We live beyond your modern man
And all his justifications for his world of progress
And though he has created his alibis by falsifying history
By smearing what was left of our name
By insinuating poisonous myths in the minds of our peoples
By proclaiming himself sovereign at the crossroads of ideologies
This, his modern civilization is not superior
It is not enlightened nor privileged
- “Master of the earth” by Rome
The text above is an excerpt from the one-man band Rome. It’s from one of his most anti-modern albums – The Lone Furrow (2020). The theme in the poem – that modernity and its cult of progress is a dead-end – runs through much of what Paul Kingsnorth, today’s guest, has written and said. He has a background as a journalist, but in 2009 he started the Dark Mountain Project. The manifesto, called Uncivilization, argued that environmental collapse as inevitable and criticized the whole notion of progress.
He left the project in 2017, and released the non-fiction book Confessions of a recovering environmentalist the same year to summarize his experiences. It also delves into why he became disillusioned with the environmental movement he was a part of for so long.
And he also has a Substack newsletter called The Abbey of Misrule. Which I highly recommend, if you find today’s conversation interesting.
In today’s episode I focus on the fantastic essay Paul wrote a couple of years ago called The Cross and The Machine, published first in First Things. (It’s also been translated into Swedish and published by Tidskriften Pilgrim).
In it he tells the story of how he went from being a Dawkins-esque atheist, to an environmental activist on to zenbhuddhism, landing in a witch-coven. Yes, he was a witch for a while. Until he realized that what he was searching for was Christ. Christianity. An answer he didn’t want to receive, but it nevertheless came to him. We also talk about what the machine is, and how to keep oneself from not being swallowed by it. (Spoiler: don’t live your life on your smartphone.)
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