This morning I woke up and had a hunch I should visit a website that I stopped visiting regularly, and I came a cross an article that really crystallizes what I have been thinking about in terms of the whole "us against them" mindset that is so prevalent in our world. I really don't think it is a healthy way to be as a living creature, or sustainable culture. The beauty of the article is multiplied for me because it explores the concept of this ancient shadow dance that we must all engage in to become fully alive. Or at least that is how I am interpreting it.
I encourage you to read the full article.
Beyond black-and-white thinking in the New, Old West
by Amy Irvine
Published in the January/February 2010 issue of Orion magazine
IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT the human brain is most capable of distillation—of boiling things down to basic black and white. Smoke means fire. Breaking glass signals intrusion. From an evolutionary standpoint, this kind of rudimentary thought process might be a most valuable survival skill—the kind that allows a body to respond to threats even in a state of half-sleep. My husband, Herb, is a lawyer, the kind of man who has been trained to think before he acts—to examine all angles and consider complexities. But at three a.m. on an uncharacteristically cold and moonless night in late spring, even he is reduced. And through that reduction, he would come to see how things that lurk too starkly, even at opposing ends of the spectrum, can shift. As if fundamentals could be that supple. As if values—like the presence of all colors in relation to the sheer absence of them—could be so pliant. As if the natural order of things—like the age-old relationship between predator and prey—could flex into a new arrangement altogether.
The dogs would start it. Their frenzied barks, their teeth gnashing against the glass of the back door, would draw my husband out of bed and into his jeans in a single motion. In the mudroom, he would stumble through a sea of writhing canines, pull on his boots with one hand and turn the knob with the other. Two aging Aussies and a half-blind border collie mix would spill out into the dark yard and charge toward the goat pen. They would make it halfway before stopping dead in their tracks and high-tailing it back to the porch. Herb would hear the screams then, the desperate cries for help. He would fumble in the doorway for the porch light, two-stepping with the returning dogs, and there, his sleep-riddled mind would already be drawing conclusions so swiftly it would feel, he would say later, like pure instinct.
And here I should point out that my husband, despite his profession, is a man who could have been born into the Paleolithic—the kind of guy who has built a life sustained by wildness more than any other element. After college, Herb left Michigan for the West and never looked back. On the other side of the Continental Divide he found the kind of unfettered topography that he needed—for he’s a man who is happiest when ambling over great stretches of soil or stone. He loves the basics, the way they ignite his senses: The procurement of food, shelter, warmth. The silky curves of women, skylines, rivers. Then there is his deeply held belief that he is a sort of Dr. Dolittle; and indeed, I have been witness to his extraordinary ability to communicate with animals. Domestic or untamed, creatures of all sorts seem to enter quickly into some kind of understanding with him.
It is this latter quality that explains why my husband’s guns have never been loaded—despite the fact that we have made our home in one of the more wild parts of the West, where black bears, mountain lions, bobcats, and elk are as common as livestock. Where large tracts of untrammeled public land still eclipse both alfalfa fields and subdivisions of “ranchettes.” Herb had stored in various places a .22 Smith & Wesson six-shooter, a 12-gauge shotgun, and three rifles in .22, .30-06, and 7 mm magnum calibers—an inheritance from his grandfather, who had been an avid hunter in both the Great Lakes region and in Africa. All but the .22s had lain in their cases since his grandfather had died nearly eleven years prior—and those two firearms had only been used to shoot beer cans off fence posts on the occasional Sunday afternoon. Looking back, I think we both took a certain pride—and a smug one at that—in having no need for guns in what is largely a gun-toting community of roughneck ranchers, folks who let loose bullets daily on coyotes and prairie dogs.
So it is mind-boggling that Herb would conclude as he did on that night. Call it a natural impulse, or call it one of the ill effects of living in a culture steeped in sensational news and violent movies, but his mind instantly crafted the assumption that the hair-raising cries coming across the dark yard were of human origin. Somehow, he decided—in our critter-laden, outback of a neighborhood that sits seven miles from a tiny, low-crime kind of town—that some heinous, unspeakable assault was being committed by one deranged human upon another. And as he charged away from the now-cowed dogs into the colorless void that lay beyond the porch light’s glare, his brain illuminated with one white, shining thought: This is what the world has come to. Standing empty-handed in the inkwell of night, he was ready to face squarely some malevolence in his own species. "
For the rest of the article, go here: http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/5230
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