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Wilderdom Vignettes

Words & Nature:
An Eco-Poem

James Neill
Last updated:
27 Aug 2004


1 - We are victims of words.  No longer are we nature.

2 - By a collective choosing of destiny, our species evicted itself from Eden

3 - As there is existence, we may react perfectly

4 - The issue is the relationship between human words and our experience of nature

5 - Words might not be a problem per se

1: We are victims of wordsNo longer are we nature.  The dictionary is an iron curtain keeping us from Eden.  Learn a word, bite the apple.  Wilderness is derived from 'will' meaning 'self-willed', 'willful' or 'uncontrollable'.  From there comes wild.  Other beings over whom we have no control over.  Wilderness.  Where they live, where we don't.  One day we invented walls.  To get through walls we made doors.  Indoors.  Outdoors.  The nexus of being is now within solidified right-angles.  Education is indoor education.  Strange education, outdoor education.

At first we gave each other wild names.  Hawk.  Bull.  etc.  Then we decided to go indoors.  Then we gave each building names.  Carpenter.  Cooper.  etc.  Now we live in tertiary realms.  We are post-existence.  Our names are confused and hyphenated.  Cat Stevens changed his name to something spiritual.  Prince changed his name to an unpronouncable squiggle.  Madonna chose her name.  Pseudonyms are big business, multiple identities the norm.  Identity is at sixes and sevens.  Recovered memories are bursting out of repression,  personality is a splitting atom.  Pressed into the myth of unitary selves we are birthing at an incendiary rate.  Billions of us.  Myths without a story.  Actors without characters.

And we eat into the realms from which we came.  Like Escher's drawing, we are erasing the very hands of our creation.  Soon we will be truly orphan.  We are destroying our parents.  And everywhere it can be seen.  Children shooting.  The pattern reaching crescendo.  The average age of menarche drops from 17 to 12 in the last 100 years.  We exude maximal hormones, overly mature, too big for our nests.  We are cartoon characters of ourselves.  We are the Simpsons.  M&Ms are the new berries we pluck from trees.  Television is our nightly corroboree.  Politicians are witch-doctors using their powers of deception to lie us into new realities.

And I am only a poor boy.  And you are only a poor girl.  We could stand in a line with our ancestors, look them up and down, back through the ages, greeting and laughing (checking out their clothes and accents), going back beyond recognition, to the savage mother and father.  It is only time that separates and in the context of cosmos that is a thin veneer.

Someone spiked our ancestor's thoughts with civilization.  This may be a wild dream.  Perhaps we'll wake to the dawn spearing natural light into our eyes and gather roots for the day.  Perhaps our ancestors are having a nightmare about offspring who are us.  Perhaps incubutic spirits have descended and caste mad spells of loss.  That might be us.  Wake up, shake our heads and see the medicine man.

When thought came along we couldn't cope with fear.  It loomed big.  We named it wilderness and built it out.  Tamed animals.  Walled out weather.  But the fears kept creeping inside.  So we invented pesticides.  Still the fears appeared under our blankets.  So we invented remote-control warmth.  Still the fears prevailed.  So we invented pills to counter anxiety.  Still we have vestigial cravings for pseudowilderness.  Sport, sex, drugs.  Anything with the innocence of an unknown outcome.  To be back there amongst our origin, these fantasies of frail neoterics.

2: So, by a collective choosing of destiny, our species evicted itself from Eden.  And there is no shrinking from what we have done; the womb will not receive us in the same manner again.  If we would know the essence of creation, as we once did, viscerally, as part of nature, as the first sons and daughters of God, as the bubbling chemicals of evolution, then we must take another path.  It is to accept Jesus into our hearts and thereby receive the Light.  It is to transcend the biases and trickeries of our neural being...It is to...There are as many ways of surmounting the distance as there are people and existential moments.  No matter.  An integral vision could encompass such phraseologies and conceptualogies.  As the answer is big, so the answer is small.  All is holographic.

One enormous and entirely natural wilderness remains untrodden.  And it is holographic, refracting back to the beginning of time, reverberating with the entirety of creation.  Some of us tread on the outskirts, as though the holograph is a dormant, trembling volcano.  Name this wilderness if you wish.  Smells its sulphur fresh in your nostrils.

I take this computer to such edges.  I close my eyes and journey, seeking to maintain a cord of words.  Like a journalist in a foreign country.  A single column of print cannot convey the distended bellies or the rumble in the jungle.  The words are artifacts, emblems, gilded invitations at best.  Thrust your eyes at this dried blood.  This is my shroud.  Believe in the shapes or not.  Carbon date to your heart's content.  But the game is elusive.  God plays it well.  Brazil in soccer.  Nureyev dancing.  Einstein theorizing.  Perhaps your game has no name.  That is no reason not to play it well.  Look into your holograph.  I cannot say the way to reverberate.

