Boldly Through the Darkness

October 9, 2017 § 27 Comments

I wake to rain. Hard rain falling on the steel roof of our cabin, a torrent surrounding us, not pitter-pattering but rushing through the tree canopy and over our heads with a roar. Dawn is not yet broken, and in the dull gray I hear the rain and am satisfied. I fall back into sleep.

In the late morning I walk with my daughter to the front of our land. Rain still, and we in our slickers carry the day’s compost load and a small cloth bag which I use to collect eggs. My daughter trails several feet behind me, slowed as the umbrella she insisted on carrying blocks her view.

Through the gate into the chicken paddock, a maybe six thousand square foot piece of land at the forest’s edge. Behind the chicken house a blue open topped barrel catches rainwater, and as I approach it, I hope it has at least filled to the halfway point. The days and weeks have been dry of late, rains sparse, just enough to keep the well-mulched garden alive. Across the county creeks are empty, lake waterlines low. I see that the barrel is in fact totally filled, water running down its bulk. I am grateful. In the back corner of my garden is the duck house, with its own blue barrel and small pond to boot. Both are full. Likewise, the rain collection tank at the barn is topped off.

We made it through another summer. In a few months this water freezing will be my concern, but not today. Today I give thanks.

Autumn finds me a bit morose this year. The season for me is a time of culmination and reflection, and while a bit of melancholy coloring the edges of my mind this time of year is not unexpected, it has come heavier this particular season. I am feeling the wounds of the world. My gut cries for the wild, and I am tugged by yearning, wanting to run and to howl and to pant for breath in a deep and fecund wood in some other time, in a place long before or long after humanity’s grand attempt to subdue and control the beating heart of the Earth.

A man shot and killed a lot of strangers in Las Vegas the other day. The immediate reaction of many people was to presume this man belonged to an opposing political faction than their own, and in a macabre game of hot potato they tried to excoriate their enemies by tossing him like a live grenade into the other’s camp. Some howled for gun control laws. Others crafted bizarre conspiracy theories. We have seen this play out time and again in cases of random mass murders. Such events are almost a seasonal holiday in the US at this point. With such frequency it is a shame that so rarely is it uttered with any volume that these happenings are the result of the particulars of the culture.

Life in the modern, capitalist west is tedium. It is an exhausting bore. Without any substantial sense of belonging or meaning, stripped of spirit and tasked with an endless quest for money that buys less and less, people are miserable. Life has been shorn of all of the ceremonies and customs that once bonded a people and gave them a sense of purpose, and they are left with mere commerce. If a person out in public is not engaged in some act of buying or selling, they are loitering, they are a nuisance to be moved along. Most of the public has come to understand this unspoken premise, and they enforce it with vitriol at the sight of the homeless, the panhandler, the protestor. “Get a job!” they yell, but what they mean is “participate,” by which they mean “succumb, as I have, and call it virtue, as I do.”

The malaise of existence in this world where the wild is all but extinguished is felt far and wide, whether it is understood as such or not. Absent community and a deep sense of both autonomy and personal value, people become damaged. This damage expresses itself in myriad ways, as each individual filters the abuse of the dominant culture through their specific experience and biology. For many, self-medication is the obvious solution. People drink away the boredom and the sorrow. They smoke away the frustration and rage. Some turn to harder drugs, those with money buy them from a doctor and stay on the safe side of the legal apparatus. Those with less acquire their narcotics from a street dealer. Both buy their way out of feeling the depression, the pointlessness, the pain. The former boost pharmaceutical stock prices, the latter boost the share values of private prison enterprises.

For others, it is all too much to bear, and they kill themselves. In rare cases, the desire to kill turns outward.

It’s actually strange that this outcome is seen as strange. We are a people who isolate themselves in personal domiciles, personal cars, individual cubicles. From others we hide under headphones and behind screens communicating without voices or faces, just curt text and childish pictographs. By and large our hands never touch soil, our noses never smell wood smoke, our muscles don’t pump with lactic acid, our brows do not know sweat, our eyes do not know starlight. We have hammered the circle of time into a straight line, and bent the circles people used to sit in while they sang and laughed into single file queues in which we are silent, eyes cast down lest they meet another’s.

