Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions

Breathless on devouring a recently-highlighted essay from writer and ecologist Gary Snyder. Shambhala Sun's July '09 issue revisits Snyder's beautiful piece on wildness and art and nature and ego, "Writers and the War Against Nature." And it's enough to fill a girl's head and heart for days to come.

Snyder - he of the extensive Zen Buddhist background, not to mention the Beat street cred, too - manages to thread together poetic thoughts on impermanence and the A-bomb, growing up wild in the Pacific Northwest, the revealing etymologies of some of my favorite words (like wild, and ecology, and nature), art, politics, and sustainability.

Just taste it:
The wild is self-creating, self-maintaining, self-propagating, self-reliant, and self-actualizing, and it has no “self.” It is perhaps the same as what East Asian philosophers call the Dao. The human mind, imagination, and even natural human language can also thus be called wild. The human body itself, with its circulation, respiration, and digestion, is wild. In these senses, “wild” is a word for the intrinsic, non-theistic, forever-changing natural order.
This is the kind of holistic writing that we need to see more often when we talk about activism, and environmental activism, in particular; the kind that acknowledges the irreparably intertwined sagas of art and death and suffering and ahimsa, the fact that we cannot purport to change injustices without engaging the heart and the mind and the spirit, at once.

Snyder's emphasis on ahimsa, that most yogic of notions, and his return to the theme of egolessness that is so central to so many of the world's wisdom traditions, drive my reading of his article; everything else seems to unfold from there. Even more remarkably, Snyder manages to draw on performativity as key; this very sociological theme, this very postmodern, Butlerian notion, seals the deal for me, fires me up, leaves me nodding here sprawled on the rug as I read and listen and breathe and smell the scent of the tree outside the bay window reminding me that we are so much a part and parcel of one another. Snyder writes that
Poems, novels, and plays, with their great deep minds of story, awaken the Heart of Compassion. And so they confound the economic markets, rattle the empires, and open us up to the actually existing human and non-human world. Performance is art in motion; in the moment; both enactment and embodiment. This is exactly what nature herself is.
How small we are; how potentially dangerously-destructive our footprints can be; and how remarkably revelatory it would be if we all had Snyder's ability to see these thematic braids intertwining in our lives on an everyday basis.

Sigh. Wow. Read it.

Writers and the War Against Nature (Shambhala Sun)


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