Throwback Thursday time again, with special guests Annie Dillard and Henry David Thoreau. Originally published May 26, 2010 in Pantheon.
“I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life…” – Walden, Henry David Thoreau
“A weasel is wild. Who knows what he thinks? He sleeps in his underground den, his tail draped over his nose.” -”Living Like Weasels” by Annie Dillard
So, what happens when you get your souls all aligned, you clear out your hangups with the Iron Pentacle, and generally get all Ferified? Is there a name for that? You bet. Other people might have other names for it…such as “whoooeee, those Feri people are weird”…but we call it the Black Heart of Innocence.
Understand, the Black Heart is not a goal, nor is it automatically conferred with a certain number of box tops. It can come and go. It’s not a state of enlightenment, exactly, though it bears a certain resemblance to some martial arts concepts. It’s an effect. It’s what happens when you insist on drinking from that well. According to Cora Anderson, the name comes from a proverb: “How beautiful is the black lascivious purity in the heart of animals and small children,” and is related to the Sankofa symbol. It is sexual, but sexuality with openness and a total lack of shame, and connecting it with Sankofa suggests that part of the meaning has to do with regaining what you have lost.
But that kind of talk is itself a path away from the Black Heart of Innocence. Panthers, wolves and weasels do not sit around wondering if they are adequately fierce, and they do not worry about losing themselves. You could say that the Black Heart is the antidote or opposite of all the anomie, ennui, and existential angst that hangs above our heads like a cloud of industrial effluent. One of its effects is that you are fully present in the moment, able to act swiftly and precisely; you could also say that it is a kind of extension of the notion of “perfect love and perfect trust” as a way of being, related to the chivalric concept of afyaunce vpon folde or “trust in the world.” Doubt and fear hinder you; that love and trust is both for the world and for yourself. Though even those words, doubt, fear, love, trust, are heavy, weighed down with sentimentality, self-consciousness, and expectation. Forget them, and engage fully with the world and every moment of your life.
“The weasel lives in necessity and we live in choice, hating necessity and dying at the last ignobly in its talons. I would like to live as I should, as the weasel lives as he should. And I suspect that for me the way is like the weasel’s: open to time and death painlessly, noticing everything, remembering nothing, choosing the given with a fierce and pointed will.” -”Living Like Weasels” by Annie Dillard