An invitation to the journalists, writers, intellectuals, scholars, and artists of Central America. ISSN 1659-4657
Published Pluviôse,Ventôse, Germinal. MMXX
Neotropica is an online quarterly magazine published in Costa Rica for readers in Central America, and also the rest of the world. Our content is both local and universal. The magazine is written predominately in English, but also with Spanish and French articles. Sometimes these are translated and sometimes not. The magazine appeals to educated and sophisticated readers who welcome the challenging articles, original artwork and photography, and original visual design. Articles range from the practical to the critical, to the intellectual, and the humorous. The uniting element is the high quality of the writing and artistic vision rooted in the neotropics. Neotropica is a magazine for real and imagined places, territories, bioregions, and autonomous zones. The editors seek to create an ecology of understanding and practical living through critical inquiry and exploration of ideas. The editors, writers, and artists of Neotropica promote sustainable living in the neotropics and learning how to re-inhabit successfully its bioregions. Neotropica is not afliated with Fúndación Neotrópica of Costa Rica, nor Fundação Neotrópica do Brasil.
Neotropica is published by Editorial Rizomas, the publishing division of Grupo Rizomas. Stephen Duplantier & Patricia Spinelli Publishers © Neotropica, MMXX Mailing Address: Apartado Postal 586-4250 San Ramón, Alajuela, Costa Rica Email: email@example.com www.gruporizomas.com Cover design by Stephen Duplantier
Our goal is to become a widely-read journal of important ideas for all of Central America. The region is diverse and the archaeologies, histories, and traditions are thickly-layered. This is a time for sharing and understanding. We are looking for contributions in Spanish, English, and French that deal with our contested histories, and that try to understand 500 years of colonization. We’re in this together. What can we make of our lives in Central America? Write to us. firstname.lastname@example.org
Contents of Neotropica 1:1 About Neotropica, Design Notes. Page 2 Paradise, Utopia, Cockaygne. Poem: That Wonderful Land of Cockaygne. Page 3 The People of Neotropica Page 5 The Admiral Discovers the Earthly Paradise. Bartolomé de las Casas’ account of Columbus discovering the breast of paradise. Translated, with an introduction by, Stephen Duplantier. Pages 6-8 Auyan-tepui, the Breast of Paradise. This certainly looks like the breast of paradise. Page 9 The Ethnology of the Pemon. The tribe that inhabited the territory of the breast of paradise. Pages 10-11
500 Years of Utopian Literature “Another World, and Yet the Same” Pages 48-51 The Library of Babel by Jorge Luis Borges. The classic short story by Borges of an information dystopia. Pages 52-54 The Futurist Manifesto by Filippo Marinetti. The text of the Futurist Manifesto. Futurism was harbinger of the dystopian disasters of the 20th century. Pages 56-59
A Bamboo Utopia by Jeff Garner. The architectonics of bamboo. Pages 62-63
Quetzalcoatl’s Return by Stephen Duplantier. Franklin Chang and his rocket is compared with Mesoamerican hero figure Quetzalcoatl. Page 92
Temporary Autonomous Zone by Hakim Bey. The anarchist classic on “pirate utopias” of information and temporary zones of freedom. Page 64
Businesses and professionals who wish to advertise their products and services in these pages are invited to contact Patricia Spinelli to discuss how we might help. Our rates are low and reect the lack of paper and printing costs. The accepted rules and basic principles of print advertising are now obsolete. An ad placed in Neotropica is current 100% of the time for now and for maybe all time. An advertisement in Neotropica will be searchable for as long as there is a world wide web of interconnected ideas and images, however the Internet evolves. Digital information will be preserved practically forever. All the print ads you have ever paid so dearly for are gone. Digital ads stay up all night working around the world. When you combine this property of the technology with the quality of the editorial content of Neotropica, you have an unbeatable combination. Our introductory price for a full page advertisement in Neotropica with design assistance from our designer is $100. This is our introductory price.
A Collision of Cultures--What Happened on Hispaniola. A section of Las Casas “Brief Relation…” describing the horrors of the Spanish deeds upon the discovery of paradise. Page 13
Major Figures Failed Grand Metanarratives of the XXth Century. by Peter Scaevola. Six major figures of the 20th century are given a détournement (disfiguring), Francis Bacon-style. Pages 67-69
El Paraíso de Pio Viquez. Memoir in Spanish by Pio Viquez, early Costa Rican journalist and intellectual. Page 14
Expats in Wonderland by Patricia Spinelli. A report on what expats in Costa Rica think about their Central American paradise. Illustrated with images from Alice in Wonderland. Pages 71-75
Write to Patricia: email@example.com
Galimatazo Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky in Spanish. Page 76
An Illustrated Catalog of Paradise Archetypes by Stephen Duplantier. Essays and images of paradise. Pages 19-38
Undertanding Cultural Differences by Allen Dickinson. Some key ideas for understanding Latin ways. Pages 77-78
Être Heureux/Being Happy edited and translated by Ghislaine Yergeau. Selections from psychologist Christophe André in French with an English translation. Pages 40-42
The Ladino Mental Environment by Ethelyn Boustrophedon. More explanations of Latin cultural differences. Page 79
Hertopia--Before Paradise was Necessary by Ghislaine Yergeau. A report on the archeomythology of the goddess cultures. Pages 43-46 The Utopian Library of Babel by Stephen Duplantier. Page 47
Two Adams and Two Eves. Classical European paintings. Page 87 Special Section: Franklin Chang and the Utopian Quest for Mars. Page 91
Counternarratives of Postmodern Paradise by Stephen Duplantier. The new stories of paradise told after the failed grand meta-narratives of the 20th century. Pages 65-66
The Archetypes of Paradise by Stephen Duplantier. Archetypes and the paradise quest. Pages 15-17
A Feather in Paradise by Gene Warneke. A personal story of finding paradise in Costa Rica. Pages 84-86
The Tao of Bamboo by Patricia Spinelli. Bamboo in thought and life. Pages 60-61
The Meditations of Fra Mauro, Maker of Maps. Excerpts from James Cowan’s book on the Venetian mapmaker. Page 12
Advertising in Neotropica
Certain Americans in the Tropics by Carleton Beals. A reprint of a classic report by the dean of Latin American journalism of the first half of the 20th century. Pages 82-83
Flying Dragons. Quetzalcoatl mythology and the meaning of dragon imagery. Page 93 Towards a Postmodern Quetzalcoatl by Stephen Duplantier. Symbology of Mesoamerican art and myths . Pages 94-95 K’inich Janaab’ Pakal, the Franklin Chang of 7th Century Palenque by Stephen Duplantier. How Pakal, the great Mayan king and Franklin Chang are similar cultural heroes. Pages 96-99 A Temporary Autonomous Zone in Space. Free, at last, from gravity. Franklin Chang and his fellow astronauts in zero gravity on the NASA Shuttle. Page 100 Space is for Dreamers by Peter Scaevola. The passion for astronomy and the heavens as a utopian quest. Page 101 The Chessmen of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Science fiction is today’s utopian literature. Excerpt of a science fiction novella about Mars. Pages 102-103 Mars, Planet of Dreams by Lisa Anello. Memoir of childhood interest in Mars. Pages 104-105
A Place of Sumptuous Tranquillity by Ann Mandelbaum. Discusses the idea of a “paradise prison.” Page 80
Terraforming Mars by Peter Scaevola. A report on the serious/scary plan of turning Mars into Earth. Pages 106-107
Imperfect Paradise--a poem by Wallace Stevens. Page 81
Slouching toward Utopia. NASA image of Chang on a space walk. Page 108
This first issue of Neotropica has a general theme we call the Imagined Geographies of Paradise. The choice of this cluster of ideas is an obvious one, since it not only presents important issues for expatriates in the neotropics, but it is essentially the theme of everyone’s life, no matter whether they live above, below, or in between those invisible lines on a map called the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. Any quest for happiness requires a place plus, just as importantly, the idea of that place. Every paradise is a Republic of Imagination, just as is every dystopia. It may be easy to get in because no angels with flaming swords guard the gates, but nonetheless the Republic of Imagination has tough residency requirements. The guidebooks to these poorly-mapped republics are few and sketchy, but the smart traveler still needs to understand how the place works, how it got to be what it is, and how it yet may co-evolve after their arrival in their imaginary paradise. All experience is travel, and all writing about it is travel writing. Since everyone is a traveler and everyone is an expatriate of some hue or form, the traveler’s perennial questions need to be answered, probably again and again: Why have I left where I was; where did I go; and what do I do once I have gotten there. We do not run the Expat’s Psychic Network to try to divine all the possible individual reasons, but it made sense to us to look for collective answers in the archetypal psychology of the paradise quest. This led us deep into the past and even deeper into the collective human psyche. The material there is particularly valuable for analyzing what you have done and what you
think you have yet to do. Our writers uncover important information about what expats think about their encounter with the paradise quest. We reprint some vintage material that gives important perspective on expats of yesteryears. We promise that this first issue of Neotropica will be a unique experience. The range of ideas we present, the spans of time we bridge, and the diversity of topics we explore are not commonly available in a well-written, beautifully designed free publication. • The second issue of Neotropica is waiting in the wings, and is due out mid-year; our theme is The Banana Chronicles. The choice of this theme is sadly obvious, or will be after you read our reporting and stories. The reason for chronicling bananas has only a little to do with the world’s most popular fruit itself. The banana is always more than just a banana. Josephine Baker’s costume in her show at Les Folies Bergère in Paris demonstrated that with unsubtle finality, but there is much more to consider. Central America, without the banana, and especially without those multinational fruit company monopolies that subverted governments, politics, and people, would have a completely different history. Unravelling all the chronicles of the banana wars is serious work. It was a 100 year war––a slow and unannounced war–– punctuated only occasionally by dramatic strikes, massacres, and coups, and largely waged daily by the giant corporate machine, slowly and cruelly grinding down the people and institutions of Central America, and stealing the wealth of the republics, while leaving broken lives and states, doused with chemi-
cal poisons and ravaged environments. Everyone knows that it happened, but expats need to know some specifics. The lasting damage to the neotropics was done by people who looked and sounded just like you, and who came from the same places you came from. In general, Neotropica will ask questions and explore answers about what happened here that has made Central America what it is today before you got off the airplane. If you are the product of an education and upbringing inside Fortress USA, you don’t know enough about history, as well as other school and life subjects that were just not part of the curriculum. You may not know it, but your Life Report Card shows many more Incomplete grades than As. That is not a criticism. Everyone has to learn and relearn constantly. We do too. • Neotropica #3 will be an archaeological dig to uncover buried ghosts, disappeared histories, and disappeared bodies of Central America’s past. Our writers and artists will help you––and themselves too––to put some notes on the blank pages of the expat’s notebook. The theme of this issue is Unforgetting the Disappeared: Lost Dreams and Obliterated Histories of the last century. You are now living in the land of genocide and death squads, the playground of the CIA and expeditionary forces of the U.S. Military, the giant, marauding beast of El Pulpo (“the octopus”) of the United Fruit Company, and prior to the 20th century’s Banana Follies, don’t forget the 400 or so years of Spanish domination. Here, where we live, the surreal is ordinary. Magical realism is not just a literary genre, it’s in the air. --SD
