What is ecology? And why should we care?

I watched this video, showing rather-raw footage of many so-called “trouble spots” around the world, and was struck by how incomplete our notion of ecology often is.

Poaching. Illegal oil fields. Guerilla warfare. People forgotten and cast away. The shock of fraying institutions.

If there is an ecologically based paganism that I’m a part of (and recognizing, absolutely, that an earth-based paganism is only one potential path among many), it has to include these things in its field of vision. Perhaps not as the totality, but as a way to make it a living, breathing praxis.

This too is intently spiritual. It has to be. And embracing animism has to be as well. Any animism concerned solely about connecting to a prelapsarian past is nice, buttoo often I see narratives of comfort when narratives of struggle are needed. I should add that comfort is important–but it’s a matter of timing. Just as it is unhelpful to valorize conflict for its own sake, it’s not helpful to base one’s practice solely on the stuff of the modern world that allows the status quo to remain so: privileges, the hazy guru-dom of a counterculture that has outlived its specific usefulness.

In glorifying a pre-literate consciousness, it’s a mass act of pretending as if jet travel and expensive workshops aren’t implicated in a whole network of semiotics and I = PAT equations.

Now I’m not a primitivist either! I’m not saying, teachers and students shouldn’t fly. What I am saying is: the ideological unpinnings that allow for such a world to exist are part of the problem and have a clear-headed awareness of them has to be the starting point.

This is why I think Lacan’s (and Zizek’s) pointed analysis of ideology is so important, as a way to truly unpack how we live in the world, how our beliefs don’t match our actions, nor the “facts on the ground.”

Our ecological concerns–and this is where, in fact, where the intersections with paganism are so important–also impinge on our subconscious. In fact, it would be rather odd if they didn’t. But the subconscious is also a material process, which is why it’s important to follow the tangled, knotted paths that our subconscious leads us in.

Taking animism seriously means that, not only do rocks, trees, and animals have spiritual presence, but our subconscious does also (and also, iPhones, loaves of bread, cargo containers, factory compounds, and nuclear waste…but that’s another post). There is no dualism between matter and mind, but non-reductively and paradoxically, insisting it’s because everything is matter–and not that everything is inculcated by the mind–becomes a basis for re-enchantment, not disenchantment.

Going back to the original video, the paganism I want to build as an American has to stand in some way with those on “the front lines.”

Our “retreats” can wait.

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Maria Attanasio: Poet of Carnal Consciousness

It Was Mine …

It was mine, in the uncorrupted sphere of Parmenides
the river wave the anonymous hand that in the dream
strokes you: dark symmetry of fire and water
unconscious rustle of neurons.
It was disagreement
the swarmy overflowing in apricot flesh, divided
in the cosmogony of night from the deep flow
of particles exchanges from the blind seeking of electrons
to the synthesis, here, among the merchants and the hungry,
Kafka’s beetle consciousness that dies.


-translated by Carla Billitteri


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Seven Broken Altars (poem)

Seven Broken Altars

by Dauphine Sb



People from Ohio have to come

from somewhere.



I squirrel my writing away

inside the gardening store.

Supposedly writing is a sign

of the loss of the world.



I don’t know

why the relentless achings

of beach-house poets overwhelm

me, their just-so chants

like riptides,

mouths with oceans and stunning salt.



I want sea-lions to invade

Brooklyn. I want the sea-lion

queen to say to Brooklyn:

look, let’s be real, the underpinnings

of the banking industry prop up

your desire to overthrow the

banking industry.



My job is to write stupid poems

before the professors come

back from the hotel bar in the forest.



It’s so easy to mock the provisional

government of sea lions but

do we really have any

other alternatives?

I mean viable ones.



open the hunting lodge of the heart

tell me how to read my life

read the intestines

of the season

make use of me

devotion is not enough

devotion is never enough



I bought this hyacinth

from the supermarket.

It gets cold from the

Baffin Island gales

on the other side

of the window.

I water it.

It waters me back.

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Making Peace with the Polar Vortex

Winter has my city in its death grip. It’s hard to feel life.

It’s hard to feel my hands.

I’ve been through many, many bad winters, but as I feel the wind ice-burn through me, or check and see that the temps are going to be, shall we say, suboptimal for a good long while, the prevailing feeling I have is one of dread. No light at the end of the tunnel (or light so faint that it’s not going to matter).

