Thursday, November 27, 2008

Reading Stories

More reflection on the Kamana program.

Since I was first introduced to The Tracker, almost twenty years ago now, I've always wondered why I have spent more time reading stories written by humans than reading the stories made by animals on the landscape. Well, I ran across this post with that question in mind. This excerpt from it explains it well:

One reason for this is that these stories are composed of languages that are new and unfamiliar to me.

Written English is what I grew up with. I was a precocious reader, and a voracious one. Literacy has been my source of story and identity for a long time. Whatever activity I explore, I accompany it by reading a book about it. And there’s no shortage of books about spirituality, magic, primitive skills, tracking, fighting.

But maybe I’m too locked into English. This is human language, after all, and seeking stories in human language keeps me trapped in the human world, keeps me in a hall of mirrors where I’m just trying to find another human who has come up with a story for me. It keeps me blocked off from other sources of story.

This is the dilemma, though: that, having been locked into human language for so long, I’m illiterate in other forms. I can’t read the language of the birds or animal tracks or plant growth. I can’t read the clouds or the wind or the seasons. And, being unable to read them, they aren’t meaningful to me in a direct way.

So I end up relying on other people’s descriptions. When I read Tom Brown, Jr.’s The Tracker, like many other people, I was captivated by the stories he could tell about nature. When I took his Standard class, one morning, simply in passing, he told a story about the tracks he saw that morning, about the raccoons that had rummaged in the garbage and the coyote that had stopped on the ridge and then ran away because he saw someone. What I wanted, above all, was to experience that kind of meaning, to read the world the way I could read a book.

The problem, though, as many a linguist will tell you, is that languages are best learned when you’re young. When you’re older, it takes a lot more effort to become fluent. It’s taken me many hours of practice to begin to be fluent in pulse diagnosis, and it’s at least related to my chosen profession. Certainly there are people who haven’t had the opportunity in childhood but have now developed a passion for tracking and have become very good at it. But I don’t want to have to be passionate about something in order to extract meaning from it. I want that meaning to be easy as me picking up a book. But it’s not, and won’t be without plenty of practice. And practice requires motivation, and motivation requires, well, a reason, a purpose, a Myth.

Does it all lead back to stories and myth?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Wisconsin Deer Hunting and Competition

This morning I listened to Joy Cardin's call-in radio show about deer hunting in the state of Wisconsin. One of the issues that was brought up during the show was that there are to many deer in the state, so hunters need to shoot more deer to bring the numbers down. The part of the show that caught my attention was Frank's (He was from Portage, WI) call at about 45 or so minutes into the hour long program. What I heard Frank saying in his comment is that part of the problem is that we're not letting the natural predators like wolves, bear, and cougars do their job of consuming deer because we have taken over their territories, therefore bringing their numbers down so they can't make an impact on the deer herd. He also mentioned that we keep taking from the land and its inhabitants, and we have been doing this since we decided to take the land from the Native Americans that lived here.

I was disappointed with Keith Warnke's response to Frank. Keith is a Big Game Specialist who works for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The main reason why is that he didn't mention our total dependence on agriculture to produce our food. And most importantly, because of this dependence on agriculture we are breaking The Biological Law of Limited Competition. The law simply states:

You may compete to the full extent of your capabilities, but you may not hunt down your competitors or destroy their food or deny them access to food. Lions and hyenas will kill competitors opportunistically (as will other creatures, like baboons), but the law as stated holds true: they do not HUNT their competitors the way they hunt their prey. That is, they'll kill a competitor if they come across one (especially in conflict over food when food is scarce), but in the absence of a competitor, they won't go looking for one to kill. Such behavior would be evolutionarily unstable. (See THE SELFISH GENE by R. Dawkins.) As a strategy, it just doesn't pay off to use your time and energy hunting competitors that you DON'T eat (and that will fight back to the death) instead of using your time and energy to hunt prey that you DO eat. It's not a matter of ethics, it's a matter of calories.*

Spraying pesticides on fields, killing wolves because they kill whitetail deer, shooting deer because they eat our corn, are all examples of killing our competitors because we don't want them to have our food. That's breaking the Law of Limited Competition. The problem is that over time a species will go extinct from breaking this law. Experts and citizens alike, I think, really need to start talking about this more.

