Friday, April 15, 2016

Relentless pursuit

As my last blog post for this course, I would like to recap the practices, discoveries, and effects of re-wilding.

  • Tracing the invisible, undeniable threads of interwoven embeddedness in lived material relations of my environment through biospheric interoception and biofeedback.
  • Unlocking fear and anger, terror and rage, as embodied responsiveness to violation of integrity of the enlargened self to empower feral and instinctive protectiveness. 
  • Externalizing discomfort into experimental actions seeking systemic balance, including the possibility of personal diminishment.
  • Our conception of "nature" removes the human from the equation and distorts our authentic immersion in the world.
  • The profound dissociation between our actions and their impacts may be one of the many consequences of industrialization and globalization
  • Pleasurable experiences in nature seem to sacralize abstracted, romanticized relationships with our surrounds and may conflate recreational escape with benevolence.
  • Along with many other incendiary prompts in my environment, the practice of re-wilding has imbued me with a mounting urgency for social change, reaching a pitch that is almost uncomfortable to bear at times.
  • Re-wilding seems to expose my complicity in the suffering of others which evokes feelings of guilt and shame that seem appropriate, although they are inadequate to enact material changes.
  • I now feel a strong desire to continue to learn about my daily exchanges and to overcome the prescribed ignorance of my active relations within the world.
As I summarize these points, I feel immensely grateful to have grown through these practices, discoveries, and effects, which I feel will have a lasting impact on my life.  My fundamental understanding of the world has been altered.  Thank you to anyone who has followed this blog and witnessed the unfolding of this journey.

May we all be relentless in our pursuit of the dignity of our biospheric self.


Wednesday, April 6, 2016


This week I have been battling questions about work, career, and finding my place in the mess of civilization, and I have started to suspect that the re-wilding practice I have undertaken for this class is one of the most disrupting influences in navigating my way.  Compromise seems like defeat, tolerance seems like a mask for manipulation, and work looks like theft.  As I have repeatedly said in class and in my last post on this blog, I am suspicious of mind-body practices designed to increase feelings of calm and well-being since our society seems to be suffering from a debilitating complacency that could be exacerbated by meditative practices.  Accommodation of discomfort affords the continuation of abusive systems of power.

In Nature Is Ordinary Too, Giblett (2012) reviews the work of Raymond Williams on the false binary of nature and culture, which he reintegrates by way of the idea of livelihood.  Livelihood, according to Williams, is both nature and culture, because it describes the way in which humans and nature are interwoven into each other.  Giblett says that nature is "ordinary, the stuff of work and everyday life," which has been the major discovery of my re-wilding practice on this blog.  Although I have spent several periods of my life living somewhat sustainably on the land, I am no longer content with personal salvation.  

My re-wilding practices have led me to question: How can we re-invent livelihood in our culture in a way that is life-giving?  If we sacrificed dignity and integrity for illusory security and indulgent comforts, what kinds of labor and value can we now wisely offer world? 

Giblett, R. (2012). Nature is ordinary too. Cultural Studies, 26(6), 922-933. doi:10.1080/09502386.2012.707221

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The price of earthly resonance

The gardening experiment has yielded many important insights for my process of discovering re-wilding, some in favor of gardening, but mostly against it.

A lover of dirt and plants and food, of course, I love gardening.  Going to Home Depot was exciting, undimmed by my cynical criticisms at how the treated soil, the plastic pots, and the corporate atmosphere were utterly antithetical to what I was trying to do.  Moments after muttering to myself how absurd it was that you can buy a full-grown cherry tomato bush with green tomatoes already growing on it for $14.95 (and how terrible it is that something so intimate as a plant of food could become a commercial product) - I found myself thinking, "That's not a bad price, really." 

Though I didn't stoop to that level, I still bought some three-inch seedlings in a biodegradable pot to plant in my larger pots at home, and I must admit, I had so much fun planting and watering them.  Like a new romance, I have repeatedly gone outside just to see and admire them, pretending I'm checking on how much sun they are getting and checking the wetness of the soil.  I also noticed that my neighbors have bought many new plants, and I felt a shared celebratory camaraderie with them.

