Viriditas, the Apocalypse and Mars

So I’m reading ‘Red Mars’ by Kim Stanley Robinson. I’ve always been a huge fan of Science fiction (particularly Hard SF and Dystopian) and after recently discovering the first Barsoom Trilogy by Edgar Rice Burroughs (How did I live to the age of 40 and completely miss this?!), I thought following it up with a modern Mars trilogy would be cool. What I’m loving about it most is that it is an exploration of terraforming – the greening of other worlds, and it has introduced me to a new word: Viriditas.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Viriditas is a term attributed to abbess Hildegard von Bingen, and generally means ‘lushness’ or ‘growth’.  It is used in an ecological context and also a spiritual context, where that spiritual growth is connected to or inspired by nature.  KSR uses it in both the  spiritual context (‘that greening fructiparous power within, which knows that the wild world itself is holy‘) and also as the ‘greening’ of new worlds and the universe.  It is also the emotional and scientific imperative to see that greening occur.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
It occurs to me that viriditas is the feeling I get when surrounded by a lush forest; that thrill that I get in wild places; the sense of triumph I feel when I see nature taking hold in anthropogenic environments – the cracks in walls and bridges, the ivy reclaiming neglected buildings. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it ‘spiritual’, but certainly some kind of intrinsic connection with the wild and the ancient.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
It is a bittersweet feeling knowing that everything we do on this earth will no doubt be eventually reclaimed and erased – and perhaps my mild obsession with post-apocalyptic fiction feeds this feeling, but part of me secretly wants the wild to win, feels that it is right and good that it should happen.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Of course if people aren’t here then I wouldn’t be able to spend my life wondering at bats, beetles, plants and bees.  The answer is clearly to find a balance, a harmony, and who knows if humans will achieve it, but I hope so.  I hope that one day life is like something from the dreams of Carl Sagan or Gene Roddenberry.  For now, I will have to enjoy the world in my own way, with my quiet moments of Viriditas giving me hope.  Whitman knew what I mean:

“Dazzling and tremendous how quick the sun-rise would kill me,
If I could not now and always send sun-rise out of me.
We also ascend dazzling and tremendous as the sun,
We found our own O my soul in the calm and cool of the daybreak.

4 Replies to “Viriditas, the Apocalypse and Mars”

  1. Couldn’t agree more with your last comment. this is the ideology for my garden. Sometimes I feel I am on a loosing battle. But my small garden is a sanctuary for wildlife in this small nay tiny dot on this amazing planet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s