Monday, November 7, 2011
A Letter To The Future
Copyright Lance Kinseth, Where Is The True Jewel, 20"x24, 2006
DEAR SIRS AND MADAMES
You have found these pages, perhaps yellowed and tattered.
Just now as I write, cardinals feed by the window at dusk and cinnamon squirrels dolphin through the snow inside a silence contrived of no perceptible wind and the horizontal and fading Western light of the sun. A moment such as this seems to me to be that for which we are likely living in any culture in any era. I pray that such a moment has endured for you. This seems to me to be the very best of human life, free for the taking, from which we unendingly find the true directive forward.
In my brief turn in time, in my “post-industrial” era that is dissolving dichotomies of opposites, human life has imagined itself to be separate and above the landscape. Perhaps our era will seem to you to be as shrouded in a veil of ignorance as the pre-literate era that preceded our era had seemed to us. I suspect that if you continue to exist, your era has perhaps have activated and optimized a wildness that is now only vaguely present in my mine. It is my belief that you will have continued to carry forward wildness as the enduring preservation of the world.
In my era, we have just begun to discover our first words that say how we are still deep within a landscape that extends into infinities of smallness and largeness, that human life is still very young in the life of the Earth, that this planetary landscape seamlessly includes human life, and that human life remains enduringly wild. Perhaps this point seems so obvious to you from your pinnacle of the far future. In my era, such a stance is seen as a delusion.
In my age, we have only just begun to dream that the city is a gift from the Earth, and that it is capable of infolding into the Earth. We have only begun to dream that the city is moving toward peace with the universe, and that to flower it must open widely to the Earth and to the stars like the wave opens to the longer reach of itself, the ocean.
There are a few among us who are beginning to see the city-form as a prayer that we are making, and not as desolate machine apart. There are a few among us who are just beginning to see city as a chrysalis that is gathering human life, forming the wings that can carry it into the far future. Still, we are beginning to comprehend that like a butterfly, the city is not here to endure. To continue to exist and wildly flourish, it must enduringly become the beyond of itself. Our task is to flower and to wither and to seed again, to open more than stop, and to be a gate rather than a wall. The city is a seed, alive, an oasis in the universe and not a reliquary.
The true architecture of human habitation in my era, and perhaps in any era, is cloud-like, effusive—cloud-hidden. Any city is still a young storm of schemes, a jungle-form of shapes and speech, with seedlings sprouting in concrete cracks and rivers and rivulets, beetles under humus and chickens braising on the grill, children scrawling on paper in kindergartens, a car accident and a nest of birds, and rising energy prices and corroding water lines. There is no end to the subtlety of any one of its moments and no end to its tale whether it continues in your life to wear the name “city” or not.
A half millennium before me, the exquisite fabric of the late Italian Renaissance seemed to be the top of the mountain of human development. This sense of being at the pinnacle has plagued human life through the ages. Each age has presumed itself to be at least the penultimate if not the ultimate of human development. But the human perspective is narrow and not exclusively unique and apart. In any era, all of the events of the present moment—the weathers, the words, the exquisite architectures of uninhabited and built landscapes-- are just the wave crest of an underlying oceanus of nature.
Still, I expect that there is an enduring sensitivity that continues to lead human life to imagine that it perches on a pinnacle of sorts, separate and above the world, that makes us genuinely feel as poet, Mark Strand writes, “In a field/ I am the absence of the field.”[i] And so I presume that whoever reads this letter will have gravitated to it by a “bothered sense” that I have in my “primal” post-industrial age. I presume that I am talking to someone who has experienced this natural confusion of apartness and inclusion, just as I do when I enter the written words of my predecessors whom I read in my era as brothers’ and sisters’ in arms.
It is my greatest hope that the crow is still with you, and red rock, and especially “tricksters” such as the dandelion that are radical expressions of the sun as well as radical expressions of stars that are, in turn, radical expressions of a galaxy that is lost among galaxies that are, in turn, lost among universes.
Thank you for giving over a few moments of your precious time to these
My very best to you,
[i] Mark Strand, from “Keeping Things Whole,” in Sleeping With One Eye Open. Iowa City, Stone Wall Press, 1964; reprinted in Mark Stand, Selected Poems. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1991, p. 11.