Everything that has a beginning has an end

Posts tagged “mythology

Dr Sharon Blackie interviews Stephen Jenkinson

“Today we have an Easter treat for you: a new episode of The Hedge School Podcast. In this episode, Hedge School founder Dr Sharon Blackie interviews teacher and creator of the Orphan Wisdom School, Stephen Jenkinson (https://orphanwisdom.com/). The conversation is focused on what it is to be an elder in today’s world…”

via The Hedge School Podcast: Stephen Jenkinson — The Hedge School blog

Reposting this podcast of a conversation between two people I greatly admire, this serves as a reminder that there is great and urgent work still to be done. Both Sharon Blackie and Stephen Jenkinson bring a unique perspective to what the western world lacks in terms of a mythological connection to the land as well as a truly mature human outlook on the predicament of the contemporary catastrophe we find ourselves in.

Here is an excerpt from Jenkinson’s forthcoming book, ‘Come of Age’

“It used to be that age was held in some esteem, considerable esteem even, as the concentration of life experience. Life experience and its many lessons were once the fundament of personal and cultural wisdom. It stands to reason, then, that with this many old people around we should be awash in the authentic, time-tested, grey wisdom that should emanate from them. And there should be cultural initiatives that expose the general population to this wisdom. And this should deepen this culture’s sanity and capacity for sustainable decision making. And that should make us all ancestors worth claiming by a future time, now that we’ve come to our elder-prompted senses and begun to proceed as if unborn future generations deserve to drink the distillate of our wisdom and our sustainable example. At the very least, the distillate of aged wisdom should balance the burden and the books, and old people should have worth as they once might have done, and the culture should break even on the deal. You’d think that this is an inevitable result of an aging population in a civilized place. We should be smarter, deeper, wiser. Especially wiser.

Well, here’s what is becoming glaringly obvious: there is nothing inherently ennobling about aging. Nothing. There’s no sign that anything lends old people steadiness or wisdom or magic from on high or from down below, just because they get old. If we don’t train young people and middle aged people in elder hood we will have no elderhood. There is no such training.

It isn’t any longer a matter of inviting elders, those of them left, back into the fold. They aren’t out there , waiting on our invitation. They aren’t out there. Elders are a sentinel species for humanness, and like other forms of life in our corner of the world they’ve mysteriously gone missing. Young people are, often involuntarily, looking for them, and they can’t find them. How about this: old people are looking for them too. The retreat centres attest to it. If you’re looking for signs of the end times, that alone might do.

I am making the case for elderhood, not for easy agedness. I’m doing so mostly by wondering what happened. Because something happened. Something happened to ancestors and elders and honour. There’s work to be done, and there’s an old wisdom to be learned where there used to be the wisdom of old, and you can’t fix what you don’t understand. That’s where we’re headed: to grievous wisdom. Let us see if we can bear the sound, the particular sound, of no hand clapping.

This is a plea and a plot for elders in training.”

‘Come of Age: The Case for Elderhood in a Time of Trouble’ should be available beginning in July of 2018.

 

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From the Edges

“There are always individuals who are a little too sensitive to spend all their time hanging around other humans, because they pick up too much from nervous systems that are the same shape as themselves. If someone depressed walks in the room, they find themselves getting depressed, and if someone happy walks in they’re immediately joyous. They’re too easily influenced by other humans, and yet their sensitivity is just right for entering into a rapport with a very different shape of awareness, with an owl, for instance, or an oak tree, or an ant.

These particularly sensitive folks tend to gravitate quite naturally to the edge of any traditional culture, where with one hand they can turn toward the human collective, but with the other they are open to the whole field of other-than-human powers. They become the intermediaries between the culture and the living land.

I think that every culture worthy of the name recognizes the need for such folks. These persons are the boundary keepers, those who tend the boundary between the human community and the wild, more-than-human world in which human culture is embedded. Their craft or work is to keep that boundary porous, to ensure that it remains a fluid membrane and doesn’t harden into a static barrier.”

David Abram – The Boundary Keeper

 

 

“When I look at the state of the world right now, I see an arc bending towards something that dwarfs any parochial concerns about particular presidential elections or political arrangements between human nations, and which should put those events into deep perspective. I see a grand planetary shift that has not been seen for millions of years. I see that half the world’s wildlife has gone, and half the world’s forests, and half the world’s topsoil. I see that we have perhaps two generations of food left before we wear out the rest of that topsoil. I see 10 billion people needing to be fed. I see the highest concentration of carbon in the atmosphere since humans evolved. I see coming waves of political and cultural turmoil resulting from all of this, which makes me fear for my children, and sometimes for myself.

