Derrick Jensen and Charles Eisenstein Fistfight in Heaven

I have just read Charles Eisenstein’s freshly published essay, Standing Rock: A Change of Heart. This is fortuitous, since I’d been wanting to write about how it feels to be immersed in Derrick Jensen’s perspective versus how it feels to be immersed in Charles Eisenstein’s.

Reading A Language Older Than Words a few weeks ago (followed by What We Leave Behind), I noticed ghosts rising up, between the lines – whose voice does this voice remind me of? Oh yes, I realized – Jensen’s writing style echoes Eisenstein’s. Both take a measured approach to potentially inflammatory material; both logically, methodically build a fully furnished conceptual structure in which a reader could choose to live. Both marry clarity with eloquence; both work (I am guessing) extremely hard to avoid being misunderstood.

Yet the results – the conceptual houses, and how it feels to inhabit them – could not be more different.

Since early 2012, I have dwelt, on and off, in versions of Eisenstein’s house. Here, miracles happen (miracles meaning phenomena not possible from within my current story); here, the world can be healed by webs of relationships and spirals of gifts. This house is a live-in cathedral; it has high ceilings, and tall windows admitting floods of light. It invites me to gaze up, and out, in wonder.

Before the 2008 election (and its predecessor, the bailout) I paid a visit to Jensen’s house; after the 2016 election, I paid another. Here, miracles as Eisenstein defines them are magical thinking; here, wildness alone can renew us, and to preserve what little is left we must fight. This house is a hovel. A shack with sooty panes and splintered siding, a wood stove warming a tiny radius. It warns me to hunker down and huddle; the wind outside is worse.

Why is there a question, regarding which house I would choose? Because cathedrals are just as likely as hovels to collapse, in earthquakes, and cathedrals have farther to fall.

Meaning, what if the hovel is real, the cathedral a fantasy? Given a choice between prolonging a dream, and letting truth shatter it, I’ll take the latter.

Then again, there must be a third way. There always is. Maybe I don’t choose one house over the other; maybe I wander from one to the next, then elsewhere, then beyond the reach of my map. Maybe I track joy deep into the woods, whether or not I believe I can find my way back.