he most obviously physically different element of Neotropica is the size. I have used Phi–– the golden ratio (sometimes called the “divine proportion”) of a rectangle with a length roughly one and a half times its width. Numerically this is a proportion of 1:1.618, and yields for us a magazine with a page size equivalent to approximately 11 inches by 18 inches. If you have a wide screen monitor or can patch your computer in to your flat screen television monitor, you will see the majesty of this size page. It’s still fine, even if you cannot see it 1:1 at a glance. There is good evidence for the benefit of the use of this proportion from a variety of successful designs: the Egyptians used it as a basis for the pyramids, the Greeks built Athens and the Parthenon with it, the designers of Notre-Dame in Paris used it, and Da Vinci gridded his Mona Lisa and the Last Supper paintings using the golden ratio. When you stand naked in front of a full-length mirror and look at your divinely-designed body (that weary palimpsest of all your past experiences), you are in fact, believe it or not, seeing the golden ratio proportions (even despite those lessthan-divine parts we all have that are likely just victims of gravity.) It may go deeper––much deeper. Adrian Bejan, the J. A. Jones distinguished professor of mechanical engineering at Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering, shows that the golden ratio is derived from principles of physics that determine everything from cars in traffic to blood in the circulatory sys-
tems, and air in lungs. We literally see, breathe, and move in patterns controlled by the physics behind the golden mean. And now with Neotropica, you can read a divinely-proportioned magazine. As a designer, my hope is that Neotropica not only looks great, but that on the deeper levels of its design, it is in harmony with natural principles. Our written editorial and visual content will reflect these ideas, but they are more than just content. I get a designer’s frisson when I think of the resonance between the physical look of the magazine and how it echoes the same principles that govern the natural flow of a river, for example. Beyond the richness of its limnology, a river creates beauty with its twists, turns, and flow patterns. When the operative design principles of nature combine with design elements and editorial content, an elegant blend of form and function takes place. I know that my design of Neotropica might be accused of using too many different typefaces and being inconsistent in the page design grids. My answer is a culinary one. A magazine design, in my opinion, should be more like an elaborate meal, or even better, like living in a French restaurant and being friends with the chef. The last thing the chef and the diner wants is a boring consistency in the taste and presentation of the food. Bring on the inconsistency of Boeuf Bourgignon, or quenelles de poisson, a plump profitérole oozing sweet cream, and thousands more items from the menu. Each course should be a visual feast, as well as an explosion of flavors. My use of decorative typefaces is based on the emotive élan each one has. In my design kitchen, I am after variegated looks that go well with the irresistible taste of the writing. --Stephen Duplantier
All experience is travel, and all writing about it is travel writing. --Hieronymous Fisch
Paradise, Utopia, Cockaygne
is co-extensive with the body and the body politic. Yet, another Latin phrase in the cover image describes a cure. It says “This is a head in need of Hellebore.” Black Hellebore is a European herb, toxic actually, which was used to treat depression and madness, among other things. In other words, we are in the condition we are in, yet we can try to fix it. “Know thyself,” Front Cover: In place of a face, becomes “Heal thyself.” Find out the head wearing the silly cap of why the melancholia persists and the medieval fool on the cover do something about it. All the instead has a mappamundi (map fools of the world, packed tightly on of the world). The source of the the world’s fleets of ships of fools, image is the foolscap map of Epifollow blindly the useless maps chthonius Cosmopolites, used by pasted so closely on their faces that Robert Burton in his The Anatomy of Melancholy–– “that vast catalogue the real world is invisible. The Aztec cosmos/sun graphic of fools and madmen.” An inscripon the cover is from a 16th century tion on the image advises readers to Aztec manuscript, the Codex Bor“Know thyself,” and yet, try as one bonicus, now at the Bibliothèque might, there persists the vanity of Nationale in Paris. This symbol can human effort. The fool becomes the be seen as the neotropical Yin-Yang map, blinded by being too close to expressing the experienced dualities a representation of reality. Our conand contradictions of nature and the ceptions of geography never match what’s on the ground; the map is not human condition. We are adopting the symbol as a logo. The quartered the territory. map on the bottom left is a detail There is a rich medieval symbolof a mappamundi of Fra Mauro, the ism and lore connected with folly and the fool. The Ship of Fools was Venetian Renaissance mapmaker. the medieval custom of getting rid of All the graphics on the left-hand a city’s madmen by putting them all block are superimposed on an aerial on ships and letting the ship sail out view of the mountains and valleys of the meseta central of Costa Rica. to sea--a floating asylum. By extension, those exploring the world in Back Cover: The back cover page ships (Columbus and his ilk) could shows Pieter Breughel the Elder’s be thought of as variations of the Ship of Fools. By reverse extension, 1567 painting of the Land of all congregations of people are ships Cockaygne, the medieval peasant fantasy utopia of no work, free food of fools. everywhere, no bedbugs, licentious The faceless fool with the map in monks and nuns, and no lords in his eyes is also Everyman: we are sight to exact tribute. “...without all fools because all the world is mad. In the words of the Latin apho- worry, work, or care;/The food is good, the drink flows free...” rism “Vanity of vanities and all is Ahh, utopia. vanity.” The anatomy of melancholia he theme and title of this first issue of Neotropica is Imagined Geographies of Paradise. Not only are all paradises imaginary, but all republics, states, and nations, including that mysterious terra incognita of the Self, are dependent upon the imagination, in all its brilliance and folly.
That Wonderful Land of Cockaygne
ar out to sea and west of Spain There is a country named Cockaygne. No place on earth compares to this For sheer delightfulness and bliss. Though Paradise is fair and bright, Cockaygne is a ner sight. In Paradise what’s to be seen But grass and owers and branches green? Though paradisal joys are sweet, There’s nothing there but fruit to eat; No bench, no chamber, and no hall, No alcoholic drink at all. Its inhabitants are few, Elijah, Enoch---just the two; They must nd it boring there Without more company to share. But Cockaygne offers better fare, And without worry, work, or care; The food is good, the drink ows free At lunchtime, suppertime, and tea. It’s true without a doubt, I swear, No earthly country could compare; Under heaven no land but this Has such abundant joy and bliss. There is many a pleasant sight, It’s always day, there is no night. There are no quarrels and no strife, There is no death, but always life; Food and clothing are never short, You’ll never hear a sharp retort, Or see a snake, or wolf, or fox, Horse or gelding, cow or ox, Never a sheep or goat or pig--And so, of course, no dung to dig--No stud-farm of any kind; Here there are better things to nd. There’s no y or ea or louse In clothes, in village, bed, or house; There’s no thunder, sleet, or hail, Or any nasty worm or snail, No storm, wind, rain of any kind. No man or woman there is blind, But all is pleasure, joy, and bliss. Happy the man who has all this! There are rivers great and ne Of oil and milk, honey and wine; Water’s uses there are few--For washing in, and for the view. The fruit is ne beyond all measure--Everything is joy and pleasure. An abbey’s there, a handsome sight, Of monks with habits grey and white. The house has many rooms and halls; Pies and pasties form the walls,
Made with rich llings, sh and meat, All the windows made of glass The tastiest a man could eat. Are turned into a crystal bright Flour-cakes are the shingles all To give the monks some extra light. Of cloister, chamber, church, and hall. When the Masses have been said, The nails are puddings, rich and fat--And the service has been read, Kings and princes might dine on that. The crystal turns to glass once more There you can come and eat your ll, In the state it was before. And not be blamed for your self-will. There the young monks every day All is common to young and old, After their meal go out to play; To strong and stern, to meek and bold. No hawk or other bird could y There is a cloister, ne and light, Faster or better through the sky Broad and long, a pleasant sight; Than the monks in sporting mood, The pillars in that cloister found With their uttering sleeves and hood. Are made of crystal, smooth and round, When the abbot sees them y, And at their foot and at their head Their antics make his spirits high; Are jasper green and coral red. But still he calls the busy throng In its garden is a tree, Down from the sky for Evensong. A very pleasant sight to see: The monks, reluctant to obey, Ginger and galingale the roots, In headlong ight swoop far away. And zedoary all the shoots, When the abbot sees this sight, The owers are mace, quite excellent, His monks refusing to alight, Cinnamon gives the bark its scent, He takes a maiden standing near, Cloves are the fruit, whose taste is rare. And upon her snow-white rear There’s no lack of cubebs there. Beats a tattoo with open hand There are roses red of hue, To make his monks come down to land. And lilies lovely to the view; When his young monks see that sight, They never fade by day or night. By the maiden they alight, This must be a pleasant sight! Round about her they career, In this abbey are four well-springs And each one pats her snow-white rear, For ointment and for medicines, And then, with all their labour done, For balm, and spiced and sweetened wine, Soberly they walk, each one, Always owing, rich and ne. Home for a drink at their collation, All the ground these streams run on In le according to their station. Is of gold and precious stone, Another abbey is nearby--There are pearls and sapphires blue, For sure, a ne big nunnery, Astriums and rubies too, Upon a river of sweet milk, Emeralds, gemstones, and prasine, With a generous store of silk. Onyx, beryl, and topazine, When the summer’s day is hot, Amethyst and chrysolite, The young nuns take a boat Chalcedony and hepatite. And go out on the river here; Many birds there tell their tale, Some will row and others steer. Throstle, thrush, and nightingale, Once the abbey is far away, Skylark and golden oriole, They strip stark-naked for their play, And other birds, an endless roll, And leap in from the river’s brim, That never cease by day or night Showing how skillfully they swim. Sweetly to sing with all their might. When the young monks see that sight, And still I’ve more to tell of it; They all take off in rapid ight; The geese when roasted on the spit Each monk, descending on a nun, Fly to the abbey (believe it or not) Takes for himself his chosen one, And cry out ‘Geese, all hot, all hot!’ And swiftly carries off his prey With garlic in great quantity, To the mighty abbey grey, The best-dressed geese a man could see. And teaches the nuns an orison The larks are known to do the same--With country dancing up and down. Land in your mouth, well-cooked and tame, The monk who wants to be a stud, Freshly stewed and nicely done, A rakish angle to his hood, Sprinkled with cloves and cinnamon. Shall have, without reproof or fear Drinking there needs no request; A dozen wives for every year, You simply take what you like best. Not through grace but as a right, When the monks go in to Mass, Purely for his own delight.
