Scrypt: The Fruitful Darkness
The human power trip began when the first sown seeds sprouted into successful farms. Ever since then, civilizations (especially Western ones) have fought tooth and nail to suppress nature’s might, initially for the greater good of humans. Those were some of the founding moments of the Anthropocene.
Now, we’re living in a perverse form of that mentality, and it’s left modern individuals devoid of natural appreciation. Nature’s splendors are categorized as props, price tags, or pests, and are dealt with minimal long-term regard. Our disconnection with the lands and the species within them has left modern humanity suffering not only physically, but mentally and spiritually as well.
Anthropologist, ecologist and Buddhist Joan Halifax identified developed society’s spiritual emptiness, and fled the States to traverse the globe. Her book The Fruitful Darkness: Reconnecting with the Body of the Earth (1994) weaves a looming reflection of what nature and those in tune with nature have taught her about relationships between humans, their environments, and one’s self.
Between circling Tibet’s Mount Kailas during a Buddhists’ pilgrimage and speaking with elders from Native American tribes, Halifax realized that spiritual connectivity and synergy between one and the environment is the best way to understand one’s place in the world. Her masterful prose breaks down key themes that aim to bring about enlightenment, including the appreciation of silence, the significance of the storytelling experience, the potency of languages that transcends organized words, and other cerebral concepts.
Halifax often delves into harrowing emotions including insecurity, fear, and doubt in many of her own stories which she shares with the reader. She ultimately believes such hardship is a necessary evil to triumph as she brilliantly sums up the nature of self-discovery through the Earth in the following realization:
As a Western Woman, whatever I have learned about the nature of the self…has been by going inward and down into the fruitful darkness, the darkness of culture, the darkness of psyche, the darkness of nature. The most important secrets seem always to hide in the shadows. “The secrets of life,” say the Utes, “is in the shadows and not in the open sun; to see anything at all, you must look deeply into the shadow of a living thing.
Realizing silence and solitude hold little intrinsic value in society, Halifax questions the aversion and fear of meditative silence. The inability to slow down enough to take note of the simplest, yet most powerful forces around us proves to be a communal hindrance, as there needs to be a level of quiet in order to understand and process everything occurring around us. Society is so loud that most individuals never have or make time to truly ponder its inner workings.
The ‘sacred silence’ Halifax speaks of is a distressing one most tend to avoid like the plague, where dwelling on issues bring discomfort and displeasure. However, she argues that avoiding silent reflection is the issue, since the woes of humans tend to bring out strength, ingenuity, and genuine reactions and emotions that would better serve both the individual and humanity as a whole.
She also talks about the demonization of nature, a very obvious notion identifiable in current events and certain government legislation worldwide. Humans’ desire to control every aspect of their surroundings and their unwillingness to adapt to nature’s ever-changing ways has hindered us more than helped us. Halifax challenges readers to appreciate and respect both the animate and inanimate entities nature provides us with in the same way indigenous communities have practiced and continue to practice today.
What seems chaotic in the wilderness is no more or less chaotic than our urban and suburban jungles, yet if we learn to adapt and co-exist, there is potential to help rectify the damaged mindset that nature in its unadulterated state brings about certain death or barbarism. In fact, Halifax feels it is essential if we ever wish to truly understand ourselves and the connections we share with the planet.
The Fruitful Darkness has multiple editions available, with the most recent published in 2004. Varied editions are available at online retailers for under $10 including Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Powell’s and Half. It’s a powerful, thought-provoking read that should make its way into any Flora Goth’s library.