I said I would write about human habitat and I will. In building a house and in placing it in different types of settings, a static room in a changing environment, I have gone further than before in exploring the relationship between human and habitat.
I could rant about this endlessly, about how we still see nature as something outside our bodies, something put here for our sake, and not as what we are.
About how we think we can build ourselves away from the water we drink and the air that we breathe.
About how we want to save trees, but not the earthworm, fungi, bacteria, and beetle that make it possible for trees to exist.
About how we ruin the places we could have lived with little effort in order to make habitable the places of the planet less suited for our hairless, soft bodies, even willing to wipe out everything in order to find a new planet to ruin, thinking that space travel is a magical thing that doesn’t use earth’s resources instead of the ultimate consumerist fantasy.
But I’m tired of the sound of words, so I’ll condense it all in a jolly little poem. I call it:
De Naturae (from nature)
I thought that we made this abundantly clear
your new promised land doesn’t want you here
If the ground is covered with nettles that stings
it’s because it was made for the things that have wings
For the fur and the claw and the shimmering scale
the long curving tooth and the short stubby tail
If the sun is too sharp and the insects all bite
it’s a place for the things that will come out at night
If the rain is too cold and the wind blows right through
it was meant for the ones with skin tougher than you
If you need to make houses of concrete and steel
come here fiddlemonkey, I’ll make you a deal
Human, go back to your Eden and rest
leave the bear to her den and the bird to his nest
We interrupt the usual philosophical ramblings for a cooking class. This is; Cooking with the old gods, or; tiny house cooking 101.
Today: How to cook Rosemary chicken with port-braised potatoes, red cabbage and hazelnuts. Yum.
step 1: Risk your immortal soul by heading out into morning traffic to get to the nearest shop that sells wine and whole chickens. Get stuck in all the diverted traffic to London as the road to the very nearest shop is closed for road work. Curse the self-important gits who push past you as you try to keep within the speed limit because you don’t want to attract too much attention.
step 2: Get lost in a roundabout, see Woodhenge, go back to the roundabout, head the right way to the shop, very slowly this time as there has been an accident on the road involving one of the Very Busy and Important People who pushed past you on your way to the shop.
step 3: Shop tings. Get asked for two different types of ID to buy the alcohol because while you don’t look twenty, you look less human with age and difficult to place.
step 4: Find your way back to where you have parked your house. Scream a lot while doing this.
step 5: Have a very large coffee and possibly a drink.
step 6: (some time later) Make the actual food. This is done by carefully carving the chicken in four while preforming a small rite of memento mori for its short and brutal life, as all lives in essence are, and cursing the industrialization of everything. Brown the precious thing in olive oil with a bit of salt and a large spring of what is hopefully rosemary that you pinched from a near by bush. Let it all simmer on your alcohol stove under a lid for about 20 minutes, also remembering the hell of a time you had getting the burning alcohol for the stove as no shops apparently sell it anymore because some idiot found out it was dangerous.
When the chicken is done, let it rest on a plate under the lid while you fry the peeled and cut potatoes and the shredded red cabbage in the chicken fat along with some extra butter from the local farm. Add a handful of hazelnuts. When the potatoes are almost done, slosh over what’s let of the port you had. Or about half a cup.
If you’re not a carnivore, you can just drop the chicken from the recipe. Double or triple then the amount of hazelnuts and simmer the meal in the fat of your enemies choice.
Eat outside because the rain stopped for ten minutes. Hurry back inside when the thunder clouds gather.
step 8: Find a way to keep the rest of the chicken cool. And rest.
I’m following a few groups online dedicated to various ways of forming a life beyond the ready-made one. It’s hardly a single thread that doesn’t in some way post the question ‘yes, but is it authentic?’
For everyone taking a step to the side of society, you’ll come across the question of authenticity. An expectation that your goal is and should be to be completely self-reliant and exist in a sort of feral snow globe.
For me, reducing the presence of modern housing facilities, like washing machines, coffee machines and basically most types of machines, is a choice of comfort and beauty, not driven primarily by a desire for a life seen as authentic or free.
