What’s interesting about animism or paganism—the pre-monotheistic religions—is that the world is, if you like, enchanted. That is to say, every hill, every stream, every rock has a spirit of its own. Every river, every natural object has a spirit that has to be somehow taken account of or placated. Of course hunters and gatherers pay close attention to nature in a way that agriculturalists don’t have to. But I would argue that the world of spirits in nature in pre-monotheism is a view of nature that is more likely to be respectful of the limits of nature, that is to say, foragers will only hunt males, or will preserve small fish so that they will be around for a sustainable yield much later. There’s a sense of respecting the natural limits and rhythms of the natural world, both out of self-interest and out of a respect for its own agency.
Very small but potent images of American ruin I saw today: Sad little mutant in a MAGA hat. A ballerina in a black leotard and skirt twirling. When I caught sight of her face I saw that she was wearing a surgical mask. Perhaps it’s wishful thinking but there’s a sense of real ruin in America. Not just Trump or Obama or whatever nonsense, or even the state of the economy, but something deeper. It’s exciting and nauseating, like coming home after a break in and feeling the sense that some other presence has come and gone.