Tag Archives: Narrative

Random Roundup, 1/11/19

Random Roundup 1/11/19

Hello everyone!

This is a new thing I’m going to try for a bit. I’m calling it “Random Roundups”, and the goal is to share some random articles or media with you that I found interesting throughout the week. In part, it helps me publish short content, but also helps me keep track of articles I tend to forget about…

I need an image for this thing…

So here is this weeks Random Roundup!

Environmental Story Telling Can Help Spread Big Ideas for Saving the Planet*

Research increasingly suggests that trying to promote behavioral change through fear can be counterproductive, leading to anxiety or depression that results in an issue being avoided, denied or met with a sense of helplessness. However, in education, news and fiction, stories with positive role models and which focus on the positive outcomes of solutions are much more likely to inspire action to solve it. “

Story telling is vital to how we shape our place and experiences in the world. The narratives we hold to can drastically shape how we confront the crises ahead. In short, I think we need more stories of a better future, and less dystopian ones.

There is no Planet B

“If, however, we change our technologies and our economic system to better match the physical and biological realities of life on Earth, the resulting history could be quite amazing, what some are calling “a good Anthropocene.” That future would, in effect, be the story of humanity devoting itself to nurturing the health of the biosphere and creating a sustainable prosperity for all the living creatures on this planet. While not exactly utopia, that future could be called optopia—the “optimal place,” the best possible outcome given the current conditions.”

On the topic of environmental story telling, Kim Stanley Robinson is one of my favorite contemporary authors. So when he speaks about threat of Climate Change we all face, I tend to listen. It’s well worth the read!

And last, but simply not least. If positive story telling can help us each take action to help mitigate climate change, then perhaps it is best to end with a positive story!

This old coal plant is now a solar farm, thanks to pressure from local activists

For more than half a century, a coal plant in the city of Holyoke, Massachusetts spewed pollution into the air. Now, the plant is closed, and 17,000 solar panels and a battery storage system–the largest in the state–send clean power to the grid. “

Shutting down all coal plants is going to be essential to building a sustainable future for our planet. So will be the installation of renewable energy. Why not do both at once?

I hope you enjoyed this roundup, and feel free to leave me feedback if you did! I will continue to work on other pieces for my next post, but I feel this was a nice change of pace.

Thanks for reading!

*I don’t agree with any article 100%, so I might have my quibbles with any article, but I still think there is value in each.

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Shifting Narratives, Future Worlds

We possess the power
If this should start to fall apart
To mend divides
To change the world
To reach the farthest star
If we should stay silent
If fear should win our hearts
Our light will have long diminished
Before it reaches the farthest star” VNV Nation – Farthest Star

 

Image from Here

Hello again folks!

There has been a lot on my mind recently, and I am struggling a bit in typing it all out for you. I hope you forgive me for not getting work out as often as I would like. All that aside, I would like to jump right into it today.

Recently, I have been diving deep into my summer reading list. There is a lot of good stuff on my list right now, and that gives me plenty to think and write about. Which is good news for you, as there is plenty of material for me to sort through for this blog.

At the current time, I am rereading two books. In the blue corner, I have Physics of the Future, by Michio Kaku. In red corner, I have The Long Descent, by John Michael Greer. I first read Kaku’s work when I was still in community college, and it had a big impact me on the time. Well, after over ten years I feel it is time to revisit it.

At the same time, I read The Long Descent more recently in 2016, and you can find my early thoughts previously on this blog.

In order to set up a foundation for future blogs, I would like to talk about these two books in a bit of dialectic fashion. That way, I can seek a kind of dialogue between the two books, and perhaps gleam a little bit of knowledge from each one in a sythetic kind of way. It’s kind of like idea-based alchemy!

Now, as a brief introduction, these both are very different books, yet both deal with ideas about the future. Even though they both are considered to be non-fiction, there are elements of any speculative work that fall into the fictional realm. The reason for this, of course, is because the future has not yet come to pass. Whenever we speculate about the future, it is inevitable that we will be sometimes be right, and often be wrong.

Still, I think there is something to be learned by setting this two books in dialogue with one another. This is because Kaku’s work is fairly optimistic, and talks about a future where our civilization has progressed a great deal in many ways. On the other hands,. Greer’s book sets up a future where civilization is in decline because of factors such as peak oil. Following the course of past civilizations, Greer envisions a Long Descent into a post-civilization world.