The western idea of ‘free’ has come to mean detached and closed off, yet few people really feel at great liberty when they’re all alone and isolated. Quite the contrary.
It’s easy when lifting your gaze from the treadmill to get the idea that you should go off into the wild, that is, go outside our house, and aim to become one with whatever ecosystem you find yourself in. But the wild can be further away than you’d think. Not everything green is living, functioning nature.
As I drive and live and form different patterns of everyday life, sometimes completely outside modern facilities, sometimes on the outskirts of them, the borders of human habitation come into view. And the idea of the authentic emerges as something a part of, not apart from, modern society.
In groups of people longing away from cities, away from an oppressive society, there is a story, one of many, but a prominent one, about the free individual as someone who sleeps under the stars and own nothing, no possessions, no obligations, no attachments. But this form of living requires a large habitat where you have the means to find what you need, and this kind of nature is inaccessible to most as it’s regulated or built on, overpopulated, poisoned or eradicated by industry. Most people who are homeless are far from free, and have no access to alternative ecosystems beyond the urban one, that relies greatly on houses to shelter humans from the ugliness, dangers and diseases caused by urbanization.
While I do wish for a greater insight into what I actually need and how to find it, it’s interaction I seek, not the idea of independence. Dependence is to me a reduced means of interaction, and freedom an expanded interaction with your surroundings. But to urbanized humans, they link interaction to communication with what they see as sentient, not co-existing with physical, living creatures.
I think for a lot of people it’s this interaction with a world beyond the one defined and fenced off that is meant by ‘real’. There is very little language to explain why, very few stories. But it’s the amount of possibilities, the greater network of creatures interacting, that increases freedom and approximates the idea of ‘real’.
Also, most animals will have some form of nest, den, sett, or form of living quarters. They don’t just sleep where they stand. If healthy, they will spend great parts of the day keeping themselves and their dwelling clean, beautiful and comfortable. If ill, they will ignore their grooming or in some cases, overdo it, washing away all their fur if stressed.
A house need not be any more unnatural than an ant hill, but the lengths humans have gone to in order to simultaneously expand and remove themselves from their habitat is absurd. And disruptive to anything living, including humans themselves.
In western society the house has become something like a religious matter. It is seen as a micro cosmos in itself. In many cases, as a reflection or expression of the dweller, their innermost self, their soul.
I like having beautiful and meaningful things to look at. I want my house to be a wunderkammer, a place for magic and dreams. It’s also a physical place to sleep warm and soft, to read without having the wind carry my books away, to cook without being invaded by over eager insects. I don’t however, want to be trapped, or have other things trapped in it.
The house, the dwelling, is only one small part of the whole habitat. The whole habitat of any creature will include the space to find food, find company, having an array of plants, predators, bacteria, the ecosystem, if you will. All the things the body interacts with.
I will explore the vast, strange world of the habitat in my next post.
ps. I made it beyond the London vortex, with help from my counter part, which is the only way to cross a maelstrom.
Another road of story that is emerging as I travel is the vision of the end of the world.
Any vision, by oracle or poet, of the end of the world shows fire, smoke, hungry masses, broken things, desolate places where nothing lives, nothing grows, bleak, grey skies, everything worn out, dilapidated, void of meaning, color or joy.
Moving through the world, around its edges, it’s obvious that it’s not the end of civilization they describe, but its presence. I travel in this landscape now, it’s everywhere. And the only reason I don’t put more pictures of it here or on social media, is that I’m usually too busy getting to some small pocket of rest from it to get my phone out. Also, most people are so used to it, they no longer see it anyway. They think an IKEA car park at 10am on a Saturday is the most natural thing in the world when really Dante would have a hard time describing it.
This is the world humans have created. We’re stuck in an image of the departure of civilization taken from Hobbes’ gloomy philosophy, but his war of all against all is what happens when civilization is forced upon us, not when it diminishes, as he insisted.
