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