We do not live. Living is active. We are only active in the pursuit of making someone else rich while we earn just enough to make it until the next paycheck, and then we are passive. We sit and stare, trading entertainment for experience, hoping that watching others pretend to live will suffice by proxy.

Of course, there are outliers. There are some who recognize the ugliness of this existence, who with blood pumping in their veins take to the streets against the police and politicians who hem us all in with laws, with the confiscation of the commons, and with the baton and gun that back it all up. These people are too few, and the great proportion of the public spits at them. Any mention of the great crimes and shortcomings of civilization indicts all who refuse to act, and most prefer not to act, knowing that to act against power is dangerous. Further, most know that acquiescence of conscience and soul is far easier when one’s fellow downtrodden don’t ever talk about it. If we all agree to call the cage freedom, then it is freedom. If we call the plantation the country, or the economy, then we cease to be exploited and can through the power of linguistic device instead be the citizen.

Of course, the heart and the head can only be fooled so much. So the cracks in the veneer are filled with alcohol, drugs, shopping, watching, and occasionally a foray into homicide.

I was reading about the buffalo the other day. In the nineteenth century the US military set out to intentionally destroy the buffalo, even if by turning a blind eye to white hunters who illegally killed buffalo on Indian lands. It was remarked by Col. Dodge that “every buffalo dead is an Indian gone.”

After the plains Indians had finally succumbed to the genocidal pressure of white settlement, and their remnant bands were forced into reservations, white ranchers brought cattle to their lands. There were some Indians who asked if they could hunt the cattle, primarily as an attempt to maintain their culture. They wanted to sing their hunting songs and perform their ceremonial dances. After allowing it briefly, the whites decided it was best to just package the meat and give it to the Indians.

What becomes of people when you strip them of everything that makes them human? What becomes of people who no longer sing? What becomes of people when they have been taught to insist that the world is silent, and dead? This is all of our heritage. Somewhere far enough back, your progenitors were brought into the fold through death and indignity. Their songs are silent. Their ceremonies are forgotten. And so we stumble blindly forth, in dark corridors seeking. In the black, some remain broken, others take up with history’s killers, and angle to fill the role of the abuser.

In my region there are those who want to cut the forests. They think that they have observed the forest long enough to know how to control it. They think they have the wisdom to manage a forest better than it can manage itself. How does one argue? The only words they will accept are in their own language, the language of domination, the language that insists on seeing only disparate pieces in a grand machine, the language that has exorcized the sacred.

I cannot convince you to leave the forest be in that language. I cannot convince you to seek the wild with those lifeless words. I cannot convince you to abandon this culture in the language that it birthed.

You have to feel it. Perhaps you do already. Perhaps you aren’t sure what you feel, other than a general sense that something is not right. Do not snuff it out. Nurture it. Breathe life into it. Let it guide you to others. Give yourself permission to feel even if it is only the pain. Move boldly through the darkness, and listen for the howl.

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§ 27 Responses to Boldly Through the Darkness

  • deinvestiture says:

    Reblogged this on deinvestiture.

  • deinvestiture says:


  • garryck says:

    One of your best.

  • Brendon Crook says:

    Reblogged this on PANTHEIST DEFIANCE and commented:
    Another brilliant essay by tdOs

  • foodnstuff says:

    It’s good to see you back.

  • Antoinette says:

    wonderful. thank you

  • Mind Margins says:

    I needed to read this today. It helps knowing there are others who are having similar feelings.

  • Rich Diana says:

    Missed your sentient thoughts and poignant musings. I live in a shrinking rural setting that’s is being battered and subdued by the growing numbers breeding and consuming automatons. Eventually when one is confronted with an absence of Nature and a reflection of only human structures, something essential withers in our consciousness and we become much less than what was once our natural condition.

  • What Rich Diana said; same is happening here and everywhere. Sister faces a gas pipeline 50 feet from her front door – we live across the country from each other. The rape and murder of Nature and Aboriginal peoples (and us all in consumerland) continues unabated. Almost no place on this earth is untouched, but here in Amerikkka it’s particularly egregious.

