Moth to a Flame


The green areas on this map (from the Forest Frontiers Initiative) are all that is left of the world’s wild forests, the only remaining areas that are large enough and sufficiently intact to support a natural and largely undiminished ecosystem. At current rates of deforestation they will all be gone in 50 years. The light brown areas are degraded forest, fragile and disrupted and now dependent on human ‘management’. Both the light and dark brown areas, comprising half of the world’s land surface, were wild forests as recently as 8,000 years ago. And most of the world’s deserts and grasslands, shown in white, have also been, at least intermittently, wild forests since the end of the last ice age, before human civilization spread across the Earth.

I think I am irrepressibly, compulsively drawn to ‘gentle’ beauty, and grace.

Some evidence:

  • What I have been looking for in a ‘winter home’ here in New Zealand and Australia is a place of extraordinary physical, natural beauty. I have come to see cities as ugly, fragile and crumbling human artifacts that deny and work against nature. Likewise farms and fields, monocultural lands that have been made possible by the atrocious razing of ancient forests. I have found beaches of staggering beauty here, but the best of them have no real forests nearly. So I am coming to the conclusion that my summer home on Bowen Island, Canada will have to fill my need for wild forests, and my winter home (probably Down Under) will fill my need for warm white sand and blue seas. As much as I appreciate and love to visit wild places that are windy or cold or rocky, I am not at home in such places. I long to find and belong to the last few places on Earth that are both gentle and wild.
  • What I look for in people is likewise gentle yet wild beauty. That can be physical, or emotional (strength, sensitivity, grace and creativity — I am drawn to artists who share my sense of unbearable grief for Gaia’s death), or intellectual (wit, articulation and ideas can also be beautiful). I don’t even have to have a personal relationship with these people — it’s enough to be in their presence, seeing, hearing, reading, witnessing their beauty.
  • I am also drawn to beautiful aesthetics on a smaller scale, both natural and human-made (light and shadow, scents, music, art, the tastes of natural food and the sounds of wild birds, trees and surf).
  • Although I once swore I had no needs, only wants, I think I was self-deluded. I need these different kinds of beauty like I need air. Without them I am apart, empty. Without them I retreat inside my head and imagine them. From too much practice I have developed a great imagination, invented a whole world of beauty to replace what has not been in my ‘real’ life. I was drawn to the virtual world of Second Life not for the usual reasons many others were (loneliness, boredom, low self-esteem etc.) but because it is a place of great, collectively-imagined and collectively-created beauty. More ‘real’ than my imagination, and who is to say any less ‘real’ than the physical world?

I don’t know why I need such beauty, or why this need drives so much of my passions and behaviour. When I am surrounded by gentle beauty I am both happy and present, in that magic state of awareness and relaxation that makes everything possible and effortless. In this state I often do my best creative work, and my best writing, and in this state I am most in love. In this state I can spend most of each day just eating and sleeping and playing and making love, and still sometimes somehow find the time to reflect and create and do what I do best to make the world a better place.

When this profound beauty is missing from my life, anxiety rushes in to fill the void, and with it the need to retreat back inside my head, to shun all responsibility and commitment, to create space and time for me to hide from all my fears and anxieties, to imagine them away.

I think this insatiable desire to be surrounded by physical, emotional, intellectual, erotic, sensory and aesthetic beauty accounts for much of my recent and intended behaviour — my move to Bowen Island, my polyamory lifestyle, my desire for company and for time and space alone, my endless fascination with walking at night, sleeping in safe wild places, brilliant women (and sometimes men), raw foods, marathon sex, candlelight, firelight and streetlight, world-weary women singer-songwriters, clever humour, silly infectious childlike laughter until you almost make yourself sick, intense late-night philosophic conversations, making love in the forest and on the beach, brilliant evocative writing, the sight of birds soaring.

Perhaps I’ve never grown up, and that’s why I want to cocoon myself in an impossible world of limitless and inextinguishable beauty. Perhaps I just can’t bear to face, and truly live in, the terrible ‘real’ world. Perhaps I just can’t see the terrible beauty of the real world. Perhaps I’m just still tired, exhausted, from living most of my life as a sheep in wolf’s clothing, pretending, from necessity, to be what I was not for so long I have forgotten who I really am. Still living in my sleep.

When I find out, I will let you know. Until then at least, this blog will continue to be my diary of discovery and learning, sometimes about the world and what must be done, but mostly about myself. I hope it will continue to be of use to you, dear readers, in your own journeys, until I am ready to face the real world and, finally, be of use to it. I owe the world that much, and more.