Our stories are cracking: the things we have pretended to believe about the world have turned out not to be true…In such times, we write to make sense of things, and to examine our stories in their proper perspective. We write new stories because the old ones are half-dead now.

I think we could make a case that most of the world’s great religions, philosophies, artforms, even political systems and ideologies were initiated by marginal figures. There is a reason for that: sometimes you have to go to the edges to get some perspective on the turmoil at the heart of things. Doing so is not an abnegation of public responsibility: it is a form of it. In the old stories, people from the edges of things brought ideas and understandings from the forest back in to the kingdom which the kingdom could not generate by itself.”

Paul Kingsnorth – 2016:Year of the Serpent

 

 

“I’m really interested in the landscape of the mythology and the mythology of the landscape. That’s where I get curious. And so for the last twenty years I’ve been taking people up out into the few remaining wild places in Britain. And also that led to a certain curiosity into where does wildness still reside in language itself. Could there be places within stanzas within stories within poems where old gods still reside. And so quite naturally  I’ve been brought back into story as a way of articulating wild information, information from the edges.

For me a compelling story is when you feel a variety of intelligences at play. And I would go so far as to suggest that culturally for thousands of years, stories in their fullness in their efficacy were a form of negotiation with weather patterns, with the movement of the hunt, with the dreams of the people, with the bones of the dead, with the future memory of those to come. All of that was present in the story, which can be told as simply as ‘Once upon a time, there was a woman at the edge of a great forest.’ But make no mistake, some of the most incredible thinking of our age is transmitted through stories.”

Martin Shaw – Storytelling from the Edge

(All Photographs by Jerry Uelsmann)

 


The forces that come from deep down – The Chaos of the Real

 

 

 “…when I say that artists shape the symbols, I don’t mean that they construct them according to their own preferences or opinions. That’s precisely what I call artifice in the book. I mean that they collaborate with forces that come from deep down, they call out of the chaos of the Real, new forms that they themselves won’t necessarily understand. In fact, artists may often be the people who are least likely to understand what it is they have done.

If beauty and symbol are not human contrivances but partial apprehensions of more-than-human realities, it follows that some objects or events will be more direct avenues to those realities than others are. For people of vision (whether or not they are practicing artists) all objects are potential avenues to those realities. But that’s just the point. Artists are people who can frame out the signs that make up the ordinary means-and-ends world in order to reveal those signs’ imaginal depth as symbols on the aesthetic plane of nature. As Henri Bergson says, if we could perceive reality directly, we wouldn’t need art. The reason we need art is that the intellect is constantly reducing reality to a conceptual order that accounts only for an infinitely small portion of what is real. Art is what allows us to glimpse the world beyond the conceptual order. So while it is true that everything is fundamentally aesthetic and so belongs to the reality which art reveals and discursive thinking conceals, we need art to see that. We need good art — that is, non-ideological art — to see that.

Some artists couldn’t care less about any of this, and that’s no doubt for the best. I didn’t write this book for artists who are getting on with it; I wrote it for people who are concerned about where our culture is going, as well as for genuine artists who may be experiencing some cognitive dissonance between their deepest intuitions and what contemporary culture tends to promulgate as fact. There are very good reasons to believe that art is much, much more than a form of entertainment or a platform for communicating opinions.”

J.F. Martel

 

“When we are frightened it can feel like we are trapped under water, under ice. The mythic directive in such a moment is unusual. It says this: go deeper. Attend to the Goddess underneath the unfolding. There’s no restoration without courtship. Don’t smash your knuckles raw on the ice, but dive down further – seemingly the opposite of what everyone on the surface wants you to do. But of course, the diver swims down not just with their terror, but with their stories, their artfulness, their skill. Most importantly, most wonderfully, their love. Ironically, only by diving deeper can the ice melt. In such times, attend to your soul-ground. And that is not some interior – unless everything is interior – it radiates out to a related field of kiddies, sickly elms at the edge of a motorway, the distracted young mum at the food kitchen, the galloping ecosystem of your nightly dreaming.

We are living in a time when every one of us is going to have to make that descent. All of us. Not in some inflated way, but “with the grandeur of our ordinary tears”, because it is what defines us as true human beings. It is simply the right way to behave. If we can’t find our mythic ground, then we have little ground. When you swim down to Sedna you are in the business of alchemy: the tributary of your own fears meets the ocean of your artfulness and suddenly you are giving a gift, not seduced by your own wound. It is quite wonderful. We could learn the home-making skills again to welcome such stories back into our lives. We can’t stick plasters over the Fisher Kings wound.”