Any image given of the world after civilization ends, is exactly what civilization looks like when it is imposed. All the devastation, the dead land, the lack of light is what humans are building and have been building for the past handful of millennia.
Humans tend to confuse the End of the world with the End of humanity, thinking they are one and the same. Even in the latest pop-capitalist installation of the four thousandth or so Avengers movie, optimistically titled ‘Endgame‘, life on earth is taken to mean human life, and a world not completely overrun by humans is somehow portrayed as a bad thing. I think the Dodo bird might differ. Among others. Sorry, I mean, among most.
The end of the human world will not be the end of the world, quite the contrary, but as long as any movie, picture, and book that deals with the subject show only horrors, humans will do anything to avoid the inevitable and continue to wipe out everything else in their desperate climb to the top of the sinking ship.
While there are ideas, buried behind the rubble of imagery, about the world as cyclic, ideas about a beginning after the end, few or no stories tell us about this as a process, they only hint at the possibility. And the part where things dissolve is always so terrifyingly portrayed no-one is willing to risk moving past that.
The problem of course is that no one knows what a world released from humans and their gods will look like anymore, so we take images that we have of things falling apart and magnify them to try to grasp how it will be, but in doing so missing what comes next. Missing what the pieces of what falls apart, fractured, re imagined by chance might become. As slowly we need to imagine something different, something new. Or something quite old.
I said that I would return to matters of life and death, and now I am. I have reached the place of dead roads. The map, inner or outer, no longer works. I’m still hovering on the outskirts of the London cancer, wondering how to cross.
Not only are the roads physically broken by potholes and cracked concrete, blocked by constant accidents and aimless digging, but the very network of roads in this place is broken, or never worked. It is increasingly clear that the roads here were all forced upon the land and the land and rivers and lines themselves tampered with to fit human needs.
Also, the inner map and navigation system is out of function. The goals and destinations I had in mind either don’t exist or has ceased to carry meaning. The reason for this is to be found in stories.
The more I travel, and the more I move to the outskirts of mind, body and civilization, there are two narratives, two mental threads, or roads, that emerge.
One is the story of the individual immortality. Unlike Burroughs, I can’t accept the way gods and the soul is presented to us. In all the stories we know, the individual has a body that perishes and a soul that is, or has the capacity to move on to, something everlasting. Often there are gods involved. Either to hinder the process, to further it, or as something to merge with at the end of the journey.
In some narratives, the body, or a representation of it, follows the soul, recreating an image of the person. In some, the soul is moved on to another being, but usually as a whole, self-contained set of memories and ideas.
What is however becoming increasingly clear in the world, is that in the attempt to reach longevity or individual immortality, humans have ruined their hope to survive, in any form. They have eaten up the earth and taken away the matter of their bodies, removed it from the cycle to be re-used. They have killed almost all other beings to make room for their offspring, their self-images. In their ideas of gods, human shaped or abstracted, they have removed themselves from the cycle of life and death.
There are, of course, images, ideas and stories about the circle, but always tainted with the implication that the human spirit is different, better in a way. And while people can read and understand words about becoming one with nature, we have no real stories for it, and therefor we can’t understand what it means. The closest I can think of are Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and they don’t really cover it.
Also, those that denounce the spirit, do so in everything, because to them, if humans can’t have a soul, nothing can.
I like living as much as the next squirrel, eel or badger, I enjoy having a body. I’m rather attached to it. But the body is made of matter, of cells. They come from something, from somewhere. From what you eat and drink and breathe. All human practice surrounding life and death has been an attempt of closing these cells off, hindering them to go back to the earth. To encapsulate them in stone, to freeze them in space and time, to burn them before the fungi and earthworm get to take back what we have borrowed. Because we do borrow all our matter from the earth. Not from your parents or children, not other humans, not some god. From nature. From everything that we construct ourselves of.
We are told that the pyramids are great achievements, that human immortality is a good and great goal and it isn’t. It’s a horror. It has always been and can only be a horror.
