The Dark Mountain Project
Myth is much more important and true than history. History is just journalism and you know how reliable that is.
The Dark Mountain Project is, in their own words, “a network of writers, artists and thinkers who have stopped believing the stories our civilisation tells itself. We produce and seek out writing, art and culture rooted in place, time and nature.” The cynics and rationalists may dismiss this as just bunch of deluded hippies refusing to get in step with the inexorable march of progress, but as someone who has since childhood been very suspicious about the stories our civilisation tells itself, I am inclined to align myself with what seems like a worthwhile endeavour. Perhaps I’m just a hopeless Romantic, but I make no apologies for that. Romanticism arose out of a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, informed by a respect for the myths of the past and a deep mistrust for the new religion of ‘progress’, and as we live in similarly tumultuous times, an evolved form of Romanticism seems entirely necessary to those of us who cannot find any meaning whatsoever in the mass media simulacra that surrounds us. It’s not about changing the world (to quote Joseph Campbell again: “The world is perfect. It’s a mess. It has always been a mess. We are not going to change it”) or even ‘saving it’ (to quote another wise philosopher, George Carlin: “The planet is fine. The people are fucked.”), it’s about evolving a different way of thinking about it all and applying what’s learnt from that thinking in ways that may help others, whether human or not. Poems won’t halt glacial ice melt. Paintings won’t stop the obliteration of the rain forests. But we have to rethink everything in relation to our existence on this planet, because we are speeding towards something unprecedented in the history of humans on this planet, and we are not prepared for it. That said, our history as it’s been taught through the educational institutions is not fixed, and with each passing year new information emerges to suggest that humans have developed civilisations many times in the past, and each has been swept away by unexpected cataclysms of either cosmic or human origin. Myth traditions from around the world speak of these cataclysms, and they’re typically dismissed as being “just stories.” Maybe some of them are. Maybe some of the ‘facts’ have been garbled through mistranslation or misunderstanding. But at their heart there is a truth, and it can be boiled down to something as simple as “don’t get too up yourselves.” Our present monoculture is precisely that; it thrives on perpetuating self-absorption and the championing of the individual, and what myths it does seem prepared to tolerate are those that only reinforce the values of the monoculture and contribute to the selling of a few more gonks and gadgets. It seems to me then that as a necessary counter-point we need to hear different myths and different stories from a wider range of voices, sharing uncommon perspectives that transcend anthropocentricity and root us in a space-time where we recognise all the other species as, as Henry Beston put it, “fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.”