To Save Yourself Heartwhole
THE PISES NEW MOON & SOLAR ECLIPSE
February 28, 2017 at 6:59am PST / 14:59 UT
Sun and Moon conjoined at 08°12' Pisces
Posted February 24th
By the time the Moon catches up with the Sun and eclipses it this weekend, Luna will have joined an impressive flock already gathered in Pisces. Sun and Moon conjoin the lunar south node (hence the eclipse), Mercury, newly in Pisces, and Neptune, Lord of the Deep, Pisces' own ruler. A bit further down the line is Pallas Athena, goddess of wisdom, hanging with Chiron, the wounded-healer. Eight, very different fish swimming together in Pisces' sea of eternity, all trying to convey, in their own way, what lies beyond words, is just out of reach, through an intangible siren song human ears cannot hear.
In addition to this big helping of oceanic Pisces, the eclipsed New Moon also forms a tight semi-square to Mars and Uranus, currently drifting towards a collision. The semi-square is tight, and there's nothing "semi" about it, as it connects the eclipse with this year's center ring event: the t-square of Jupiter, Uranus and Pluto, under which Mars is currently lighting a bonfire.
TWO YEARS PAST their last exact alignment, Uranus and Pluto are not done with us yet. If anything this is a KEY Uranus-Pluto year with Jupiter joining the party — enlarging, expanding and fanning those Uranus-Pluto flames of unrest as only Jupiter can do. But we've learned something along the way over the past nine years since Pluto first entered Capricorn, haven't we? about ourselves, about others, about destruction, greed, and failure. Hubris has met Nemesis and the world is not the same. But you didn't need me to tell you that.
Chiron in Pisces in particular has been transmitting plenty of messages about this wound of separation, of not seeing ourselves enough in others, knowing in our deepest depths that we are part of this web of life on which our survival depends, and which we are swiftly tearing to shreds. The sextile from the eclipsed Sun to Ceres, Mother Nature herself, in that earthiest of signs Taurus, combined with Ceres' own flowing trine to the lunar North Node, tells a similar story of crisis and the need to take in a larger dose of sobering reality.
Speaking of Ceres, Chiron, Uranus and Pluto, I've been devouring the writings of Paul Kingsnorth and Dougald Hind, co-founders of the Dark Mountain Project. I've also been reading more of a long time favorite, Wendell Berry, specifically, his deep, rich poems in the 2010 collection, Leavings. Many of the themes that all three touch on in their own unique way speak to the special challenges, not only in this last Pisces eclipse we will see in many years, but the (Mars)-Jupiter-Uranus-Pluto t-square. So, I'd like to share some of their thoughts, in lieu of an essay this time around, that I have found particularly relevant.
As I write that, in my mind's eye I see Ceres, Chiron and Pallas all nodding in agreement.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
It is, it seems, our civilisation's turn to experience the inrush of the savage and the unseen; our turn to be brought up short by contact with untamed reality. There is a fall coming. We live in an age in which familiar restraints are being kicked away, and foundations snatched from under us. After a quarter century of complacency, in which we were invited to believe in bubbles that would never burst, prices that would never fall, the end of history, the crude repackaging of the triumphalism of Conrad's Victorian twilight — Hubris has been introduced to Nemesis. Now a familiar human story is being played out. It is the story of an empire corroding from within. It is the story of a people who believed, for a long time, that their actions did not have consequences. It is the story of how that people will cope with the crumbling of their own myth. It is our story.
* * *
The myth of progress is founded on the myth of nature. The first tells us that we are destined for greatness; the second tells us that greatness is cost-free. Each is intimately bound up with the other. Both tell us that we are apart from the world; that we began grunting in the primeval swamps, as a humble part of something called 'nature', which we have now triumphantly subdued. The very fact that we have a word for 'nature' is evidence that we do not regard ourselves as part of it. Indeed, our separation from it is a myth integral to the triumph of our civilisation. We are, we tell ourselves, the only species ever to have attacked nature and won. In this, our unique glory is contained.
