In A Dark Time
I respect the unflinching honesty of the folks over at the Dark Mountain Project. They are a group of artists and writers determined to stay present in the face of the inevitable disintegration of modern society. Our civilization is reaching its limits – physical, social, economic, technological, cultural, and spiritual. The Dark Mountaineers are not interested in debating this, nor in frantic attempts to prop up the dying empire. They want to know and express what it means to be human at this particular moment in the unfolding universe.
They ask vital questions. Like the questions Cormac McCarthy asked in The Road. Questions like, what is worth doing at the end of an age? What is the function of art and literature in the face of a mainstream culture that seems bent on self-destruction, but doesn’t want to talk about it? To that I would add, what is the function of spirituality at this time? For I think the Dark Mountain Project is inherently spiritual if one understands spirituality in terms of embodiment, wholeness, presence, connection, and inscendence.
I am aware that there are many religious and spiritual currents that would counsel us not to be too concerned about the fate of the planet, and that would reinforce a sense of being beyond it all. But that’s too easy. Perhaps because those traditions are themselves intertwined with the dominant cultural story of human separateness and superiority. And yet experience demonstrates that this is false. We are not separate. We are here. And we are destroying our home.
Below are eight principles of uncivilization, from Dark Mountain’s manifesto. They are good to ponder in terms of cosmology, in terms of what it means to be human at a time of great destruction and spiritual dishonesty.
The Eight Principles of Uncivilization
1. We live in a time of social, economic and ecological unravelling. All around us are signs that our whole way of living is already passing into history. We will face this reality honestly and learn how to live with it.
2. We reject the faith which holds that the converging crises of our times can be reduced to a set of ‘problems’ in need of technological or political ‘solutions’.
3. We believe that the roots of these crises lie in the stories we have been telling ourselves. We intend to challenge the stories which underpin our civilisation: the myth of progress, the myth of human centrality, and the myth of our separation from ‘nature’. These myths are more dangerous for the fact that we have forgotten they are myths.
4. We will reassert the role of storytelling as more than mere entertainment. It is through stories that we weave reality.
5. Humans are not the point and purpose of the planet. Our art will begin with the attempt to step outside the human bubble. By careful attention, we will reengage with the non-human world.
6. We will celebrate writing and art which is grounded in a sense of place and of time. Our literature has been dominated for too long by those who inhabit the cosmopolitan citadels.
7. We will not lose ourselves in the elaboration of theories or ideologies. Our words will be elemental. We write with dirt under our fingernails.
8. The end of the world as we know it is not the end of the world full stop. Together, we will find the hope beyond hope, the paths which lead to the unknown world ahead of us.