We certainly navigate in uncertain times. In fact, it has always been that way, with the challenges and setbacks of every era, as human communities have always tried to predict, plan, and find solutions to their difficulties. Today, perhaps, more difficult to digest due to their global impact and the speed at which they invade us at every moment, wherever we are.
Culturally, on the European continent, we have assumed, especially since the Enlightenment, that objective data and the facts that come from them are the only way to access knowledge, truth, and its consequences. Today, more than ever, in a society of information technology, conspiracies, and fake news, at incredible velocity, we have access to many numbers, metrics, and measurements as we navigate among invisible algorithms, searching for the final solution. We have access to studies, graphs, statistics, documents, and research that point to a bleak future, underlining that our hyper-individualistic, technological, extractivist, and industrialized trajectory is heading at tremendous speed toward the tragic wall of extinction — this on top of the intensity of what we already experience among each other’s challenges, pandemic, authoritarianism, war, and escalating prices. We are increasingly frightened and startled, with no way to digest and incorporate what is happening around us.
Those who work, trans- and interdisciplinary, generating and sharing studies and research, cross-referencing information and climate and social change measures, are always directly exposed to the tearing violence of this tragic data.
Scientists, researchers, and activists are in deep dismay and exhaustion, tired of the non-existent response and pressured by the threat and oppression of the data they encounter. Exhaustively they search for the solution and answer while sharing their findings and conclusions, all in constant anguish, fear, and distress.
They suffer from depression and eco-anxiety about the world’s evils that they feel burning their skin every moment. They struggle with mind and heart, supported by statistics and objective observations. But they exhaust themselves in the coldness of the data, with no way to regenerate or to feel supported.
In most of these scientific groups, highly concerned and informed about the course of things, one also finds the perversity of the modern, absolutist mind, be it in trying to find “final, economically viable, global and practical” solutions or in the tragic “intellectual” disgust and shame as a direct reaction to other ways of being and understanding reality. I refer specifically to the ancient wisdom of the three M’s: Mystery, Metaphors, and Myths.
The modern illiteracy of Mystery, reduces and domesticates its territory to the realm of religious faith, objectifying it as “inferior and primitive” and limiting it to the field of esotericism, lost in ignorant and, god forbid, even supernatural dogmas and rituals. Not able to sustain the paradox of different polarities of perceiving the world.
Mystery’s literacy whispers to the limited modern mind the immaturity of conceiving a world without the certainty of facts. There are no intermediates or ambiguities in this reality, where categories are factual, and thresholds are to be avoided in a perspective that deludes itself in control. This mysterious wild wisdom of Mystery and Life does not soothe the distress but helps to navigate with it.
The western modern mind, considered intellectually superior, understands the three M’s as primitive and childish ways of interpreting reality, for they are not factual, measurable, or objective. After all, at best stories are for children, serving only as empty fantasies to escape a painful reality, or at worst political propaganda. The essential things are technical and always with production and economical advantageous results. On the other hand, the cruel search for global solutions based on objective data constantly runs into the real and unique contexts of each place and population, offering no true space for the triumphant answer of the final solution, as the modern mind and culture constantly expect. Just another tragic limitation of the modern narrative of the transcendent, trapped in the unique legitimacy of anthropocentric absolutism.
Indeed, having access to all this information is very violent and heart-wrenching, and without emotional literacy, it becomes too difficult to digest, incorporate or regenerate. The point is that without the valuable living threads of Metaphors, Myths and Mystery, we easily find ourselves climbing cold, mirrored, slippery, devastatingly sharp, and cutting glass mountains, opening ever deeper emotional wounds through which strength, will, and presence are sapped. Where we lose Life.
Without the 3 M’s, there are no more threads of deep relationships that sustain and tether us in an uncertain world. The modern scientific reality, exclusively anthropocentric, is an orphan of deep connections, those that nurture, shelter, and support.
In favor of the rawness and coldness of facts, and to keep ourselves valid, we have exiled emotional and bodily wisdom, separating ourselves tragically from the world we urgently want to save. We no longer see, feel, hear, smell, or touch these powerful threads of more-than-human dialogue.
