Friday, 20 July 2012

The Earth is my (super) heroine

The title of this entry may sound a bit strange and whacky for some readers, but I can assure you that it is based on what I've learned, read and heard of in the scientific discourse on our exceptional planet.

Since I was a child, I've always had what I call "mystical" experiences, starting with my first naive inklings of the infinite; in the Springtime we always went out on the land (which I always resented because I wasn't allowed to come along on hunting trips and I had no reading material other than cereal boxes and other labels, well, for forever) but while we were in transit, we'd have to cross leads in the ice and I'd wonder how far the crack in the ice went for; and what's beyond that? While we were travelling in a fog it came to me suddenly that the infinite and nothingness are conceptually connected because we cannot honestly grasp either one: the void and infinity are of equal quality!

I've always sat in wonder the real love and familiarity that my parents and other adults had for the land, and never once did I ever question their claim that our land is the most beautiful. I've come to realize that they weren't talking about somewhere specific but the whole of the planet Earth and its biosphere; this living, breathing, organic wonder.

There is an old ethnic joke that goes something like: how do you get 12 eskimos into a qajaq? tell them it's a charter. But a more revealing one would go something like: how do you get 200 eskimos into a one-bedroom hut? tell them a nature show is on. Every Inuk that I've ever known, including me, especially me, are fascinated by nature shows: whether it be about animals we've never seen before, or about land formations our rapt attention becomes unbreakable. Inuit are forever the real hunters - curious, observant, and total silent falls when something catches our eyes. Our predator algorithm sets in, and it becomes as if we were really there.

This algorithm is different from savage, mindless imperative to kill and destroy that we see in "civilize" men from the eighteenth century or that rare instance of a nawhal hunt (which bothers not only me but some hunters are really disturbed by that madness). Of the few times I've tagged along for hunts, and the countless stories I've heard, Inuit hunters usually just sit quietly and observe for long periods of time before acting on the hunting "instinct". One can tell just by looking and feel, that these hunters have a deep respect and civility for the prey; they never act rashly or with impudence.

At its very best, Inuit hunting style can be likened to the art of bonsai; at its worse, the "civilized" eighteenth century behaviour of wanton madness.

This behaviour has increasingly become the norm, especially after true poverty was invented by the church and state (and, especially, the corporation). The commodification of prey animals is a sad conclusion to the process of alienation from nature that has been going on for many years in the Arctic. Going by what I've heard from Inuit elders, we can still reverse the trend of commodification, or at the very least mitigate some of the setting madness through IQ education: this type of madness is not so much a sickness as it is the losing of one's sense of integration with the environment and ecology. Many Inuit still resist development and exploration, and want to keep nature at its very best and optimal condition if these evils are unavoidable: IQ and science must not lose in favour economic needs alone.

I've been doing some transcription work, as I wrote earlier in this blog, where I hear elders and younger Inuit hunters talk about the land as if it were part of the family, and I can feel their appeals for balance and sanity. Disrupt one aspect of the environment, they suggest, and the ripple effects are unpredictable. They lament the emergent fact that where animals used to be in abundance, and that the true riches of the land are increasingly becoming "dead" and inert stories; when was the last time they saw this and that animal here or there? This loss they liken to the loss of innocence and civility and true humanity.

The etymology of "inuk" (or, Inuit (plural)) not only denotes a "human being" but a deeper interpretation has a connotation: "of somewhere"; an inuk is nothing if not from a place or historical context. The different dialects used to identify and indicate where from the inuk stemmed. The Inuit Language is one mutually intelligible continuum, but its many dialects may be placed to specific areas.

I'm talking here before Inuit were corralled into artificial settlements; the way one speaks is like a physical map: the Home and Isabella Bays of my maternal grandfather with my Attau (as I called my maternal grandmother) who came from North Baffin/Foxe Basin blended and evolved my Inuktitut along with my father's who came from South Baffin. These different dialects would have blended and stablized, changed within a lifetime but recognized as from being Isabella Bay Inuktitut (in our case) had no intrusion taken place. This is how Inuktitut evolved; bits and pieces of both "conservative" and "innovative" phonology and syntax, self-replicating, evolving: child and mother, child and grandparents, family, men, women, community - each with its own idiosyncracies but forming an integrated whole. Our Language; our identity - there are deeper truths, much richer than we can imagine, in this GN slogan.

As a contemporary Natural Philosopher (in the sense of the tradition to which Newton belonged), my knowledge is a hodge-podge of IQ and scientific knowledge; mystical and rational - I've always sought a balance here. In my surveys into as wide a range as is possible for me, I have seen many wondrous things. But I'm always struck by the imperative for detached, clinical regard of natural sciences that this great human endeavour has assumed (much like self-flagellation, self-abuse of religious zealotry in my estimation).

Scientists, more than anyone else, have almost unlimited access to ever-growing body of awareness and knowledge, yet many scientists seem totally oblivious to the magical, mystical paradise all around them. Life is a miracle, the universe is a miracle! yet more seem intent on egotistical, vain-glorious pursuit of fame and reputation. - they know not that "greatness" and appreciation cannot be bought and sold with such currency. Our appreciation, our sense of privilege, is (again) to be cultivated like a bonsai; else we'll always be looking somewhere else, never seeing where we truly are.

Now, back to the title of this entry: I've always had "mystical" experiences, epiphanies - these drive me on always. Yesterday - well, for a long time - I (have seen) saw the planet Earth - its biosphere, its natural history, its diverse animal and human cultures - in that ever-new light only mystics seem willing to concede unconditionally.

I was watching a Discovery Channel documentary called, The Last Day of the Dinosuars. We've all seen graphic representations of the Earth's magnetosphere protecting us from the sun's deadly radiation - the superheroic bracing against the unimaginable power of our local star - the fictional superheroes have nothing on what we're on, what sustains us but don't seem to appreciate much because we're in it all our lives. Exceptional Planet Earth; thou truly art remarkable.

In the documentary, an astroid hits the planet and a horrific nuclear winter ensues, enveloping the gorgeous globe in a dirty brownish physical manifestation of entropy. Though much biological life dies in the process, the planet survives, life survives. What unimaginable wonder! The fungi and microbial life responds almost instantly to mass death and decay; the regenerative powers of the planet... like phoenix rising from the ashes, literally.

In our small lives, there are the mindless market forces that seem intent on killing and destroying our living space; for those of us who think beyond ourselves, beyond humanity - those of us who believe in non-interference with nature - we must not sit idly by while humanity commits suicide. Only when we decommodify knowledge and education will our eyes be truly opened. Greed is everywhere, some religions suggest that we are in hell actually: our redemption, our salvation, is in our capacity to imagine a better world.

Jay

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