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KRISTIAN EVANS A Creative Writing Workshop on the More-than-human “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose. It is queerer than we can suppose.” – JBS Haldane

The language we use to describe the world profoundly shapes the way we perceive it, and the ways in which we receive our experiences of it. When we use morethan-human instead of non-human, we are attempting to redress an imbalance. Historically, use of non-human has often suggested less-than-human, something beneath us, of less value, less interest. It has enthroned “Man” as the rational animal, tamer and ruler of an inert mechanistic cosmos given to us to exploit however we see fit. It has allowed us to speak from a position of superiority and to view other species as little more than disposable robots. It has excused appalling cruelties.

Embracing the term more-than-human then seeks to recontextualise us, as part of a fundamental reframing of the relationship between mind and nature, in the context of the ecological crisis. It recognises that we have significantly under-estimated the importance of other species, while over-estimating our own, and making what might well turn out to be fatally hubristic mistakes along the way. We exist as a strand in a web, a trembling balance of tensions that we call nature. That web is now extremely ragged and frayed and might break apart at any moment.

Speaking of the more-than-human also reminds us that there is a world beyond human perceptions, a world we cannot see, hear, smell, feel, or taste. There are other senses we know about but do not possess; the ability to perceive magnetic currents, ultrasound, nutrient densities, electrical fields, heat signatures, and so on. What other senses might there be that we do not know about? How much more world is there, invisible to us? It’s easy to forget that we are limited by our senses as much as we are by our cultural biases. The unknown, the unknowable even, is always very close, on the other-side of everything.

The more-than-human also keeps a window open for the possibility of spiritual experience. We often make the mistake of assuming that the spiritual is a question of belief, that it’s a sub-rational attempt to explain the world, little more than superstition. However, such experiences can be more than belief, they can be an encounter, a reception of something greater than us, something resilient across cultures. Even if we refuse to look for it, it often seems to find us. Being receptive to the more-than-human then can also open us to those unusual states of consciousness that humans keep stumbling into: the sense of the sacred, moments of what we might call grace or ecstasy, feelings of healing and redemption, an awareness of the mindedness and intentionality of nature.

As writers then, how might we reposition ourselves to engage with this emerging ecological awareness? There are no quick answers. It seems to entail a process of gradually unlearning and dissolving outmoded ways of being in relation to the world. To make the effort to unplug ourselves from the frenetic non-stop distractions of the media. To slow down, embrace a new humility, an openness to our own unknowing, and a new depth of attention

Three Freewriting Exercises

Each of these exercises offers a freewriting prompt. Freewriting of course simply means – as Peter Elbow defines it - to ‘write for ten minutes’ and ‘don’t stop for anything’. Elbow continues:


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