Everything is Alive or Dead: Liminal Cartography and Climate Change
Uh-oh. Summer is almost here, and in our New Reality, that means WILDFIRES.
LET’S FACE IT: this Timeline has become dangerous for all of its occupants, and we have nobody to blame but ourselves. Biff has the almanac, Gozer has assumed the form of a Sloar, Artax is up to his reins in the Swamp of Sorrow, and here we are, stuck in a cloud of smog. As someone far more knowledgeable about evil schemes than I once said, “Jinkies!”
“Smoke monster,” anyone?
As an example of our misaligned Reality: the wildfire smoke we've experienced over the last couple of summers SUCKS. Seriously. The problem isn't just physical or mental— the problem is, in many ways, emotional. It's spiritual. It wasn't supposed to happen here in the Pacific Northwest. Our air should be clean. There should be something we can DO about this, instead of just sitting inside wearing our N95 masks and complaining on the internet, and feeling more and more depressed. But, it's likely too late at this point. The die is cast. Our summers are officially extended by an additional season: “Smogust,” some are starting to call it. It's bad news, with not much of an end in sight.
It's a malaise, a disgusting paradigm made worse by the knowledge that we've been invaded by forces who claim to be “innovators,” but who instead have opened a Hellmouth in our city, who have ripped open the gaping maw of Late Capitalism and forced the rest of us to either deal with it or leave. It's all tied together, and the twine that binds the whole disturbing bundle is our inability to understand that everything is alive. The Smoke we've experienced IS a Monster, the Monster created when we decided to allow billionaires and oligarchs to control the narrative.
So, what do we do? This is really depressing stuff. “Hope” isn't exactly a hot commodity at the moment. The Liminal Earth Society has one possible answer: Bring Magic Back Into The World.
This Place is Filled With Spirits
Within this time of changes (I won't insult your intelligence by acknowledging so-called “climate change deniers”), it is essential for humans who feel so called or inclined to reground ourselves within a paradigm in which everything is alive. As a proponent of participatory ecology, a student of “spirituality,” a gardener, “forager,” and parent, I’ve come to conclude that our best way of interacting with our world may be described as a Radical Animism, and one of the best ways to practice Radical Animism is through Liminal Cartography.
I'll explain a little further. Underneath the genius loci present within the spaces humanity resides is a palpable Fullness (Gr. pleroma), a Life Force accessible to anyone who takes the time to encounter it. Most cultures have recognized this as fact, for most of human history. Although currently de rigour in many circles to deny this statement, as someone who has spent the last few years immersed in the study of holistic living systems, I cannot help but come to the conclusion that it is, in fact, the case.
That everything is full of this Fullness means, by extension, that everything is a living organism. Everything— trees, rocks, rivers, buildings, tape dispensers, boomerangs, soup packets— is inhabited by this Fullness, but we've forgotten how to look at reality that way. Systems that understand this are healthy systems. Systems that don't are not. How do we help heal the system and heal this timeline? There are plenty of ways, but one of the best ways to do it, for me, is to remythologize our geography.
We need to recognize Living Things in our surroundings, and to understand them as beings with Inherent Value. We have to understand that there are Thin Places in our city where we can experience this Fullness, in whatever form it takes, and locating these Places on a Map is an amazing way to share these experiences with one another.
I have no right to speak to the stories told by the people who have lived in this area for the longest, but we'd better learn to respect their understanding of the land. When they speak of the a'yahos — the Spirit who Shakes — they speak as those who know the Fullness, who know, far better than most of us, that unless we can intimately connect with the Thin Places that Surround Us, we're doomed.
Look, things are bad, and we've reached the point where it's Animism or Death. Which will you choose? Choose wisely, and you can help us bring Magic back into the World. We can fix this Timeline together. All it takes is a little turn of the screw, a little “cccckk” noise like when you're using a ratchet and you've tightened the bolt just so.
This isn't to say this is the only way to work on correcting the Timeline. Far better people than me are Doing the Work in the Streets, and that's amazing. Keep speaking out, keep growing green things, keep feeding one another, keep sticking pins and needles into clay images of powerful people. This is All Good, and Super Important. However, consider turning your Worldview Dial a little more towards Animism. Consider seeking out the spooky, unusual, amazing things around you and adding them to The Map.
The Map is a ritual, you see? It's a way to reestablish the Reign of Wonder, and a way to embrace the Mystery of the Mundane. It's Fun, at a time when Fun is something we all REALLY need. It's one of the best ways to withstand the coming era, and to find one another. It's the Fullness manifest, and You're a Part of It.