It’s mulberry season, and I have been blue—blue like the ocean, like my daughter’s eyes, like the little blue heron, like chicory and lupine and the fluttering karner blue. How is it possible to feel this way, I wonder and scold myself, amidst the bustle and joy of exploring the world with an almost-yearling babychild? How can I justify it, how, when every moment for her is a new wonderful thing to touch, pull, poke, twist or squeal at, and when I get to witness so many of these?
I am learning, though, that wildness—living in a way that honors life and aliveness—requires engaging with the actuality of one’s interior and exterior worlds. These are thick, rich—and, sometimes, blue.
I have been walking with Andreas Weber. I mean to say, I have been walking—down Mosholu, across Broadway into the thick green rocky summer hardwood forest of Van Cortlandt Park, baby wrangled into her stroller or riding on my chest—with the words of this German thinker and mozzafiato writer (even translated from the original German, his stuff is gorgeous) in my heart, churning and bouncing as we go. It was Weber’s words in Matter and Desire: An Erotic Ecology, a book I’ve written about here before, that brought me back, a few days ago, out of the deepest funk. That and some show tunes. And a plate of diner eggs…
I read back to where I’d last left the bookmark, then took off again forward, pen flying under the lines, stitching together wild thoughts in the margins. I read this:
“Were it not for the ever-present possibility of death, beings would not need to be possessed by the urge to evolve, to go on existing. Without death, the being is a machine. Or more generally: aliveness must be allowed to fail if it is to be truly alive. Only because of death does life become creative.”
“The universe is not purely gentle. It is just as deadly as it is gentle. And it can only be gentle because it is deadly. It can only be gentle insofar as its gentleness constantly puts up a fight against death. This is the message of erotic ecology, one that sets it against Darwinism, liberalism, and all of the dominant goal-oriented ideologies, all of the ideologies of efficiency, of combat, of war as the father of all things.
But even if it is difficult, the message of erotic ecology does not claim that life actually consists only of cooperation, that existence is actually ecstatic and healthy, that death is ultimately an illusion. Symbiosis instead of competition! No. Symbiosis and our desire for it are real—but oppression and violence are no less so. The birth of life is a genuine power in this universe. Death as well. Light and darkness—both are essential if anything is to be created. …
Learning to die means seeing reality without nudging it in some pleasant direction. That alone is what it means to really see. And that alone is what it means to be sculptural, to be creative without having to be ashamed of your imperfection. That alone is what it means to be wild, wild in the sense of an animal who does what is necessary, wild like the whole of the natural world …”
And this small beautiful treatise on essential vulnerability:
“In order to let in the living world, I must be completely vulnerable and must learn to be truly defenseless, in a state of utter precariousness, like all of my cells are from moment to moment. I must exist in absolute uncertainty in order to completely perceive reality. This is nakedness in extremis, the nakedness of the animal, the nakedness of the world itself.” …
“To be alive is to surrender to the reality of a bodily existence that is never truly at peace and that gives birth to poetry and beauty out of this uncertainty. This requires the courage to no longer hide behind the illusion of immaculateness.”
And this, on the wild and messy nature of language, of poetry:
“…language works according to the foundational paradox of the living world: It establishes connections by conjuring them up, rather than truly embodying them. … Language hits the mark by missing.”
And this glorious stuff about parenting a child, and about loving wholly, in a way that furthers freedom, in any relationship:
“Our phase of life in the mother’s body is the ecological archetype for a connection-in-separation, and thereby the model for what the child will later try to create outside the mother’s body. The healthy, normal condition is one of close connection, but not symbiosis. Only because the mother is herself alone, and not her fetus, is she able to give the child what it needs. A connection is possible only because both are distinct from one another.” …
“The Western concept of love since Plato seems to fall into error in many ways. It thinks of love as a deficit: a longing for something we do not yet own. It is a concept born from the thinking of possession, from the view of the ego as needing to have, rather than as needing to be. … We should therefore understand love as a practice of relatedness between two poles that cannot be united with one another. …
“The fundamental problem of every human relationship accordingly revolved around nearness and distance, or … the tension between self and other. How much can I remain “I myself” in a relationship? How much of myself must I give up for the benefit of the other? Where do I draw the line? Is there even a Me there before a You has begun to truly see me?”
Then there’s this, on the lessons children teach us, and what we must allow for, and not take away from them:
“Children are themselves the essence of the living. They are prompted to be aimlessly creative in that undetermined zone between risk and security. In play they constantly define life as the creative transition between control and uncontrollableness. …
“The child’s gift to us is the knowledge that people already have everything they are looking for. We simply must not allow it to be taken out of our hands.
That precious thing that we already have at the beginning of life is our love for the world.” …
“And this is precisely what many adults most deeply abuse in their wish to educate and raise their children: They prey upon their children’s aliveness in order to strengthen their own, which they lost because their own prior connection with the creative world was snatched away from them.”
And lastly, most profoundly, this, about the instructive nature of the natural world:
“Unlike a human being, the natural world discloses its existential constitution to us without shyness, shame, or ulterior motives. … Nature can thus be defined as a space in which the experience of aliveness is revealed. In it, the actions of plants and animals always show their feelings honestly and forthrightly. They are evident in their bodies. … “Nature is fully alive. … It is the space that conceals no feelings and therefore allows us to admit our own feelings.”
All of this has boiled itself, during those precious sparse hiking and woods-jogging miles and sleep-deprived days and nights, into this: that living creatively, authentically, as a participant in that thing that runs all of this — love — means acknowledging, feeling, softening to, engaging with everything that is. Not what could or should or might be, or what we’d prefer, or what we long for. Means accepting the sad, gritty, tragic, gorgeous, painful. Acknowledging death, and honoring it. Ceasing that perpetual need to change things, to control them, and understanding that I couldn’t if I tried. Breathing through all of that. And laughing.
It is mulberry season, after all.