Outside the citadels of self-congratulation, lone voices have cried out against this infantile version of the human story for centuries, but it is only in the last few decades that its inaccuracy has become laughably apparent. We are the first generations to grow up surrounded by evidence that our attempt to separate ourselves from 'nature' has been a grim failure, proof not of our genius but our hubris. The attempt to sever the hand from the body has endangered the 'progress' we hold so dear, and it has endangered much of 'nature' too. The resulting upheaval underlies the crisis we now face.
* * *
If we are indeed teetering on the edge of a massive change in how we live, in how human society itself is constructed, and in how we relate to the rest of the world, then we were led to this point by the stories we have told ourselves — above all, by the story of civilisation.
This story has many variants, religious and secular, scientific, economic and mystic. But all tell of humanity's original transcendence of its animal beginnings, our growing mastery over a 'nature' to which we no longer belong, and the glorious future of plenty and prosperity which will follow when this mastery is complete. It is the story of human centrality, of a species destined to be lord of all it surveys, unconfined by the limits that apply to other, lesser creatures.
What makes this story so dangerous is that, for the most part, we have forgotten that it is a story. It has been told so many times by those who see themselves as rationalists, even scientists; heirs to the Enlightenment's legacy — a legacy which includes the denial of the role of stories in making the world.
* * *
Mainstream art in the West has long been about shock; about busting taboos, about Getting Noticed. This has gone on for so long that it has become common to assert that in these ironic, exhausted, post-everything times, there are no taboos left to bust. But there is one.
The last taboo is the myth of civilisation. It is built upon the stories we have constructed about our genius, our indestructibility, our manifest destiny as a chosen species. It is where our vision and our self-belief intertwine with our reckless refusal to face the reality of our position on this Earth. It has led the human race to achieve what it has achieved; and has led the planet into the age of ecocide. The two are intimately linked. We believe they must be decoupled if anything is to remain.
We believe that artists — which is to us the most welcoming of words, taking under its wing writers of all kinds, painters, musicians, sculptors, poets, designers, creators, makers of things, dreamers of dreams — have a responsibility to begin the process of decoupling. We believe that, in the age of ecocide, the last taboo must be broken — and that only artists can do it.
* * *
We tried ruling the world; we tried acting as God's steward, then we tried ushering in the human revolution, the age of reason and isolation. We failed in all of it, and our failure destroyed more than we were even aware of. The time for civilisation is past. Uncivilisation, which knows its flaws because it has participated in them; which sees unflinchingly and bites down hard as it records — this is the project we must embark on now. This is the challenge for writing — for art — to meet. This is what we are here for.
— Paul Kingsnorth and Dougald Hind, from their Dark Mountain Manifesto, Uncivilization
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
To save yourself heartwhole
in life, in death, go back
upstream, if you have to swim
ashore and walk. Walk
upstream along the bank
of the Kentucky River, the bank
of Cane Run, and step from
stone to stone up Camp Branch
through the cut down, longtime
returning woods. Go back
through the narrowing valleys
to the waters of origin, the dry
leaves, the bare wintering trees,
the dead, unreturning.
Go from the corrupted nation
to the ruining country. With the land
again make common cause.
In loving it, be free.
Diminished as it is,
grant it your grief and care,
whole in heart, in mind
free, though you die or live.
So late, begin again.
— Wendell Berry, Leavings (2010)
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Berry, Wendell. Leavings: Poems. Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2010.
To read the entire Dark Mountain manifesto, Uncivilization, here's the link. Dark Ecology, another excellent essay by Paul Kingsnorth, was recently published in Orion Magazine. Here's the link to that one too.
The painting displayed at the beginning of this article is "New York with Moon" by Georgia O'Keefe (1925).
© Elaine Kalantarian, all rights reserved