The Mourning of the World

The Uncivilisation festival is organized by The Dark Mountain Project, “a network of writers, artists and thinkers who have stopped believing the stories our civilisation tells itself, [Who] see that the world is entering an age of ecological collapse, material contraction and social and political unraveling, and [who] want our cultural responses to reflect this reality rather than denying it.”

At this year’s Uncivilisation festival Andreas Kornevall is supervising the building of a ‘Life Cairn‘ modeled on the one pictured here that he and Peter Owen Jones started in 2011. (from the FB page) “A Life Cairn is raised in recognition and honour for all the species of flora and fauna – mammals, marsupials, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, insects, crustaceans, arachnids, trees, lichens and plants of all kinds, that have been rendered extinct at human hands.” The Life Cairn is a sibling to Joanna Macy’s Cairn of Mourning, part of her practice called ‘Honoring our Pain for the World’ from her Work that Reconnects.

Art by Dori Midnight

Macy’s work teaches that the process of waking up to the reality we face is a spiral that takes us through 4 stages  – and that it can be a one time experience or an ongoing one that we continually move through. Gratitude, Honoring our pain, Seeing with new eyes, and Going forth are the stages for the work.

Mourning is part of acknowledging our pain. Uncertainty is now the horizon line for an ever increasing part of the human community, especially those of us who have been immune and sheltered from much of the chaos and destruction that we have been ignorant of or have refused to acknowledge. This uncertainty and the destruction of the world are in fact intertwined as the reality we thought we once knew is unraveling. The second step toward waking up may be just to acknowledge that there is something to be mourned. There is something lost that cannot be retrieved. It might be our view of the world or our place in it. There is a wild part of us that has died along with the other wild things that are no longer here. As Andreas writes, “The wild is caught in a fireblaze, the flames seem too high to stop.  If we cannot grieve for all that is being lost in the wild, then it was never loved.”

Rima Staines captures this feeling succinctly with her cover art for the ‘From the Mourning of the World’ LP, A Dark Mountain music project.

She writes that the world mourns and, “from her tears grows music: music to wail and sing out and bow and strum and beat out the thrum of our griefs. And from the music grow green leaves, spiraling their new life from the alchemy of tears.”

Through these tears will we grow fresh eyes? What world will those eyes envision, within us and without? There will be many hard questions to come.

2 responses

  1. Bearing in mind that mourning is a finite process that we move through as we adapt to the change (i.e., the loss) we experienced. If mourning is not moved through, then we have transitioned into melancholia and depression.

    Also considering that we have never been wild, so can we have experienced a loss. We are hundreds of years removed from true wildness … a wildness that included high infant mortality and demanding physical labor among other hardships – this way of life bore its own deep grief and associated mourning.

    Do we even understand the joy with which early man discovered agriculture and initiated the changes that brought increasing stability to the food supply, creating time in it’s wake the time for other creative pursuits.

    Why do we mourn? Is it for an imaged freedom? A romanticized wildness without the hardships and difficulties people actually faced during those times?

    Is it fear of the challenges we face? Are these challenges truly any less daunting than the Flood, famine, the plague – smallpox – yellow fever, the Inquisition and other religious purges, Native American and other historic genocides, or slavery from Moses and the pyramids to the Civil War and plantations not excluding chain gangs, child labor, and sexual trafficking, among others.

    Everywhere, I see people working to solve the challenges we face and millennia of survival attest to our ability to solve the problems we face.

    With each solution eventually giving birth to its own set of problems.


    July 8, 2013 at 6:54 pm

  2. Pingback: Cairns | An Elegant Mystery

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