Thursday, August 30, 2007

Comparative Storytelling I

This next miniseries of entries is primarily influenced by my recent re-entry into the world of literacy: Two and two-thirds’ worth of Daniel Quinn novels and schoolbook editor James Baldwin’s compilation of Greek myths. And Sun Tzu’s Art of War, but I doubt that will take precedence for these entries. Working in the background are the influences of several years’ worth of college courses that would have been squandered otherwise, my preadolescent years of absorbing all the knowledge I could find, and of course, more than a quarter century of simply existing within our society.

Anyway, this is just an exercise in looking at the commonality of our stories and our assumptions of human history. Of course, since this is merely a blog entry, I’ll only look at the obvious influences of primarily Western thought – the Judeo-Christian tradition, Greco-Roman mythology, and scientific/historic knowledge – and even that will just be stated in broad strokes. So here goes…

“Pre”-History

According to Judeo-Christian tradition, the first two humans (three if you count Lilith) lived in the Garden of Eden, where they talked to God face-to-face, co-existed with all other life, and ate from virtually every tree in the Garden, except the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, re: God’s command. And as long as Adam and Eve didn’t eat from that particular tree, they would live forever. That’s all in the first couple of chapters in Genesis.

According to Greco-Roman mythology, the titan Cronus, or Saturn, ruled over the entire world during the Golden Age. Humans lived among the gods, there was no disease, and neither was there starvation. The humans of that age never aged, but lived a long time. They died peacefully, and their spirits roamed the earth as teachers and peacemakers for future generations. Greco-Roman mythology is often contradictory (but what tradition isn’t?), but I’ll do my best to weave a coherent simile among the three traditions.

About a couple hundred thousand years ago, before the Agricultural Revolution, virtually all cultures of Homo sapiens were hunters and gatherers. They co-existed with all other life, as they hunted no more than their small egalitarian bands could eat. They gathered fruit and vegetables from the edible plants around them, also in quantities no more than they could eat. Some tribes, depending on their location in the world, practiced gardening and/or animal herding in addition to the standard of foraging, but it was not the (what Daniel Quinn calls) totalitarian agriculture we’ve practiced for the last ten millennia.

Also according to Quinn, the Knowledge of Good and Evil – whether one animal eats (good) or is eaten (evil) – is only shared among the gods, and man was content to leave that decision to the gods. Like all other life, humanity lived in the hand of the gods.

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