I had a hard Dark Mountain. Not an unenjoyable one, but for me it was more about failure than success, which may be an interesting precedent. I don’t fail easily, but there is a time and place for everything.
I was doing The Sacred bit, at least part of it, in dialogue with Dougald. There was heavy expectation that I’d perform The Miracle, a repeat performance of the 10 minute laser beam which I dropped at Uncivilisation 2010.
We had an hour and a half, and I failed to deliver. What happened was modest, even pedestrian, certainly by comparison, valid but discursive and academic. The Rock did not come, and the Mothership did not descend, compared to the expectation of pyrotechnic display set up by last year.
Later, I also seriously lost my temper to a hexayurt full of people, an intense experience of being an outcast in my own home-space, of watching others react to failing. I had a hard dark mountain this year.
This, to me, was the humbling realization of limit. without enough space and room to do what is transcendent and immanent, I gave myself permission to be human, to fail and to muddle through. I was the center which did not hold, and it was fine.
Without the confidence to command, I fell back on the desire to teach, rather than embracing the radical experience of being out of my depth in the waters around me. I would not even have known that this option, which I failed to inhabit, was there if it wasn’t for Bembo Davies, whom I met at the first Uncivilisation, and who’s become rather a mentor to me. But, anyway, rather than defining a response in a hermetically sealed ten minute framework, in which the goal was to deliver an opening, I was faced with an opportunity to create and then conclude on behalf of the community. And it did not happen. I muddled.
All I can conclude is that the failure of our myths is the point of the experience, and I have experienced this first hand, and done my part to add to it.
Where do we go forwards from here, together, is uncertain. The Utopian Pressure to be perfectly all-inclusive, balanced and universalist will continue to shape and sculpt Uncivilisation and Dark Mountain to a wide variety of concerns, and the community will strive and struggle as sensibly as it is able with those very flaws in our own personalities and cultures. Eventually the Far Right may come calling and we will discover what indeed is a bridge too far in inclusion in strength and learning, rather than allowing them in with weak pseudo-egalitarianism.
There was not a despondent heart in the festival, however, many were sad and scared, perhaps, but free of the stuckness of fixed grief from too-long held false hopes and ghostly fears.
In no way, shape or form can we afford to believe that we can “fix” things, that is the job of Transition Towns and perhaps the Green Party. To learn how to hold the truth, together in community, without changing our minds about what is true simply to make ourselves or others more comfortable seems, to me, to be Dark Mountain’s most easily expressed purpose.
What I discovered is that I can do this for me, but I cannot do this for all of us. Perhaps no-one can. That was my Dark Mountain.
What was yours?
Now, a note on The Politics. This year’s festival was marked by the emergence of Uncivilisation and Dark Mountain as things of sufficient established value to have people beginning to struggle for self-expression in that context, rather than simply expressing themselves. It’s gone from being a Project, a collection of people, to being a Place or a Scene and perhaps, in some people’s opinions, a movement. But that Dark Mountain is now a Place or a Scene is without a doubt true and new.
My own agendas are all in the 2010 talk. I said what I had to say there as well as its ever likely to be said by me, this side of the revolution 😉
But, as the skirmishing begins, and different value systems seek and even struggle to define how the Our House of Dark Mountain is to be inhabited, let me make four observations.
(1) What do we have in common with, and what do we have to learn, from those who are already poor?
(2) How do the Abandoned Battles of prior generations – from Pastoralism to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and similar – relate to our present and our future?
(3) The engineering. Always the engineering. I’m kicking around terms like CSEG (collapse support education guild, or perhaps collapse survival engineering group) as a follow up to the Gupta State Failure Management Archive but that’s more Green Wizards and Transition Towns than Dark Mountain, unless we have a literary movement with an engineering wing. And if so, what then?
(4) The rhetoric of freedom, control and values sits ill with literature.
I have a feeling that onrushing events may settle many of the issues about The Future of Dark Mountain this year. My take on it is that each of us has our own Dark Mountain to climb, and that we must face it individually, isolated, alone, but together.
In that respect, it’s a lot like life.