7th September, 2012
What kind of civilisation can change the climate of an entire planet – as far as it knows, the only planet in existence which sustains life – and yet find the evidence of this so uninteresting that it relegates it, in its hierarchy of ‘news’, below the latest murder, the inevitable re-election of one of its increasingly meaningless political figureheads and a lot of people running around tracks for a week in a big aerodrome?
What kind of civilisation can tip the web of life into a ‘death spiral’ and then spend its time arguing about whether or not this is a good thing? What kind of civilisation can embed something it calls ‘economic growth’ so deeply into its sense of self-worth and meaning that when it dimly becomes aware that this growth is turning the Earth itself upside down, it responds with calls for more of it? What kind of civilisation arrives at a point of no return, and then insists that the only ‘pragmatic‘ response is not to change the way it operates but to remake nature itself, from the genetic level upwards, in its own image? Anything rather than change. Anything rather than face the impossibility of change. Anything rather than look down.
I wrote a while back about feeling like a caged animal; like a wild creature living in captivity. I think this is a common feeling across the modern world; it is modernity’s gift. I also think that many of the crises we are currently precipitating spring from this detachment from our wild natures, which is also our detachment from wild nature. It’s both an internal and an external crisis, in other words: we repress the wildness within our selves as we repress the wildness outside our cities and our farmland. Which leads to the other? I don’t know. Maybe they go together. But both seem to be linked. Increasingly, we live within a bubble, insulated by air conditioning, cars and online tech. We don’t have to know, see or feel anything that we don’t want to. We can close our eyes to it, and we do. It’s how we got here.
It’s becoming increasingly fashionable in environmentalist circles to promote a concept called ‘rewilding‘ – taking land that was once agricultural, or even urban, and letting it run wild again; letting nature take over. Up here in Cumbria, where I live, there’s a genteel version of this going on at the moment. It’s all good stuff, though if human numbers and appetites continue to rage onwards, it’s going to be hard to make it work on any significant level. But it strikes me that we need to re-wild ourselves too. I’m all for the releasing of wild animals back into newly wild areas. Beavers, wolves, bears – and humans.
This winter, the Dark Mountain Project is running a small event that, to my mind, is one faltering attempt towards this necessary rewilding of our spirits. We’re joining forces with the Westcountry School of Myth and Story, whose founder Martin Shaw spoke at our festival this year, for a writing, myth-making and wilderness workshop on Dartmoor, as the winter closes in. It’s a first for us, but it goes to the heart of what we called for in our manifesto: that un-civilising of our spirits, of our expression, of our writing, of our ways of being.
So we’re going to retreat for a weekend to a small hostel near the foot of the moors, and pose ourselves a simple question: can we stand outside the wires and lights of modern living and, however briefly, re-forge a visceral engagement with the intelligence of the wild? Can we look at the human story, as it were, from outside? Can we look beyond our solitary intellect, ground ourselves in the weather patterns and the badger trails and the deep pools of water? What will this mean for how we attempt to write about, tell stories of, communicate, these times?
Martin and I are going to collaborate on this: we’re going to put together a weekend that will combine writing with storytelling, exercises with exercise. We’ll talk about and try to create some form of Uncivilised writing and story that works for us. We’ll all learn from each other what the land has to teach and what we have to say. It will be something of an experiment. And it should be fun.
There are twenty places available on this weekend, seven of which have already been filled. There are more details about it here. If you think you might be interested, do get in touch.
Posted by Paul Kingsnorth on 7 September, 12
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