At first glance, the idea for a memorial to mountains seems peculiar; mountains need not be remembered in that way, for mountains will always be there, beyond the need for puny human memorials. Not so, however, in the deadly anthropocene, where mountaintops are routinely sacrificed for the extraction of fossil fuel. How can one think like a mountain when the mountain itself has been decapitated, or even obliterated?
The National Memorial for the Mountains offers a powerful online resource that documents the massive scale of destruction occurring in Appalachia, carving more than five hundred mountains into a vast geography of scars. We borrow that last phrase from the third section of Wendell Berry’s extraordinary prose poem, “Damage”:
The phrase “ghostly paradigm of things” descends from Yeats:
We note that “the taws” refers to a leather whip divided into two strands at the end, so as to leave a more complex signature upon the flesh.
Returning to Berry:
We recall Günther Anders’ “philosophy of discrepancy”, and his inverted utopians, unable to imagine the things they make. They are also, it seems, unable to conceive the implications of the things they unmake. Nonetheless, those who shake more than they can hold arrive for their last supper immaculately groomed. What fate becomes such a civilization? From the poet and DP correspondent Jon Swan, we receive the following answer: