Things in the world have been growing darker and darker for a while now. But last night, upon hearing news of the Nice attack, something shifted inside of me. A new layer of horror, of sorrow, of fear—this is no longer becoming a reality. It is a reality. This unbounded, rampant hate. We opened Pandora's box a long time ago, and then forgot what it might mean. Now, I fear, we are remembering, and it is terrible. The level of uncontrollable hatred is reaching a mythic pitch, and I am taking solace, sips of hope and prayer, from the grounds of story. Today I came across a passage I'd read before in a wonderful 1983 essay by Ursula Le Guin ("A Left-Handed Commencement Address," given at Mills College, printed in her collection Dancing at the Edge of the World). It struck a new chord. This morning in bed I was thinking about how we will get nowhere fighting hate with hate. We never have. We will be stuck in a cycle of blood feuds and vengeance and sorrow forever. And yet no western power is going to turn now to the Middle East with any measure of compassion, or the question— what is it we have done to create such poison? What can we do to heal this terrible, terrible wound without more loss of life?
The only way out of any of it, of all of it, seems to me to be the way we will not go as a society, the way of gentleness, of compassion, of the dark and nourishing earth... As Ursula writes:
In our society, women have lived, and have been despised for living, the whole side of life that includes and takes responsibility for helplessness, weakness, and illness, for the irrational and the irreparable, for all that is obscure, passive, uncontrolled, animal, unclean—the valley of the shadow, the deep, the depths of life. All that the Warrior denies and refuses is left to us and the men who share it with us and therefore, like us, can't play doctor, only nurse, can't be warriors, only civilians, can't be chiefs, only indians. Well, so that is our country. The night side of our country. If there is a day side to it, high sierras, prairies of bright grass, we only know pioneer's tales about it, we haven't got there yet. We're never going to get there by imitating Machoman. We are only going to get there by going our own way, by living there, by living through the night in our own country.
So what I hope for you is that you live there not as prisoners, ashamed of being women, consenting captives of a psychopathic social system, but as natives. That you will be at home there, keep house there, be your own mistress, with a room of your own. That you will do your work there, whatever you are good at, art or science or tech or running a company or sweeping under the beds, and when they tell you its's second-class work because a woman is doing it, I hope you tell them to go to hell and while they're going to give you equal pay for equal time. I hope you live without the need to dominate, and without the need to be dominated. I hope you are never victims, but I hope you have no power over other people. And when you fail, and are defeated, and in pain, and in the dark, then I hope you will remember that darkness is your country, where you live, where no wars are fought and no wars are won, but where the future is. Our roots are in the dark; the earth is our country. Why did we look up for blessing—instead of around and down? What hope we have lies there. Not in the sky full of orbiting spy-eyes and weaponry, but in the earth we have looked down upon. Not from above, but from below, Not in the light that blinds, but in the dark that nourishes, where human beings grow human souls.
For at least the last five thousand years, the western world has been wracked and wracked again by war, led by a patriarchy that settles conflicts and takes what it wants by force. This isn't going to work any more. Already we can see it isn't working. The question is, how can we walk, all of us, into the hope that lies in the roots in the earth and keep our torches aloft? Really, I have hardly a clue. All I can say is — may we find the wisdom of the dark and feminine country, of the earth that grows human souls, of the land where there is no war, before it is too late.