And all the things we are told to want are somehow linked up to this. Every item, every garden, everything constructed or spun as a story. Everything we think we know and think we want. The whole idea of self fulfillment, contrasted to being ruled over by gods or humans and given as the only option to this, gives rise to dreams and images that can only be sterile still life. We think of the scavenger and of rot as something vile, but it’s our only way to reach anything close to immortality. To be part of life and death once more. Your roads are broken because your stories are broken.
Human civilization holds nothing for me and the wild, the real, the world that balances itself, is temporarily ruined. And human tampering with it only makes matters worse, because it is done with the same, broken stories as guidelines.
To possibly slightly twist the meaning of the words of Poe; The play is the tragedy man and the hero the conqueror worm.
Dào kě dào, fēi cháng dào, is the opening lines of the Chinese sacred text dao de jing, the way of the road, or simply, the road. There are numerous translations of this phrase, but it can read something like this; the road that is the road is often the road.
And of course, sometimes it isn’t. Like when it’s a highway. But it wasn’t until I got to England that I saw the full impact of what this can mean.
For me, to tread the road is a holy act. To travel is to weave a pattern. This pattern is sacred. When you move, you transport energy and mass from one place to another, you leave an impression, both very physically with the weight of yourself or your car or trailer, but also, I believe, on another level. Often, in modern life, walking or driving a road is done repeatedly along the same lines. To me, this creates deep scars in the world, in reality if you will. Today’s form of travel on the modern, agricultural road, is to me a form of obsessive compulsion disorder, repeating an action until it does harm, to the world and to the spirit.
In England, all roads lead to London. If you look at the roads on a map, you’ll see a web, with London as the great spider in the middle, or also something like the circles of hell in Dante’s Inferno. It’s nearly impossible to get anywhere without at least touching in on one of it’s many threads. And the traffic never ceases. I will presume that most of the cars are driven by commuters, heading to and from work. I will also presume the quite a lot of these people are stressed, unhappy, ill, and worried. Or if they’re not, they will be after getting stuck in traffic.
To create an entire construction of concrete and asphalt and to fill it with suffering cannot be explained as anything but hell. And the weight of this, mental, physical, spiritual, lies heavily on the world and on the surroundings. Both in accepted terms of pollution and noise, and in terms of the desperation and anguish it fills the air with.
I am currently in the outskirts of this vortex and I will soon try to cross it. I can’t help thinking of Edgar Allen Poe and his story Descent into the maelstrom
I have posted bits about water before, about the relation to rain, about the way and the road, but there is also the everyday need for and constant search for water.
Recently, social media has been picking up an article from last summer from the guardian about plastic bottles.
The article and the response circles around the need to recycle the bottles, or call to companies to use recycled plastic in their bottles. The reporter also blames the want for a ‘western lifestyle’ for the bottled water consumption in countries like China. This is both arrogant and helps hide the real problem.
The real problem is that practically all fresh water sources are being held hostage by governments or companies. When outside the system, you see this clearly, but seldom have a voice to point it out.
To get access to water, you need to buy your way into the system, one way or the other. You need a house, or similar, either hooked up to a pipe system, or with large enough tanks to find and store water yourself. This water you either need to buy, indirectly by being at a caravan site or boat dock, or clean and filter yourself, something that also requires time, space and money. Or, of course, steal and risk being pushed even further away from the government-stolen necessities.
For now, I have the option of checking in to campsites now and then and fill the water tanks with safe, clean water, but not all do. Also, not all have a house or a car or anywhere to store water for longer periods of time. Some gas stations will let you fill your tanks, but you need to get to them somehow. And means to transport the water. And water is bloody heavy.
When poor and stuck in urban life, as a lot of people are, bottle water, expensive, polluting, and often not particularly good, is your only choice. Restaurants will leave bowls of water out for dogs, but not for poor people. Finding fresh water in a city can be a desperate search, and while food can be foraged in dumpsters, clean water can’t.
The fact that it has even gotten to this is the real tragedy and the real problem. And it won’t go away even if every single plastic bottle is recycled and reused. They should not exist in the first place.