I would like to be a guest on Wisconsin Public Radio talking about this and other ideas brought up in Daniel Quinn's work. Perhaps there needs to be an organization started in the state that focuses on those ideas. Anybody out there with any ideas? In the ten years I have been listening to WPR I have not heard a guest voice the B Attitudes, but I have heard callers like Frank touch on them.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Kamana Reflection

It's been almost four years since I signed up for the Kamana program. There is four levels to it, and for some who are really dedicated it can take just over a year to complete. I'm over half way through it and not particularily proud of it. I told myself that after we moved into our cordwood house I was going to start visiting my sit spot again. Well, we've been living in here for almost a month and I haven't visited it yet. So I've been thinking a lot about why I'm stuck in this program. I figure if I can help build a house from scratch and remain debt free (except for a few credit card bills) I should be able to complete this program.

Last week I asked what the definition of vision was. I quoted Daniel Quinn out of Beyond Civilization trying to come to some kind of understanding what this invisible thing we call vision is. I find myself going back to the section about vision in Beyond Civilization trying to understand why I'm having a hard time finishing this program.

Every year, without fail, we outlaw more things, catch more people doing them, and put more of them in jail. The outlawed behavior never goes away, because, directly or indirectly, it's supported by the strong, invisible, unrelenting force called vision. This explains why police officers are much more likely to take up crime than criminals are to take up law enforcement. It's called "going with the flow." pg.17

Like the police officers in Quinn's example, perhaps I'm going more with the flow of our culture at this point in time. There really is no external reward (Like getting paid to do it.) for doing what is required in the Kamana program. To put it simply, the program doesn't pay the bills. This makes me wonder how much different this Kamana journey would be for me if I got paid for my time doing it?

Thursday, November 13, 2008


"Up to the twentieth century, "reality" was everything humans could touch, smell, see, and hear. Since the initial publication of the chart of the electromagnetic spectrum ... humans have learned that what they can touch, smell, see, and hear is less than one-millionth of reality. Ninety-nine percent of all that is going to affect our tomorrows is being developed by humans using instruments and working in ranges of reality that are nonhumanly sensible." Buckminster Fuller

Thursday, November 06, 2008

What is Vision?

This question has been on my mind since reading Daniel Quinn's Beyond Civilization almost a decade ago. I know there are visions in mission statements and personal visions and so on, but I don't think I've fully grasped what vision means. Here is the excerpt out of BC that I keep going back to when I think about vision:

Vision is like Gravity

Vision is to culture what gravity is to matter. When you see a ball roll off a table and fall to the floor, you should think, "Gravity is at work here." When you see a culture make its appearance and spread outward in all directions until it takes over the entire world, you should think, "Vision is at work here."
When you see a small group of people begin behaving in a special way that subsequently spreads across an entire continent, you should think, "Vision is at work here." If I tell you that the small group I have in mind were followers of a first-century preacher named Paul and that the continent was Europe, you'll know the vision was Christianity.
Dozens or perhaps even hundreds of books have investigated the reasons for Christianity's success, but not one of them was written before the nineteenth century. Before that nineteenth century it seemed to everyone that Christianity no more needed reasons to succeed than gravity does. It was bound to succeed. Its success was sponsored by destiny.
For exactly the same reason, no one has ever written a book investigating the reasons for the success of the Industrial Revolution. It's perfectly obvious to us that the Industrial Revolution was bound to succeed. It could no more have failed than a ball rolling off a table could fall toward the ceiling.
That's the power of vision.

I'm looking for personal definitions of vision or what other authors have said about vision. Any help would be appreciated.

Thank you.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Ancestral Memory

"Why should one feel it to be intolerable unless one had some kind of ancestral memory that things had once been different?" - George Orwell, 1984