Gestalt Residency: Day 5 [The Crest of Enkidu]
“Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand Still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.”
Today, as I move through the land on this last, and uncharacteristically cool, grey morning, I’m drawn to the above poem. I’ve often read it during ceremony, or referenced the article ‘The Wild Human’ by Bill Plotikin from which I first found it. As I’ve had the pleasure this last week of spending my mornings speaking to this land, and doing some thinking about that idea of re-wilding, I’m drawn to thought of Enkidu, the friend and equal of Gilgamesh. He who after being stripped of his ability to run among wild things by lust and distraction, becomes the foil and grounding force for the god king, who upon Enkidu's death would face the idea of his own mortality, and the humility needed to correctly and justly govern his people. But, I continue to wonder if Enkidu, not Gilgamesh is really the more important of the two, or at the least where the line exists between the seeming disparate modes of being: that of the wild and the civilized, the natural and the arbitrarily conventional.
The way I know how to best frame this would be in falling to Emmanuelle Kant, and his notion of categorical distinction. He literally divided philosophical epochs by bypassing both empiricism and rationalism in his assertion that all experience and thus ideological progeny was inherently phenomenal, as opposed to noumenal. In other words, the world that exists outside of our perception is the ‘natural’ world in its most literal sense, and to get to it we must first process it as phenomena, thus being subject to all the twists and turns of our selves. This idea was not to be taken lightly, that empirical inquiry can indeed give us aggregate data, but that at the end of the day, that data only tells half a story, that the mystery and character of our day to day interactions with the world and each other fails to be constrained or catalogued by facts in and of themselves.
Thomas Reid, went further to differentiate natural from artificial language, more importantly to identity that there was a system of communication that existed a priori, and if not for the sake of which, we wouldn’t have been able to craft our cultural conventions that nest atop it.
However these ideas were championed most fiercely by John-Jacque Rousseau in his ‘Education of Emile.’ He believed that civilization as it was juggernauting through history, most specifically in the form of a burgeoning industrialization, stripped man of a vital authenticity, one championed in the noumenal sense. He was a believer in the weight and urgency of a call back to ‘natural man,’ one that attempted to navigate a balance between the authentic and conventional worlds.
And that’s the point, at least for me, here and now in this moment. As I get ready to pack the last of my things had head out West for a week, I sit with how to continually re-integrate those two pieces of a whole, and how my work might offer narratives that compel this dual inquiry within those who interact with it into the larger conversation about authenticity and the merit of as simple a fact as dirty hands.
And so here, on this spot, one that I plan to construct a place of meeting and ceremony, I give blessing, and gratitude to the land, to its genius, and continuity. I lay down the crest of Enkidu and I give thanks.
As for the rest, who the fuck knows about that.