I think it is fair that we set up Kaku’s work on the utopian end of the speculative scale, and Greer’s work on the dystopian end, even if it is a slow motion dystopia. Let’s examine both in more depth shall we?

John Michael Greer, The Long Descent

Greer’s work is well written and well researched, and then extrapolates that research into a grim future. His argument is based on the trajectory of some past civilizations, such as the collapse of the Western Roman Empire or the Mayan civilization.

The bulk of The Long Descent sets up a future based upon the implications of peak oil. Greer covers the facts behind the Hubbert Curve, and other aspects that sooner or later, the oil that drives our civilization is going to run out, and that process will precipitate the long slow decline of our civilization.

In addition, Greer sees no way we can get around this fact, calling peak oil a predicament to which there is no solution. Alternative energy will not save us, nor will anything also. Our best bet, is to prepare for the inevitable decline, which none of us will live to see.

It is a grim future indeed, that reads a lot like a dystopian novel.

Map the likely results of current trends onto a scale of human lifetimes and a compelling image of the future emerges. Imagine an American woman born in the 1960’s. She sees the gas lines of the 1970’s, the short term political gimmicks that papered over the crisis in the 1980’s and 1990’s, and the renewed trouble in the following decades…

Her great-grandson, born in 2040, manages to avoid the smorgasbord of diseases, the pervasive violence, and the pandemic alcohol and drug use that claim a quarter of his generation before age 30. A lucky break gets him into a technical career, safe from military service in endless overseas wars, or “pacification actions” against separatist guerrillas at home. His technical knowledge consists mostly of rules of thumb for effective scavenging…

For his great-granddaughter, born in 2120, the great crises are mostly things of the past. She grows up amid a ring of villages that were once suburbs, but now they surround an abandoned core of rusting skyscrapers that are visited only by salvage crews who mine them for raw materials. Local wars sputter, the oceans are still rising, and famines and epidemics come through every decade or so, but with global population less than half of what it was in 2000 and still declining, humanity and nature are moving towards balance…

This process I’ve named The Long Descent – the declining arc of industrial civilization’s trajectory through time.” Pg 32.

This is not to say some aspects of TLD are without value, and the whole thing should be dismissed out of hand. There are a lot of great recommendations on community building, resilience, and energy efficiency that I think are important. I will expand on this in a future post, when I examine both these books individually.

Michio Kaku, Physics of the Future

This transition is perhaps the greatest transition in history, marking a sharp departure from all civilizations of the past…

Every headline that dominates the news reflects, in some way, the birth pangs of the planetary civilization” – Michio Kaku

It must be admitted that there is some truth in all the dystopian narratives that surround us. We very well could screw things up and slip into some Long Descent type future. As I’ve point out in my post on that topic, that scenario does a very good job of setting up the problems of peak oil. Still, as with most dystopia, I think it best serves as a warning rather than a prophecy. The Long Descent, is the kind of future best avoided, and if we play our cards right, I think it can be. That is where Kaku’s book comes in

In fact, Kaku’s book agrees on some of the point on the chapter concerning the future of energy. Kaku follows many of the same avenues as Greer, as he discusses the Hubbert curve, and our dependence on fossil fuels. If we have not peaked already, we will soon.

This means that in the near future, we may be entering a period of irreversible decline” – Michio Kaku.

This fact alone has huge implications for the future; from political volatility, to conflicts over oil supplies, and a high confidence in the fact that oil prices will surely rise. There are huge implications for our economy as well as the world political organizations. If we follow the trajectory of The Long Descent, the decline of oil will be a centuries long decline in our civilization.

But…. And this is a huge but.

Kaku agrees with many of the implications, but his trajectory into the future is very different. Where Greer sees a decline in civilization that takes centuries to hit rock bottom, Kaku sees a transition to a truly planetary civilization. With a rise in renewable energy in the short term, and fusion and other sources in the long term. He sees the rise in oil prices as the means that will make renewables even more viable and economical, and quickly jump in to replace our oil based infrastructure.

This will be combined with a transition towards fully electric transportation, which of course will be powered renewably, by wind, solar, and other forms of energy, In fact, we can already see this transition in process. Project Drawdown bases its projection on the year 2050, as does The Solutions Project. The UN Sustainable Development Goals, which include the transition to clean energy, are based on meeting the goals by 2030.

