Our Thirst for the Wild Earth
I looked out across the bay at Antarctica’s monumental walls of ice and stone, treacherous peaks with crevasses that watched us with celestial eyes. Despite the warm sun, the crew told us that it was colder than usual for this time of year, and somehow that excited me — the chill in the breeze, the expectancy of danger.
There’s a word taken from Greek, lachesism, which refers to the human hunger for disaster, that feeling you get when you see a thunderstorm in the horizon and find yourself hoping it pours over you. A part of our souls long for it. I shivered as it woke inside of me.
Humans being have always found a sense of intoxication in destruction. Mountaineers scale precipitous peaks to toy with death; deep sea divers strain their lungs to the limit just to be able to lose themselves in the emancipating silence of the abyss; storm chases race into the heart of tornadoes as they rip apart farmlands. And why? Because in that split second, in that moment where your soul brushes with death, it’s just you and the world. Everything else disappears. Life crystallises. It becomes infinitely sharper, visceral, blindingly clear. We seek out moments which allow us to experience something greater than ourselves, to connect beyond the world we think we know, and deep inside we know we crave lachechism.
Above all, perhaps, we thirst for reminders that we live on Earth.
Fundamentally, I think our desire to plunge ourselves headfirst into the proverbial storm goes deeper. We’re born with an innate understanding that the forces of nature are physical manifestations of the latent forces within our own selves. There is nothing that occurs in the outside world that doesn’t exist within your very being. People like Ernest Shackleton, who kept returning time and time again to the very place that almost destroyed him, must have understood this. Our greatest limits lie not in glaciers nor in hurricanes but rather in the locked rooms of our collective psyche. Destruction breeds transformation. Historical arsonists the likes of Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan lay waste to entire civilisations — but look at what rose out of the ashes.
As I stared into the clouds that were slowly building up on the horizon, my thoughts turned to a quote from the works of Kafka. “There is a point beyond which there is no turning back,” he wrote. “That is the point that must be reached”.
Perhaps as a species we have reached our own point of reckoning. Perhaps we too need a reminder — a message from the wilds of the Earth — in order for us to wake up.