Yet, I still didn't have an answer about whether this pleasant self-indulgence was a diversion or if it was a remedy for dissociation.  In order to attune to the impact the gardening has had on me, and prepare to articulate it on this blog, I did some free movement in my room just after sunset:

breathing deeply with swinging arms
crouching and burrowing my face into the dark of my arms and hair
slowly emerging, belaboring against gravity
expansive breath, leaning full-heartedly into the perpetual discomfort
of being in the world in comfort
as a civilized human.
No, gardening did not help.

The earthly resonance in my body seems to harbor a kind of greed, a hyperextension of myself into the space, a grinning mockery derived from theft.  If I live in safety and have plenty of food to eat while others don't, then I am the beneficiary of their suffering.  Perhaps the only way I can cut out the kudzu, the cancer, the aggression of my existence is to diminish myself in some way.  Gardening doesn't do that at all, and in fact, brings me more happiness and pleasure.  It is exactly this kind of happiness and pleasure that seems somehow out of place in the reality of how I live.

I watched a documentary last week called Living on One Dollar A Day about a group of college students who attempt to live for 8 weeks in rural Guatemala.  They were very hungry and lost a lot of weight.  I was eating dinner as I watched it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Gardening as Re-wilding?

This week for my re-wilding practice, I will start to explore more action-oriented embodied responses to my alienated embeddedness in natural systems.  One of the most common circulating ideas about how to create a more socially and ecologically sustainable world is by growing one's own food.  I continually read and hear about urban gardens, Community Supported Agriculture, the Slow Food movement, and tons of other frames of reference about the central importance of gardening as a radical form of resistance to our abusive complicity in systems of power. 

From my ongoing practice in global interoception and imagining earthly biofeedback, it seems that my experience would confirm that gardening can eliminate many layers of dissociation in one of my activities, eating.  Yet, I admit, I find myself somewhat perplexed by this response to the complex crises of the world.  I have worked on many farms in my life and found great spiritual and relational benefit from it, though I continue to see it as a playful joy of my youth and somehow distinct from my serious adult activism (LOL).  Although it may help me to feel less alienation in my own life and reduce the degree of dissociation, how does it impact the dynamics of the global system as a whole?  I recognize that I shouldn't expect one action to resolve all the problems in the world, but gardening seems somehow dissonant, as if it's aimed in a direction that is not targeting the central problem.

I couldn't tell you what I mean by the central problem, nor what I would suggest for a better action, so I thought for my practice this week, I could try this out.  I'm on my way to Home Depot to get some soil and hopefully some seedlings to plant cherry-tomatoes in a pot which I will grow outside my apartment.  I hope to report back on the experience and attune to whether or not this action interacts with my visceral discomfort with the current state of the world.  I also hope to consider how being at Home Depot, a huge corporation, and patronizing its business impacts the process.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Please meet Layla Abdelrahim.

I greatly enjoyed this talk and found a lot of commonality with her ideas.

She suggests, "To subvert our symbolic predatory culture, we have to start questioning our anthropology."

I would ask, what are some wild kinds of subversion?  If language and symbolic thought and hierarchical relationships are products of predatory culture, what embodied actions are available to us to respond to systems of control? 

Friday, March 11, 2016

Campus Walk

Today I attended a workshop in sustainability education through the Center for Sustainability at the University of West Georgia.  It was an incredible and synchronistic experience, as I also met two people I had been hoping to contact over the next few weeks regarding their work, which I experienced as an uprush of fatedness or a sense of being exactly where I'm supposed to be.

During the workshop, we watched a Ted Talk about the "Ghastly Tragedy of the Suburbs" by James Howard Kunstler, which is a hilarious exploration about the relationship between architecture and citizenship.  He argues that the structures in our public realm correlate with the decline of our cultural civilization.  We then took a walk through the campus in silence as we contemplated whether the places we inhabit are "worth caring about."

