Wednesday, August 25, 2010
"I am sad to see what a shallow village tale our so-called history is." ~RW Emerson
Somehow i think i have given people the wrong impression that i like history. I thought it would be good to put out there my opinions on the subject to clear things up. I really do not want people to think that i like history, in fact, i sort of think history is one of the worst things that has ever happened to humans. Right up there with the Cartesian idea that somehow what we really are is a consciousness locked up inside our skull, a mind that is somehow separate and distinct from our body. That is on my top 5 list of all time most unhealthy ideas that happened to humans/humans invented.
When i was in college and was a history/philosophy major, i spent very little time in classes on the Civil War or World War II, classes about facts and dates and the like. Most of my time was spent studying the philosophy of history and the philosophy of the hunter/gatherer with Calvin Martin. He wrote an amazing book called In the Spirit of the Earth, Rethinking History and Time and in that book he explained and explored the world view of Paleolithic (hunting and gathering) human versus the philosophy of the Neolithic (farming) human. No one talks about it. History is one of those things that we assume is just out there in the ether happening to us, but history is a wicked mistress with an agenda.
History is not just what has happened to your people in the past, but it implies a trajectory. We learn about American history in our schools because history itself implies a chosen people, in our case Americans. Positing this also has the side effect of imposing an Other. If there are Americans, there are also those who are not one of us. Historical people build monuments to their greatness and these monuments are very religious in nature. Take for example the carving on the Lincoln Memorial, "IN THIS TEMPLE AS IN THE HEARTS OF THE PEOPLE FOR WHOM HE SAVED THE UNION THE MEMORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN IS ENSHRINED FOREVER." The memorial is called a temple, Abe is enshrined and he will be remembered forever. Very religious terminology.
Monuments are not seen until people start farming and worshiping sky gods. Go to a hunter gatherer village, such as an Austrailian Aboriginal Hunting Clan, a year after they lived there and you find no trace that they were ever there. Now go and visit Tikal in the Guatamala or Angkor in Cambodia and look at the stone structures made to last for thousands of years. People build monuments when they believe that they are a chosen people, someone that needs to be seen down through the ages. It is chosen people who go to war.
Hunting people who live off the land live in a margin of grace. They have faith that they will be provided for. Farming and hoarding stuff is a margin of fear. We grow food and store it up because we believe that the earth will not provide for us. Farming people stop seeing the spirit and powers of place as all around and inherent in everything they see, but start taking those powers and throwing them into the sky. Whether it is the Sun gods of Central America among the Aztecs and Maya or Jehovah, the God dwells separately and humanity is apart from that being. Many many times this comes with fear and guilt. In Central America with the cyclical nature of time, there was no guarantee that the cycle would start up again. Wars were fought to take slaves that could be used to feed blood to the sun, the fuel that kept the cycle starting up again. The Bible itself says that when humanity left the garden it would have to eek its living out of the earth. This jives with what we know about hunting and gathering life styles now. Life in the Garden of Eden, and life in a paleolithic society had lots of leisure time. Farm work is rough.
History and Time feed off of themselves. All of the wars we have ever fought are the direct result of us being a historical people. We know the saying that those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it. We have no evidence to support that because as a society we have been remembering our history since we started hoarding our food, and as historical people we have been repeating all of our dumb mistakes over and over again. So we really have no way of knowing whether people who forget their history are doomed to repeat it, but we do know that those who remember their history are indeed, doomed to repeat it. We continue to fight wars and cause genocide in the name of this and that. There is always an Other. Presently it is terrorists. During Macarthy, it was Communists. To some people it is homosexuals, it used to be the Native living in the plains, in Germany Hitler made it the Jews, and it all plays on our fear. This type of politics works very well in the paradigm of history. Believing that there is an evil other out there is a good way to motivate people to do all kinds of things: commit atrocities, give up their rights, generally hate and be easily manipulated.
I see the Crazy Horse Monument and i do not really know what to think. I do not believe that Crazy Horse would have wanted the face of the sacred Black Hills to be blasted apart to make a monument to him that people could look at forever. Monuments and tearing up mountains is a very European thing to do.
I worry for my people. I feel that as long as we try to solve our problems within the paradigm of history, we will never do it. I also see no way to break that cycle because no one can even fathom that it is a problem. It seems like a hokey thing to even say. Before it was brought to my attention, i never even thought that history was a made up thing. I am not sure what is to be done about all of this. I am within the problem i know that as well. I try and have my personal vision quests and i know that those powers that the hunter saw inherent throughout the woods and the rivers, himself and the rocks, still are there. They nod familiarly to you if you put away the ipod and cell phone once in awhile and get out beyond the reach of the street lamps. Be in it, embrace real darkness and night. The angel choirs are singing outside my window right now, i can hear them. They are the voices of peepers and crickets and other people whose names i do not yet know.
The Substance of our world view is Time. There is a clock in every corner of our lives. A boat is efficient to us if it can cut through the water and get us to our destination more quickly. The clash that happened when Europe crashed into North America was this, the Substance of the peoples that lived here before we arrived was not time at all, but Beauty. An efficient canoe to a Micmac hunter in Canada, was the one that was more beautiful. The fish would be more likely to give themselves to the hunter whose canoe had the most beautiful decoration. The Europeans who arrive here could not even fathom this because both peoples were operating on a different set of beliefs. Beliefs that are so fundamental we do not even realize we share them and world the place around us with them. Time and history are two such things for us. No one ever thinks to question them, they are the foundations that we walk on. To shake them is to shake our whole deal with reality.
It is a tough decision and difficult to write about in any way that makes sense. I choose to try and walk in beauty but it is difficult. I have been conditioned. We all have for we are all products of our society.
I guess what i am getting at here is that i feel that history is one of the major problems and it is good at being a chameleon. No one knows it is even a problem. It will eventually let you out of its grasp though in moments that exist between the ticks and tocks on the clock. There is an eternal present moment. When we live in the now, the whole concept that time is moving faster the older you get falls away. I do not feel that at all because i have been working on this a long time. I gave up on birthdays and worry and i honestly feel like time is slowing down. I have days on occasion that seem like an eternity. Last week seems so long ago to me. Embrace your moments.
Be in the now. If you can do this, you will achieve a fullness in life that is hard to fathom. You have to be able to do it in the moments you do not like as well, maybe when you are at work. Don't miss those moments because they are not coming back. Be fully in them and the Kingdom of Heaven will open up for you, eternally and now, not in some dreamy place in the clouds, but here in the place that you are.
Wow, i can ramble when i want to. I do hope this makes sense. Anybody have any ideas on how to break history's strangle hold on our imagination? I imagine not. In our world-view we live, all of this usually gets labeled as crazy.