And you are wilderness.  The most native.  Though the rest may disappear you will remain until you disappear.  And in your confusion is wilderness, wildness, beasts and unknown outcomes.  Throat-choking feelings are beautiful.  You are so visceral.  Your body succumbs to illness and disease, thereby expressing natural laws.  Your mind is never quite made up with weather systems of neurochemistry weaving and changing isobars of feeling each day.  From this wilderness you can never be evicted.

So the Ludditic dreams manifest in solipsis.   The incendiary holograph of self is divinity's stairwell.  The civilian can lay with Lucy.  This futon bed is the African steppes.  I am transported into the womb of the future through the vagina of death.  I become the sperm of my own creation.  God is the most sexual of creatures.  Oedipus saw this too clearly.  Tiresius is our natural father.  And we pass, riding the chariots of membranes, entering otherness, the birth before birth.

3: As there is existence, we may react perfectly.  Never mind the consequences of failure, even though it is most people's focus.  Rather, mind the rewards of success.  In an age of rapid ecological destruction, hundreds of wars and other massive cultural and personal distortions there still remains, like a lighthouse beacon, the possibility of your perfect reaction.  Albeit somewhat elusive, this is a remarkable feature of the human condition.

And we are the keepers of our own lighthouse. The seas of existence rail across the rocks of our peninsula.  And our possibilities blink back through space.  We are not islands, so we may see other beacons in the night, flickering on the horizon, racing between the pounding waves and into our eyes.

Words are pulses of light.  They are a pulse for which most other lighthouse keepers have a guidebook.  Auras are other pulses of light.  Fewer of us know how to read these signals.  Swim in the Portugese sea and the water lights up like fire.  Invisible organisms become luminous in response to movement.  Much of technology has been a search for the unseen.  Sundials mark time.  X-rays show bones.  Psychological tests map minds.  Physics illustrates the infinitely small.  Archeology finds what is no more.  The elusive becomes palpable.

And words were created to depict nature.  That rock.  This tree.  A particular type of bird.  We are nature.  A word for hunger  A word for cold.  A word for desire.  Words were the first technology.  Words were before fire. Words map what we cannot not see.  A television, mined from the earth, shows what is around, in this air of unknown frequencies.  I am surrounded by the news, by football, by pornography, by voices, images, by other essences of being for which I have not yet the tools.  Existence is buoyed in medium of nature.

All is ether as we are too kinds of radio signals, conglomerations of vibration, sailing on the seas of frequency, bleating out our signals.  Our friends' minds are television sets tuning to our channel, decoding our words, our eyes, our bodies on their screens.  And mediums massage.  The televisions of ourselves wax and wane with the consciousness of dreams.   The channels flick over quickly, sometimes tuned, sometimes not, into thoughts of the day.  Paul's mind was so clear last night he could choose any track  and play it note and lyric perfect.  All in his mind.  Technology pursues the games of nature.

To understand ourselves as nature is a monumental task.  For we have learnt through experience to be apart.  Animals versus Humans.  Indoors versus Outdoors.  Me versus You.  Integration is gone.  We are able to cut and divide and distill and remanufacture.  By seeing ourselves as apart we can borrow from nature without question.  Yet the curtain is an illusion.  We are suspended in the womb-fluid of nature.  This moment of you is no less nature than the Big Bang or the dissipation of stars.  This is more than inextricable.  It is conveyant numinousity.

So how do you flow through the vibrations of nature?  How does it feel to be the existence that you are?  Are there points of resistance which seem to say your flow could be more pure?  Where has your being drifted on the paths of time?  Some say that nothing, nothing is coincidence.  It is a lesson to be learned over and over.  The lighthouse beacons are beholden.  Trickles of nature start to rush, word bastions tremble, and consciousness is the final membrane to transcendence.

4: The original issue of these "Words & Nature" wirings, for which I have no answer other than exploration, is the relationship between the human phenomenon of words and our experience of nature.  "Nature" is a word for the fluidity of existence (others may more happily use God or Cosmos, etc.).  "Word" describes the array of labeling symbols which humans use to communicate and think about themselves and the environments in which we exist.  I am interested to know about how the human propensity for language has impacted on our experience of nature.

It strikes me that word-usage is a feature of the human organism which marks us as quite apart from other organisms and other matter on this planet.  So maybe this language phenomenon has something to do with what we've become.  Maybe the words in my life mediate my flow in the ether of nature.  Maybe new words and different words would alter my experience.  And perhaps this effect could be profound.  But I'm not sure.

