On this year’s Mother Earth day, I reflect on yesterday’s energies which felt, to me, strangely subdued. Or maybe I should say that the watery Grand Trine that encloses the Grand Cross smoothed its most extreme edges? Not much to report here. In fact, what did I do yesterday? The days fly by, and the nights? They tend to crawl by. More than at any other time, between 2 and 4 am I can feel the powerful swirling energies of the Grand Cross, and I know they are not “mine,” they are ours. Anxiety, grief, despair, confusion, grasping . . . all there, all tumbling through oceanic currents that (possibly) took down Flight 370, that took down the Korean ferry . . . We stare at the abyss, afraid of being swallowed, and yet fascinated.
And yet each morning, a new day! Yes, David Hume, the sun continues to rise.
Today woke up to discover a blogger’s brother has suddenly died (at 29 yrs: Saturn return). Phhft! Out! I’m surprised more people that think they’re ready to go don’t take this easy exit. Just swirl yourself out with the Cardinal Cross, buoyed by the Grand Trine! What a set up for permanent transcendance!
Yesterday afternoon I was told that the young man who “ripped me off” left town, on the very day that I decided to mention his sorry deed in this blog. Relief here. And yet, intense sorrow. I don’t want to make him into “the bad guy.” He’s not a bad guy, he’s a guy who’s making poor choices, and they are following him around. Another person in his first Saturn return, by the way, and I hope he corrects his course now before he lives out the next 30 year cycle with this stain etched inside and seeking to repeat, repeat, repeat the external projection through various dramas, all with the same self-destructive pattern.
My own initiatives, to clear all my own gunky stuff, especially my tendency to want to “help” those who are war-wounded like me, proceed, with discipline. Lots of personal practices required. I do them all, like clockwork; or, rather, I get them all in by the end of each speedy day. (Hey! And thanks, Laura Bruno, for the tip! I got some Jarrow bone-up and will take three times a day, with meals.)
Meanwhile, yesterday, let’s see, JUST WHAT DID I DO YESTERDAY??? Stunning, how memory serves, saves, fails, let’s go of everything but now, right now, this moment, sitting here on my ergonomic stool incorrectly, with feet up on the earthing pad, remembering . . . ah yes, I have a noon lunch date today, with a young woman with whom I want to hold the first of many weekly conversations, all stemming from a remark David Orr made at a lecture I attended a few weeks ago: “Learn to have lunch with lots of different kinds of people.” YES! To what end? Cannot speak of it yet, but it’s big. And inspired by his work with the Oberlin Project.
As ever, I see myself as a spider in her fantastically intricately designed web, wave upon wave of interlaced concentric rings, starting from deep inside of me, where most of the work both originates and transforms, and proceeding out. To the nearest concentric ring, inside my own home; slightly further out to inside the two-home framework that includes the GANG garden; next, out to inside this little growing hub of the ( forming) Green Acres Neighborhood Ecovillage; inside the larger picture, the neighborhood network in Bloomington; Bloomington in its bioregion; the geopolitical realities, the vast cosmic consciousness embracing and breathing us as One . . . and always, always my job, my principal task, is to remain centered and grounded, open to the immensity, the LOVE spilling in from the universe and radiating it in concentric rings.
In the middle of the night I sit (or rather, lie, on my back, in bed) inside the collective grief that is beginning to surface in larger ways. Not just Guy McPherson and American cohorts, but British. You might want to read this unflinching, and unusually respectful New York Times Magazine feature last Sunday, as this fabled week began:
Sitting in the hut, the air stale and the light almost nonexistent, I thought of something Hine told me earlier. “People think that abandoning belief in progress, abandoning the belief that if we try hard enough we can fix this mess, is a nihilistic position,” Hine said. “They think we’re saying: ‘Screw it. Nothing matters.’ But in fact all we’re saying is: ‘Let’s not pretend we’re not feeling despair. Let’s sit with it for a while. Let’s be honest with ourselves and with each other. And then as our eyes adjust to the darkness, what do we start to notice?’ ”
Hine compared coming to terms with the scope of ecological loss to coming to terms with a terminal illness. “The feeling is a feeling of despair to begin with, but within that space other things begin to come through.” Yet arriving at this acute state of “awareness of what’s worth doing with the time you’ve got left” isn’t always easy for Dark Mountain’s followers. “Some people come here,” Hine told me, “they get very excited by the fact that people are inspired, and they go: ‘Right! Great! So what’s the plan?’ ” He and Kingsnorth have worked hard to check this impulse, seeing Dark Mountain as a space to set aside what Kingsnorth refers to as “activist-y” urges.
This wasn’t always the case. At the first festival, in 2010, Kingsnorth behaved the way he thought the leader of a new movement ought to behave. He proselytized. He lectured. He gave a talk that he describes as “Here’s what’s wrong with environmentalism, and this is what must change!” But he quickly concluded that a didactic tone was inappropriate for the new group. Dark Mountain had more in common with the anarchism of Occupy Wall Street than with the collectivism of 350.org: everyone was to choose his or her own course of action. Recently, Kingsnorth and Hine decided not to hold any more festivals. They want to focus their limited resources on publishing more books more frequently, but they also don’t want the gatherings to ossify into a predictable program — or worse, an annual party.
For more conventional activists, Dark Mountain’s insistence on remaining impractical can be not only disorienting but also irksome. George Monbiot, one of the England’s most prominent environmental journalists, is among Kingsnorth’s oldest friends. In 2009, after the manifesto was published, he and Kingsnorth held a debate in The Guardian, for which Monbiot writes a column. It was a heated exchange. Kingsnorth argued that civilization was approaching collapse and that it was time to step back and talk about how to live through it with dignity and honor. Monbiot responded that “stepping back” from direct political action was equivalent to a near-criminal disavowal of one’s moral duty. “How many people do you believe the world could support without either fossil fuels or an equivalent investment in alternative energy?” he asked. “How many would survive without modern industrial civilization? Two billion? One billion? Under your vision, several billion perish. And you tell me we have nothing to fear.”
Naomi Klein also sees a troubling abdication in Kingsnorth’s work. “I like Paul, but he’s said rather explicitly that he’s giving up,” she told me. “We have to be honest about what we can do. We have to keep the possibility of failure in our minds. But we don’t have to accept failure. There are degrees to how bad this thing can get. Literally, there are degrees.”
On the surface, it can indeed seem as if Kingsnorth is giving up. Last week, he and his wife made a long-planned move to rural Ireland, where they will be growing much of their own food and home schooling their children — a decision, he explained to me, that stemmed in part from a desire to distance himself from technological civilization and in part from wanting to teach his children skills they might need in a hotter future. Yet Kingsnorth has never intended to retreat altogether. For the past three years, he has spent a good portion of his time trying to stop a large supermarket from being built in Ulverston, in northern England. “Why do I do this,” he wrote to me in an email, anticipating my questions, “when I know that in a national context another supermarket will make no difference at all, and when I know that I can’t stop the trend caused by the destruction of the local economy, and when I know we probably won’t win anyway?” He does it, he said, because his sense of what is valuable and good recoils at all that supermarket chains represent. “I’m increasingly attracted by the idea that there can be at least small pockets where life and character and beauty and meaning continue. If I could help protect one of those from destruction, maybe that would be enough. Maybe it would be more than most people do. “