The world is a beautiful, unfathomable being; an eternally shapeshifting spirit; a guide everybody can connect with on their life journey. We do not need wise men, religions or spiritual guides, we just need to be prepared to put the work in to understand our Selves on a deep & meaningful level. This means complete honesty about our situation. This means facing our shadows. This means manifesting joy even in our darkest hours. Our creativity is a gift we can use to rewrite narratives, to dream new dreams, to truly & radically shift our consciousness so that we might be less impactful on this sublime place we call home. Decelerating, minimising, reconnecting, planting, creating, storytelling, repurposing, reclaiming, remembering, reimagining and (the one I’m really working on) rejoicing in our infinite capacity for change, all feel as if they are slowly becoming more of an integral part of our wider culture. Some people work easily in collectives, others are loners, so I suppose the strength of an idea is if it can accommodate, nurture & inspire people from across this spectrum without judgement, ego or control.
I’m in Oxford today to celebrate Dark Mountain’s 10th anniversary. This collective changed my life in so many ways. I’m mostly a loner but finding the words of people who have similar ideas & thoughts on the world was both a revelation & a comfort in these increasingly frantic & turbulent times, and it will be lovely to see old friends & new faces as we celebrate the spark of an idea that exploded into a wildfire in the minds of so many. Above is an excerpt from Rebel Sun, published in a Dark Mountain anthology a few years back. The full poem is below.
Your alarm rings beetles. Opening curtain-heavy eyes you waterfall out of bed. Regrouping in the bathroom you notice manes of dune horses patterning through the window onto new tiles that march like soldiers. Slicing knife-edged blinds across golden plumes, you frown and stand on scales that burp toads – you still haven’t lost ten pounds. You try to shower flabby thoughts away but the seal blubber in your mind holds fast and John Lewis doesn’t sell the correct excavation knife.
Your car is a tortoise and you grovel to work together. Outside your office the daily protest march has begun. Thousands of bricks defend workers from the insurgent army of brilliant light demonstrating across courtyards. You shield poached eyes from the insurrection and scurry indoors to where strip lights and air-con salve jittery skin. Someone has opened a window near your desk so that you are forced, again, to confront the agitators outside. A swarm of starlings occupy plastic trees chanting comrade! comrade! to the rebel sun.
You decide to take a stand and, lassoing your desk that floats down-office in the flood, type a strongly-worded e-complaint.
You try to sign off with your name but cannot remember. The letters are ants marching determinedly in circles. You brush this diversion aside and type yours sincerely desk 391. They will know who you are. You eat lunch at breaktime then buy lunch from the sandwich van parked in tar sands at the back of the building. You are a caterpillar deliberately gnawing through another day. You consider taking up smoking again to curb your appetite.
Some workers are cavorting with birds in the sunlight. They won’t last. You’ve seen it before. Socialising with agitators burns skin to ash. Soon concentration will slosh around the office like over-watered concrete and you will have to dismiss those who are not already blown away by the afternoon hurricane.
You finish work late. There is no traffic. The tortoise is now a hare. Black skies are punctured by bright laser eyes as you surge home exhausted. You are a plague of locusts devouring the contents of the fridge. Blood red wine flows as you settle alone with friends whose scripted conversations intertwine like ivy with social media feeds across the lounge floor. A river of wine finally engulfs the tiny boat in which you are trying to ascend.
Saturday screams by in a murder of crows that claw you into Sunday. You intend to spend the day working. The white screen lights a fishbowl around your face as you yank seaweed across the window and submerge. It is cool in the semi-darkness and you breathe into aqua-blue. You could have finished this work on Friday, probably by Thursday; if you’re honest, Wednesday, but that’s no example to set staff who will loiter like seals at any given opportunity.
The email you are typing refuses to conform, continuing instead to shape the names of places you only know through five-star-all-inclusive-package-holiday-deals. You wonder for a moment about the wider country outside these resorts, maybe next time you’ll be more adventurous. You close that screen, cast your net wide, plunge for the depths and begin writing. This is an important document. You know because it arrives as a pulsating, red jellyfish. You have written these reports a hundred times but it is becoming increasingly difficult to square thoughts. Coming up for air you realise the rebel sun has made a tactical manoeuvre across the nihilist sky and is streaming into your eyes.
You have no time for distractions and climb onto a chair to block out the mutinous light but the chair is a cockroach and you scream in disgust. Lunging backwards you shatter like a crystal vase across the black slate mountain of the dining room floor.
It is dark. Your eyes are open but filling with thick, black oil. In the corner of the room a white glow beckons. You want to move towards the light but your limbs are shards sunk into coal. Someone will come for you.
It is bright. You are still alone. A mass-lobby of gulls squawk outside in support of the rebel sun who parades across your body like a brass band. You try to move away but you are still in pieces. Your laptop is chiming butterflies, your phone rings hedgehogs. It is impossible to reach either. You would sob but that is for feeble people and you are not weak.
You lie prostrate before an oppressive sun. The hospital have pieced you together to the best of their ability but insist on rest and recuperation. In sunlight. Your body is a shipwreck. At first you scream every time they weasel you outside but your actions are perceived as a sign of a volatile and unstable character so you acquiesce.
You watch your skin slowly break into dirt and feel your mind crumble. Day after day as the rebel sun graffitties propaganda across fractured limbs you hold fast to what you know: the sun’s malice has caused this depression; you were born to work – to be productive, to give everything to the job, to climb, to improve, to be the best, to be unique, irreplaceable. You hold fast to these thoughts and glare at the sun in the hope he will cower in the face of your defiance but instead you melt into nothingness: you are not special; your employer has already replaced you.
Dissident sparrows squat amongst the shards of your hips and thighs so that you cannot see where you end and they begin. You are pained by their chirrups bouncing around the seashell of your skull and mentally compose their eviction notice.
As the days sloth by a beehive takes shape in your heart. This is totally unacceptable but your complaints go unheard. Time and stillness have gifted you the perception of a hawk and you become engrossed with the actions of certain ‘innovator’ bees.
At first these tiny entrepreneurs are a mirror in which you vainly admire your own productivity and problem-solving capabilities but as another afternoon whales past you realise they are allowing other bees to copy their actions – for free. Not only that but the ‘mimic’ bees return to the hive to teach other bees the new technique. Each time this happens the hive, and your heart, strengthen and expand but you are aware that the innovator bees hold no leverage, no advantage, and are quickly relegated to being exactly the same as all the other bees. You eye them with disgust and begin plotting their removal while surveying the broken remains of your body:
The rebel sun has bronzed your skin to dust. Your bones have taken root and are now a hedgerow for sparrows’ nests. Your heart is a socialist beehive. Your head is a seashell echoing birdsong. Everything is seasoning by organically. You are no longer needed, or in control. Perhaps this is hell, you muse.