The environment has not only inspired many writers – Wordsworth being an obvious example – but been, to them, an essential part of their being, something which goes beyond, transcends the dull and ordinary world. Some of the best writing on the human spirit is found in nature writing, travel writing, writing that focuses on extreme battles with elements – and specifically, here, mountaineering. The first is by Robert Macfarlane (and it is worth following the link here to read about him):
“Mountains seem to answer an increasing imaginative need in the West. More and more people are discovering a desire for them, and a powerful solace in them. At bottom, mountains, like all wildernesses, challenge our complacent conviction – so easy to lapse into – that the world has been made for humans by humans. Most of us exist for most of the time in worlds which are humanly arranged, themed and controlled. One forgets that there are environments which do not respond to the flick of a switch or the twist of a dial, and which have their own rhythms and orders of existence. Mountains correct this amnesia. By speaking of greater forces than we can possibly invoke, and by confronting us with greater spans of time than we can possibly envisage, mountains refute our excessive trust in the man-made. They pose profound questions about our durability and the importance of our schemes. They induce, I suppose, a modesty in us.”
There are two things to be said here. Firstly, I’ll be looking at a wide range of literature such as this, stuff that may not often find its way into literary circles. Secondly, I’ll be picking up on the point raised by Macfarlane about human-centredness – particularly with reference to the ‘Inhumanist’ poet Robinson Jeffers
Related to Jeffers is the literary and artistic Dark Mountain Project which shares many of the poet’s themes – a deep spirituality and a deep despair of what has been made of life and the planet’.
I’ll also be exploring the emerging interest in psychogeography, a relatively recent neologism but with older roots: how place and mind, affect, spirit interact. The obvious starting place (for me) is with W.G.Sebald.
There is quite a lot compressed into this post which aims to show how one aspect of the blog will develop (and, of course, there is little point trying to demarcate precise classifications of writing; much overlaps). To end, another quote, this time from a mountaineer, Anatoli Boukreev:
“I wanted to achieve something essential in life, something that is not measured by money or position in society… The mountains are not stadiums where I satisfy my ambitions to achieve. They are my cathedrals, the houses of my religion… In the mountains I attempt to understand my life. They are the way I practice my religion. In the mountains I celebrate creation, on each journey I am reborn.”