At every level of human society, we are seeing the transition take place in real time. Local, regional, national and global. Entire nations are already planning their phase out of the Oil Age, and pushing renewable energies as well as electric transportation.

Towards Synthesis

So where do we end up with these two distinct views of the future? The truth, is likely found in the interplay between the two. At the current time in our history, it is pretty hard to see the future as bright and shiny as Kaku, as we face a lot of serious challenges to our existence. Peak Oil and Climate change chief among them.

At the same time, it is hard for me to agree with the doom and gloom that permeates Greer’s book. I don’t see peak oil as the end of the world, though it may certainly drastically change our the form of our civilization. I think the Long Descent should serve as a warning, and something we can absolutely mitigate. Contrary to many of Greer’s claims, the future is not inevitable.

As such, reading between the two options of Greer and Kaku, a few ideas can be synthesized. That the future is not likely a straight shot of progress towards a gleaming utopia, nor a long descent into some kind of post-civilization dystopia. Most importantly, we are making the choices right now that are going to shape what that future looks like.

We have a lot of choices and actions that can be done today, and many of them are in fact already in process. The old world, the Oil Age, is passing away, and we can already sense the stirrings of the next world to come. Birthing is not a clean process, and sometimes it is even messy and bloody. But I think we can survive it, and not only survive, but flourish.

As such, in the coming posts I want to examine both the Long Descent and Kaku’s Future in a little more depth.

Thanks for reading!

Sources/References;

Michio Kaku, Physics of the Future. 2011

John Michael Greer, The Long Descent. 2008

https://fireiceandsteel.wordpress.com/2016/05/10/some-thoughts-on-the-long-descent/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utopian_and_dystopian_fiction


Walking with the Ancestors Part 6-B

The tent was mostly dark, except for the small fire burning in it’s center. The shadows danced and played across the the hide sides of the structure. The air was filled with the scents of countless herbs.

In the middle of the tent, sat a shaman. With a steady, melodic rhythm; he pounded away at his drum while calling to the ancestors of his people. The world shifted, and the shadows started to come out of the walls, and sit besides him by the fire.

“What is it you need?” One of the ancestors asked. The shaman took a deep breath before he answered.

“There is a large decision before our people, and I wanted to seek advice from you.” The shaman said.

“You are wondering if you should follow the path through the ice?” Another ancestor spoke.

“Yes. I have discussed with some of the wisest among our people, and they say that world is changing. The ice is melting, and some think we should follow the path that is opening up for us.”

“The ice is melting, let there be no doubt about that. The world is warming in a way that has not been seen in ages.” An ancestor said.

“How can you be sure? The ice has been there as long as the oldest stories tell, and some of my people think that it will always be there.” The shaman said.

“All things change in this world, and if you doubt us, we can show you.” Another ancestor said.

“It is natural to have doubts, and it is wise to ask questions.” A second ancestor added. The shaman nodded.

“Show me.” He said. The ancestors circled and started to chant. The shaman did not know this one, but soon picked it up, and chanted along with them.

The outline of the tent shifted and fell, and a great hole opened up below them. The shaman fell into the dark abyss, and fell and fell. He screamed out in terror, fearing for his life. He saw light fast approaching at the bottom of the hole, and he knew the end had come.

He fell out of a hole in the sky, and into snow that was deeper than he had ever known. His body plunged beneath the snow, and the snow fell in around him. He struggled for air, but all his lungs found was the bitter, suffocating cold. His chest tightened, and he tried to cry out; but there was no air in his lungs.

Several hands plunged down through the snow, and grabbed his wrists. With one mighty pull, the ancestors pulled the shaman from the snow.

“Sorry about that.” One of the ancestors said.

“I nearly died.” The shaman added.

“Do you think that kind of travel is easy? We make mistakes.” One of the ancestors said.

“Well, he makes mistakes. I told him he was doing it wrong.” Another ancestor added.

The shaman couldn’t help but laugh.

“Where are we?” He asked.

“A good vantage point. Come this way.” One of the ancestors said. The small group crossed the snowy terrain, and came up a high ridge.