“Meta,” is a prefix to words like metaphysics, metaphor, metabolism, meta-message, and so many others. This prefix comes from ancient Greek μετα- (meta-), from μετά (meta-), from Mycenaean Greek 𐀕𐀲 (me-ta), possibly from Proto-Indo-European *meth (“in-between”). Its Greek meaning is “between, with, after,”. In one of its interpretations, Meta describes the transcendence of the original boundaries beyond.
Here I want to rescue one of the oldest territories of this prefix, essential to Mystery literacy and opening space to the fertile and necessary field of Eco-Mythology. Here, we recall the prefix Meta, not as transcendence or abstraction beyond things, but as nuclear and immanent wisdom, always in living, unfolding, speaking of what can be inferred or implied. We leave the “high” levels of intellectual conceptions and return to the middle, to the center of the body, and the nucleus of sensory experience, of the threads of deep relation, referred to earlier.
The point is that the normative exclusivity of transcendence and abstraction, as the only valid path to truth or solution in the service of “higher” human consciousness, exiles and silences the intense but subtle animistic immanence. Ignoring thresholds and shape-shifting. Mutilating the fractal wisdom of paradoxes, which allows us to rescue forgotten and silenced parts of ourselves, those that are not accepted in a causal and factual culture, but that remember the stories that sustain us.
Eco-mythology and integrated wisdom
Eco-Mythology is, therefore, a space-time that allows the remembrance of our integrated, contextual wisdom. A place, both internal and external, where we heal the deep relationship and wholeness wisdom we carry in the body in subtle non-hierarchical, and more than human dialogue. Inspired by the precepts of ecopsychology, eco-spirituality, animism, and stories as living and dynamic resources that help sustain and alchemize the pains, and griefs of facts. Eventually, fertilizing solutions.
Eco-Mythology brings ground, web, and valuable threads of living connection. We venture beyond the solutionist tyranny.
Eco-Mythology opens an organic space where we have a license to feel and, more importantly, not to know, celebrating Mystery’s regenerative and creative value. Lifting the veil of invisible but pernicious cultural narratives, we re-encounter, without appropriating, other ways of being and different ways of being world. The challenge is to unlearn western normality, composting what we think we know (yes, even objectivity, linear and factual as the only way to understand the world) or need, the way we act or plan. There are no triumphant arrivals or universal solutions, for we live in a multidimensional, highly alive, and complex pluriverse of multiple relationships happening at every moment.
We curiously continue to ask questions, not limited to the modern mind, as we open ourselves to systemic queries and more than human dialogues.
Eco-Mythology is one way (not the only way) of navigating and entering the valuable and wild complexity, the uniqueness of each context and Life, remembering and recreating the stories and places, listening again to their non-verbal but real wisdom.
Eco-Mythology does not intend to superficialize or limit itself to the structure of the linear mono-myth of the hero, proposing a fractal and kaleidoscopic pilgrimage, working from joy to grief, in the organic and complete cycle between Life and Death, rescuing and re-creating a diverse ecosystem of stories, myths, and tales.
Eco-Mythology is thus an immanent life practice, sustained by the necessary literacy of Mystery, Metaphors, and Myths, unfolding through places, the body, cycles, stories, and tales. A multidisciplinary invitation to presence and listening, in deep responsibility and commitment. A license to imagine, relate, dialogue, and offer ourselves back to Life, in all its fragility and potency, sustaining our pain and anxiety, fertilizing spontaneous possibilities. We need to tend to the freedom of Mystery, for Eco-Mythology, embraces us through the ecosystems and Life itself, reminding of the perverse dictatorship of modern “utility and production”. To arrive at “useful” solutions, we need to listen again in deep intimacy.
By Sofia Batalha
Mammal, author, woman-mother, and question weaver one day at a time. Awkward prose-poet with no grammatical knowledge. Pilgrim through inner and outer landscapes, remembering ancient earth practices, in radical presence, active listening, ecopsychology, art, ecstasy, and writing. Author of eight books, editor of the free online magazine, Wind and Water, Re-member the Bones Podcast, and Beyond the Sea Conversations — all in Portuguese.
More information: sofiabatalha.com or Instagram: @serpentedalua