And that monk who sleeps the best And gives himself a thorough rest, May, if he cultivates the habit, Hope to end up as Father Abbot. Whoever wants to reach this place, Heavy penance he must face; The man who hopes to share its bliss For seven years---be sure of this--Must wade through pigshit to his chin, The pleasures of Cockaygne to win. Gentlemen, well-bred and kind, May you not leave the world behind Till you take on this enterprise And serve the penance for the prize; That you may see that land at last, Turning your back on all the past, Let us pray God, so may it be!
The text of this poem is from an Irish manuscript Probably of the early-mid 1300s. The Land of Cockaygne is part of a genre of poetic parodies of imaginary paradises where leisure replaces work and plentiful food is there for the taking. The poem is part of the Goliard tradition of cynical clerics and wandering monks who protested the abuses of the Church through performance art and anticlerical pseudo-rituals. Rites of reversal were commonplace. In the peasant’s daydream, the medieval order of things is turned on its head. Every day is a feast of fools. The popular imagination created Cockaygne to the “West of Spain” in 13th and 14th centuries, far in advance of the actual voyages of discovery of the Spanish and Portuguese.
The People of Neotropica In alphabetical order
Stephen Duplantier Editor-in-Chief Art Director Production Patricia Spinelli Senior Editor Food and Lifestyle Editor Advertising & Promotion Director Gene Warneke Associate Editor Environmental Editor Ghislaine Yergeau Associate Editor Artists Elaine Kelly Ross Kelly Gene Warneke Sharron Frye Ann Mandelbaum Stephen Duplantier Jacqueline Bishop Writers & Contributors Patricia Spinelli Gene Warneke Ghislaine Yergeau Allen Dickinson Charles Garratt Stephen Duplantier Jeff Garner Ann Mandelbaum Lisa Anello Ethelyn Boustrophedon Peter Scaevola Copyrights are retained by the individual authors and creators of the works. No copyrights on reprinted material and artwork have been intentionally violated. All use is fair use for educational purposes. Unsolicited manuscripts may be acceped for consideration, though no payments for work received and published will be made without negotiation with the editors. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the editors or publisher.
Lisa Anello is a business manager from the U.S. currently living in Costa Rica. Mars has fascinated her since she received a picture book on astronomy as a young girl growing up in New York. Jacqueline Bishop is an artist known for paintings, drawings, and installation that focus on landscape issues, particularly the politicizing of nature, species extinction, and eco-political injustice. Her work is influenced by thirty years of traveling in third world countries, Latin American forests, and the Louisiana swamps. By exploring the psychological connections between the human and nonhuman, her work communicates with a global and personal voice. Jacqueline studied Art and Philosophy at the University of Kansas, received her B.A. from the University of New Orleans and an M.F.A. from Tulane University. For several years, she taught Art and the Environment at Loyola University. She is author of Em Memoria Chico Mendes: A Tribute on the 10-Year Anniversary of His Death, and Losing Ground: Imaginary Landscapes. She has exhibited and lectured in Europe, Asia, South America, Canada and the U.S., and is a grant recipient of the Pollock-Krasner Foundation and Joan Mitchell Foundation. Ms. Bishop resides in New Orleans and is represented by the Arthur Roger Gallery. Allen Dickinson is a travel writer currently living in Santa Ana, Costa Rica. After serving 23 years in the U.S. Navy, he settled in Pensacola, Florida, where he resided for 24 years. In 2006, he retired from operating his own business and relocated to Central America. He holds a B.A from the University of the State of New York and an M.A. from the University of West Florida. Stephen Duplantier is a writer, editor, graphic artist, and designer living permanently in Costa Rica. He first lived in Central America in 1966-67 while working at a Benedictine Monastery in Esquipulas, Guatemala. He saw plaques in Esquipulas that described the various phases of Col. Castillo Armas’ entry into Guatemala to “save it from Communism.” He later discovered that it was actually a CIA/United Fruit Company coup d’état. This still bothers him. Stephen has worked for years in print journalism and communication and media-related fields in the U.S. He obtained a Ph.D. in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Southern Mississippi. Prior to that, he earned an M.S. Ed. in film and media production at Indiana University. He taught at the University and Graduate School level for 12 years at Xavier University and Southeast Louisiana University. He was the University Webmaster for the University of New Orleans. He has written a book and articles on Loui-
siana history and folk life, and produced ethnographic films and video on the music and folk life of French Louisiana. Always interested in new combinations of ideas, Steve notes, “Neotropica is a big, ambitious project that lets us explore important and neglected areas of life in Central America.” He is interested in food and culture, and crafting community solutions to eco-political crises. He is married to Kathleen Bordelon. They have three adult children in the U.S., and four grandchildren. Sharron Frye is an artist living in Costa Rica, originally from Miami, Florida. Sharron was a working actor in Hollywood for 16 years, appearing in several television shows, a few films, and more than 130 national TV commercials. She left Hollywood and moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico where she became an artist in another medium. Her acrylic and pastel work has been accepted into many juried shows. Her Southwestern realistic style of painting has won her awards. In the East, she had been a noted “cat artist” and her work in acrylic and watercolors sold at galleries in Florida and North Carolina. She still has a cat and now a rescued dog with a wry smile permanently pasted on its mug. Jeff Garner is an artist in several of the uses of that word. He is an art historian with a Ph.D. in Art History from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Jeff is a horticulturist, designer and builder of houses and gardens, a musician, a cook, and a philosopher. He may be, he says, a bilingual Walter Mitty. Jeff can sing the blues and play the guitar. He writes about culture, architecture, and language from the home he designed on a mountain river in a remote Costa Rican valley named after “peace.” Charles Garratt says that photography, nature, and writing have always been a part of his life. Early on, his first photo was published at age 13, and he wrote for many of Virginia’s biggest newspapers by the end of his teens. He was educated as a systems engineer and taught computer science and technology at the college level during the 90’s. From 2003-2008, he was the News Editor for a Virginia weekly, winning awards for sports photography, investigative and general reporting, news photography, and editorials from the Virginia Press Association. Charles’ botanical interests center on native orchids. He has found and photographed orchid species of the central Appalachians, including the rarest species in non-tropical North America. In 2008, he found an unrecorded species in Virginia. Currently he is a technology consultant, photographer, and freelance writer in Virginia and Costa Rica. He has three adult children, Stephen, Betsy, and Susan. Elaine Kelly is an artist and art educator. She holds
both B.S. and M.A. degrees from the University of Maryland, College Park. Her work ranges from sculptural clay pieces to illustration and digital images. Her life-long interests are in ecology and nature. She currently lives and works in Costa Rica. Ross Kelly came to Costa Rica from Washington, DC, where he and his wife Elaine raised three children. While earning his B.F.A. and M.Ed. degrees, he began his photography work. Ross has since worked as a photojournalist, organic farmer, designer and home builder, urban pioneer, and has traveled the world to photograph its people and their cultures. In Costa Rica, Ross and his wife Elaine, a ceramic artist and art educator, live in a small, eco-conscious mountain village, where they pursue their artistic interests in an open air studio on the edge of a river, where the local farmers still work, by choice, with a team of oxen and a machete. Ann Mandelbaum is an American artist born in Pennsylvania. She is a photographer, sculptor, and video artist who has exhibited internationally, including solo shows at Grey Art Gallery, N.Y.; Center for Creative Photography, Tucson; Ubu Gallery; Galerie Françoise Paviot, Paris; Galérie Anita Beckers, Frankfurt; Westfälischer Kunstverein, Munster Germany ; Fotomuseum, Munich; Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt; Stadtgalerie Saarbrücken; Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne; Canal Isabel II, Madrid: Kunsthalle Göppingen, Germany. She has published three hard cover monographs: Ann Mandelbaum , and Ann Mandelbaum, New Work , both published by Edition Stemmle, and Ann Mandelbaum, Thin Skin , published by Hatje Cantz. Ann lives in New York and Costa Rica. She is an Associate Professor of Media Arts at Pratt Institiute in New York City. Patricia Spinelli’s love affair with Latin America began when she was 21 and drove the back roads of Baja California by herself. Enthralled with Latin culture after this experience, she spent many years exploring various locales in Mexico, Baja Sur, and the Yucatan before finally moving to Costa Rica.With varied careers ranging from record and video producer, art dealer, pastry chef, restaurateur, public relations professional, and author of a novel, Patricia wasn’t idle for very long after moving to Costa Rica. She soon began conducting interviews with local entrepreneurs and writing articles about health and organic living for The Mountain Howler. After a collective decision to spread their literary and creative wings, she partnered with Stephen Duplantier to help create Neotropica. She said, “Neotropica was borne out of passion for Costa Rica and Latin America. It’s a dream opportunity to have such a novel vehicle to investigate, research, and write about political, cultural, and health-related issues in my adopted country.”
Gene Warneke attests that photography has always been his first love and that writing is a close second. His love of photography began when he bought his first single lens reflex camera and a macro lens when he graduated from Pomona College with a B.A. in Anthropology in 1973. After graduating with a M.A. in Geography at San Jose State University in California in 1979, Gene wrote about the geology and mining in California and southern Oregon and uranium mining in the Northern Territory of Australia. His photography and writings appeared through the 1980s and 90s in various industrial, travel, and airline publications throughout the world. After moving to Costa Rica in the late summer of 2005, Gene became the co-founder, editor, and then a photojournalist for The Mountain Howler, which published articles about health and the environment. He then joined forces with the talented editors, writers, and artists you are reading about now to help create Neotropica. He now lives in Puerto Jimenez on the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica. His current work is connected with the culture, natural history, environmental, and health issues of the area. Gene assures us that, “The would-be anthropologist and geographer still thrives within me and I yearn to share my new findings and experiences.” Ghislaine Yergeau’s life has for decades been animated by her intense interest and passion for learning, travel, world cultures and religions, human rights, the environment, languages, women’s spirituality, and sisterhood. Her travels have taken her to many parts of the globe and she is thankful to have family and friends on every continent. Ghislaine’s work has always been multi-faceted. Even while teaching and being a consultant with various school boards and Ministry of Education, she kept busy doing translations, simultaneous interpretation, writing, editing, and pastoral care. Now retired from the education field, she continues with her other endeavours and is also pursuing a doctorate in Women’s Studies and Religious Studies. She lives part of the year in Canada to be close to her very large family, and the rest of the time in Costa Rica, which is where her heart has taken root. Ethelyn Boustrophedon, Peter Scaevola, and Roan St. John are expat writers living in a secret Temporary Autonomous Zone of writers and artists somewhere north of Playa Cadaques.