At the top of the ridge, the shaman looked out over the land. As far as he could see, the land was locked in snow and ice. The blinding white seemed to stretch all the way to the horizon.

“Now watch.” One of the ancestors said.

The shaman watched as the sun started to race across the sky, and was followed by night. The moon trailed across the sky not long after, and the shaman knew that time was passing at an incredible pace.

After a point, time was moving so fast that there was barely a clear distinction between night and day.

The shaman watched as the ice before him slowly started to melt. Great rivers started to form in the glaciers and ice plains, and these carved great valleys into the ice. Soon, an entire canyon opened up through the ice, and the shaman could see a clear path to the horizon. He also saw green start to appear at the edge of the ice.

“That is where your people will need to go.” One of the ancestors said.

“That will be a long journey.” The shaman said.

“It will be, but that land will be home to thousands of generation of your descendants.” The ancestor said.

“When will the path be opened? It looked to be a long time from now.” The shaman said.

“It is open now. Do not let what you have seen here trick you. You have seen from ages in the past to many winters into the future. You must go soon.” The ancestor said.

The world dropped out and faded to black.

The shaman snapped back to his tent, and he slowed the rhythm on his drum until it came to a stop.

 

Commentary;

I tried tackling this story from a few different angles, but still came up against the ominous wall of writer’s block. This story just popped into my head this morning, and so I went to town typing it out. I think I am happy with the results.

At first I tried to construct this from the perspective of the Anzick Boy, since that was the topic of the last part in this series. But no matter how I tried, that didn’t just seem right. As such, I created this story as a kind of “prequel” to the Anzick Boy, and how he got to North America.

It is important to note that there are several different “paths” the ancestors of the Native Americans might have taken. Some theories suggest they might have come by sea, following the coast around the North Pacific. Other scholars think they might have migrated through paths in the ice as the glaciers retreated as the last Ice Age came to an end. That was the idea I hooked on here.

I guess that is it for now. Onward!

Thanks for reading!


Walking with the Spirits Part 3-B

(Update: I noticed today that my email followers is over 900. Thank you! Each and every one of my dear readers!)

After long cycles of debate, the Peoples had decided that they would introduce themselves to the humans. But yet the questioned remained of who would do the introductions?

“We are too unlike them. We cannot understand their needs.” The Tree People argued.

“They would kill us and eat us.” The Rabbit People added.

“They already kill and eat us.” The Deer People said.

It was in that moment that a person came into the circle among all the competing voices.

“I will do it.” The small voice said.

It was not heard over the cacophony. Many of the People gave reasons why they should not be the ones to introduce themselves to the humans.

“I will do it.” The small voice repeated.

It was in that moment that one of Tree People noticed the tiny little person. It was a small boy. A small human boy. To this point, no humans had ever joined the debates.

“How did you get here?” The Tree asked. The boy looked around, and an expression of fear crossed his face.

“I am unsure. I was laying down to sleep, and when I woke up I was here.” The little boy said.

The Tree then addressed the group, and brought their attention to the little boy. He repeated his offer.

“Why have we never considered a human before?” The Wolf asked.

“Of all the People that would understand their needs, it would make sense it would be one of their own.” The Tree added.

“And in time, this human can start to introduce his people to our own.” The Deer said.

“We could grow together as friends as allies.” Bear said, obviously excited by the idea.

By nearly unanimous vote it was decided that the boy would serve as the mediator to humanity. The only one that voted against it was a very unfriendly member of the Pine Clan. When pressed for a reason why, all the Pine would say was;

“I dunno. I just don’t like him.”

The boy was invited to sit in with the council of the Peoples, and he would live and learn from them.

“Why can’t I go be with my own people now?” The boy asked.

“You have a lot of learning to do first. There is much that you must understand, and when it is time, you will have to teach all you have learned to your own people. Then we all can begin the long process of getting to know each other.”

The boy nodded in agreement, and his days as a student began. Over many long ages did the boy grown into a young man, learning all he could from the People of all kinds. Even if he spent a year with each, there would never be enough time to learn from them all.

In what seemed to be the blink of an eye, the boy had grown into an old man. He had learned much, and had become wise and full of knowledge. One of the Oak People approached him.

“You have become quite wise in the time you have spent with us, but now it is time for you to take all you have learned back to your own people. I do think your descendants will be quite happy to see you.” The Oak said.

