Beyond the Looking Glass: Further Thoughts on the Dark Mountain Experience


More happening to me in the wake of last weekend, more worth recording.

I notice that if I get angry and react to something angry out in the world, my heart really starts hurting.

Example: there was an anti-DM opinion piece published in The Ecologist which really pissed me off. Partly because it’s still trotting out the one about DM being pro-apocalypse and anti-doing anything about it (doing being narrowly equal to traditional activism). Partly because its rhetoric was so tired and gimmicky: ‘get down off your gloomy old mountain and do some work!’ Partly because, while at least George Monbiot (when not wound up in point-scoring mode) is a well-informed, astute and worthy adversary for the project to have, 5th rate dilutions of some of his criticisms of DM are worth next to nothing.

Anyway, I got angry and fired off a response in the comment thread, which took me ages to write (the more I carried on, the more my chest hurt), which at first disappeared completely into the ether (hmm, paid no attention to what that might have been trying to tell me), so I had to write it all over again (more chest pain), and which, once it was posted there, full of grammatical errors that the interface allowed me no way of correcting, left me feeling, not relieved, but angry and sick and uncomfortable for the rest of the day. In the way that in French, nausea is described by way of the heart – encoeuré – not the stomach.

It happened again this morning. A friend of mine is closely involved with co-ordinating efforts towards a cultural and academic boycott of Israel, and was being attacked with some vitriol by some of her Facebook contacts. I was also following up some links to stories about the current situation in Gaza, in the wake of the Israeli attack on the aid convoy. And all the time I was reading, the pain in my chest was getting worse. It’s still there now.

This reactive heart pain is a completely new experience for me, but I don’t know what it means – and I’d be a fool to pretend that I do. It might be a prompt to avoid getting myself caught up in anger – of the kind that turns in snapping vicious circles of avoidance and denial – and to let go of it, find a gentler approach. It might be about actually engaging with rightful anger – angry coward that I am, I’m always trying to avoid anger. It might be about beginning to feel the layer upon layer of pain and rage and complexity in situations such as that which exists between Palestine and Israel. It might be all of these things and more besides. All I can say, is that it’s totally outside the run of my usual experience, and not something planned for or anticipated.

Other stuff: my tolerance levels for the louder and more abrasive levels of urban living – music with a heavy beat, multi-lane traffic – have dropped abruptly. I have to head for the quieter, scenic routes through town, otherwise I start going crazy.

At the same time, I feel more removed than ever before from the spectacle of consumerist living. Let me be clear: I’m no less materially dependent upon it than I was before heading to Wales, and – apart from the sparkly hope that I’ll be self-sufficient in tomatoes for a couple of weeks later in the summer – I’ve a long, long, long way to go in reducing that dependency to a healthier level. But some layer of emotional attachment to consuming, rooted mostly in fear, and in lack of a genuine belief in alternatives, has dropped away from me. When I have to go into some bright, shrieking, novelty-laden consumer emporium, it’s like witnessing it from the wide end of a telescope. I can steer through it without its seductions and absurdities touching me, buy the one thing I am still, for the time being, convinced that I ‘need’, and leave quickly the way I came in.

It bears repeating: I wasn’t expecting or even exactly hoping that these things would happen to me, although they feel great, ENLIVENING. I don’t consider myself the kind of person who’s naturally sensitive to these kinds of reattunements, within the energy centres of her body, or to her surroundings (being a recovering academic and all). But it’s all here, real, happening. And I’m very curious as to where it will go next.

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