Nature as a Culture, as a Journey

Photo by Daniel D'Auria https://flic.kr/p/8MjhtjPrior to “The Temporary Autonomous Zone,” Hakim Bey wrote a number of “Communiques of the Association for Ontological Anarchy,” which led up to both the TAZ essay and the idea itself. Although each one is unique and stands alone, sometimes the crossover produces interesting results.

In “Post-Anarchism Anarchy,” a March 1987 edition of the Communiques (all of which can also be found in the book containing the TAZ essay), Bey outlines the then-current program of the “A.O.A.” The final point talks about the “despatialization” of post-Industrial society as having some benefits (such as horizontal communication through technology, like computers), but also some major problems: homelessness, gentrification, the erasure of Nature, etc.

The question of land refuses to go away. How can we separate the concept of space from the mechanisms of control? The territorial gangsters, the Nation/States, have hogged the entire map. Who can invent for us a cartography of autonomy, who can draw a map that includes our desires?

Bey goes a little ways toward answering this question in “For a Congress of Weird Religions.” He begins by likening the Zen Buddhist concept of satori to the situationist concept of the “revolution of everyday life” (also the title of Raoul Vaneigem‘s seminal work), and works his way toward an endorsement of what he calls the “Free Religions” (Discordianism, chaos and Kaos Magik, anarchist Christians, Magical Judaism, Church of the SubGenius, etc.). In the process, he compares two terms, one specific to the situationists, the other to sufism. His descriptions have a specific poetic quality to them, so I’ll quote him in full:

“The dérive or ‘drift’ was conceived as an exercise in deliberate revolutionizing of everyday life — a sort of aimless wandering thru city streets, a visionary urban nomadism involving an openness to ‘culture as nature’ (if I grasp the idea correctly) — which by its sheer duration would inculcate in the drifters a propensity to experience the marvelous; not always in its beneficent form perhaps, but hopefully always productive of insight — whether thru architecture, the erotic, adventure, drink & drugs, danger, inspiration, whatever — into the intensity of unmediated perception & experience.

“The parallel term in sufism would be ‘journeying to the far horizons’ or simply ‘journeying,’ a spiritual exercise which combines the urban & nomadic energies of Islam into a single trajectory, sometimes called ‘the Caravan of Summer.’ The dervish vows to travel at a certain velocity, perhaps spending no more than 7 nights or 40 nights in one city, accepting whatever comes, moving wherever signs & coincidences or simply whims may lead, heading from power-spot to power-spot, conscious of ‘sacred geography,’ of itinerary as meaning, of topology as symbology.”

Although Bey didn’t necessarily intend it this way, the “constellation” (as he puts it) makes me think of a combination of these two practices. The dérive with plenty of literature available, and various experiments carried on to this day — is primarily conceived of as an urban undertaking, and often not lasting more than a day or several. Journeying, on the other hand, eschews the difference between city and country, but at the same time, because of its regulations (like traveling at a certain velocity), perhaps loses some of the elements of spontaneity and chance that make up the dérive.

To put these two together, to take the best of both worlds, imagine a practice of journeying throughout city and country: without time constraints or specific goals, but with a spontaneity influenced by all manner of surroundings (from forest to garden to city plaza), perhaps one could fuse and confuse the difference between urban and natural. I might have spoken to soon, as I do see one goal here: to erase the “erasure of Nature” that has taken over too much of the world.

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About the Author

I like to write, make films, play and watch soccer, meditate, read, and wander. I also enjoy psychogeography, Filipino cinema, craft beer, and strawberry shortcake. You can find me on Twitter and Google +.