“My descendants?” The old man asked.

“Oh yes. You have spent quite a bit of time with us here, time in fact for many of your relatives to grow and have children of their own, and as such down through the generations.” The Oak said.

“How long?” The old man said.

“Generations, but the exact amount of time is not important. What is important that they learn of what you have to teach. It is important that they learn the way of other Peoples.” The oak said.

“How will I do that?” The old man asked. The Oak invited the old man for a walk.

They walked across the land, and as they did it started to shift and change. It was noticeable for only a second, and then the old man found himself staring down a hill at a small group of humans sitting around a fire.

He turned to see that the Oak person was gone.

The old man took a deep breath, an walked into the stranger’s camp.

Commentary;

I have had writer’s block on this series for a while, mostly because of this story. I have found out something about myself all through this process, and that is I struggle a lot with writing shorter stories. I am much more of a novelist at heart. The reason being, I think, is mostly because I am a wordy person. I feel like there is always more to a story, and more to the world than a short story allows me to explore.

Deliberately editing myself drives me a little bit crazy. There is plenty of material here for a few thousand words, and here I am trying to keep it under a thousand. You know, a good size to read in a single sitting; something fit for a blog instead of a novel.

All that aside, there were a few things I really enjoyed about this story. It really has an “otherworldly” feel in my opinion. The little boy comes to the People at the beginning of the story. Honestly, I imagined that the boy had died young, and so he met all these people in some sort of after life, where time and space really don’t play my the rules of “reality.”

That is why by the time the boy has become an old man, an inexact number of “generations” has passed. The way I figured it, learning from even a few dozen mentors could be a long process. Never mind that the People represent different species, of which there is some trillion or so living on the planet. Can you imagine the length of time it would take to learn all that, or even a small part of it? Even if you spent a day with each of them, that is still some trillion days.

Which, if I have enough zeros (12) in my calculator, is something like 2,739,726,027 years.

It’s a really long time, even I messed up the math. That is some 2.7 billion years. Humanity hasn’t even been on the planet that long.

Math! I know, it is pretty intense. There is another odd note I wanted to make about the “time” of this story. Sometimes the chapters of my two series are interconnected, sometime they are not. It is all part of the same “story arc”, but they don’t always line up one-to-one. This is one of those felt really disjointed to me. I am not really sure where it should fall in the time line, if it really fits at all.

All the same, in the next part of this series, we get to explore the earliest evidence we have for spiritual and/or religious belief.

Thanks for reading!


Walking with the Ancestors Part 5-B

The boy sat by the edge of the river, gently poking at the small fish near the shore with a stick. His mother was nearby, keeping a watchful eye on him. That did not concern the boy at all, because his attention was elsewhere. He watched the young woman as she talked among the fishers.

She was tall, and wore an old-tattered black wolf pelt over her right shoulder. The boy did not know what exactly they were talking about, but she fascinated him. There was something about her that drew the attention of others.

As a boy of only four, he didn’t really understand why she drew his attention, and he certainly did not have the vocabulary to put his questions in the worlds, so he just watched and tried his best to understand.

He watched the woman turn away from the fishers, and make her way up the river bank towards where the boy was sitting. He felt very excited as she drew closer, and started to squirm in anticipation. He rose to his feet to meet her, and she smiled at him and pat him on the head.

“Where are you going in such a hurry?” The wolf woman smiled down at him. He couldn’t help but return the smile in turn.

“To see you.” The boy said, with a huge smile on his face, and he reached his arms up towards her. The wolf woman turned towards the boy’s mother, and she nodded her approval.

The young woman swept the boy up into her arms, and spun him around. He laughed the whole time, and he imagined he was flying just like the Bird People.

When she finally set him back down, he was struggling to catch his breath. His laughter had taken all the wind from his lungs.

The wolf woman continued to smile down at him, and he looked back up at her.

“Can I be a hunter too?” The boy asked. The wolf woman flashed a smile at him, but as she looked down at the boy her smile grew cold.

While the boy could not see it, one of the Shadow people had appeared by her side.

“His ancestors are already calling him home. He will leave this world come the next winter.” The Shadow said.

The wolf woman continued the conversation in her mind.

“No! You cannot take him. We have lost too many of the young already.” The wolf woman said.

