Wednesday, October 03, 2007

20 Minutes To Blow Your Mind

About ten years ago, a guy named Wade Davis came to speak at a Hallmark leadership conference I attended. He was introduced as National Geographic's "explorer-in-residence." Nothing in that introduction, or in my entire life, for that matter, prepared me for what followed.

The speech he's giving here at a TED conference in Monterey is essentially the same speech he gave then, updated with some new photos from recent travels (and the news of the Canadian government's restitution program for the Inuit). I think this speech is as important as anything that's ever been uttered in a public forum. You can hear the urgency of the message vibrating through the guy. Even when he gets into hard-core science talk (his background is in ethnobotany, the study of plants and their use in indigenous cultures), it's riveting. If you have 20 minutes, just sit back, ignore the sponsoring commercial that frames the thing, and let the magnificence unfold.

After his speech at the Hallmark conference, a small group of us went out for beer and barbecue with him, and he regaled us with yet more amazing tales.

Can storytelling and the awareness it creates change the world? Once upon a time, I believed it. This guy makes a believer out of me all over again.


scotland said...

Dear Jim, It blew my already blown mind.and inspired this missive.

A Sinister Recipe
A second look at Cannibalism........................

When was the last time you sat down to a hearty steamy roasted tibia', or Pate'homme de gras spread on a cracker or for that matter personally killed and butchered anything you ate.

If you fit the norm,chances are you'll answer "never" to this question. You've fallen into the market place of mass consumption and let someone else do your killing.

What does this have to do with any form of cannibalism? If any practicing cannibals still exist, they do so beyond the notice and reach of world prohibition. What largely remains are only the accounts of anthropologists and interpretations of this behavior in the small totemic cultures who carried out this savagery even into the last century.

We may have heard that this existed as an aspect of ritual warfare,whereby the victor assumes to magically subsume essence of being. This basic idea is present across all cultures; the proofs are evident in example as diverse as Christian sacrament(no offence),traditional oriental medicine,and nutritional science,with or without the magic connotation.

One quality which is very evident in the cosmology of so-called primitive cultures is animism,the belief that all things are living, are in sacred relation, and deserving of proper respect. 'One' honors the life in each entity to maintain proper balance in a wholistic universe, even in the search for food and survival. In addition, cannibalistic societies may be showing a necessary respect to a ritual enemy by this consumption,the ramifications being manifold.

How things have changed for the better, Yes?,No?: no longer do we account for the taste of flesh and perhaps distaste when we act out our super-wars. Destruction and domination alone represent the sacred understanding. The mass graves, push-button technology,unbelievable national debts,among the many symptoms: it's hard to imagine we call ourselves civilized.

Speaking as an individual,a humanist,a vegetarian and a Sufi-styled pacifist: Not only do I see modern societies in denial by having someone do their killing for them, I also see a lot of good meat going to waste and so the en-actors never knowing the true nature of their sin/act.

It has come,and will continue to come to nothing good. It is the most sinister of recipes.

Kill and not Eat!

Jasph said...

Mmmm, homme.

I've always been one of those "of course I'd eat somebody if it were the only way to survive." But when it comes down to it, I'm sure it's creepy.

So yeah, we're just sublimating when we fight to the death. There's something in human nature that wants to divorce our own actions from the web of interconnected meanings they're part of.

My darling spousette is a Jewish vegetarian, but she'll occasionally eat bacon, because it doesn't look like an animal part, really, and it's so damn good. She'll eat fish, too, but only if it's such a thin cut that it doesn't feel like meat when she bites into it. I get the fat center of the salmon fillet; she gets the skinny little edges.

scotland said...

Your response recalled to me a story told to me in which a Jewish Rabbi,who engaged with a Boy Scout troop, changed the main course of a hot dog meal at the summer camp dining hall from pork into beef. Obviously,as I have heard,with God all things are possible. I have looked at a few Kosher cookbooks,at least one had a section on vegetarian dishes. My friend Firdosi conjectured the claim that one of the reasons to restrict the eating of pork comes to us as a way to keep ancient cultures from mixing. You'll only get in trouble if you hang around to much with those Phoenecian girls..... the basic gist of this ban. At one time there was a New Orleans vegetarian restraunt named Jack Spratts, every dish on the menu was a meat dish made of vegetable protiens. I think I tried the prime rib. I've had quite a bit of trouble finding a nice vegetarian girl to settle down with,but haven't given up hope, haging out at natural food stores and green dating sites. Tell your wife she's an angel for putting up with you.

Have a good week

djayt said...

it's amazing how the guy can seemingly just go- with little reference to his notes, keying off the photos. Amazing stuff, delivered in an amazing way.

gvd said...

What? No one invited me to hang out with Wade Davis. Grrr.