Welcome to Talismans Against Boring Culture

But What’s Boring Culture?

Boring culture is the hyper bureaucratic, imagination-impoverished world of mass-produced experiences, cookie-cutter homes, pre-packaged thoughts and domesticated language.

It’s characterised by a distinct lack of wildness, which might be alarming were we not so anesthetized. Who can blame us? It’s a frightening time to be alive. AI, nuclear weapons, gene editing technologies, social media echo-chambers, broken politics, eco-systems collapse… no wonder we hole-up with ice cream and Netflix.

But for the people neither Netflix nor ice cream, ‘boring’ would hardly be the word to describe the world we live in. ‘Dangerous’, ‘terrifying’ might be more accurate. There’s war breaking out. Forests are burning. Countries are going underwater. Species keep falling into the void of extinction. Highly destructive weapons are becoming readily available.

Yet where I live in the North of England, the birds are singing, flowers are blooming, kids are coming home from school. This schizophrenic reality is what we have to live in. A time between worlds.

What I call ‘boring culture’ could also be named the Machine, the World of the Left Hemisphere, the Kingdom of Urizen, Western Civilisation, the Big Sleep, the Republic of Moloch.

It has a long history, and some of what we’ll be doing here is looking at that history through multiple lenses so that it has less power over us. But the main purpose of these essays isn’t to provide a scholarly treatise on how broken the world is. I’d rather talk about what I love.

‘I think something more is needed than the idea of sustainability. It’s got to be something much more profound that touches the heart… you realise that our job on the earth is to fall in love with it, and you only fall in love with it if you’re aesthetically alive to it.’

— James Hillman

To be aesthetically, sensuously, courageously alive to the world - that is how I want to live. The essays offered here come from that place. I hope they spark a little fire in your soul.


I’m one of those people who knew what they to do from an early age. But even before the practice of writing began in earnest, I had the great fortune to be surrounded by people living magical lives.

I was born into a travelling circus surrounded by massive puppet dragons, fire-breathing performers and acrobats getting shot out of giant cross-bows.

Inside reads: ‘…Imagine an empty field on the edge of town, the next day a small colourful village appears, mysteriously sprung up overnight. A whole circle of painted trucks and wagons, smoke circling from cooking stove chimneys, odd characters in exotic attire.’

That was my normal. Imagine my shock when I discovered the world large - the world that most adults lived in - was characterised by a blindness to magic. Respectable citizens, lulled to sleep by some invisible force that keeps us plodding through our nine-to-fives.

I wanted no part of that. So I stayed on the fringes with the weirdos and revolutionaries, trying to hone my craft without getting swallowed by the machine.

‘I was told at an impressionable age that “writers should write about what they know.” I wanted to write magical fiction, so I have endeavoured to lead a magical life.’

— Terri Windling

I share this endeavour, and treat it as a political act.

My place of work in the Derwent Valley, not far from Hadrian’s Wall
‘Derwent’ means ‘valley thick with oaks’. The words ‘oak’ and ‘door’ share the same root. Here is my door, made by my father, who once founded a circus.
Averaging about 4 hours of writing per day, with kids. Not bad, I’d say.

Should you subscribe?

If you’ve read this far then something here might have struck a chord. In that case, yes, subscribe. It’s free and it’s always good.

Movement as Resistance, Blessing Deficit Disorder, The Star in the Animal, Reanimating the Queen, The Spirit of Leonardo, The Majesty of Dung Beetles - these are some of the essays you’ll find. Each one is interesting, but together they are building toward an Ecology of Magic. I’m not entirely sure what that is, but I’m excited to find out.

‘Talisman’: a charm or amulet to ward off insidious powers

Share Talismans Against Boring Culture

Ben Patrick Holden is a writer from the Brontë end of the South Pennines, now living with his wife and children at the edge of the woods in the Derwent valley. At present, he is writing stories in which vivid characters attempt to breathe the soul of the world back into their communities through outrageous acts of courage and genius.


Subscribe to Talismans Against Boring Culture

Spark a fire in your soul


Cat-faced, crow-eyed dream pirate of Hermes-Mercury dedicated to cramming wild language down the gullet of Boring Culture.