“I wish I could help you, but this has already been decided. There is much more he can do with ancestors of your people. There is little I can do to change that.” The Shadow said.

“But he is so young.” The woman protested.

“That cannot be helped. For what little comfort I can offer, know that he will be a great man in another world.” The Shadow said, and then turned and vanished.

“Why are you sad?” The boy asked. The woman panicked for a moment, and then reached up to touch her check. Her hand was wet when she pulled it away.

“I am not sad! I am happy that you are so beautiful in the sun!” The woman said. She had lied, and she knew it.

The boy didn’t know it though, and he beamed with pride.

“Momma, I am bu..tiuful.” The boy struggled to say the long word. Both of the older women laughed.

“Would you like to hear a story, little one?” The wolf woman said. She had learned many stories over the years, as many as her father could teach her.

She had learned more from the People.

“Yes!” The little boy beamed, as he sat down by the river, and the woman sat next to him.

“Do you know where the fish come from?” The woman said. She chuckled as the boy’s eyebrows wrinkled as he tried to figure it out.

“From the water!” The boy exclaimed,

“Yes, but where do the waters come from?” The woman said. She hoped he would get this one too.

“Ummm. From the ground?” The boy said. She knew that some of it did, but it wasn’t the answer she wanted.

“Where does the rain come from?” The woman asked. The boy caught on immediately.

“From the sky!” The boy continued to beam. The woman thought he was a smart little boy. She was pained by the sadness in her heart, knowing that this boy would not grow to ask all the questions that filled his young mind.

At least, not in this world.

“That is right, the water comes from the sky. In days long past, the world was hot and not a good place to live for anyone except the Fire People.

As others wanted to live here too, they had to find a way to cool the world. That is why the Water People came down from the sky. They came in great numbers, and fell like sheets on the hot world. This made the Fire People a little unhappy, and so they went underground to escape the rain.

But the world was cooled all the same, and the air and the earth formed up as the Water People came down upon the world. So many of the Water People came to the world that they covered most of it. The came down from the mountains in mighty rivers, and made their way all the way to the Great Waters.” The woman said.

“Fish! Look a fish!” The boy said, having turned his attention to the river. The woman smiled.

“That’s right. The Water People loved the Fish People, and they decided to give them a home in all the waters. That is why there are fish in the water.” The woman said.

Commentary;

This is another short one, as I really wasn’t sure where to go with this one. It is another version of the origin story that I first created at the beginning of this series. More than that though, it is also a story of otherworldly things, and the concept of Death, here represented by some formless Shadow person. In truth in my animistic worldview death can be a pretty complicated thing. I have touched upon this a little in my piece here.

In addition, it is also a continuation of my last story. The wolf woman is the young girl in the last story, and she now wears the tattered Old Wolf fur. She is still young in this story, but has already gained a reputation among her people. In no small way, she is the shamaness in this tale, the story-teller. I felt it was fitting since I drew upon the Mal’ta-Buryet Culture for my last story, and since that is the rightful place of the Mal’ta boy, I felt it was fitting to continue that arc.

All that being said, I think I will take this story in a little bit of a different direction as we move on in this series. One thing I don’t want it to become is just a rehash of the same kind of story line over and over again. Though, I am not sure quite how I will do that just yet.

Thanks for reading!


Walking with the Spirits Part 2-B

“In time, the old ways would be sundered between Man and Wolf. It changed long ago, when Man left the forests for the fields. Man changed his relationship with the land and all the people. He put down his bow, and picked up his pick and shovel. He took his axe and cut down the ancient trees, and in their place he planted his food and cities.

So it was that my people, the Wolf, went to man and asked him why he no longer hunted, why he no longer ran with us as a brother? Man said to us that our ways were wild, and were no longer welcome. He said we were a danger to his cattle, and his sheep. He chased us away with weapons and death. We looked back upon man with longing, knowing that a deep rift had grown up between us. We knew that the days of our bond were passing, and that the coming days would see us as enemies.” The she-wolf said. The old man had tears in his eyes.

“And that is what came to pass. As man planted fields, and expanded across the world, the Wolf was seen as a threat, and an enemy. The Wolf People were killed wherever man went, and went extinct in many places. Man took the forests, and killed the wolves, and so claimed more and more for himself. No longer could Wolf and Man coexist, as the Wolf was wild, dangerous, and would take things from Man, and so must be killed.” The old man said, anger growing in his voice.

