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Monday, December 2, 2013


bushmen art

Looking backwards into the deeply forgotten past the last couple days, looking for where my fascination with the most primitive people around the earth began. National Geographics magazines, found everywhere, showed me sometimes people who danced around fires wearing masks and covered with body paint. People who carry bows, a few arrows and spears, people who from our point of view look like the most poor, but from their point of view were the most rich. Wherever they are, they live in a garden. Want a monkey for dinner? Easy done. One perfect shot. And you get your arrow back. They know how to make fire and their musical instruments when they need them. I've an idea the fundamentalist church of childhood fed my interest somewhat. Tuesday night was Missionary Meeting. Every week. No getting out of it. Missionaries passing through would stop by, give a slide show, talk about the work they're doing in the fields of the Lord, and ask for money. I liked the slide shows of mostly Africans. It was like Africa was real missionary work. Schweitzer and Livingston. A continent of colored heathens ripe for the picking, where they boil missionaries in big crock pots. My heart was actually with the coloreds. I couldn't stand it that the missionaries were so proud of putting the people in American thrift store rejects. That's the way they were supposed to dress after they get saved. It doesn't show their private parts and it's the way of civilization. It's what the Lord wants for them. I didn't have anything to base it on, maybe intuition, but I did not believe the Africans were devil-worshipping heathens, still don't, and have learned enough about it that I never will. I feel sad for black American Baptists who believe their African heritage is devil-worshippers. Now we're getting into colonialism. Conrad's Heart of Darkness.
I do not have the heart of an adventurer. I'm not one to go off into the unknown to see if I can survive it. The unknown is happening all the time, anyway. I have a great admiration for people who climb Everest, K-2 and the other killer mountains. I enjoy reading accounts by adventurers, one of my favorite being John Long's Gorilla Monsoon, a collection of his accounts of Xtreme experiences you have to be ready to die to jump into. I'd rather read about it. I think John Long thought up the plot for the Sylvester Stallone movie, Cliffhanger. It would have been better with actors we'd never seen before, but they would not have been a box office draw. So we had Rocky's ugly face wrecking an otherwise good movie. I like other people to have the adventures and tell me about them in person, by book or movie. I don't want to be hanging by a rope on the side of an ice cliff that goes half a mile straight down into a chasm there's no return from. That's for them that want it. Sometimes I believe Milly Richardson and I are from the same planet yonder in space. We both feel like we are here to observe. It's like we both live by a maxim of don't get attached, just observe. Observing is great. It's an ongoing round-the-clock movie. It's like seeing everything behind you in a window. I admire people like Jane Goodall sitting in dense African forest among the chimpanzees. She made one of the most beautiful films of my memory, The Wild Dogs of Africa, with her then-husband who did the filming. I saw it almost 40 years ago on PBS tv and have never seen nor heard reference to it since.
The documentary JOURNEY OF MAN has taken me to looking at the Kalahari region of southern Africa in a picture book I have of landscapes in Namibia. Odd to have such a thing, but I do. Africa fascinates me to read about. Ryan Milan's MY TRAITOR'S HEART comes to mind first. He wrote of South African apartheid in the time of Botha, from the inside. Athol Fugard comes to mind. I passed him on a sidewalk, once, going in opposite directions. What's happening in that part of South Africa is capitalist strife. I'm more interested in the people of the Kalahari region, the people who live the original way we humans began. I look at pictures of them on google images. I've read about them in the past, but it has been a long time. So long that they are no more than familiar. Went to the shelf and picked up Laurens van der Post's THE LOST WORLD OF THE KALAHARI. I gave away the copy I read a long time ago. The copy in the house was found at an Alleghany County Library book sale, a discarded library copy. Probably paid a quarter for it. It's in rough shape indicating it may have been read a number of times. It's one of those books you don't forget. I sat down with it for awhile and let myself be pulled into the good writing that inspires thoughts that I'd love to be able to write like van der Post. I picked up the book and held it just now, opened it, read a chance paragraph and felt awe. Van der Post grew up on a farm pioneered by his grandfather on the edge of the Kalahari territory. He grew up hearing his dad and granddad talking about them, about their ways, their skill with arrows, hunting, the clicking sound in their language, enough to grow him up curious about the people of the bush.
I've read a little bit along the way about the Aborigines in Australia, their culture, their relationship with the spirit that was direct, so direct as to be participants in the Dream. The Aborigines say they have been here 50,000 years, which I thought incredible, though wondered how well mythology translates to history. Confirmed by DNA that they do indeed know their own history renewed interest in them. Now, to see from the Journey Of Man that the people of the Kalahari are the first people that all the rest of us descended from in a Persian carpet tree of life that covered the earth eventually. All the time their descendants were covering the earth, the original people stayed at home in the southern tip of Africa. I'm wondering how many thousands of years the bush people lived there before the band of explorers set out on their way to the floating continent. They were not lonely because they were the only people. They did not set out looking for other people. They walked over the virgin earth, their footprints the first human footsteps. They were one with the spirit world and the animal world. They didn't leave a swath of devastation behind them like humans do now. This was before money was an issue. They were one with the ground they walked on and the rivers they crossed, wherever they were. The vision or whatever it was that guided them had to be powerfully convincing. They didn't have machetes, either. I'm wanting to dive into Laurens van der Post's good writing again and read about the Bushmen of Namibia, Botswana and South Africa, this time seeing them the original humans, where we came from, what we came in with.    


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