Mouths water at the dream, but don’t worry, there is bread already made. It’s on the table right now. We won’t be hungry. It is good to be kneading this together, this now and coming communion. May the nourishment of the earth be yours.
Inspired by John O’Donohue, who taught me the Celtic term Anam Cara, loosely translated as “soul friend.” And by my soul’s friend. The italicized line above is from O’Donohue’s poem “Beannacht” (Gaelic for “Greetings”).
What ephemeral forms may expose.
Along the shores of a great lake, often without witness, a northern wind shapes and erases forms in ice and sand. There is a moment when they hold. To bear witness is to be reminded of the pairing of reverence and suddenness, of beauty unexpected because it is so rarely seen, and this because it just as quickly goes, swallowed by the same hand that lifted the veil. Is this a force of time and weather, or their temporary pause? ––as if to call into question all descriptors, all limits, to fit the beholder with a set of melting wings.
Inspired by the photography of Joshua Nowicki.
Reins, range, and possibility.
Considering the freedom of a given will, one might ask, which is it: from some impediment, or into some possibility? But here’s a tired habit again, the old insistence on one or the other: acting in nature vs. enacting Nature, and never beyond reach from creation, enduring the fractals of a multiplicity of loves, and the wounds a body learns to bear for their sum, ever toward some abundance of seeming opposites unveiled, this vast body assembled from so many shattered shards.
Consider a cornucopic mind,
tumbling out into its own
while gestational stars
assemble before first light
in light of other known principles
––challenge, adaptation, change,
and how these forms grow by
call and response, into what will
persist when life is threatened,
and then try to hold some
stable notion of time.
is the reference?
Coffee, I will.
Sink, please help me.
Pillow, will you stay here?
Wonder, find me again in this haze.
Hope, flood through this dark space.
Heart, pay attention, keep watch, and remember.
Head, stop trying to lead and figure. You tend to get in the way.
Feet, hold still while I find the ground. Then get moving and lift me across.
Water, wash my tired eyes, these shadows beneath them.
Pen, carry on and continue to follow these invisible lines, trust the moving hand, however clumsy and dumb, though it keeps dropping the hold.
We are here today––
Begin again each time it loses the thread, and it is always––
We are here today to––
We are gathered here to
meet these beginnings.
More than a collection of stones.
If history is a cathedral, and the accepted facts the stones, then no expansion of understanding can happen without art, without appreciation for those who been dreaming and revisioning all along as a survival strategy. No offering of new facts, however extensive, will ever be enough to alter old visions, except by nurturing new visionary architects. New material can raise new questions, as in, what can we make of this? –– and, by extension, of us? To offer new stones and call it “history” is a lie of omission. The history is what is yet to be made.
Inspiration: In a recent episode of NPR’s Throughline podcast (“Do We Need a Shared History?”), historian Tamin Ansary shared this insight, “History is composed of facts the way that a cathedral is composed of bricks . . . But the bricks are not the cathedral.” This seems like a much-needed observation for our times. I am inspired by those who recognize (as Ben Okri put it) when we have arrived at “A Time for New Dreams.”