Adress your correspondence to the editors at firstname.lastname@example.org 5
El Amilrante Cristobal Colón Admiral Christopher Columbus
by Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Freely translated and edited from the original Documentos Inéditos de las Indias by Stephen Duplantier
On his third voyage in 1498, Cristobal Colón explored the Gulf of Paria, which separates Trinidad from Venezuela in South America, including the Orinoco River. He correctly described South America as a previously unknown new continent, though he thought it was connected to China. A new continent meant a new world, and not mere islands. The ow of the Orinoco draining the upper part of the continent led Colón to a startling conclusion: he had actually found the terrestrial paradise!
he Admiral could not get out of his mind the enormity of his realization of the earth not being round, notwithstanding the common wisdom of the astrologers. He found fresh water owing far out into the Golfo de Ballena between the mainland of the continent and the island of Trinidad. He thought deeply about the accumulating evidence and adducing all these observations together, he could only come to the conclusion that he had found the Earthly Paradise.
Of all the reasons that brought him to this conclusion, the strongest was the pleasantness of the climate on both land and sea. Whereas so many commentators had predicted that the equatorial area would be uninhabitable, or at least very difcult to live in, yet it was so cool in the morning even with the sun high in the sign of Leo, that it required wearing a warm robe. In that place, the compass readings showed that the sea was rising and the
ships were oating higher into the sky. From this observation the Admiral came to conclude that every previous commentator, all the philosophers, and even Ptolemy himself had imagined that the world was round, yet they had never been over here so they couldn’t know directly about the true state of affairs. They did not know that the earth was actually more like the shape of a pear, with a raised nipple, or perhaps like a woman’s breast shaped like a rounded
ball, and this higher part of the earth was like the nipple of her breast protruding higher in the air up toward the sky. On that nipple, the Admiral felt could be located the Earthly Paradise. The Admiral did not know the reasons that the authorities gave for the perfect roundness of the earth. He said: “I had always read that the world ––the land and water––was spherical, and this was claimed by the authority and experience of Ptolemy and all the others who wrote about it. But the eclipses of the moon prove the earth is deformed away from a perfect spherical shape. It is now clear that the authorities have been wrong. The earth is pear-shaped with a nipple on the higher end, as I have claimed.” The Admiral put forth another reason for the conclusion about his discovery: he said he found that the people here were more fair in their complexions and less dark, their hair was longer and smoother, and the people were well-built, more clever and more resourceful, and not cowardly. The people in this place were gentle and kind, simple, generous, and friendly in talking to us. How did the Admiral know that he had found Paradise in this region? He
was not thinking unreasonably when he made this conclusion based on the wonderfully mild climate of the region, the soft air, the lush vegetation, and the beauty of the forest. Every glance at every part of the landscape certainly looked like a paradise. The abundance of fresh, rushing water everywhere astonished the Admiral. The Admiral wrote: “The Holy Scripture’s lessons mean that our Lord created the Earthly Paradise, and in it he put the Tree of Life. From Paradise ows the main rivers of the world, the Ganges, Euphrates, Tigris and Nile. I cannot nd anything in the Latin and Greek fathers’ writings that says for certain about the location of the site in this world of Earthly Paradise, nor have I seen it located with authority on any world map. Some put it where is found the source of the Nile in Ethiopia, but others have walked all those lands and not found the same conformity that I have to Paradise in both the temperance of the climate and the increased height of the ocean towards the sky. Some have made arguments that the location of Paradise should be in the Fortunate Islands, and the Canaries. The Venerable Bede, Strabo the Geographer, St. Ambrose, and Duns Scotus, and many of the saintly theologians
have argued that Paradise is in the East. Yet I have said that I have found it in this hemisphere, for I have passed below the equator, and on arriving here found this higher elevation, this mildness and temperance of climate, and such diversity in the stars, and in the waters. It is not because I merely believed the waters rose here, but because I think here there actually is the Earthly Paradise, which no one can go to except by Divine Will. This land that I have found and to which Your Highnesses have sent me, is very great, and there are many other explorers out there, but from them you will never get this same news which I present to you herewith.
humble style and with his added handicap of not being a native Castilian and therefore lacking the best vocabulary and style, yet he is not inexperienced in reading the ancient biblical histories and doctrines and the writings of both the holy Doctors of the Church and the secular authors as well.
I believe Paradise is high up on the nipple on the pear, and little by little, walking toward it from afar, it would be possible to reach it. I think it would be possible to get through this fresh water lake in the ocean and reach Paradise.
For all that has been said, this view seems highly probable that those who have put the Paradise of delights from where our rst parents were cast into this vale of tears and bitterness, in the southern hemisphere are correct. Many learned men have tried to persuade us that Paradise was in some other part of the world, but the Admiral saw that the continental land found in the South, where the land and air are so delightful, and the water so soft and sweet, and that all of this taken together, none of it absurd or unreasonable, could make it possible to think and judge, or at the very least least suspect, that this is indeed the earthly paradise. •
The evidence is so great that this is actually the Earthly Paradise, because the site conforms exactly to the opinions of the saints and the holy theologians. No one else has seen how much fresh water was has poured out into the salty ocean and made this fresh water lake. I know of no other river in the world so big and so deep that could produce this. The climate is so gentle that it must be coming out of Paradise and this make it all that much more wonderful.” 8
All these are words of the Admiral in his
Some think that the tropics are guarded by those ery swords which God put between us and the entrance to Paradise, the same ones which prevented Adam or Eve, or any of their children from ever reentering there. Yet the opposite is true. We see from experience that in the tropics is that most excellent and highly populated land in the provinces of Peru.
Auyantepui and Parakupa-vena When Colón saw the ow of the Orinoco in the Gulf of Paria, he thought he had stumbled upon the Earthly Paradise. He did not enter the mighty Orinoco, but if he had made the voyage up the rivers of the Orinoco basin, he might have eventually been able to reach Auyantepui, the tabletop mountain, and seen Parakupa-vena, the highest waterfall on earth at 1,054 meters. The falls today is called Angel Falls, after its Western discoverer, the bush pilot Jimmie Angel. Auyantepui and the owing Parakupa-vena is a sight that looks for all the world like a gigantic nipple owing with foamy, milky water. Truly, Auyantepui is the breast of the earth. If Colón had explored the Orinoco, he would also have met the Pemon people––the original inhabitants of the area. He may have learned that the Pemon, for reasons of their own, call the waterfall the “Devil Mountain.”
Ethnology of the Pemon The people who live near the breast of paradise
Scene in Pemon village, Venezuela, 1937. Pemon people posing with Venezuelan explorer Gustavo Heny (L).
he Pemon territory covers the coastal area of the Atlantic Ocean in Venezuela, the inland mountain savanna area, and the Amazon River area. The region is unique for its tepuis, those remains of mighty sandstone plateaus that once stretched across the entire area. In the course of time, the plateaus were worn down by erosion. There are more than one hundred of them. Fewer than half have been thoroughly explored. Many of them are so tall that they are hidden by dense cloud cover for days at a time. Much of the plant and animal life atop the tepuis is unique—found
nowhere else. Auyan-tepui is the most famous as the site of Angel Falls. The first dictionary of the Pemon language was published in 1943. Many words in this language show poetic patterns of formation. The word for pineapple is “kaiwara” and it means “a sweet with wrinkles.” The Pemon word for dew is “chirké-yetakú”, which means “star’s saliva.” There is no word for “year” in the Pemon language. The day is divided into “dawning,” “morning,” “noontime,” “afternoon.” The Pemon have traditionally believed that each
person has five souls, which look like the shadows of a human being. The fifth soul is the one that talks and that leaves the body to travel around when the person is dreaming. This is the only one that goes away—to the Milky Way— after death. Before arriving there, it meets the Father of the Dogs. If the person has mistreated his or her dogs, the dogs’ souls will recognize the person and kill him or her. One of the other four souls lives in the knee and stays put for a while after death; later, it turns into a bad spirit. The other three souls turn
into birds of prey after death. All animals and plants are believed to have souls. Stones do not have souls, but they house bad spirits. The Makunaima is a series of creation stories of the Pemon land, crops, techniques, and social practices. It starts with the creation of a wife for the first Pemon—the Sun—by a water nymph. At that time, the Sun was a person. One day he went to the stream and saw a small woman with long hair. He managed to grasp her hair, but she told him, “Not me! I will send you a woman to be your companion and your wife.” Her name was Tuenkaron, and the next day she sent the Sun a white woman. He fed her, and she lit a fire. But when the Sun sent her to the stream, she collapsed into a little heap of clay. The woman was made of white earth, or clay. The next day Tuenkaron sent him a black woman. She was able to bring water, but when she tried to light a fire, she melted. The woman was made of wax. The third woman was red, a rock-colored woman. The sun tested her and she did not melt or collapse. She was strong and able to help run the household. The woman and the Sun had several children, and these are the Pemon. The original religious beliefs have been polluted and partially destroyed by Christian missionaries, yet the Pemon still believe in Kanaima —the spirit of evil. They have held on to some social traditions, such as the marriage of cousins, that are opposed by missionaries. Traditional rites of passage were associated with the life cycle of birth, adolescence, and death have been obliterated by the missionaries. Often a father gives a child a secret name in the Pemon language. This may indicate the refusal of the Pemon to give up their core identity to outsider religion and cultures. Marriage is the key to the social organization that determines the pattern of visits between villages––the heart of their social life. Visits for beer parties and meetings with relatives tie neighborhoods and regions together. The respect that a village or neighborhood receives is often gauged by the quality and quantity of manioc (cassava, or yuca) beer offered by the hosts. Conversation is lively when the family gathers for a meal. If guests are present, the men eat first.