Martin Shaw

 

 

“Sometimes, anger and grief is a necessary precursor to transformation. Sometimes, we need to let the wild woman rage. To grow feathers and fur, and run wild through the woods. Sometimes, we need to bite. To stop being nice and talking about love and light and thinking that we can make the world a better place just by pretending that it’s so, or that we can make Donald Trump a better man by sending him love and light through the ether. (Yes, I’ve seen that proposed as a solution to yesterday’s catastrophe by women I’d expect to know better. It beggars belief.) These are dark days in our history, and dark days for women. If women want to change that, we need to take hold of that pure, honest energy which fuels our necessary rage and grief, and use it next for transformation. Find the hag energy. Use it. Transmute it; transform it. It’s what all good alchemists do, and women are born alchemists.

What I particularly like about the story of Mis is that her transformation comes from bringing together both male and female energies. Dubh Ruis is a gentle man; he literally loves her back to life. Like Mis, women can’t do this work alone. Fortunately, there are still good men out there, and I believe that between us, we can do the great work of turning the base metal of a decadent and decaying culture into gold.”

Sharon Blackie

 

(All Photographs by Jerry Uelsmann)


You will see the pain and horror, but you will see the beauty too.

This is a repost of Dr Catherine Svehla’s latest entry in her mythology blog that challenges us to embrace the whole experience of life.

Listen to her 30min presentation of the Blackfoot myth of the Buffalo Dance here

Life-affirming mythologies

“Life isn’t meant to be happy. That’s not what it’s about. Ah, the damage that is caused by that attitude. All life is sorrowful. Sorrow is the essence of life. But can you handle it? Are you affirmative enough in your relationship to life to say ‘yea’ no matter what happens?”        

                                                                                                                                                      —Joseph Campbell

 

Buffalo Dance by Robert Bissett

 

One of the functions of mythology is to help us establish our relationship to life, to provide the context and meaning for experiences of all sorts. I’ve been thinking about this a lot this week. Bombs are falling in the Middle East and almost 300 people died in a plane crash. We’re treating children who want into the United States as criminals and arguing over who deserves health care. Here in California, we’re facing severe drought conditions. Times are tough and everyone knows it and we deal with it and carry on, etc.

But sometimes the pain of the world breaks through. Then what?

What’s your world view, your perspective, your myth, about the suffering in the world? Is suffering real? Does it matter? Can we get rid of it if we try hard enough? According to Campbell, a life-affirming mythology is one that makes room for both the joy and sorrow in life and treats them both as inevitable.  In this week’s program I tell a Blackfoot myth about the buffalo that Campbell often used as one example of a life-affirming mythology. It provides a way for people to accept all of it—death and killing and the fact that life feeds on life— and find beauty, sacredness, and connection.

A few years ago I heard author and poet Deena Metzger read some of her work in the space that is now the RFJT Listening Lounge. Metzger speaks directly to killing and suffering of many types and someone in the audience asked her how she could go so deeply into those experiences and come out whole. Part of her answer still rings in my ears. You have to look very closely at every thing she said, and not turn away. You will see the pain and horror, but you will see the beauty too.

We have many opportunities to get close to the reality of death as it happens all around us. Do we dare? Do we dare to feel it?

Enjoy the story.

The painting is “Buffalo Dance”  by Robert Bissett, who has an interesting website about art and painting in addition to his wonderful work. Check it out.

 

The Archetype of The Apocalypse

A presentation by Craig Chalquist entitled – Conscious Apocalypse, Outliving Our Ruling Institutions.
Dr Chalquist explores what it means to live in the archetype of the apocalypse and how to do so with what he calls more consciousness.

He reviews the current collapse of governmental, religious and financial institutions along with the catastrophic disruption of the cycles of the natural world; the experiences of apocalyptic events in past history, the unique phases that historically emerge, and the reasons why they occur. All of which now leads to a systemic breakdown of all structures at all levels and the choice to then find a way to re-align with the new post-apocalyptic time and place or the choice to die with the old way that has passed.

Dr Chalquist then touches on the images of renewal, the images and stories of a new mythology, what it means to let go of old institutions, and how to embrace the voices of the disenfranchised who were excluded from the vanishing culture.

If we can make it to that phase, then, as he quotes from Linda Buzzell, “The redesign of every sector of society to be compatible with the rest of nature and nature’s laws is the Great Work of our era.”

Chalquist ends his presentation with a quote from Jung’s Red Book, from Philemon’s Prophecy

“The earth became green and fruitful again from the blood of the sacrifice, flowers sprouted, the waves crashed into the sand, a silver cloud lies at the foot of the mountain…The stones speak and the grass whispers.”

(H/T Carolyn Baker)