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We Remain Unknown to Ourselves

By Shaun Berke

We remain unknown to ourselves. We amble through years and centuries

without recognizing the nature of culture. We had a sense for balance,

once, when we turned with the seasons, when we were integrated in

World. We had mountains of meaning to navigate but we sacrificed

our deepest truths, our oldest gods, our arcane illusions to the dream

named Reason. It was for the idea of progress that meaning itself was

laid to rest and forgotten. The elders inhumed had cost humanity

divinity and we have yet to explain ourselves. Without understanding,

we find ourselves adapting to meaninglessness and we begin to

uncover a being of nothingness. It is past time to account for the cost

of knowledge and to gather what it is that we have learned since the

death of truth. Though laden with knowledge, we still do not grasp

the potential we buried. It might well be lost to memory, somewhere

over the horizon. It may never return; it may have been another

dream just before sunrise.

We realize something is misplaced—lost in the grip of winter.

Patting and searching, we turn out a stone blade and a sprig of holly.

In the same moment: a wooden weight returns; a sinking remorse; a

deep pain. Looking about, it could be anywhere; looking all around,

behind, it has to be somewhere. Turning, we spot the snow-dusted

prints of some spirited pathfinders. Ever curious, we head into our

deepest winter with only the impression of an invincible summer. A

cold wind rises and all of the spaces between the trees fall to a path.

Stepping into the wind, we track the course of thought toward something

hidden, somewhere, beneath the snow.

Herein, we will have a close look at ourselves and the things we

create. This is our passage through illusion and disillusion, across

nothingness to a view of rising light. Setting out, we enter into

nature to weigh whether beauty is from matter or mind. We are

going to travel through woodlands, secret gardens, great cities and

graveyards to gather medicinal stories and the shrouds of forgotten

gods. We are to wade into rivers to find just how much time its stones

have weathered. We search out what lasts and what fades in the tides

of civilization. Then, in sight of mountain ranges and river valleys

forming and eroding, we will reach a view of temporal beauty.

Now on our way, crossing an open meadow, we find a frozen

spring. It has frosted over but will serve well enough for a passing

reflection into our depths; a glimpse of the natural philosophy formed

solid from the enduring relevance of greater minds. Still, in quiet

comprehension, we find solace in the countless experiences standing

frozen in time like so much hoarfrost. Nearby, we find the kit to make

use of cultural anthropology, comparative mythology, and evolutionary

psychology. With this to hand, we can decipher the wisdom

found around our world and within ourselves. We begin to recall. In

the same way that King Lear called for a looking-glass to assuage his

suffering, this is our long-awaited moment.

With a breath, we will see how the human condition defines its

domain and the outcomes that ensue. With all our powers of knowledge,

there is not much else that we do than reach for just one more

bite. Laid low in ignorance of all the things we cannot see, we learn

our most critical errors as we are constricted and suffocated by the coil

of death. No, it is time to benefit from the ones who were swallowed

whole; time to shed the aversion to suffering and embrace ancient

wisdom; time to face our great-and-terrible potential embodied in

the rise and ruin of worlds. With an ear for what has come before, we

return to confront what we are becoming—the Shades of Nihilism.

Crossing the river, we are going to see how the values that dominate

an age characterize its culture. That is to say, our culture is made

in our image. As the-spirit-of-culture is reflected, we find it grown

pallid and painted over. Humanity has been on sabbatical from disillusion

and we have altogether forgotten ourselves. In an unmitigated

condition of being, our species has specialized in sating desires both

real and unreal. Perpetually filling up, we relegate primordial drives

to driverless mechanisms. It is little wonder, then, that we remain

unknown and our condition unattended. The symbols and icons that

we scattered held some key insights on hard truths. It may be that a

mind that loses its keys is characteristic of a type.

How many times does one lose their keys before figuring out how to not lose keys

again? Never mind the doors latched and locked, we are returning to

the lesson source and, again, the weather is turning.

Out here, beyond the gates of civilization, the heart of culture

is exposed. The ethics of its people are expressed. Departing, the

world continues to feed on its own content. One gregarious creature

raises its head from the food-arcade, nodding around, affirming that

the taste of progress is good. It is time to map out what we mean to

become. All of us navigate. All of us contribute to culture. All of

us shape its character. Heartened on our way, an ancient fragment

reminds us that character is fate; a frozen soul reminds us that we

carry the power of everliving fire. Further into the woods and the snow

begins to fall heavier than the day before. The cold seeps in to take

the warmth of our blood. It is getting colder. It is this ice, reaching

into bones, that snatches us up to our senses. This is the season of

ending-and-beginning. It is the challenge to return from nothing—a

challenge of our own making. This is where we make use of timeless

lessons and adapt to the conditions. This is where we set our will

and take up thunder-stones. We strike fire in the heart of winter! We

breathe out with the soul of summer!

Shaun's book is published by Halkyon Publications.

A copy of the book can be purchased on Amazon.

In the US via this link

In the UK via this link

In Germany via this link


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