For this first meeting, we are going to look at how humans understood themselves and their world in the period known as “pre-history”.
After all, when you think about it, this is the longest period of human existence, stretching hundreds of thousands of years… (Language and so-called “behavioral modernity” are thought to have emerged about 150,000 to 100,000 years ago.)
How did our early ancestors view themselves and the world around them?
What can we learn from their view?
That seems like a useful place to begin, doesn’t it?
I have put together a small packet of readings for this meeting, meant to provoke us.
In the packet you will find the following:
1. An excerpt from Georges Batailles “The Cradle of Humanity: Prehistoric Art and Culture”
2. An excerpt from Malcolm Margolin’s The Way We Lived
3. An excerpt from Malcolm Margolin’s The Ohlone Way
4. D.H. Lawrence’s poem “The Snake”
5. Francis Ponge’s poem “Horse”
6. An excerpt from David Abram’s “Becoming Animal”
Some questions to reflect upon…
What is your own sense of separateness from, or communion with, other animals? Do you have a story to share?
How much of our sense of being different from, and even superior to, other animals is learned in your childhood? How much of it is true? Is this difference important to you?
When you consider animals do you think of them as inferior? Is it your “reason” that sets you apart? Or is it human “consciousness” (what is that anyway?)? Or is it your capacity for symbolic thinking? Or perhaps it’s just tribal loyalty — as a member of our vulnerable, nearly hairless, featherless bipedal primate tribe? (Fair enough, lions and wasps and all other living things probably feel this sort of tribal loyalty too, in some indescribable manner.)
Does accepting that you are an animal, and that your brain emerged, by way of adaptation over millions and millions of years, for certain terrestrial purposes and not others, make you think about the world differently?
A few more questions…
What’s behind the appeal of the concept of “paleo” in the year 2014?
Why, for example, is the Paleo diet trendy right now? What is behind this current-day myth-making, harkening back to that life, prior to agriculture and society?
What does it make you feel to imagine the lives of our ancient ancestors and their very different world?