I can resist anything, except temptation! (Oscar Wilde)

Category archive

human ecology

Monotheism

in human ecology

What is it about human psychology that finds monotheism intolerable? Polytheistic religious experience means being gripped by a story in which the diversity of the many characters is “the symbolic expression of a lively process”. The gods and goddesses “teach us an acceptance of the variousness of ourselves and others”. The monotheistic search for a single sense of identity makes us feel guilty for not getting it all together, which is impossible in a plural universe. Thinking is polytheistic, “a reality in which truth and falsity, life and death, beauty and ugliness, good and evil are forever and inextricably mixed together.” The powers and forces are dramatically revealed in an acceptable way…. If he cannot find evidence for a single center in a diverse world, the monotheist feels lost, experiences a disconnectedness and senses the “death of God”, which is to say, the deadness of abstraction. Belief divorced from tangible support is tiring, dull, out of touch. Theology becomes “irrelevant to faith and philosophy irrelevant to everything.” Monotheism socially becomes fascism, imperialism, or capitalism; philosophically is unmetaphorical, unambiguous, and dichotomous; and psychologically is rigid, fixed, and linear.[1]


  1. Shepard, P., 1998. Nature and madness. University of Georgia Press. 

Grain and root farming

in human ecology

The distinction between grain- and root-farming cultures has been cited as the basis of fundamental differences of outlook between Occident and Orient. Briefly, the thesis is that the root crops of southeast Asia required fewer and simpler techniques of cultivation, were perennials instead of annuals, stored less well than grain, concentrated less energy than grain, were grown in small, mixed assemblages instead of large monocultures, required less irrigation, and fermented differently. The result is that the husbandry of Asia was more in harmony with the inward and passive mysteries of the feminine principle. The Great Mother in the West was more readily subordinated to the calculating and regimenting masculine ideal. Even today, the maternal figure in Asia keeps an energy that in the West was swept away by the conquest of the Mycenaeans by the Achaeans and in the Levant by the collapse of the autochthonous temple cities of the river valleys. (Diamond (1981)[1] in Shepard (1998)[2] )


  1. Diamond, S., 1981. Culture in history: essays in honor of Paul Radin. Octagon Press, Limited. 

  2. Shepard, P., 1998. Nature and madness. University of Georgia Press. 

History

in human ecology

Village life put demands on the minds of adults that resembled distorted versions of the growing pains of typical children of Homo sapiens everywhere. Perhaps the greater complexity of life in village society did not actually counterbalance the simplification of the nonhuman environment. Thus, the difference between the psychological world of the adult and the child in the villages was not as great as that between adults and children among the ancestral hunters. This is not what one expects from the traditional view of history. But history itself, an idea accounting for a made world, was invented by villagers as a result of five thousand years of strife and struggle to hold environment and self together. As a simplistic, linear, literal account of events and powers as unpredictable as parental anger, history is a juvenile idea.… we must stand apart from the conventions of history, even while using the record of the past, for the idea of history is itself a Western invention whose central theme is the rejection of habitat. It formulates experience outside of nature and tends to reduce place to location. To it, the plaints and passes of the desert fringe are only a stage upon which the human drama is enacted. History conceives the past mainly in terms of biography and nations. It seeks causality in the conscious, spiritual, ambitious character of men and memorializes them in writing.[1]


  1. Shepard, P., 1998. Nature and madness. University of Georgia Press. 

Eden was no garden

in human ecology

Two probable sources of the inception of “Garden of Eden”. One was the comparison between the emerging farming culture with the previous hunter gatherer one and the other was the increasing contrast between the ease of childhood and the burden of adulthood indicated that there must have been a good lost world; hunter-gatherers were living in it… children temporarily live in it…. In Shepard (1998)[1] words:

“… to the hunter, much of what he had seemed given; to the farmer, earned by continuing labor. For the farmer the contrast between the ease of childhood and the burdens of maturity had increased. For him there was a lost, more perfect world, the images of which were enhanced by his awareness of this contrast.”

According to Calder (ibid.):

“The garden image of paradise is apparently a debased figure, in which the cultures of husbandry described a lost world, using the best landscape images they knew. But “Adam” means “red” and has to do with men of the red uplands soils rather than the black cultivated ones. Geographically, Eden was a steppe plateau, the home of hunters and gathers. The yearning that the myth first expressed must have been that of disillusioned tillers of the soil for a long-lost life of freedom and relative ease. Eventually the urban ideology of civilization, in which men defined themselves by contrast to wild savages, made the nomadic image untenable…. Eden was no garden, but it was a gathering paradise.” (Calder, 1967)[2]


  1. Shepard, P., 1998. Nature and madness. University of Georgia Press. 

  2. Calder, N., 1967. Eden Was No Garden: an Inquiry Into the Environment of Man, First Edition. ed. Holt, Rinehart and Winston. 

From nomadic foraging to sedentary village life

in human ecology

Shift from hunter-gatherer to initial forms of village life demanded different style of consciousness: emergence of sedentary village life from nomadic foraging… Changes in thought, perceptions of the outer and inner world, and premises and assumptions … These shifts have to do with the quality of attention rather than ideas; with the significance of place rather than the identity of nations; with the theme of duality; with the subtle effects of food and trophic patterns on thought and expression; with the accumulation of made things and possessions that was part of village life; and, finally, with some of the subtler influences of domestication on the ways people saw themselves and the land, as well as their plants and animals.[1]

 


  1. Shepard, P., 1998. Nature and madness. University of Georgia Press. 

0 £0.00
Go to Top