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16 Responses to Moth to a Flame

  1. Pingback: Moth to a Flame « how to save the world-Discover the magic | Discover the magic

  2. Rita says:

    So glad to see a post from you, as I feel so much like you do, but you are saying some things others keep to themselves. Even your photo looks vulnerable. Bravo for that. Your blog has soul.

    I have noticed a tendency in myself to despair of this whole bloody mess a bit less when my nutritional needs are over-met – mostly by eating a ton of greens, preferably wild ones.

    More and more each year, my life runs very well without machines, electricity and fossil fuels, including plastics, solvents and so forth. But the internet is too important to me to give up. Drat. Maybe some day. It’s a dilemma. Otherwise, all addictions have faded. Thank God. The cell phone is gone, at least. Thank Goddess.

  3. Gena says:

    So…you are starting to truly hear and feel the inner resonance huh? That is good. It is more honest. Most of us need the kind of beauty that you describe. We incorporate what we can into our lives.

    It is hard to articulate being in sync with the Earth voice with all the distractions of the world; we get lost in the toys, noise and for many of us, being in survival mode.

    Maybe saving the world means saving and nourishing our souls first. Then seek out connecting with others. I don’t know. For all of the plans I’ve seen you make about communities it does seem that is the path that you are moving toward.

    Somewhere I hear a spirit laughing.

  4. Bill Martin says:

    I enjoy the thought of reasonably “safe” wild places. (Nothing is wholly safe, of course) Each of us has an intuitive sense of “place” – different for everyone – that seems to keep encouraging us to seek. I’ve come to be at home in Northern California. Blessings to you as you find your own Place.

  5. BetsyR says:

    How can you consider an annual jet ride from Canada to New Zealand and back saving the world?

  6. Julienz says:

    As a New Zealander I must side with Betsy on this one. While your writing is very romantic and flattering to our country I too am concerned about the cost to the planet of the jet rides.

    I have been thinking about the plight of New Zealand. We were discovered and colonised last not by coincidence but because we are so far away from the rest of the world. I fear we are likely to be the one of first to find ourselves too far away on the industrial world’s supply chain and so forced to face the fact of a world getting bigger again before those based on larger land masses. As a country we are failing to prepare for this eventuality.

    I can identify with the desire to be in New Zealand in the “off season” but it is a luxury. I don’t think it is viable in the long term. Last year I took my kids (18, 16 & 14) to Europe, I did not tell them I felt it might be their only opportunity to ever go there. If it turns out to be the case I hope the richness of what they saw there will add value to what they make of their lives here.

  7. Dave Pollard says:

    For new readers: The message of my blog is that we cannot save the world, and that the world does not need saving. Our civilization will end, and life will go on after its end. More info here. As for my lifestyle and footprint, they are both much less extravagant than they once were. Although we should all strive to lessen our impact on the planet, and use less, even if all of us were to do so it would only delay the demise of our utterly unsustainable civilization by a short time.

    And as for New Zealand’s colonial history, the sixth great extinction began long before Europeans invaded the rest of the world. The large mammals were exterminated by the invention of arrowheads and spears, and as Jared Diamond has explained our civilization was almost certainly doomed as soon as we invented monoculture agriculture 30,000 years ago. All European colonialism and industrial civilization have done is accelerate the pace of our demise.

    But none of this is any reason not to enjoy the wonder and beauty of life on Earth each day. Our grief is well-placed, but not of much use to us or the world.

  8. Dave,
    I really liked this post and the tone of it. The last paragraph opened my heart this morning…to the possibilities of me actually being able to face the real world, sometime, maybe soon.

    You are a pioneer, a pilgrim and a prophet. Thank you for news from the frontlines.

  9. thomas says:

    Hey Dave, nice to read another post from you. In my continual search for “gentle yet wild beauty” I’ve discovered some interesting beings peeking out at me. Wanted to share a video of them with you. Be well and bold. -thomas

  10. Janet says:

    I never knew that there is only little left of these natural wild forest around the world – the impact of the image you posted really shocked me. Numbers and percentages written in an article or post like 10%, or 8% doesn’t really affect me at all – but seeing this map, it’s really staggering. I think everyone should be aware of this and this would also probably wake them up to save what’s left of these natural wild forests. This post really helped me open up my eyes. Thank you.

