Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Animism in a scientfic world

Animism is the belief in the existence of individual spirits that inhabit natural objects and phenomena. IE a sacred stone that can make crops grow(ala Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) A belief system that supports the idea that objects have spirits and worth outside of their material make up.

This last week at work I have been discussing in depth the renaissance in Europe. After the "Black Death" swept through killing at will and debasing the mystical power of the Christian church the world was "blessed" with the enlightenment and the developments that would lead to contemporary modern society. The scientific method was soon to follow and science would begin to rationalize and explain away the magic in our lives.

Upon the end of this section in our class we move directly to Africa and The Pre Colombian Americas. A land that had been previously left to develop in it's own ways was full of myth and magic that was in no way kitschy or banal (as western tourism has made it today) but was genuine and part of a broader holistic view that required belief in something that makes sense with out proof.

I then received an article from a good friend about a Man who upon finding a sweatshirt washed up on the beach decided that he would (if not cynically) explore the world of fashion with this new line of clothing. He considered the sweatshirt a collaboration between him and the sea and as a unique item priced it at 1200.00 (on par with other items in the store). Some people bought into the idea other thought the thing was only worth 4 or 500.00. Others thought he was an ass. You can decide.

All of these things make me wonder why we have lost that ability to have things of meaning in our lives. I feel like what is good and important in an object is simply what someone else says it is. Unless I am naked in a snow storm a sweatshirt is not worth 1200.00(never mind where I would keep the money to buy it) On the flip side some where along the line Americans have decided that 4 t shirts for 3.00 is better than 2 t shirts for 3.00 and as a result the clothing industry has moved away and has taken advantage of youth and poor people on the other side of the planet to provide objects that are cheaper and to me represent a misunderstanding of how we value objects. Better farming through science has killed the spirit of the plants and animals, and the earth itself as farmers pull more out put less in as if there is no spirit in the things they deal with. In our efforts to go go go we would put in place plans to burn food. So little disregard that our option is to burn food?

With the holidays around the corner I think a lot about getting things. We are thing makers and collectors and as Kurt Vonnegut mentions in "Sirens of Titan" humanity has to leave the earth because the museum collections over crowd the earth and we are forced out by our collection of the past

I am not one of those people who thinks it would be great if society collapsed and we all went back to simpler mystical times. But I do think as a people if we are to succeed into the future we will need to rediscover the spirit of the world we live in and mesh it with our incessant need to understand.

Next week the saga of the plastic trees our asininity knows no bounds.

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