Darkanism is a project nearly ten years in the making. It is, in a few words, an exploration of the very heart of endarkened nature, a venture beyond the lantern’s glow in search of reflections of the nature of our being. That exploration is borne of hiking trips into rawest nature, and the resulting poetry, philosophy, photography, and other varied expressions of the natural resonance we feel.
In writing, Darkanism is: Cartesian Eco-FemDarkanism: Unmasked, Cartesian Eco-FemDarkanism: Radix, Cartesian Eco-FemDarkanism: She Comes from the Earth; Therefore, We Are, Darkanism Explored: Fear of the Dark, and Darkanism Explored: Wonder as a Way.
At its core, Darkanism suggests new-old ways of thinking and being the Earth. The following paragraphs adapted from Cartesian Eco-FemDarkanism bring us right to the place where the echoes of our being begin their rhythmic crawl out of the depths:
Darkanism and (re)Thinking: Experiencing a New(old) Belonging.
Human logic is rooted in classification and distinction—the result of our ancestors’ wonder-reaction to the giant and diverse world they endeavored to distinguish. The basis for logical thinking lies in the categorical syllogism: Humans die. Jane is human. Therefore, Jane will die. The logical thinker identifies a class (humans), analyzes Jane for characteristics of that class, then puts her neatly in the appropriate box. Although it seems a natural extension of our consciousness, the world does not likely work by reference to such simple reasoning. This logic of distinction cuts the ties between things, divides them to the point that many can’t imagine the subtle but crucial connections that exist just beyond our perception.
An alternative to this mode of thought is the synecdoche or poetic syllogism. This form of reasoning uses the particular to illustrate the general: “Grass dies. Men die. Therefore, men are grass.” It seems illogical, because it unifies entities that we perceive to be different by a shared general characteristic—challenging what we “know” about men and grass by their unity in death. This creates a way to unify by metaphor such that our existence in nature makes all living things the same. Not convinced? Biologically, men are grass. When you break grass and men down far enough, they’re made of the same stuff: carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen. Poetically, men are grass. They share lungs with grass: grass breathes what men exhale, and men breathe what grass exhales.
So to demonstrate this manner of thought, we offer our own syllogism:
Oceans of water leap to the pull of the moon.
You are nearly two-thirds water.
The moon pulls you.
Now, if you don’t speak the Moon’s language, translated in the fireside revelry of ancestors past, you might need to brush up on your Moonish to hear the call for a shift from the logic of distinction to a logic of connection—to search for what appears not to be there. In that search, we hear quiet lessons such as in the mirrored growth of trees—revealing growth is at its best a “double-movement”: a rooting or dwelling in the Earth simultaneous to an opening or reaching toward the highest aims, reaching our potential while respecting life’s potential, by allowing flourishing.
Humble comes from the Latin for humus, meaning earth, ground, soil. Humus is the root of human, dweller on the land. To act as if nature has nothing left to teach—nothing to inform our ingenuity—is conceit. But humility, the understanding that we’ve taken only the first few bites from the apple of knowledge and much remains to digest, can engender a view of humanity as a part of the natural world grounded in its mystery and magic and power—an unending source of wonder and imagination. This is bewilderment, a natural astonishment that expresses curiosity instead of feigning a comprehensive understanding of the infinitely complex. If you envision the word itself – bewilder- literally, “Be Wilder.”
I am nature. Pollution of the Earth is pollution of my body, as we are necessarily connected by the food I eat, the water I drink and the air I breathe. My relationship with this part of myself is not all negative—contemplation of the natural is contemplation of the self. When nature shares wisdom, as the quiet lessons in the growth of trees, I improve based on the teaching.
So, I am the redwood. And if that relationship is not logical or escapes our written description, our work is part of a new emotional language—displaying our kinship with trees and the night sky, members of our clan, our tribe.
We began going into the woods to feed a need to explore, to satisfy some longing, drawn perhaps by instinct. There we made out a whisper over the rush of the river, a subtle calling. Yet on our first night wandering into the forest, the coyote’s cry and the rustling of elk unnerved us in the dark woods. That fear is both instinctually and culturally rooted, and our descriptions of Earth are often cast in the shadow of darkness—a murky, foreboding presence. We may respond to such a fear by withdrawing from our place in nature, and ignoring “be-longing”—literally, the desire (the longing) to be here as an earth-dweller. But there is another way.
Donald Worster recounts an experience that Thoreau recorded in his journal in which the intrepid author soaked his bare feet in the mud of a swollen river:
There appeared around his legs, swarming in a feverish mass, “a hundred toads . . . copulating or preparing to.” The amorous scene into which he had wandered was loudly celebrated by the ringing trill of the toads, a sound that [made] the very sod tremble: “I was thrilled to my spine and vibrated to it.” . . . [He] felt his limbs charged with new force, his singleness overwhelmed by the ‘one life’ of an animate earth. Without that sense of the vital energy in nature, man stands as an alien, severed even from the cold, inert lump of his own body.
Past my own discomfort with standing in muddy, copulating toads, I searched our experiences for parallels: we’ve wandered in the dark forest; we’ve stood in the river under the Moon; we’ve felt the great energy that binds all life on the planet. It requires no special skill, just an open heart and an open mind free to ask the Earth to share some of that energy—once felt, the desire to shed this alienation and separation is strong. So, we have committed to thinking of our belonging to the Earth in different ways. With it, we turn and run farther afield beyond the lit circumference of the Lantern’s glow where perhaps some will not follow, because light is fading, and the grass a bit damp with dew.
Humility and its attendant perspective can make us feel small—at the clear sight of the colossus of nature, tyme, and the universe, we may feel insignificant. This humility, then, is best balanced by a greater sense of imagination and myth in our relationship with the natural world: Our own legend mixed in the mud of the earth.
We can form a new perspective from the knowledge that we are constructed from elements found throughout the cosmos and create our own sense of tymelessness and invincibility; I can understand my own light’s journey in the stars that fill the night sky; I can know the life of my own death in the smell of a swampflower. I know my own warmth by stepping away from the fire.
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