  11. T says:

    Good Lord. From those of us who are in the ‘real world’ fighting the good fight, trying to be happy and trying to be of use at the same time, these over-romanticized, drippy and yet so cool hedonist posts are getting old. If you don’t want to be around when there is a nuclear war or violence breaks out in the US or half your friends wind up homeless, then you are going to have to help the rest of us out. Just because you can afford to have two homes and live in beautiful places doesn’t mean that the majority of everyone else isn’t a paycheck from losing their shirt,unable to afford to go to such beauty, trapped in the city whether they like it or not. Heck, imagine growing up in Iraq,a bombed out desert.

    There is no mystery to why you feel elated when in beautiful places. Such stunning beauty is that which less than a hundred years ago was called normal. Everyone feels elated in beauty. It just takes a bit of time for those that have not been around it in so long they have grown thick carcasses of hide around themselves in order to survive.

    If all we were to do was find the most nonpainful, gorgeous scenario possible then nothing would get done. There are real people with really harmful intent out there creating destruction on a massive level. All you have to do is to turn on the news to know that.

    We are only going to have real happiness if we find a way to come into balance with the planet as a species. How could anyone be truly happy sheltered from the real world, knowing deep inside that there is a war going on outside their door?

    It is time to return to living in the heart, not just the head. In helping the world to be a better place it is not required that one abandon beauty and love. It is required to find a way to contend with the pain and violence, which is on multiple levels – to contend with it in a way that creates more love. This, people give up on but I do believe it is possible. In waves, it is possible because as life changes, new things become distressing. This is why the activists that last are the ones who have help from Spirit, in whatever spiritual path of their choosing.

    You want to know how to save the world and not burn out? Pick one thing. One thing that you care about it and focus on that. Donate to that: your time, your money, your inspiration, creativity and interest. Pick anything and focus only on that. Don’t worry about other areas. Other people will focus on them. Just make sure you pick something you have passion for, for this passion will drive you to places you have never been you will never again be bored or lacking for something to care about. Even if you wind up taking yummy food to all your favorite groups’ planning meetings, you are helping in ways you could not understand.

    Caring about the world and wanting to help make it a better places is a grand adventure. You get to meet the most amazing people, people who have given their whole lives to what they feel passion for. You get to learn from their adventures and share a few, too.

    Life is grand and some really big party crashers are trying to mess it up. They are oil-hungry, power-crazy, lustful money-drunken lost people with really big guns. The longer we wait to respond, the more soul gets sucked out of our communities by endless billboards and stripmalls, mind-numbing tv and all the rest. Living in a bubble isn’t going to change that. Reaching out and being part of this really big, amazing community of life warriors is the only thing that will.

  12. Paris says:

    Re”# I am also drawn to beautiful aesthetics […]# Although I once swore I had no needs, only wants, I think I was self-deluded.[…] Without them I retreat inside my head and imagine them…..”
    I’m glad you finally admit it!
    I’ve followed you for some years, and know how close our feelings on life are, just as you decribed them in this post.

    Re “I don’t know why I need such beauty, or why this need drives so much of my passions and behaviour.”
    I often feel this is a primitive instinct lying deeply in my brain, sweetly and strongly enticing me to live as humanly as possible. A mere relinquish from a too distant past that has been erased by selective reproduction from most of my peers brain, sadly…

    “When this profound beauty is missing from my life, anxiety rushes in to fill the void”
    I have recently experienced I could die of it, and I suspect most of us, in the capitve zoo of urban/agrarian life do die too soon, therefore decreasing our survival chances (^^)
    Maybe it’s a sign that what we perceived as beauty has to be our Sun and North star in life.

  13. Benjammin says:

    Quite a luxury to be able to travel across the world and live at a place of your choosing. I wouldn’t have the means. But at long as there are forests nearby, I feel ready for anything.

  14. Jon Husband says:

    Thoughtful post, Dave. Maybe we can discuss it in person if I pop over to BI when you are back in North America.

  15. Gerard says:

    Joe Bageant, 1946-2011
    After a vibrant life, Joe Bageant died following a four-month struggle with cancer. He was 64. Joe is survived by his wife, Barbara, his three children, Timothy, Patrick and Elizabeth, and thousands of friends and admirers. He is also survived by his work and ideas.

    According to Joe’s wishes, he will be cremated. His family will hold a private memorial service.

    “Unfortunately I dont think most of America have any idea what they have just lost.”

  16. Mark says:


    check out Bay of Fires Tasmania, Tassie is a truly beautiful place


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