Try this on for size (found and slightly edited from the internet):
“The beauty of modern man is not in the persons, but in the disastrous rhythm, the heavy and mobile masses, the dance of the dream-led masses down the dark mountain.” Robinson Jeffers, 1935
As any historian could confirm, human civilization is an intensely fragile construction, built on little more than belief – in the rightness of its values, the strength of its system of law and order, its currency, and, above all perhaps, belief in its future. We believe that art must look over the edge, face the coming world with a steady eye, and rise to the challenge of ecocide with an artistic response to the crumbling of the empires of the mind.
Uncivilized writing, for example, sets out to paint a picture of homo sapiens which a being from another world or, better, a being from our own – a blue whale, an albatross, a mountain hare – might recognize as something approaching a truth. It sets out to pull our attention away from ourselves and turn it outwards, putting civilization into perspective. It’s writing that comes not, as most writing still does, from the self-absorbed and self-congratulatory metropolitan centers of civilization, but from somewhere on its wilder fringes. Somewhere woody and weedy and largely avoided, from where insistent, uncomfortable truths about ourselves drift in; truths which we’re not keen on hearing. Writing which unflinchingly stares us down, however uncomfortable this may prove.
It’s not environmental writing, for there is much of that about already, and most of it fails to jump the barrier which marks the limit of our collective human ego; much of it, indeed, ends up shoring up that ego, and helping us persist in our civilizational delusions. It’s not nature writing, for there is no such thing as nature as distinct from people, and to suggest otherwise is to perpetuate the attitude that’s brought us here. Neither is it political writing, with which the world is already flooded, for politics is a human confection, complicit in ecocide and decaying from within.
Uncivilized writing is more rooted than any of these. Above all, it’s determined to shift our worldview, not feed into it. It’s writing for outsiders, with the aim of shifting the emphasis from man to not-man – to un-humanize our views a little, and become “confident as the rock and ocean that we were made from.” This isn’t a rejection of our humanity – it’s an affirmation of the wonder of what it means to be truly human: accepting the world for what it is and to making our home here rather than dreaming of relocating to the stars or existing in a man-forged bubble and pretending to ourselves that there is nothing outside it to which we have any connection at all.
Think of Wendell Berry, Mary Oliver, and others whose writings approach the shores of the uncivilized. They know their place in the physical sense and remain wary of the siren cries of metrovincial fashion and civilized excitement. We name particular writers whose work embodies what we’re arguing for not to place them more prominently on the existing map of literary reputations, but rather, taking their work seriously and redrawing the maps altogether – not only the map of literary reputations, but those by which we navigate all areas of life.
Even here, we go carefully, for cartography itself is not a neutral activity. The civilized eye seeks to view the world from above, as something we can stand over and survey. The uncivilized writer knows the world is, rather, something we’re enmeshed in – a patchwork and a framework of places, experiences, sights, smells, sounds. Maps can lead, but can also mislead. Our maps must be the kind sketched in the dust with a stick, washed away by the next rain. They can be read only by those who ask to see them, and they cannot be bought.
THE EIGHT PRINCIPLES OF UNCIVILIZATION
We live in a time of social, economic, and ecological unraveling. All around us are signs that our way of living is passing into history. We will face this reality honestly and learn how to live with it.
We reject the faith which holds that the converging crises of our times can be reduced to a set of ‘problems’ in need of technological or political ‘solutions.’
We believe that the roots of these crises lie in the stories we’ve been telling ourselves. We challenge the stories underpinning our civilization: the myth of progress, the myth of human centrality, and the myth of our separation from ‘nature’ and from each other. These myths are more dangerous for the fact that we’ve forgotten they’re myths. We reassert the role of storytelling as more than mere entertainment, since it’s through stories that we weave our version of reality.
Humans are not the point and purpose of the planet. Our art will begin with the attempt to step outside the human bubble. Carefully attentive, we’ll reengage with the non-human world.
We celebrate writing and art grounded in a sense of place and of time. Our literature has been dominated for too long by those who inhabit the cosmopolitan citadels. We won’t lose ourselves in the elaboration of theories or ideologies. Our words will be elemental. We write with dirt under our fingernails.
The end of the world as we know it is not the end of the world. Together, we’ll find the hope beyond hope, the paths which lead to the unknown world ahead of us.