“What happened? Why did Man go back on his promise?” The boy asked. The she-wolf lowered her head, looking sad.

“A deep poison had festered in Man’s spirit. You see, even spirits can get sick and fall ill, even spirits can die. They can be wounded, and get infections as well. Man’s sickness was one of the spirit and of the mind. Man became poisoned by Greed and Pride. So it was that Man said to himself; “I am obviously superior to all creatures, and so it must be that I have dominion over them all. They exist to serve my needs, because I am superior.”

Such an idea poisoned Man’s spirit, and turned him away from all other beings. There were no longer Tree-People, or Wolf-People, but only resources and animals. Man told himself that all these things were for his own use, and that there was no need to give anything back. Why keep good relationships with things that are less than himself?

So over time Man became greedy, and was no longer willing to share with the people around him. He took the forests for his own use, and the land for his own us, and the water too the same. He took the air also for himself, and all the food too. He even took these things from of his own kind. Man hunted Wolf, because he could not stand the idea of having to share prey with Wolf anymore. Man and Wolf were no longer friends, and Wolf was no longer a person. Why share at all?” The she-wolf said, tears in her eyes.

The old man nodded sadly.

“That is what happened here. Man took all of it for his own use. The problem was, it was never enough. No matter how many trees we cut down, no matter how many lakes we polluted, no matter how many wolves we killed, it would never be enough. We did not realize until it was too late that by killing all these things we were really killing ourselves. As the she-wolf said, the spirit can be wounded just like anything else. Every tree we cut down, every wolf we killed, what we were really doing was killing ourselves, one tiny scratch at a time.” The old man said.

The boy now had tears in his eyes.

“Yes, this was once a place of water and trees. But now it is dead and lifeless, because we could never get enough, and could not see those different then us as people too. The tree were people, and the wolves were people. But now that is all gone, just like our spirits. It is all dead now, and soon we will be too. You and me boy are the last humans, and my time grows short.” The old man said.

The boy turned to the wolf.

“You too?” He asked. The she-wolf nodded.

“I am the last of my kind.” She said.

The sun had started to rise on the horizon. The old man and the old she-wolf looked at it with sadness.

“It is fitting we should see our last sunrise together.” The old man said.

“With the rising of the sun, we end things as we began them.” The she-wolf said.

“As friends.” The boy said. Both the old man and the old wolf nodded.

The sun rose, and the old man and the she-wolf withered away as the sunlight flooded the desert.

Commentary;

This is the second part of the story that I first posted here. I have been trying to clean it up a little, and make it read a little better. There might be some parts that are still unclear, because this story originally had a very different context.

It was a dream story originally, and the boy woke up at the end. A lot of that has been edited out for flow reasons, but some of it still lingers. For example, this story has a noted “post apocalyptic” feel to it. The implication is that the world around the old man and the she-wolf is dead, nothing but desert and sand. This was spelled out more in the early versions of this story, but here it has been mostly dropped.

I felt I had to share this one, because the message behind it is a strong one. It speaks of a sundering between humanity and nature, between Man and all other Persons. Over the long ages, we have slowly drove a wedge between ourselves and nature. I have made it pretty clear on this blog that I am at best ambivalent towards capitalism. As an idea and as an economic system, it has a hell of a lot of problems. And because of such ideas, we often talk of things like “natural resources” and even “human resources.” There is a lot of problems with this kind of worldview.

Overall, I felt this was a good story to follow up my discussion on totemism. It has a few aspects I would put in that kind of worldview.

However, now I start looking forward to the next part of this series. From here, we will move on to a general discussion on the development of religion, and from there onto various archaeological sites that give us insight into the nature of religion, and what the ancestors thought about their world.

As always, thanks for reading!


Walking with the Ancestors Part 4-B

Usti strode along the bank of the ancient river, known from the earliest times as the home to his people. Here, for ages long past, and far beyond the memory of the living, his ancestors and their ancestors had made their camps.

He looked around, and pulled his furs tighter around him. He knew well that the cold winds would be coming soon, and the snows of winter. He walked up river, towards the source of the waters, because that was the way that would lead him back home, and to his mate and children.