Open conflict, anger, and fighting are strongly discouraged. The basic response to conflict is to withdraw. Often this means a person will leave home and make an extended visit to relatives somewhere else, waiting for things to calm down. Since the Pemon do not approve of anger or displays of hostility, physical punishment of children is very rare. If an adult hits a child at all, it is done so mildly that it is just a reminder. Pemon children learn by example and are given much freedom. In the old days, when somebody became ill, the local shaman connected the cause of the illness with one of the many mythical spirits. For healing, the shaman use his taren recipes. These are a mixture of medicinal plants and charms. The taren is believed to be a magic spell that can aid in the birth of a child, counter the bite of various snakes, heal headaches and stomach pains, and so forth. The taren can only be taught to one person at a time, and it is performed in the presence of as few people as possible. The Pemon’s traditional housing consists of huts whose walls are made of clay or bark, with roofs made of palm leaves. Hammocks are hung from the beams of the roof, and a fire is kept at one or two corners of the house. Arrows, knives, axes, and fishing rods are piled up in one corner. Baskets, carrying sacks, and pumpkins hang on the walls. According to traditional beliefs, the solid parts of babies—the bones—come from the father, and the blood comes from the mother. The mother gives birth behind a partition installed in the hut. She is helped by her mother or motherin-law. For ten days after the birth, the parents stay behind the partition with their newborn child. The Pemon love their children. Their attitude toward them is lenient. Parents do not constantly remind their children about their behavior. Children learn by following the parents’ example, and they very seldom need to be disciplined or punished. In the past, the Pemon went naked or used only loincloths. The traditional clothing of a Pemon woman was an apron made of cotton or beads. In the twentieth century, the men’s loincloths were made of a bright red cloth obtained from the criollos (Venezuelans of mixed descent).
By 1945, the Pemon had started wearing Western-style cotton clothing. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the women wore metal earrings known as “butterfly” earrings, which they bought. It was also common for them to have facial tattoos and to wear bands of cotton cloth or glass beads around their arms and legs. Yuca is an important ingredient of the Pemon diet. The women peel, wash, and grate this root. They then squeeze out the acid and make it into a dough. With this, they prepare their flat bread or fermented drinks. One of these beverages, the cachiri, is made with bitter yucca paste, which is grated and chewed and mixed with a red root, cachiriyek, that has also been grated. The mixture is then boiled for a whole day. This brew is mildly intoxicating. Also part of the Pemon diet is aurosa, a spinachlike vegetable. The Pemon also eat peppers, potatoes, pineapple, plantain, sugarcane, and more than ten varieties of bananas. Women gather peppers and aurosa daily for the pepper pot, a soup that forms part of every meal. Fishing provides an important source of animal protein in the Pemon diet. In the past, hunting was not very effective, even though the men put a great deal of time into it. The situation changed, however, with the arrival of firearms in the 1940s. Birds and mammals, such as deer and vampire bats, then became an important part of the diet. During the rainy season, the Pemon capture flying ants. Throughout the year, they gather the insect larvae found in the moriche palm. One of the tools of the Pemon for educating their young is oral tradition. Their many stories are used by the elders to teach their sense of morality and concept of the world. The storyteller’s closing words are usually “A-pantoní-pe nichii” (May you take advantage of this story). Music and dance are important components of Pemon culture. They accompany all sorts of public festivals and rituals. Mari’ or Mari’k, for example, is the Pemon word for the dance and music that used to be performed in public by the shaman and his assistants. Nowadays there are no shamans left in the Christianized Pemon villages. Still, on occasions when cachiri-drinking makes them receptive to tradition, spontaneously an old dance starts.
With sticks and empty cans and tins for instruments, they sing songs full of endlessly repeated short phrases, varied by made-up phrases, jokes, and bits of the old shaman songs. For the Pemon, work is a basic part of life. There is no word for “working” other than senneka, which means “being active” more than “laboring.” Only when the Pemon started working with the missionaries or miners did they adopt the Spanish word trabajo (work), which turned into trabasoman to describe work done in the European way. The Pemon’s means of subsistence are based on slash-and-burn farming, fishing, hunting, and collecting wild fruits and insects. There is now more flexibility in the division of work among the Pemon people. Traditionally, for example, men were responsible for preparing the soil for planting, while women were in charge of weeding, harvesting, and transporting the crops. The Pemon culture is rich in oral literature: tales and legends that the American Indians call pantón. There is no specific time dedicated to telling stories, but the favorite moment is just before going to sleep. The morning is the time for telling and interpreting dreams, and storytelling might happen again after meals. Stories and legends are considered luxuries. People take special trips to visit other groups in order to collect them. The possessor of stories is called sak. A guest who tells stories or brings news or new songs is always welcome. The Pemon value the abilities of their artisans. Outstanding persons are recognized for their individual skills. Some women are famous for the quality of their clay bowls. Basketry is another major art form. Men make all of the baskets and fiber articles, including the eating mats and strainers used in everyday household work and cooking. But everyday basketry is different from the more complicated forms, which can be used in trade. As in the case of pottery, only certain men are skilled at making complex baskets. The Pemon also make wooden dugout and bark canoes, paddles, and bows, and they weave hammocks and baby carriers. • Source:www.everyculture.com
For Further Reading E.J. Brill. Continuity & Identity in Native America. New York: E. J. Brill, 1988. Cesareo de Armellada. Cuentos y no cuentos. Caracas, Venezuela: Instituto Venezolano de Lenguas Indigenas, 1988. Source: www.everyculture.com/wc/Tajikistan-toZimbabwe/Pemon.html
Up the Orinoco Remedios Varo, Exploration of the Source of the Orinoco River, 1959
want to tell of a journey beyond all known frontiers, that speaks of possibilities rather than anything so prosaic as what we already know. There are precedents for such an undertaking. Christopher Columbus was looking for Paradise when he set out on his epic voyage across the Atlantic. I have seen annotations made by him to this effect in a treatise by Pierre d'Ailly of France, the Tractatus de Imagine Mundi - a view of an imaginary world. Both he and Columbus (who, I am told, carried d'Ailly's treatise with him on his voyage to the new world) were eager to represent accurately what was as yet undiscovered. These men were keen observers of the imaginary. As a cartographer attached to the order of Camaldules at San Michele di Murano here in Venice, I too have made it my life's task to chart the course of such men as they wander the byways of the earth. What was I to think. Each encounter with an alien race had furnished me with new insights into the depiction of an imaginary landscape. Recent visitors had reinforced what I had long suspected: that beyond the region of thought with which I was so familiar were certain layers of perception that hitherto I had not experienced. How goes my world? Outspread and undulating it lies on the table, a great orb of intractable terrain. Zones of pure space extend to the farthest reaches of my imagination. It is a world made up of much more than kingdoms and continents. It is a realm known only to those who have an eye to seeing what is invisible, or to those who are prepared to elevate themselves above the light of understanding. My map absorbs me in what it does not reveal. Each time I gaze at it I am 12
captivated by what so far has not been included within its margins. I am greedy to know more, to discover new countries, people, their mores. Each of us has the right to speak of his coastline, his mountains, his deserts, none of which conforms to those of another. Individually we are obligated to make a map of our own homeland, or own elds or meadow. We carry in our hearts the map of the world as we know it. “The world you are looking for," the astronomer expounded, "includes many things whose existence most people doubt. That is because they are expecting those things to conform to what they already know. The world I am talking about has been created to reect each persons deepest image of himself. It follows that wise men contemplate the world, knowing full well that they are contemplating themselves." What he meant was that the normal process of thinking was not capable of dealing with the world as it is. Such a world emerges not from the sea as an island appears to after a long voyage, but from a state of enchantment inspired by the mind taking leave of itself. Gazing at my map, I begin to see a portrait of myself. All the diversity of the world in intimated on the parchment, even as this diversity is intimated within me. An aura of remoteness hovers about its contours, as it does about my head, clarifying what I see. Both the map and myself cling to the invisibility of what we represent. Nor is the tension between us that of myself and it, but of the merging of these. The map and myself are the same. Excerpts from James Cowan. A Mapmaker’s Dream. The Meditations of Fra Mauro, Cartographer to the Court of Venice. New York: Warner Books, 1996.
by Bartolomé de las Casas
Kirkpatrick Sale estimates that eight million people were killed directly or indirectly by the Spanish in Hispaniola.
n this Isle, which, as we have said, the Spaniards first attempted the bloody slaughter and destruction of Men first began: for they violently forced away Women and Children to make them Slaves, and ill-treated them, consuming and wasting their Food, which they had purchased with great sweat, toil, and yet remained dissatisfied too, which every one according to his strength and ability, and that was very inconsiderable (for they provided no other Food than what was absolutely necessary to support Nature without superfluity, freely bestow’d on them, and one individual Spaniard consumed more Victuals in one day, than would serve to maintain Three Families a Month, every one consisting of Ten Persons. Now being oppressed by such evil usage, and afflicted with such greate Torments and violent Entertainment they began to understand that such Men as those had not their Mission from Heaven; and therefore some of them conceal’d their Provisions and others to their Wives and Children in lurking holes, but some, to avoid the obdurate and dreadful temper of such a Nation, sought their Refuge on the craggy tops of Mountains; for the Spaniards did not only entertain them with Cuffs, Blows, and wicked Cudgelling, but laid violent hands also on the Governours of Cities; and this arriv’d at length to that height of
Spanish colonial practices earned it a reputation in the 16th century and beyond as the ultimate symbol of “repression, brutality, religious and political intolerance, and intellectual and artistic backwardness for the next four centuries. Spaniards … have termed this process and the image that resulted from it as ‘The Black Legend,’ la leyenda negra.” (Philip Wayne Powell). Las Casas was the indefatigable ghter for the Indians. His rst task was to tell the world what happened in the new world as the waves of Spanish conquerors clashed with the indigenous peoples. This is his account.