I have doubts about all ideas, including my own.  I have the most doubts about ideas expressed strongly.  Perhaps its a doubt about things human, about that which is most removed from the underlying fabric.  Structured ideas are most at risk of being divorced from the essence.  Well-thought through or proven opinions, by definition, have had much human intellectual energy invested in them.  And this strikes me as deviant from the ways of air, rocks, plants and animals.  Such ideas are self-reiterating patterns emanating from a couple of thousand cubic centimetres of neurochemistry.  Such ideas can be persuasive and can overtake a human or community for entire lifetimes.  Yet it is difficult for me to see how a human brain can explain anything at all let alone something like itself or the whole of nature.  So I am suspicious.  I feel like a plain clothes detective hanging out in late night bars watching the seedy patrons.  And I scribble in my grimy notebook with a pencil stub: "The human beings flatter themselves with their many guises of knowing".

When I come to this place I notice the customers of life casting their spells.  Everywhere there are arms waving, chants and invocations, hopes and promises, theories and dreams.  People try to drum up the numinous.  In a thousand ways.  In 6 billion ways.  The caste out orphans think it will be better if they own the land, if another tribe wasn't there, if more money was available, if an object of desire could be possessed.  These are the symbols of flow we pursue with our imperfect spells.

And the words of our spells get inside us, chanting secret voices.  Our neurochemical bank has stored rows and rows and buildings and  buildings of word strings.  Mother's voice.  Father's words.  Schoolteachers.  Kids next door.  Book after book after book.  The operating mechanism of awareness has been plied from the very start with visual and auditory frequencies heavily polluted with abstract symbols.  From the moment we arrived in this world we were named, like cattle branded.  Language is a searching iron that has been deep inside our skulls.  And we look out, from behind these bars, at our beloved and now feared nature.  And we reach.  And we plead.  And in our 'weakest' moments we fall to the ground despairing for the grass just....just out of reach.  The prison of our dictionaries castes this eternal shadow.  Civilization is built out of pages. The walls are rice-paper thin.  They are an engineer's idea, a mathematician's number, a crutch of the fearful.  These walls are consciousness-thick and the mortar is an insidious glue, the nucleotide of letters.

There is no way back, the age of innocence is past.  We are wordmongers in a common land.  This is our nature.  Yet there might still be ways.  I wandered this dusk just now nowhere in particular.  I spent some minutes looking at a leaf on a small ti-tree, searching for aura.  I saw a kind of 'light' not readily described.  It emanated for perhaps 1 or 2 millimeters from my fingers.  I am new to this.  It is all I have learnt to see.  It was my first attempt.  I put my finger very close.  I tried to share 'energy' with the leaf.  Could this human be less separate from nature?  I willed for the auras to merge.  Nothing much happened that I could detect.  I was patient.  The auras barely, imperceptibly touched.  I tried to let go of my desire.  The slightest of electricities passed from my finger.  So slight that it might have been imagination.  I wandered on.  Perhaps reaching was enough.  I sat by the river and watched.  I sat by the river and felt.  I sat by the river.  And I sat by the river.

5: Words might not be a problem per se.  Australian aboriginals used words and lived in nature.  So it is possible.  I think of the Hopi Indian language.  Apparently this language has no 'tense' - there is no past, there is no future, all the words are in the present.  What a strange language for those of us whose moments are timed to the exact day, hour and minute, whose birthday is celebrated on a calendar dot each year, who have the shadows of watches cast on our wrists.  For the Hopi Indians time had a different shape.  We can try to experience what time was for them.  Imagine talking about the celebration you had last night with words entirely in the present tense.  We could practice this and perhaps feel the now gather the rest of time into its folds.

Here is another illustration of word possibilities: The founder of 'third force' psychology, Abraham Maslow, sought to understand the experiences of the healthiest, most alive and thriving individuals he could find.  When he investigated these people he discovered several common qualities.  One of them was that many of these people reported having moments of ecstatic unity and numinous flow with all that around and within them.  Maslow coined the term 'peak experience'.  Curious, Maslow asked his undergraduate students how many of them had had such experiences.  A few hands went up.  Time went by.  Later in the semester Maslow asked how many students had had peak experiences experiences.  This time, many hands went up.

What happened?  Perhaps Maslow's new words, new descriptions of possibility, opened up new realms of human experience.  We are so rife with the faculties of language, could we turn this beam into unexplored corners?  We could choose inventive taxonomies for our sucklings on the breast of Mother Nature.  We could wash divisive phrases from our hair and watch the red pools run away.  Scream Medusa scream.  We could live out fairytales in the mountains.  We could fingerknit magic wordcarpets to fly over shady lands.  Could we?

Go to Words & Nature 6

written 21-28 June, 1998