Over the past month I’ve exploring human identities and creativity and their impact on the environment. I do this because I have brothers and sisters, not just humans (but humans, too, including you), who I care about:
Those are just a few of the people I live with and who make my life. Living without them would be this:
Downtown Vernon, British Columbia
Over the last few weeks, I’ve presented a history of the development of the contemporary Western idea of self, and related that to three traditions of creativity:
American, which tries to activate a private Christ-like self to create a human who acts at one with God but leaves emotions as a mystery;
French, which leaves mystery and creativity to God, and encourages a self which makes refined objects out of received inspiration; and
German, which places creativity as part of a group that stretches back a few thousand years back in time.
The Green Man of Davos, Switzerland
This is indigenous memory that goes back through the first Cro Magnon settlers in Switzerland (their descendants are called the Swiss today) to the Himalayas, at least: to the roots of what we call human, at any rate.
Sure, Swiss. German is not a people. It is a language. You get up into the Swiss mountains and that German starts sounding like the French and the French like the German, and both of them sound like the Welsh from Caernarfon, which came from ancient Assyria long ago.
Caernarfon, from the Eagle Tower
One of the reasons I am doing this is aesthetic. I have two degrees in Creative Writing: the first, in 1980, was a degree in writing and the world, taught by a witch, who was a world expert on surrealism, poetic forms, literary modernism, the poetry of World War II, Robert Graves (the mid-century master of Mediterranean and Welsh mythology) and Welsh verse:
Robin Skelton …
… holding poet Susan Musgrave’s Surreal Art in his back garden.
The second degree, completed in 2007, was a masters level course in how to write in order to fit into North American pop culture, which, nonetheless, presented itself as a course in world writing. At that point, I realized that the discipline of Creative Writing had purified its American roots, and that earlier attempts to merge it with world literary culture had been overwhelmed. Social expression had supplanted art — the tradition of craft that had raised writing (and painting and sculpture, etc) as a vital member of the Enlightenment Triad of Art of Science and Religion that came from the dismemberment of the pre-Enlightenment Unified World. I am concerned that art is now expected to live wholly within the boundaries of a technological society, and interact with its citizens and technologies, first, and with the world through them. The thing is, though, I live here:
Coots Waiting to Migrate North
And one local gull looking for sandwich rinds or, well, hey, anything, really.
If anyone were to suggest, as contemporary Canadian forms of creativity and “art” do, that I have to give up my natural habitat, as encroached as it is …
… and take on a purely social one ….
This Blackbird Needs to Be in a Fir Tree Next to Those Rushes
Later, he needs to move into brown birches, and then the rushes themselves.
… that would be an unacceptable and dehumanizing demand, and yet that demand is made hourly and daily.
To adapt human lives to a technological water system, which has replaced the natural abundance of indigenous water systems in order to satisfy the needs of industrial agriculture and the political and social demands of deliberate overpopulation caused by inappropriate political systems, the land is turned into a parking lot. Better to recreate living human relationships with more than over-simplified social boundaries.
And so I have taken my long experience with art and creation and the reading and creation of texts, as well as my long experience with the quite different genre called Creative Writing, and have walked with them out into the world. The story today is not human. It is the earth.
Fraser River Sockeye Salmon NOT Making it to the Spawning Beds
It is a story of a warm river, the warmth of which is caused by certain ideas of the social embeddedness and rights of certain types of individual behaviour at the expense of others.
It is by expanding the sense of the human, based on accurate measurements of past human identity and creativity systems, that we can best change the earth. The image of the restaurant employee smoke pit and natural gas valve system is not a natural human environment. It is the environment for people constrained by technical definitions and power structures…
… that are very real and completely unacceptable. To expand this social conversation, I will next introduce other forms of creativity, from other cultural traditions —Icelandic, Native American (Plateau), Byzantine (Russian orthodox) and Islamic (Sufi). We could go on for months, around the world, but that’s a good start, and should be enough to make the point out of my own experience. I don’t want to talk about things which I do not know. That would be disrespectful. Somehow, the human image below, needs to be reconstructed…
19th Century Human Technology
A will extended across a ruined grassland slope. The fence represents the boundaries of both body and will — the American actualized self — and converts the earth into land, or, to clarify, into a series of independent actualized selves creating a common culture through their interaction. No intellectual or artistic comment is allowable, because it is this act of conversion which is the root of the culture. The state of the grassland (see any grass?) shows just how little of the earth this concept is capable of maintaining.
To this, we all have to contribute how we can. By the offering the story of my experience with creativity, I hope to be able to enrich the language with which we all speak with the earth, and which becomes the earth that speaks with us.
When you feel that without words, you will know that we are walking the same path. I call it human. It doesn’t matter what I call it. It’s life.
After completing my exploration of creative context, I will explore the nature of the self in its contemporary creative contexts, including artificial intelligence and other artificial human contexts. Then we will talk about the world and what we can do together.