Temerity and Impudence, that a certain Captain was so audacious as abuse the Consort of the most puissant King of the whole Isle. From which time they began to consider by what wayes and means they might expel the Spaniards out of their Countrey, and immediately took up Arms. But, good God, what Arms, do you imagine? Namely such, both Offensive and Defensive, as resemble Reeds wherewith Boys sport with one another, more than Manly Arms and Weapons. Which the Spaniards no sooner perceived, but they, mounted on generous Steeds, well weapon’d with Lances and Swords, begin to exercise their bloody Butcheries and Strategems, and overrunning their Cities and Towns, spar’d no Age, or Sex, nay not so much as Women with Child, but ripping up their Bellies, tore them alive in pieces. They laid Wagers among themselves, who should with a Sword at one blow cut, or divide a Man in two; or which of them should decollate or behead a Man, with the greatest dexterity; nay farther, which should sheath his Sword in the Bowels of a Man with the quickest dispatch and expedition. They snatcht young Babes from the Mothers Breasts, and then dasht out the brains of those innocents against the Rocks; others they cast into Rivers scoffing and jeering them, and call’d
upon their Bodies when falling with derision, the true testimony of their Cruelty, to come to them, and inhumanely exposing others to their Merciless Swords, together with the Mothers that gave them Life. They erected certain Gibbets, large, but low made, so that their feet almost reacht the ground, every one of which was so order’d as to bear Thirteen Persons in Honour and Reverence (as they said blasphemously) of our Redeemer and his Twelve Apostles, under which they made a Fire to burn them to Ashes whilst hanging on them: But those they intended to preserve alive, they dismiss’d, their Hands half cut, and still hanging by the Skin, to carry their Letters missive to those that fly from us and ly sculking on the Mountains, as an exprobation of their flight. The Lords and Persons of Noble Extract were usually expos’d to this kind of Death; they order’d Gridirons to be placed and supported with wooden Forks, and putting a small Fire under them, these miserable Wretches by degrees and with loud Shreiks and exquisite Torments, at last Expir’d. I once saw Four or Five of their most Powerful Lords laid on these Gridirons, and thereon roasted, and not far off, Two or Three more over-spread with the same Commodity, Man’s Flesh; but the shril Clamours which were heard there being offensive to the Captain, by hindring
his Repose, he commanded them to be strangled with a Halter. The Executioner (whose Name and Parents at Sevil are not unknown to me) prohibited the doing of it; but stopt Gags into their Mouths to prevent the hearing of the noise (he himself making the Fire) till that they dyed, when they had been roasted as long as he thought convenient. I was an Eye-Witness of these and and innumerable Number of other Cruelties: And because all Men, who could lay hold of the opportunity, sought out lurking holes in the Mountains, to avoid as dangerous Rocks so Brutish and Barbarous a People, Strangers to all Goodness, and the Extirpaters and Adversaries of Men, they bred up such fierce hunting Dogs as would devour an Indian like a Hog, at first sight in less than a moment: Now such kind of Slaughters and Cruelties as these were committed by the Curs, and if at any time it hapned, (which was rarely) that the Indians irritated upon a just account destroy’d or took away the Life of any Spaniard, they promulgated and proclaim’d this Law among them, that One Hundred Indians should dye for every individual Spaniard that should be slain. •
Text of 1689 from: Bartolomé de las Casas. Brevisima relación de la destrucción de las Indias, Seville, 1552 A Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies Or, a faithful NARRATIVE OF THE Horrid and Unexampled Massacres, Butcheries, and all manner of Cruelties, that Hell and Malice could invent, committed by the Popish Spanish Party on the inhabitants of West-India, TOGETHER With the Devastations of several Kingdoms in America by Fire and Sword, for the space of Forty and Two Years, from the time of its first Discovery by them. London, Printed for R. Hewson at the Crown in Cornhil, near the Stocks-Market. 1689. English Version of 1689. 17th century English spelling and usage retained.
os hicimos a la vela sobre rumbo Este, con más o menos grados al Sur y otras veces al Norte. El Diablo milagroso de Fulton, bufando humo y chispas del inerno, metido en su vientre, cortó en un minuto toda la frente de la ciudad, retorciéndose como una culebra llena de cólera. No habíamos acabado de vernos los que ocupábamos el mismo coche, cuando el pito pregonó la entrada al Paraíso. De un salto nos pusimos en el puente, ávidos de manzana tentadora. Por allí, cerca de la estación, hay mucha maleza y algunos arbolitos que echan grandes ramilletes de ores blanquecinas, menudas y perfumadas. Los oriundos llaman tuete á los tales arbolitos, que arbusto llamáramos nosotros, á no ser que tenemos muy mala opinión de nuestra sabiduría en materia del....tuete: no recordamos el nombre de la ciencia. Cuando se nos dijo: ¡El Paraíso!, nos dimos á pensar que éramos Adanes y que el Padre Eterno, complacidísimo de su obra, había dispuesto colocarnos en la entraña mejor dotada de aquel jardín terrenal. Los tuetes derramaban sus balsámicas esencias, que eran verdaderas maravillas robadas al Oriente. Atraídos de los dulces olores fuimos en busca de la costilla por un pequeño declive sembrado de güísaros y en lo demás pelado como quien ha perdido la vergüenza. Eva no pareció desnuda; ni tampoco la vimos cubriendo su honestidad ruborizada con la hoja luciente y velludita de la higuera. Dos ó tres viboreznos, llamados culebrillas de tierra, y un par de pequeños lagartos conocidos por el nombre de gallegos fueron los únicos signos de vida sandia ó feliz ó paradi14
siaca que se ofrecieron á nuestra anhelante mirada en aquel verjel que marchitó la malicia. Tan triste y desolada nos pareció aquella tierra agrietada y roja y de grueso grano, parecida á sangre dispuesta para las morongas, que poco y muy poco faltó para que nosotros perdiéramos el juicio, y nuevos Adanes desventurados, echásemos á correr dando gritos de tardío arrepentimiento por sobre aquel jardín reseco y poroso, que se distingue por sus lomas rápidas é infecundas. La espada del ángel terrible chispea sobre aquella naturaleza y con su fuego busca todavía las postremas raíces. Unas cuantas dehesas sin sombra, ni los jugos necesarios y algunos frijolares enfermos de ebre, constituyen la riqueza principal de aquella árida región. Consternados y casi llorando á verdaderas lágrimas la pérdida de Adán y su costilla infe-
liz, y jurando, al propio tiempo, que aquella abrasada delicia más que Paraíso Terrenal, semeja aquel jardín ó huerto que se halla camino del Inerno, y donde cada rama de árbol ó de arbusto es un alma ó varias almas que se quejan al ser descuajadas; consternados, llorando y jurando así, nos encontrábamos á distancia de la estación, un poco entretenidos en aplastar lagartijas con piedrecitas y terrones, y en morticar el gusto con el ácido espeluznante de los güísaros, cuando el maquinista tiró de la palanqueta y el garito salvaje del bruto de hierro nos dio la señal de la partida. Nos fuimos y pronto se desvanecieron en el horizonte ó se perdieron en la hondonada las torres de la iglesia de la aldea, jeroglícos imperfectos de una civilización que ha pasado y lucha, sin embargo, por abrirse campo entre
las nuevas ideas: así el río caudaloso salta de los últimos términos de su lecho, y sin respeto al tridente de Neptuno, hiende con arrogancia en muchas millas y muchas leguas, la salada onda azul. Una vez salvadas las postreras lindes del Paraíso, principiamos á serpear lindamente por lugares desconocidos: siempre y en todo caso tiene caracteres de novedad el panorama, que por ser grandiosamente bello, enloquece el sentido y apasiona el ánimo con grandeza. El magníco valle de Ujarrás Viejo como lo llamaba mi abuela materna, para distinguirlo del Paraíso, que en otro tiempo tuvo la altanería de llevar el lindo nombre de aquella región famosa por muchas razones, y principalmente porque fué asiento de una villa fecunda en ingenios y buena sangre, villa sobre la cual soplaron hasta barrerla los rencores del Demonio, siempre enemigo obstinado de la virgen milagrosa que era la reina santa, patrocinadora de aquella población, tan infortunada á la postre como dichosa había sido antes—ese valle magníco donde tal villa tuvo asiento hasta que el azote de Satanás no hirió sus espaldas y las calenturas del río no la pusieron en fuga precipitada, se desarrolló de repente como un gran pliegolienzo, donde juntas todas las fantasías del Oriente dibujaron y pintaron sus maravillas orientales, ó sus cuentos fabulosos de hadas y enanos y genios encantadores. Allá está.... allá está.... Dios mío! que lindo es todo eso.... Ah! yo me vuelvo loco ante esos verdes distintos, que parecen otros tantos colores de esa alfombra que resplandece como si fuese tejida en seda lujosísima: ¡qué matices, qué cambiantes! son facetas pulidas á la perfección, en París, sobre piedras nas bañadas en luz!.... allí veo una especie de pájaro enorme que abre sus alas más enormes aún, matizadas de tintes fuertes, vistosas por demás, que deslumhran; y sin embargo la pupila se resiste á contraerse: ese pájaro está formado por un lete del cual penden, con inclinación que no es violenta, dos lomas de esmalte maravilloso; el pico
del pájaro es una cascada que se lanza de allí, cerca de aquel árbol gigantesco adornado de trenzas de lianas, y que ahora, en este momento, mueve su copa de verde claro, que parece la seda de un paraguas veraniego, así como si el tal árbol pensara y tuviese la intención de decimos adiós con todo respeto; las plumas de la cola están partidas en dos grupos, del mismo modo que en aquella ave menor, que el vulgo llama jerula; uno de los grupos es el platanal luciente que tenemos á la derecha y otra lanza larguísima parecida al platanal, y que debe ser una milpa en cabellos largos, porque su verdor es menos semejante á las luces de la esmeralda. •
Pío Víquez Nació en Ujarrás de Cartago en 1850 y realizó sus estudios primarios en esta ciudad y los profesionales en la Universidad de Santo Tomás, donde obtuvó los titulos de Bachiller en Filosoa y en Derecho. Más tarde sirvió la cátedra de Derecho Civil en las Escuelas de Derecho. Antes habia sido maestro de escuela y profesor de Castellano en el Instituto Nacional. Acompañó como secretario al Presidente Soto en un viaje a Nicaragus y desempeñó la Secretaria de la Legación de Costa Rica en México. Fundó El Heraldo de Costa Rica en 1889, en el que publicó su labor literaria, y murió en Cartago en 1899. Cada año un periodista de Costa Rica otorgara el Premio Nacional Pío Víquez, el galardón maximo para periodísmo.
Foto: Valle de Ujarrás Viejo, Costa Rica
by Stephen Duplantier “Myth is the primordial language natural to psychic processes, and no intellectual formulation comes anywhere near the richness and expressiveness of mythical imagery. Such processes deal with primordial images, and these are best and most succinctly reproduced by figurative speech.” --C.G. Jung The Languages of Psyche and Paradise
Jacqueline Bishop Teatro Amazonas, 1992 Courtesy the artist and Arthur Roger Gallery
for, symbolically at least. Erich Neumann reminds us that the state of paradisiacal perfection is not historic, and certainly not sociological or geographical, but in the realm of the psyche—that unmapped place of the soul, the imagined geography of the self.
actually. It is in advertisements, church art, sermons, bibles, holy books, blogs, secular literature, poems and epics, diaries, photographs, paintings, sculptures schools, commercial market places, dreams, vacations, and travel. Indeed, where is it not?