As he rounded a bend in the river, the camp came into sight. Several of his friends and relatives were busy working on their homes. The nearest of these was erected from the bones of a mammoth, which had been taken during the last hunt. The large, heavy bones made up the walls, and the woman of the house was busy lacing together reindeer antlers, which would be used as part of the roof. Their son was helping too, busy pulling new furs and hides over their home. Everyone in his village knew the cold would be coming soon.

Smoke rose from several of the houses, but he was heading towards the one he shared with his family. He passed by several other houses as he walked, and many people greeted him from around their outdoor fires. As he passed by another house, a man with a shirt of wolf skin caught his eye. Usti nodded, because the man was one of great honor. He was the one who Spoke with the People.

The two men held their gaze for a moment, and then the Old Wolf came over to Usti.

“Have you been walking the river again?” The Old Wolf asked.

Usti nodded.

“I watched the fish as they swam down the river. I came upon a group of deer farther down, and they ran once they saw me.” Usti said. The Old Wolf nodded.

“That is the way of these things. Is your mate well?” The Old Wolf said, and Usti saw something in his eyes. He knew that look well, and he knew that the Old Wolf had knowledge that Usti did not.

“She was well when I set out this morning. She is heavy with child, and has trouble walking.” Usti said, with a laugh. The Old Wolf nodded.

“She will be having a girl.” The Old Wolf said. Usti felt the smile cross his face.

“A girl?! It will be my first daughter!” Usti exclaimed.

“It will be. And she will be a fine hunter, among the finest.” The Old Wolf said.

“The People have told you this?” Usti said. The shaman nodded.

Usti could barely contain the joy that he felt. He would have a daughter, and she would be a fine hunter. He filled with pride, but still he saw the look that lingered in the Old Wolf’s eyes.

“Is there more?” Usti asked.

“Would you walk with me?” The Old Wolf said.

Usti nodded, and the two of them set out of the village towards the west. He walked in silence by the old man, because he knew it was rude to break the silence just for the sake of talking. The Old Wolf was wise beyond any man, and when he spoke others listened. The Old Wolf was not the kind to speak of trivial things, and he was also the kind that kept much knowledge to himself. Usti had only spoken with the man a handful of times.

“There are things you should know, because my time among our people is short.” The Old Wolf said.

“You have many winters ahead of you.” Usti said. The Old Wolf shook his head.

“No, that is not what the People have in store for me. I fear the People may call to me before the coming one has ended. Or maybe the one after next, if they are willing.” The Old Wolf said.

“Why do you tell me these things?” Usti said.

“Because they must be said before I am called away. It is about your daughter.” The Old Wolf said.

“You said she will be a great hunter. What more could a father want?” Usti said.

“She will be more than a great hunter, Usti. In time, she will grow to be much more than that.” The Old Wolf said, as he started to undue the lacing of the old black wolf who kept watch over his shoulder.

“What are you doing?!” Usti exclaimed. The Old Wolf slowly folded the black fur, and muttered to himself all the while. Usti stood staring at him speechless.

At last, the old man held out the fur to Usti. Usti stepped back several paces.

“I can not take this…” Usti said.

“It is not for you. In time it will be for your daughter.” The Old Wolf said.

Usti felt like he was going to faint.

“You will have to give it to her, because I fear I will not linger long enough to give it to her myself.” The old man said.

The Old Wolf pushed the black wolf skin into Usti’s hands, making it clear that he had no choice but to take it.

Commentary;

This one is a little bit shorter. I worried about it getting too long if I kept it going. Admittedly, I had to take some liberties with this one. Give or take 10,00 years worth of liberties. This is because that all we have of the Ust Ishim man is a femur, and while the genome it has given us is nothing short of amazing; there is still a lot we do not know about the time when the Ust Ishim (uncreatively called Usti here) lived.

His femur was not found in the context of a village, and as far as I know, not even in the context of other bones. Aside from the genome sequence from the bone itself, it has little else to tell us about archaeologically. As such, I used inspiration from other similar sites scattered across the Upper Paleolithic. The inspiration for village was from the Malta-Buret Culture, which will appear again in this series. Other inspirations include several years worth of research and study, and I cannot detail them all here.

Join me next time as I take the next step in this journey.

And as always, thank you for reading!

Sources, References;

Malta-Buret Culture

Wikipedia – Upper Paleolithic