12/11/2011

The first paradigm change

Have you seen Herzog's "forgotten dreams" cave movie? It initially amazes by showing the active use of the cave wall's unevenness by the cave people, which was either compensated or used as 3D - visualisation-tool. To my impression, there were too very smart tries to use something like perspective and visual tricks to simulate moving pictures, all with respect to the way, the paintings were viewed and the associations such hunter-gatherers should have had.

A remarkable story of two german scientists who fled the war by hiding in the Namibian desert tells how near and strange at the same time our hunter-gatherer past is. I stumbled across that old story when reading this fascinating story about siberian tigers, their antedeluvial ecosystem and the people's (self)destructive interactions with it. This short part of a documentary shows what seems to me as a kind of archetype of experience, explaining the "spiritual" aspect of hunter-gatherer life.

And it leads to questions coming up when somewhat strange figurines of pregnant or obese women were shown: Could it be that the association of sexuality with pregnancy were unknown those times? E.g. scattered within reports on some recent tribes, their beliefs, and new observations from modern people make one wonder if that association is extremly un-obvious even for people who know nature and animals very well. What if the early hunter-gatherers did not have that insight? 9 months is a long time, esp. when pregnancy can stay unnoticed for a long time by overweight women, pregnancy was until modern medicine so dangerous for women that nature had a good
reason to make it's cause a mystery (e.g. this initiative), enlightening observations of animal behaviour may have come through animal breeding, but not by hunting. That would have huge implications, e.g. the not-so-good-looking figurines, the mystery of pregnancy (and why it sometimes occures more often) and the role of women and men etc. A recent report about strange figurines (another link) discusses the gender of early shamans, but I guess it was even stranger: Male shamans initiated sometimes by surgically "switching gender". The discovery of the link between sexuality and pregnancy were surely the biggest paradigm change ever.

An other issue is about the distinction banal/subtile (resp. real/imaginated, obvious/complex-structured, practical/theoretical, ...): Today, we perceive that as fundamental distinct - what is banal can never be associated with deep meanings, we distinguish clearly between symbols and their meaning, etc. Herzog's unpleaseant pathetic comes basically from the incompatibility of using this contemporary mindset in a situation, which is different in that aspect. When one of the archeologists in the film speaks of "homo spiritualis", he apparently refers to that - that banal/subtile etc. may be viewed properly as parts of a symbiosis which make only together a living thing (i.e. that what is special in the modern human's mind), and that our habit of cutting it into pieces is a kind of butchering. But interestingly, there is a "needle's eye" where that symbiosis is still alive today - science: During the film, one sees the archeologists producing "deep insights", "knowledge of the hidden" etc. by nothing else than systematically followed banalities like counting dust, measuring ash, etc. (It reminds me of the astonishing of chinese
mathematicians when they first saw Euclid's Elements and were amazed that Euclid starts with long chains of trivialities which mytseriously led to theorems far outside anything, chinese geometers ever had produced.) Obviously Herzog was unaware of that.