I greatly enjoyed the deepening of the group field as we walked in a respectful distance from each other while also staying close enough together to maintain a spacious cohesion.  We seemed to be looking up more than usual, and I noticed several participants seemed to gaze into the distance without focusing on anything in particular.  I appreciated the way we created a generous, exploratory, reflective mood together.

I noticed that my associations with place are largely comprised of the emotional or ideological context in which humans occupy the space.  Though I typically enjoy my walks on campus, eyeing red-tailed hawks, feral cats, squirrels, and all the varieties of plants and trees, today I found myself gazing at the buildings, windows, walkways, and parking lots through my emotional response to the overarching institutional goals housed in these structures.  Amidst growing confusion and doubt about the value of the educational system and the scholarly enterprise, I felt a sinking despair as if this vibrant land was somehow being tortured by disingenuous and egocentric thinking that permeated the space.  I found myself wanting to withdraw my energy from the institution so that I would not be contributing to this misuse of land and space.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Focusing on the fight flight response

For this week's practice, I felt torn about how I should proceed.  One way would be to continue with imagining and kinesthetically experiencing my embodied embeddedness in the biosphere of the planet.  It continues to feel like a revelation to have finally resolved years of cognitive dissonance about environmentalism as a sentimental attachment to aesthetically pleasing places or creatures.  I have finally found a way that "connecting to nature" (by becoming aware of my immediate consumption and impact on other planetary phenomena) can help cultivate greater integrity and ethical behavior.

Yet after last week's practice about "action," I was also piqued to explore some of the topics we have discussed in class about the fight/flight response, which seems to be often portrayed as an instinctual residue from our animal roots and a source of unnecessary and chronic stress.  But what if anxiety, rumination, and irritability are in fact signs of a suppressed instinct?  In the spirit of re-wilding, I wanted to try to activate the fight/flight response in a way that results in the betterment of others.  Perhaps by expressing and releasing justifiable outrage and terror, it is resolved and dissipates naturally / automatically.

In order to combine these two directions, I decided to try a focusing session on my current impact on the biosphere with particular allowance and attention toward anger and fear related to that awareness.  I laid face down on my bed and took deep breaths in and out.  I first became aware of the air flowing in and out of my body and imagined all the places where that air had previously been, including inside of other people and creatures.  I also imagined/ felt the warm flesh of my body filled with blood and tissue and muscle that seemed to be composed of so many different plants and animals from all over the planet.  As that familiar dissociation began to arise in me, that realization that I have no awareness of the ways I am intimately connected with those people and places, I started to feel rage in several places in my body, a hatred for the unknown miseries in which I participate.  I also amplified a creeping sensation of shame and guilt that I could now recognize as fear - fear of becoming someone despicable, fear of the violation of my integrity, a repulsion toward the culprit of myself.  In contrast to that reactivity, I also felt a heaviness, a defeat, in my limbs, an acquiescence, complicity, paralysis.  It occurs to me that this could be a form of the "freeze" response as well, or it could be the successful suppression of the rage.

In reflecting on how rage and terror might be healthy responses to the world, I was reminded  of a quote by Derrick Jensen that is something like, "Love does not imply pacifism- just ask any mother grizzly bear."

It also reminded me of Wilbert Alix describing the ability to sense danger as a function of being able to "read reality" with our senses:

One underlying effect this practice had on me was to somehow restructure priorities in my awareness, so that all the minor difficulties in my life, including my ongoing struggles with the culture shock of being in doctoral studies, seemed very peripheral and unimportant.  I felt realigned with what was essential to me and to my existence, which was somehow superficially more stabilizing but fundamentally more destabilizing.

I have also greatly enjoyed selecting a different exercise each week to discover what re-wilding means to me.  The other books that I had selected to follow for this blog were horribly centered around romanticizing nature as a non-human place, so I will not be using them.  Perhaps this is yet another aspect of my re-wilding practice - to sniff out each step of my journey with hypervigilance and embodied knowing.