Living with the Unknown
Every two months we’ll release a new chapter from Living with the Unknown. Sign up to have new stories delivered to your inbox.
As a Native scholar and poet, Jake Skeets considers the necessary interrogation of colonial naming and narratives, and how the Indigenous application of writing as a technology can reshape our world.
Sheila Pree Bright focuses her portrait lens on the Southern landscape, where she encounters personhood and spirit in the presence of the land.
During the pandemic lockdown, J. Drew Lanham’s backyard, a newly sanctioned “wild-like refuge,” comes to life as he notices the wildlife that inhabits the nearby faraway.
Joy is the soul stirred / underneath the journey, / gaze snagged on wonder, / not knowing final destination
Amitav Ghosh discusses how capitalism is entangled with the silencing of nonhuman voices and how literature is one vehicle for centering stories of the land.
The concept for our third volume was conceived during the winter of 2020/2021 at the height of the pandemic. By this point it had become clear that the COVID crisis had ushered in the era of the apocalypse. Predictions of a future threat became lived reality as failing societal and economic structures revealed the fragility of our modern industrial way of life—cracks in the system became chasms. In a matter of months we witnessed a reckoning with America’s racist culture, the rapid increase of the effects of climate breakdown, and floundering and corrupt political systems. So much has been revealed—both the light and the dark—that we have no true sense of what has been set into motion.
Living with the Unknown emerged from this place of deep uncertainty and from our conviction that stories, above all, can guide us as we transition into the next chapter of our collective future. This volume took shape through questions: How can we find our footing in a groundless reality where everything can fall apart at a moment’s notice? What pathways to healing must be walked? What strategies for survival need to be developed? What does living in an unfolding apocalyptic reality look like? What are the creative possibilities that are now emerging, or waiting to be embodied?
The stories in this volume explore these questions through a narrative arc comprising four themes—initiation, ashes, roots, and futures—moving from the raw unknowing of transformation to a place of rooted possibility. We commissioned new work from writers, artists, photographers, and poets, inviting them to respond to these questions and themes. Throughout these chapters you’ll experience fallen leaves, emerging cicadas, changing Arctic landscapes, reflections on motherhood and beauty, kinship among trees, inward migrations, and imagined post-apocalyptic realities.
After reading our mission statement, people often ask, “What makes storytelling a radical act in dark times?” I used to offer long-winded responses about the ancient and archetypal power of stories to unravel the forgetfulness of the sacred that has engulfed our culture in an age of ecocide. And while I still believe this is true, more and more I find myself returning to something simpler and more essential: listening. A good story has the power to make you listen deeply, tuning your ear to something beyond yourself.
In a culture where we are increasingly taught only to speak, listening is a radical act, especially when oriented towards silenced voices, nonhuman voices, and the voice of the Earth herself—all of which have essential stories to tell. The words, images, experiences, and music gathered here are born from this radical space of listening. I hope they can be a light in the darkness as we embrace the reality of LIVING WITH THE UNKNOWN.
Oscar-nominated composer Volker Bertelmann (also known as Hauschka) created a companion soundtrack for the third volume of our print edition, Living with the Unknown. His visceral score offers a potent space to encounter the questions and ideas posed in this volume.
Listen online or purchase the limited-edition 180-gram vinyl LP, featuring artwork by internationally acclaimed artist Ann Hamilton and a 24-page concordance produced in collaboration with her studio.
What does living in an unfolding apocalyptic reality look like? The stories in our latest print volume explore this question through four themes—Initiation, Ashes, Roots, and Futures—moving from the raw unknowing of transformation to a place of rooted possibility. Tactile and intimate, Volume 3 spans several hundred color-filled pages, inviting you to slow down and enjoy these stories over time.
This collection includes essays by Anna Badkhen, Anisa George, Rebecca Giggs, Daisy Hildyard, Robin Wall Kimmerer, J. Drew Lanham, Martin Shaw, Jake Skeets, Chelsea Steinauer-Scudder, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, Terry Tempest Williams, and Alexis Wright; poetry from Camille T. Dungy, Linda Hogan, and J. Drew Lanham; fiction by Andri Snær Magnason and Ben Okri; interviews with Amitav Ghosh and Suzanne Simard; photo essays from Sheila Pree Bright and Kiliii Yüyan; artwork by Juan Bernabeu, Sydney Cain, Azadeh Elmizadeh, and moonassi; original music by Volker Bertelmann (aka Hauschka); and a special collaboration with artist Ann Hamilton.