So like many things in my life, I have to look for the light in Less Obvious Sources.

Calling these winds Arctic isn’t just a metaphor. The jet streams brought the cold air south, and indeed for awhile the northern U.S. was one of the coldest places on earth. These are the same gusts as above Baffin Island. Caught in its grip, yesterday I was walking back to my car from work and realized: I have to live with this. These winds are just winds.

And I felt less cold. Could I even feel grateful for this bitterness? As the wind gusts outside as I write this, I am certainly grateful for a warm house, something that I never want to take for granted. But even though everything seems dead, and slowing, and the people around me have their patience tested with this weather, seeing this weather as having its own life has helped me come to terms with it, to know that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed by it, by an awe-inspiring brutal power.

And so I wait, not quite ready to hole up completely. Willing to walk with the crystalline sky-and-sun, the desert of snow around me.

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The Panick Cave (poem)

The Panick Cave

by Dauphine Sb

Kind heart, why have you left me,

where have you gone?

Like the cinders of the offer

you are gone.

The snow builds up

in the empty tomb.

I have become a signal.

I tuck my kids into bed.

I don’t cry in front of

them; in fact there are no

tears, heart, at all.

Now all I have left is

pinpricking in the atria area,

which could be the early

warnings of a panic attack–

is there a pamphlet I

could consult? Don’t leave me.

When I went through the gauntlet

the last last time

I admitted myself to

the emergency room.

Hooked to a blood pressure machine

pythoning my arm,

staring up at a fluorescent ceiling.

Not myself. Who was I then?

Who was I then to you?

Have you been planning a

prison break this whole time?

Last night I had a dream of you.

You were lodged within me and

we stood on a trail that led

through a forest burned out by

wildfire. You warned me not to

go on.

The consequences

would be terrible.

The clouds went

by. I

touched my chest,

certain even in the dream that

I had already misplaced you.

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Jack Spicer: Trickster Poet

Any fool can get into an ocean
But it takes a Goddess
To get out of one.
What’s true of oceans is true, of course,
Of labyrinths and poems. When you start swimming
Through riptide of rhythms and the metaphor’s seaweed
You need to be a good swimmer or a born Goddess
To get back out of them
Look at the sea otters bobbing wildly
Out in the middle of the poem
They look so eager and peaceful playing out there where the
    water hardly moves
You might get out through all the waves and rocks
Into the middle of the poem to touch them
But when you’ve tried the blessed water long
Enough to want to start backward
That’s when the fun starts
Unless you’re a poet or an otter or something supernatural
You’ll drown, dear. You’ll drown
Any Greek can get you into a labyrinth
But it takes a hero to get out of one
What’s true of labyrinths is true of course
Of love and memory. When you start remembering.
Jack Spicer (1925-1965)
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A particularly revealing example of the animistic effects of an allegedly naturalizing epistemology can be seen in the wonderworlds of mirror neurons that connect humans and other primates through networks of empathy. This is not to say that mirror neurons are not real; on the contrary, they are the focus of studies and ever more experiments at the top neuroscience laboratories around the world, and have been analyzed in thousands of publications. Mirror neurons are the latest result in a sequence of investigations that once began under the imperative to debunk speculative and spiritualistic entities by means of dissolving them into strictly natural, material processes—perception, feeling, reasoning, decision-making, and memorizing, once understood as results of neurophysiological processing.

The agenda still holds, but the tools to pursue it have become so powerful that they allow sophisticated questions to be addressed. Within the framework of the modern, naturalizing epistemology, these experiments no longer “reduce” speculative stuff to the hard facts of action potentials, gene expression, and causality; instead, they increasingly constitute aspects of social interactions as “real,” as experimentally detected and objectively verified items. Materializations were once the results of séances and strange encounters with ghostly powers, and photography was mobilized to document these instances typically in the form of milky and plasmalike substances protruding somewhere from the “medium.” One hundred years later, today’s high-tech machines detect the results of social interactions as amorphous color blobs in the active brains of the participants. (source)

Fields, layerings, blobs. Data mappings. Flowing systems. Does this gesture toward a kind of ‘cognitive animism’, where even the representations of our thoughts meld and merge into the color bands of other forms of swarming matter?

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