e89 excerpts from ben okri’s ‘artists must confront the climate crisis’

This content is also available in / Ce contenu est également disponible sur: Français

episode 89 features quotes from Artists must confront the climate crisis – we must write as if these are the last days by Nigerian novelist and poet Ben Okri from the November 12, 2021 edition of The Guardian newspaper. Okri writes about existential creativity and call for a new philosophy for these times, with an excerpt from episode 87 kendra fanconi. Cover art is a collection of flowers and fruits by Jeannine Schryer of Ottawa.

conscient podcast episode 89, Sunday, December 5, 2021, 7.32 pm

I’m back in Ottawa and I’m going to record this monologue in one take, as I have been doing since the beginning of season 3 of this podcast. So here we go. 

Today’s episode features quotes from Artists must confront the climate crisis – we must write as if these are the last days by Nigerian novelist and poet Ben Okri from the November 12, 2021 edition of The Guardian newspaper.

Here is the first quote from Ben Okri’s article: 

Here we are on the edges of the biggest crisis that has ever faced us. We need a new philosophy for these times, for this near-terminal moment in the history of the human. It is out of this I want to propose an existential creativity. How do I define it? It is the creativity wherein nothing should be wasted. As a writer, it means everything I write should be directed to the immediate end of drawing attention to the dire position we are in as a species. It means that the writing must have no frills. It should speak only truth. In it, the truth must be also beauty. It calls for the highest economy. It means that everything I do must have a singular purpose. It also means that I must write now as if these are the last things I will write, that any of us will write. If you knew you were at the last days of the human story, what would you write? How would you write? What would your aesthetics be? Would you use more words than necessary? What form would poetry truly take? And what would happen to humour? Would we be able to laugh, with the sense of the last days on us?

Words like this provide clarity and insight, don’t they?

I think they help contextualize complexity and they help us cut through destructive fantasies like endless growth.

They literally lay out the truth so that we can see, and hear, the world in which we live, as it really is and it reminds me what a zen teacher once told me: 

Zen practice shows us how to take care and take responsibility with, and as each moment, by opening attention to reality and responding to what actually needs to be done.

It being December, Okri’s words are all the more poignant as we enter this crazy period of hyper consumerism that we call the holiday season. 

This is how Okri concludes his article and I encourage you to read the entire thing: 

This is the best and most natural home we are ever going to have. And we need to become a new people to deserve it. We are going to have to be new artists to redream it. This is why I propose existential creativity, to serve the unavoidable truth of our times, and a visionary existentialism, to serve the future that we must bring about from the brink of our environmental catastrophe. We can only make a future from the depth of the truth we face now.

I’m intrigued by this notion of existential creativity, and I wonder what it might sound like?

(Sound of a piece of paper ripping)

Maybe it sounds like a piece of paper being torn. 

Once torn, the paper cannot be put back together again, like Humpty-Dumptyand one is left holding the pieces. 

More on the sound of some of these concepts in a future episode. 

I’ll end with an excerpt from episode 87, where theatre artist Kendra Fanconi comments upon Ben Okri’s article: 

We are all artists of the Anthropocene. We inherently are because this is the world that we’re living in right now. There’s no other world. We were down earlier at Robert’s Creek (BC) and it’s a salmon bearing stream. I think of it like we’re artists in the Anthropocene, like fish would be in the ocean: the water is all around us and the Anthropocene is all around us. I think it may be what Ben Okri is tasking us with is: can you describe the water? It’s all we know, but we need to be able to look from this moment now into the future and maybe that’s the job of artists. We’re the visionaries, we can see the future and we can envision it in different ways. I think he speaks to that too at the end of the article about saying part of why we need to talk about the times we’re in now is in relationship to a future, whatever that future looks like. And I do spend a lot of time trying to negotiate my belief in the future.

I wish you peace, peace of mind as you negotiate your own belief in the future.  

I want to thank Ben Okri and The Guardian newspaper for sharing these words and Kendra for her reflections upon them. 

And I thank you, for listening. 

The act of listening, to me, and maybe I should say the art of listening, true listening, sincere and radical listening, through to the depth of the truth, is at the heart of this moment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

To submit audiovisual responses, contact me at claude@conscient.ca and I will send you a link. You can also welcome to submit a link with your response on another media (YouTube, Vimeo, etc)