Tuesday, August 30, 2011

So Where Did We Go Wrong?

What? Wassermatter? Who are you raving on about now?

Well - all of us. No - strike that - some of us. I'm thinking about Western "Civilisation" (note the inverted commas).

G has been doing rather a lot of reading lately - good for her. And she has been pondering some fairly weighty thoughts about our Western way of doing things in general and Christianity (for want of a better word), more particularly.

You see, we've discovered finally that the concoction making up the Christian bible is a heady brew of ancient politics, the dark ages, misrepresentation and one-upmanship over the other ancient religions (most of which predate Judaism and Christianity by a mile). Throw in a pinch of bible reprints (and reinvention) al la King James around 400 years ago and 1100 or so years of catholic domination over access to any authoritative research material and the stage is set. By the way - I don't have an axe to grind with any Catholic or indeed anyone else of the same or any other religion - we've moved on.

But I don't think any serious biblical scholar or scholar of antiquities will argue with you that what you may read in your "authorised" (or any other modern translated) bible has little to do with the meaning of the original writings - how can they? They come from copies of copies of copies of scribed-out heresay and a bunch of passed-on word of mouth stuff. Have you ever tried the HR exercise demonstrating how easy it is to get line loss in passing on information?

This is how it works : Let 5 or 6 people leave the room, and then bring the first person back in. Show this person a picture - not too complex - and after allowing some time, take away the picture. Then allow the 2nd person into the room. The first person describes the appearance of the picture to the 2nd person - word of mouth only - and then sits down in the class. The 2nd person asks the 3rd person in and repeats the exercise. This carries on until the last person has been told what the picture looks like. Then the last person draws the picture based on what they have been told. And then the original picture is put side by side with the redrawn picture. Viola ! Horrendous line loss and misinterpretation.

How much harder would this be with a more weighty subject matter and over 2000 years, interspersed with wars, persecutions, destruction of key documents and 1100 years of suppression?

But the object of this is not bible or Christian-bashing. The object is to show that we have started venturing outside the box - looking at all those other people "out there". All those other people and their spirituality - and what an eye-opener it is!

We've always had a soft spot for the Native American - those original plains-dwellers who were quietly getting on with life, spirituality and minding their own business, when the "civilised" (there I go using inverted commas again) white man came along - invaded is a better word - and wiped them out, or imprisoned the remainder in locations. And then said "now get on with living in your little box".

And the more we started to study these ancient people, the more we see how very advanced both their lifestyle and spirituality are. Advanced not from the point of view of 7-lane freeways and noise pollution and wiping out huge tranches of nature - plus anyone who disagrees with you. But advanced from the point of view that they had mastered the art of living in harmony with their ecosystem. They lived in a generous way, a non-jealous way. They only took according to their needs and they honoured the nature they lived in harmony with. They recognised that you have to give back - you cannot always take.

And when you start to appreciate the way the family unit was formed and the various roles of the father and mother as well as the extended family, and why this was done in this way, the honour they had for each other and their world, the value they placed on silence and solitude and the need for thinking - to mention only a few factors - you start to realise that these were not "savages" by any means.

To the contrary! These people had learned by observation and by thinking. They passed down cherished ways of life - hard learned and proven to their children and children's children. And then we came along and tried to wipe them out. I say "tried", because the job thankfully did not succeed entirely - but it came pretty close and in fact served to decimate a very wonderful and valuable ancient culture.

So then we started to think about the white civilised hordes who came along, and about their (and our own) background. And we think back - beyond the industrial revolution, beyond the renaissance, beyond the dark ages, beyond the crusades, and back before the advent of Christianity and Judaism. And I started to wonder what our "religious" forefathers were doing round about the same time in ancient history that the Native American Indian forefathers were doing it - and why the paths diverged so much.

I guess there must be many factors in play that have shaped our destiny - sundry inventions, a technological evolutionary path that we went on, but also the predisposition of Western mankind to display certain negative character tendencies, which tend to throw a spanner in the works.

I was reading a piece called "An empirical expose on the damaging effects of arrogance on society" (5th edition - Dec 2008) by A.O. Kime, and I was interested to note the extremely far-reaching effects in a society and even at a country level due to the advent of arrogance. Now I'm not suggesting arrogance is the be all and end all of the woes of our society, but it does appear that we seem to have more than our fair share of it. And then I looked back again at the treatise I'm reading by Dr Charles Eastman, called "The Soul of the Indian Man", and I noted the level of humility in all their dealings - in their work, their social interactions, their spirituality, their living and their dying.

And I started to wonder just how much Westernised civilisation is infected with arrogance and the extent to which this has contributed to the mess we're in today. And if we had been allowed to evolve along the path of the Native American, would it have turned out the same?

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