Modern man lives for number one. What’s ironic about this is the small fact that more than any of his predecessors, he is dependent on others for every element of his survival . His clothes, transportation, food, shelter, entertainment and indeed all the most vital services which he enjoys and consumes daily are provided by others. Previously, as his very lifestyle was built around an agrarian farming culture that provided his sustenance, he depended on an intimate network of extended family , other farmers and the village which sprung up around him to house the butcher, the baker and the candlestick-maker. The products he consumed until very recently were all produced locally by people he, by and large, knew personally.
This urban scheme has been with us since the first farming communities sprung up. An arrangement dating back to our earliest recorded history, beginning with the departure of our ancestors from a nomadic hunter gatherer existence which lasted hundreds of thousand of years to move into villages leading to the creation of the worlds earliest civilizations in places like Sumeria and Mesopotamia. The elements of our modern lives have changed very little since the beginning of our earliest written history a mere four thousand years ago. Shops, markets, money, houses and streets, writing and book keeping, the wheel and much of our technology, the nation state, war, ethics, morality and the laws which govern us are all very similar to those we now employ in daily life in the twenty first century. Outside a few tweaks, all of what makes us modern , the vast majority of it, has been with us since that time. Even our religions in the West, the Bible stories which are still clung to and interpreted literally by a large portion of the American population such as the Garden of Eden, Noah’s Ark as well as many others are in fact originally from Sumerian pre Judaic sources. Abraham, the father of Judaism, Christianity and Islam was a Sumerian.
This adopted city dweller approach to survival has indeed made us very successful, coupled with the extensions of basic technological innovations acquired as we moved on from living with the natural world so closely. The harnessing of fire or combustion, the little trick of spinning magnets around a coil of wire to produce electricity, the generator. Electricity, which when reintroduced into the very same mechanism, spins a wheel and becomes the electric motor. Some cultures, the few indigenous ones still present in many places but vanishing quickly, continue to maintain that pre urban lifestyle but these are increasingly extinguished as separate cultural differences, ancient skills and knowledge disappear in the march towards mono culture that can be seen the world over.
While the “new” approach has certainly made us very successful in evolutionary terms, the so called “masters of nature”, it has also, as can be seen in the impending destruction of the natural world which all life, including people intrinsically depend upon, put us in a position where the very strategy which has made us so successful imperils our continued survival along with the rest of life on the planet. No longer consciously connected with nature, human life now occurs entirely within an artificial system of man’s own creation.
Specialists, whose entire lives are lived within civilization’s comfortable cocoon, removed from any personal awareness of the community of life around us or our effects upon it, we have become alienated from the very web which our survival as a species depends. Ironically, everything about us , the edifice of our civilization, our books, our housing, buildings , televisions, computers transportation, entertainment, and indeed the windows we look out at the world from, are all square , all come in boxes. We seem incapable of any experience outside this simple package, blind to the damage we are inflicting on our own future, we are truly boxed in by the limitations we put in place only a few thousand years ago .
Perhaps we need to heed an older voice , one that was with us far longer than civilization has been, in order to evolve beyond our present conundrum . Perhaps things have come full circle and progress is not a line from here to there but rather a spiral making it’s way to a perfection at the heart of the evolutionary process that all life obeys. I think the words of the Sioux medicine man and shaman Black Elk , who knew Red Cloud and Crazy Horse and was witness himself to the battle of the Little Big Horn and the massacre at Wounded Knee stated what we, in our linear thinking have all but forgotten.
“You have noticed that everything an Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round. In the old days when we were a strong and happy people, all our power came to us from the sacred hoop of the nation, and so long as the hoop was unbroken, the people flourished. The flowering tree was the living center of the hoop, and the circle of the four quarters nourished it… Everything the Power of the World does is done in a circle. The sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours. The Sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle. The Moon does the same, and both are round. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back to where they were. The life of man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves. Our tepees were round like the nests of birds, and these were always set in a circle, the nation’s hoop, a nest of many nests, where the Great Spirit meant for us to hatch our children.”