I will admit: I chose the name of this blog because of equal parts catchiness and Fallow Time. I’d stopped blogging at Mountain, Path, and Pool because I knew that approach to my practice – heavy on the academia and reconstructionism – wasn’t going to serve me of my Gods so much going forward. There was a tectonic shift going on in my life, too, though, which had the effect of narrowing the gap between my conception of the spiritual and the profane, the religious and the secular.
Herein I’m going to attempt to explain what I feel that rotwork – my rotwork – is. But first, a detour through my life.
Back in 2012, the Twins helped me land my dream job (very) shortly after I met them. And I do mean dream job: I was a concept artist for a video game company, working 30 hours a week from home and making $40k a year, working on a game that I thought only existed in my wildest imaginations. They gave me a $2000 computer to use, a $3000 Cintiq, and bought me games to play. Like I said, living the dream.
And if that sounds too good to be true to you, it was. It’s been 5 years, and the game has not gotten out of alpha, let alone shipped. The team is on their third game engine, which they prefer to build from the ground up like delusional madmen. Not a single Kickstarter backer has seen a reward from any tier; they effectively dropped off the map for almost 12 months last year, ceasing all social media and email updates; most of the loyal fanbase is gone; the game resembles nothing close to the pitch that the CEO gave me over Starbucks coffees 4 and a half years ago. And the people involved were unprofessional, keeping poor work/life boundaries; at one point, I was pressured to move into the apartment building the CEO lived in, with a co-worker I barely knew as my roommate. I’m glad I didn’t. I was laid off in 2014, and looking back, I consider myself among the lucky.
That was a hard lesson for me to learn, and I went through something of a dark night of the soul afterwards. I was unemployed for over a year, and couldn’t even find menial work to do. My 2 years making $40k for a video game developer scared most prospective employers away.
The Twins, I believe, taught me a harsh lesson with that period of my life, mirroring, perhaps, their own story: that there is no use in striving to be at the top of the world, because what’s under your feet is usually nothing more than thin air.
I questioned myself a lot after that. I questioned myself as an artist, I questioned the very idea of “getting paid for what you love”. I also questioned the concept of jobs, of getting paid money to do what is essentially meaningless labor that, more often than not, contributes to a culture of disillusionment, addiction, and disconnection between each other, our bodies, and the physical places where we live.
I stopped playing video games after that. I stopped trying to make a living doing art after that, too. And more recently, I’ve given up on careers at all. Over that course of time, I discovered anarchism, primitivism, anti-civilizationism, Ran Prieur, John Michael Greer, Earthships, and all the rest, and familiarized myself with just how far past the point of no return we collectively are. I’ve also decided to embrace death in a very real way. The wet-bulb effect still looms menacingly off on the horizon. The last of us may not be around to usher in the 23rd century, or even the middle of the 22nd.
I’ve found that I don’t much like the world we’ve made, and the world we’ve made doesn’t much like me either. It doesn’t really like anybody, actually.
And that’s OK, in a sense. It is what it is.
It might be said that I’ve become something of a determinist, or a fatalist, I’m not sure which (and don’t really care much either way), but in confronting our collective powerlessness in the face of what we’ve done I’m learning a very deep sort of existential acceptance. A radical acceptance, as I’ve called it before.
Rotwork has come out of all of this. It’s a sort of passive acknowledgement that the fields of humanity are about ready to lie fallow again, and there’s no fighting it.
If most religious practices can be said to be a kind of incubating of spiritual innovation, then rotwork is the opposite: it’s practicing the art of maintenance. It is turning compost, shoveling shit, and hoeing bean-gardens. If the color of Endarkenment is black, then this is brown.
So what is rotwork?
It’s about finding your Gods where you are.
It’s about choosing vernacularity where you can…
…And decentering yourself as a human where you can’t.
It’s about abandoning utilitarian ways of thinking, and replacing them with other kinds of making right relationship.
It’s about executing art that prioritizes the World(s) over the virtual reality of the human imagination, and all the fancy gizmos that have been invented to separate us from the messiness of making real things.
It’s about stewardship, not ownership.
It’s about maintaining breathing room for ourselves and others.
It’s about not using gloves, and knowing how to wash up afterwards.
It’s about recognition.
It’s about muscle memory.
It’s about knowing deep in our bones that this may be the most we will ever have.
It’s about denying the myth of linear time, because we know history will always repeat itself. It’s about knowing that things will not be different this time.
It’s about blood, sweat, and tears. But mostly sweat.
It’s about knowing exactly how much you need to get by.
It’s about knowing that we need the world more than it needs us, and acting accordingly.
It’s about waiting. Patiently.
It’s about burying the dead.
It’s about manual labor and skills of the hands.
It’s about living, worshiping, caring, and eating locally.
It’s about picking up pieces and putting them away for safe keeping.
It’s about knowing that dirt once made us cleaner, and bacteria once made us healthier.
It’s about knowing that doing what’s necessary must come before doing what’s possible.
It’s about knowing that you probably need to wash your bowl.