The language of paradise is the symbolic language of the psyche. It isn’t spoken like the phonemes and the sounds of the natural languages that humans have developed, but as an unspoken language. There are no Berlitz classes for understanding the language of paradise and psyche. The “words” and symbols of this psychic language are everywhere, and when we see them, we understand with the soul, not our rational, logical faculties.
On a deeper interior psychological level it may be unspoken, but it is omnipresent. This archetype shows up as the silent criterion of our personal and social lives, the template by which all things are measured, and the way things should be. Therefore, this notion of perfection and perfectibility is part of charters, constitutions, and manifestoes of government, organizations, and revolutionary movements. Clearly, paradise is the deep and complex pattern of feelings, beliefs, wisdom, intuition, and projection of ideas in the common experience of our species.
The various tales of paradise found in so many places among such different peoples and across such long time spans attest to a deeply-felt core set of common experiences and longings. Our shared humanity is part of a collective imaginal reservoir of archetypes somewhere deep inside that cannot be seen directly, but which are the source of the symThe language that describes paradise is imabolic, mythic, and imaginative expressions ginal, a word that combines the related that are an inseparable part of our lives. notions of image and imagination. James Hillman writes that “In the beginning is Archetypes are those collective and univerthe image, first imagination then perception; sal psychological and biological patterns of first fantasy, then reality…our being is imabehavior and thought that arise spontaneginal being, an existence in imagination. We ously in an individual, but which take on are, indeed, such stuff as dreams are made concrete shapes based on the experiences and knowledge of that person. The ecologies on.” of archetypal expression are as diverse as What does it mean in human affairs to speak the riot and blooming confusion of forms, about an archetype of paradise? The poems colors, shapes of the biological life of a and literature of the ages, secular and reliCosta Rican forest. gious that play with the idea of paradise are Your encounter with the expressions of para- vast. A case could be made that the quest for paradise and the consequences of success or dise archetypes in such elemental richness and astounding profusion in the neotropics is failure of that quest is not only the ultimate a clue that maybe you are the closest you can human archetype, but also the Ur-idea and the central problem of human life. Certainly be to the experience of an actual discoveron the level of popular culture and common able, grounded, though imperfect imagined speaking, paradise is a word and idea you geography of paradise. In other words, you may have found what you have been looking encounter daily. You can scarcely avoid it
This has everything to do with understanding some of the deeper motivations for your actions, such as, say, moving to the neotropics and searching for…go ahead and think it…paradise! The Quest for the Way I have claimed that the paradise archetype, and the quest for finding it that the archetype exacts from us, is the primary human metaphor for the activity of self and soul and society. We seek, in one form or another, the Way. Archaeologically, archetypes of the Way––that twisted, ambiguous trail we all walk–– appeared long ago deep in the past of our Homo sapiens ancestors as least as far back as the Paleolithic, the old stone age. 15
rituals of passing through the gates of immigration and then customs, and after threading through the mob of fellow travelers, skycaps, and cops to find a taxi or your welcoming party, it sinks in—you are on the Way. Depending on your age and personal inclinations, the next thing you want after a meal and a drink, and maybe a hotel check-in, is yet another set of difficult experiences. This time, they will be camouflaged as fun. You are now deeply in the archetype of the Way, in the company of ancient hunter-gatherers. Your tour company might have booked you on a scary whitewater rafting or kayaking trip down the Walking a trail in the wild primary forest of Pacuare River. Or you may plan to careen through the tops of the forest tree canopy an individual’s personal and collective life with all senses tuned and open is a nomadic headfirst dangling from a steel cable, or you might risk your life battling the big pilgrimage with no end in plain sight. Your waves and the riptides at Tamarindo, or walk tour of your own psychic inner biodiversity through a dark forest in the Osa peninsula is your life’s journey. Along the way, interesting archetypes present themselves to you or jump off the side of a mountain to go paragliding. At the end of your difficult and unbidden and form personal constellations dangerous trek, you end up in the contemof meaningful patterns that guide your way and become coterminous with your life jour- porary equivalent of a mountain cave––the dimly-lit recesses of a hotel bar or restaurant ney. decorated with art and exotic objects. You’ll The primary archetypal rituals and activities eat and drink in ancient rituals and fellowship while you tell the stories of your advenof the Way include a trip to a hard-to-reach place. Your journey searching for the arche- tures and mark your passage through this tropical earthscape by creating your own types of paradise may lead you to wild forests and untamed rivers, lush valleys, ocean personal life mythology. Your adventure in shores, remote beaches, and always, islands the neotropics experiencing the archetypes of palm trees and Robinson Crusoe-like soli- of the Way Quest is the stuff of travel brochures for the adventurous. But even more tariness. This is beginning to feel like it is primal experiences are in store for you as time for a visit to a travel agent or an Interwell in the neotropics, especially in the net cheap airfare search engine. experiences of the archetypes of the Great Mother (Magna Mater). This many-dimenPick up just about any travel brochure for sioned feminine archetype embodies the Costa Rica (or find it online) and you will see how the deep primordial archetypes mix symbols and experiences most closely assoand blend. After your airplane lands in your ciated with the paradise quest. The basis for wished-for Costa Rican neotropical paradise this quest for paradise is where we get even more entangled with the primordial myths and with the relative ease of running the and images of the deep collective realities gauntlet of getting your luggage, and the we all have our feet in. 16 Everyone has seen reproductions of the images of the mysterious painted caves of the Dordogne in France. The artwork in those hard-to-reach tunnels and niches is a record of the archetypal quests of those hunters and gatherers. The exact myths they repeated to one another and the details of their rituals are lost, but the evidence of the location of the paintings and etchings in the caves may be the key piece of information: they represent the symbolization of their life quest and the requirement for these people to go somewhere difficult and do something ritually important.
A Cabinet of Curiosities The best stories we tell to make sense of our world appeal to the imagination. We use figurative language to compare different things and thus discover a way to look at the world in a fresh way. This is an ancient practice and the source of myth, art, poetry, and all of the expressive traditions. According to
“Musei Wormiani Historia”, the frontispiece from the Museum Wormianum (1655) depicting the cabinet of curiosities of Olaus Wormius, Danish physician and antiquary.
Erich Neumann, the language of symbols and the imaginative use of one thing to mean something else is the original language of the unconscious. You don’t need special training in mythology or a degree in anthropology to understand these ideas and symbols, which are both ancient and
contemporary at the same time, he adds. We all can understand, if not “speak” this symbolic language. When expressions of archetypes emerge they are easy to perceive because they are encountered everywhere. Understanding the
how deep, mysterious patterns and upwellings of ancient forces feel today in our lives in front of our eyes and senses. We look for coherence and relevance in our lives from the complex mass of unrecognizable primordial depths. Naturally, nothing is very simple or easy, so when we are fishing for an internal archetype and wish to pull up and land a nice clean, discrete trout, more often we haul up a heavy, almost-breaking trawl net full of a mixed catch of wiggling, unidentifiable sea creatures, seaweed, a few old cans and maybe an automobile tire. The diversity and even contradictory parts of the forms, symbols, images, and ideas, and fragmentary metaphors caught in our nets of remembered and forgotten personal and collective unconscious reveal the presence of grand archetypes, shining and bright, yet slippery and shifting its shapes with polyvalent meanings. This is the beginning of archetypal communication and self-understanding of our depths.
archetypal experiences may take some practice, but once you begin to get the knack of it, it gets easier. We are not so removed from our ancestors and their symbolical understanding and mythological perception of everything that touched their emotions.
When we look at art, the objects of archaeology, and have glimpses of mimetic human forms in nature, when we immerse ourselves in the scenes of the natural fractal diversity of the geometry of nature in forest and grove, we are seeing the echoes and avatars of our interior states of mind and body. The deeply-patterned archetypes of our collective human experience over time always appear in concrete form, as they must. Yet when you see something or someone with your eyes, and when an archetypal resonance is set off, you are seeing a complex representation of the deep pattern that was invisible until it was put into a material form. The deep patterns are hidden until they come to life in our personal worlds of perception. Archetypal Communication Archetypes appear as symbols and psychic images that appear in myths, stories, art, films and plays and the creative expression of people through out the ages. This kind of symbolic mythical expression of unitary, non-dual perception and imagining are paradoxical only to the analytical rational mind. As images and symbols, you already have
Kleinodien-Schrank (1666) - Johann Georg Hainz
You are your own Cabinet of Curiosities. You have your individual psyche with its seeming autonomous life, plus your dreams, fantasies, personal rituals, myths, and experiences. This is augmented with the visual help of the art and artifacts of archaeology and history throughout the ages, as well as contemporary images, art, popular, culture, films, songs and other expressive cultural and semiotic systems.
everything you need to know about them and understand them. Archetypes are at play in an individual’s experience in the emotions and feelings, both conscious and unconscious realms of the psyche. These can be positive, negative, and also pathological at times. Whatever and however the activities and business of
our interior states takes place in the internal realms of psyche and spirit, and how connected and imprinted they are with evendeeper timeless human patterns of story and behavior are fascinating and can become the material for personal self-educational odysseys. Yet what fascinates us is how the archetypes become constellated in the pictorial and symbolic spheres of daily life, and
The Jungian psychologist Erich Neumann, whose work inspired, and is the basis for this present essay, uses the technique of amplification of material from archaeology, prehistory, history, anthropology, art, and I would add, the imaginal experiences of the world of nature, especially plants, trees and the animals in all their variety from large to the smallest, and maybe the most primal of all, those peak experiences of the fractal geometries of nature that erupt at every turn and that tie together the visible and invisible ecologies and their patterns ––those which grab our attention such as sunsets and sunrises, clouds, storms, waves pounding the shores, patterns of sand on the beach, rocks in their infinite variety of shapes, tree branching, veins in leaves, moon, stars, and the other primal, captivating experiences haphazardly, yet beautifully exhibited in the personal museums of natural history in our heads, heart and souls of which we are the curators. We are always adding acquisitions
to our museum, pulling them up from the basement of our crazy cabinet of curiosities, mysterious objects, artwork, ritual objects, jewels and shells, stones, objects of power and awe, which we make into changing exhibitions of our consciousness and slowly we begin to be our own docents, to selfguide ourselves to dawning realizations and educational and inspirational experiences. Admission to the museum of the self is free, but it can take a lot of time to figure out what the exhibits mean.