    Reading this couldn’t come at a better time/times – because what you say is Universal – and as far as history proves – humans seem to cause the pain emanating from our earth from all sentient beings. the cry and howl is felt by us – as you so eloquently stated – and most are afraid to open to it and really feel it and wake up.

    Thank you for encouraging the “outliers” to keep going, keep speaking out, keep doing all we can to get the truth out, wake up anybody that is ready, alleviate suffering where we meet it – and we meet it everywhere. No matter how soul-tired we are, what other choice is there?

    We have missed your writings. Thank you from my heart and soul.

  • terry gerych says:

    i’ve had 2 pet cats the past 17 years (how time flies!). the first one i was pretty fond of, she had a bit of wildness about her, just a touch, enough to make her fun to play with ( i used to rofl sometimes when i managed to elicit a hiss)… the 2nd one has been very different. incredibly docile and stupid, he’s no fun to play with at all. he’s not much of a hunter either. my point is, domesticated humans, like domesticated cats, vary in their degree of domestication, how much and how well (or unwell, one might say) they’re adapted to domestication. governments and religion are primary tools for human domestication…

    i think the cultural malaise u so eloquently describe is much less felt, or at least perceived with much less clarity/sanity by ‘the masses’. a vast majority of humans (or at least americans) have become too domesticated to any longer have conscious yearnings for freedom and nature connection. to them, the malaise is simply normal, and since it comes with such relatively great security, comforts, and entertainment, it’s a normal they’re very attached to. it’s only a very small fraction of us who consciously feel and think like u do in your splendid writing, td0s. i too, appreciate and have missed it this past 1/2 year.

    ‘We sit and stare, trading entertainment for experience, hoping that watching others pretend to live will suffice by proxy’ -aka living vicariously. i do my share of it. hey, it beats not living at all, which often seems to be the only alternative, in this oppressive society/culture. the generally unperceived price we must pay for all the security, comforts, and distractions of life in the usa. or probably just about anywhere in industrialized civ.. especially for the lower and middle classes…

    if u haven’t yet come across john trudell, perhaps u will appreciate this:

  • sheketechad says:

    Your voice has been missed. Welcome back.

  • Dean says:

    Great read. I hear what you’re saying and I’m greatful to have some forest to walk though. The smell of the forest at this time of year is fantastic. Thanks for writing this.

  • Matt Colombo says:

    I’ll just add to the choir and say thank you!

    “I cannot convince you to abandon this culture in the language that it birthed.”

    This realization has changed the trajectory of my life: that people most often do not come to major epiphanies through logic and reason. They can be informed by these things, but they “have to feel it.” And if they don’t, they don’t. And, so, you and I, who do, have to figure out what to do (hopefully healthily) with our feeling/knowing.

    • td0s says:

      What to do is the eternal question, isnt it? Hide? Sorrow? Laugh? Fight? A bit of all?

      • Matt Colombo says:

        It sure is. A bit of it all is the answer for me, but my preferences are to laugh while taking the time to experience the sorrow, and to fight by building a life that is outside the dominant, destructive culture. Writing also helps, too!

  • […] on Pray for Calamity on October 9, […]

  • Ed Suominen says:

    This is one of the most hauntingly beautiful pieces of writing I’ve ever read. And I’ve read a lot.

    Thank you.

    These are tragic and difficult days. Sometimes the howl I hear is the silent one inside me, mourning the losses of nature and civility and sustainability that announce themselves in a daily barrage of awful news.

  • says:

    Wow. The finest essay I’ve read in some time. Thanks.

    And Ouch! This kind of truthful observation provokes some existential pain — a longing for the scattering where all things will be left equal once again.

  • Farmer McGregor says:

    Concerning my previous comment: I would prefer that the email address not be published; I could not get your site to accept my comment without putting a ‘valid email address’ in the ‘name’ field. Will try again now (please don’t publish this either). Thanks.

    • td0s says:

      I dont have control over that, its all wordpress. However, i think you can make up a fake email address, and as long as it is in the proper format, it should be accepted.

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