Civitas Veri by Bartoloméo Del Bene (1515-1595). Paris, 1609, Ambroise and Jérôme Drouart
Essays by Stephen Duplantier
Travelers to the tropics on vacation or relocation are embraced and overwhelmed by the slightly alien, but instantly comforting totality of the world they immerse themselves in. The archetype of travel and paradise is for nourishment of soul and body, and also as protection, security, and refuge from pain and suffering. To be remolded back into the arms of the source is paradisal ––a kind of a re-infantalization, though not as a helpless mewling baby, but as the realized and transformed adult. Searching for paradise has aspects of returning to the womb. Where is the womb? Follow the signs to any ocean.The primordial waters are male and female and are embraced in the unity of the all-at-once-ness. The ocean is a wholeness with no beginning or end. Everything is born of water and at the end of the world, everything reverts to water. The ocean has the dual aspect of all archetypes as both source of life and wholeness and its destroyer. Tsunamis and giant waves are frightening for the potential of dealing death and destruction. They arise from the ocean as a result of seismic or volcanic activity, as we know, but also mysteriously and autocthonously as well. For poorly-understood reasons, gigantic waves materialize out of the ocean and menace the ships at sea and hapless shores nearby. The ocean is gentle, maternal, womb-like, the world’s amniotic sac of salty water that envelops and protects. The ocean feeds us with its bounty of sh. At other times, the gentle, lapping, breath-like regularity of the surf and waves is angered by storms or the mystery of tsunamis and the ocean comes after the land. It was, in fact, giant waves 20
washing over the barren land of earth some 4.5 billion years ago and hauling the mineral wealth of the rocks back into the sea that made life possible. It was there, in the cauldron of complex interacting minerals and complexifying carbon molecules charged by the electricity of lightning, that life began. The ocean gave birth to life and ultimately reclaims life back into its waters. The reason real-estate vendors and developer can charge more for an ocean view property is because it is really archetypal views that people pay premium prices for. The view of the ocean, no matter how dim or clouded-over most of the year, or even marginal, is a hoped-for psychic vision of insight and transformation. Of course, you don’t technically need an ocean to be transformed. All the paradise and Great Mother archetypes overlap and interpenetrate one another. Anything deep rings the bell of the ocean archetype. A valley would do as well, a small pond, maybe, even a home-made grotto with a little basin of water in front. Transformation can even come from simple acts. What we need and seek is a source of wisdom from the depths. This may be why people go shing. Of course, the sh are good to eat (and the beer good to drink), but it is the pulling up of something from deep inside the unconscious that is valuable; eating seafood from the ocean or lake is a sacramental ritual of ingesting the wisdom of that deep interior sea. Snorkeling, scuba diving spear shing, or just jumping into a hotel swimming pool are far more profound acts than you might have imagined.
he archetype of the Lady of the Plants expresses the mysteries of the growing vegetative earth, and its transformations. In common awareness and expression, the earth and nature are perceived as a mother. This is an ancient idea that persists today. We know that the huge orb of our planet is not actually a woman, but something feels accurate about using this kind of symbolic speech. The great goddess is connected to the vegetation of the earth, sexuality, fertility, rain, and therefore, the food that springs from the earth through obvious feminine analogues. Flowers and fruit are symbols of the Lady of the Plants, one of the aspects of the Great Mother. The abundant owers of the neotropics, especially the heliconias, are emblematic of the feeling-tone in advertisements for lush, sexy, tropical experiences. Can you even nd ads or promotions for Costa Rica that do not have the outrageous, red puckered lips of the bracts of heliconias? It’s not just owers, but also fruit that are visual markers to paradise. Carmen Miranda, with her somewhat heavy and hard-to-balance fruited cornucopia hat, is a walking, singing, dancing goddess of fertile earth. The frivolity of her costume hides the promise of earthy sexuality underneath. The mysteries of vegetation with seeds buried in the earth, then sprouting, growing, maturing, producing ower and fruit, and deeply involving water, air, earth, sun moon and
stars, insects and animals is the complete drama of life. Neumann explains that the unfolding phenomena of vegetative growth in such dazzling variety of botanical forms and colors still easily overwhelms the senses and imagination today. The bewildering biodiversity is taken as proof of a Designer-in-Chief, though today the feelings are more aesthetic and less sacral. An argument could be made that the aesthetic effect subsumes any sacrality, and that both are founded upon a geometry of nature. Evolution is a fact, proven by many things, but especially in the fractal designs of our minds and body systems repeated endlessly in the forms of nature at all scales of observation. The individuation and experience of world and self permits consciousness and the understanding of the true meaning of an individual. A realized person knows beginnings, middles, and ends of the psyche’s journey and the return to center of the self, maturation, wholeness, and completeness. The material earth is quite divine enough to be paradise. Someone walking through a garden or forest in the tropics sees a particularly vivid red ower—a passionower maybe. The immediate epiphany is that it is a mandala of the self. This is the goal of the seeker’s quest for a paradise of the self––perfect and indestructible in mind and psyche, but resting on an ultimately fragile, temporary, and renewable biology. Symbolically, this search for paradise leads to a discovery through the living earth of “perfect form, balance, harmony, and solidity,” writes Erich
Neumann. The visual expression of these archetypal impulses is expressed in the form of the mandala of the self: a circle, a sphere, a ower. The ower, no matter what kind it is, unfolds and symbolizes the psychic center, wholeness, and perfection of the self. Botany, to the surprise only of those who have not studied it formally, is quite a sexy science. The unblushing sexuality of owers in everything from their suggestive reproductive parts, alluring perfumes, and aggressive tricks of seduction would put Cleopatra to shame. The rened, heady even, and wholeness-seeking realization of the mandala/ower image is fullled completely with the grounded, earthy sexuality of the ower as the pinnacle of vegetation.
rees are nearly everywhere on earth except desert and tundra and above the various tree lines on mountains. The wild tropical and neotropical forests of the world are where some of the most primal trees and their archetypes can found, with the exception of the Redwood and Sequoia regions of California. Despite the deforestation of the neotropical life zones of Costa Rica since the end of World War II, what is left of the tree cover and forest still exhibits its expected diversity. Sadly many of the giants have fallen and are still being cut. The archetype of the world tree is a motif of a gigantic tree powerful enough to support the sky and cosmos, but with roots deep in the earth. The world tree is the axis and supporting structure of all reality. The world tree archetype is both strongly masculine with its phallic trunk, yet tenderly feminine and motherly with its nurturing functions of shading, sheltering and giving food. Like all symbols, its many meanings shift at will. Giant trees, and by extension their smaller kindred, are so much more than resources for timber and fuel. Trees are, of course, alive and working hard whenever you see them. You cannot easily see what it is they are doing. For starters, they, along with their photosynthesizing cousins in the plant world, are supplying oxygen. True, they may do it without much 22
thought of how it helps those airbreathers that nest in its branches and those other air-breathers who approach it with buzzing chainsaws, but it does make animal life possible Trees might be thought of as liking (in a co-evolutionary way) the birds which eat its fruit and graciously scatter the tree’s seeds a few meters away and slowly, over time, to the other sides of watersheds, and even continents. This is how the trees walk ever so slowly. They cannot make the journey directly, so they must rely on their children to travel for them. This is the only way they get to see the world they help make possible. Michael Perlman writes: “The imagination of trees involves us in vertical motion, an involuntary perception of a force––upwelling, expansive, and downwardly stabilizing––that is shared by tree and self; a tacit feeling for the energy involved in standing upright; and awareness at some level of multiple signicances of uprightness, implicit fantasies about growth and evolution––the biography of the human species and of each human individual. This engenders a feeling of kinship, well-expressed in a poem by Wendell Berry on his relationship with a dying elm tree: ‘Willing to live and die, we stand here, timely and at home, neighborly as two men.’ ” When those two-legged creatures without wings walk up to the tree and stand there, just as the tree is standing there, and the two upright beings
stand facing each other contemplating their kinship and long, intertwined relationship, there are moments of joy and remembrance. The African hominids from which we descended as a species lived in trees. Eventually, our proto-human ancestors came down from the trees and stood upright just like the trees that nurtured and protected them for so many millions of years. Human bipedalism freed our ancestors’ arms and hands to get and eat food more easily, to hunt and to gather, and, in the most tender imitation of the mothering function of the tree, to hold softly and nurse their tiny helpless babies. Trees are proud that they taught us so well to imitate their strong uprightness and their softer, nurturing functions. They know that humans, the winged-ones, and the four-legged ones have something that they do not—easy mobility. But trees are satised to be rooted, to always be where they said they would be, and to be a consistent place to return to, day or night–– a home. They are reliable parents who always protect and nourish. The world tree motif and mythical cosmologies of the pre-Columbian Mesoamerican cultures was especially connected to the Ceiba tree. This species range extends from Mexico to Brazil. The Ceiba produces pods with the softest cottony silk bers (kapok) that was used
as the otation material in life jackets before petrochemical-based substitutes became available. The bers trapped air and made the life jacket buoyant. This use was unknown to the ancient peoples of the Americas. To them, the huge towering tree with spiny trunk was more important mythologically. The tree was a symbol of their universe—it spread out in four directions, and up and down, connecting the sky and the underworld. Ceibas were the map of their cosmos. The intricate branching of the Ceiba, and every other tree as well, may have another effect on humans who behold it. These fractal patterns imitate the branching of the nerves in our neurological system of body and brain, and also the different, but self-same similarity of the circulatory system of our heart, arteries and veins. Thus, a tree reminds us of our head and heart, though the recognition is not conscious. It is the same tremor of awareness and ineffable knowledge that happens with the beholding of the immense fractal patterns of nature––clouds, and crashing ocean waves, river meanders, the cracks in rocks, the veins in leaves, and on and on. But tree branches are maps of our souls, our insides. That’s why we are in awe when we look up into the branches of trees because we are looking at a mirror of ourselves and the larger nature of which we are a part. 23
Despite anti-natural Christian symbolism and the ranting of preachers, the snake is not a symbol of anything nefarious or satanic, but instead, the symbol of wisdom. Of all creatures, the snake is literally the closest to the earth. A serpent undulating gracefully over the ground is caressing the earth and even dancing with it. Being in such intimate contact with the body of the feminine gure of earth as mother is a privileged role for the serpent. guish. Snakes keep the rodent populawalk on a nature trail through one The symbol of the Uroborus is underof the many national parks of Costa tion down, and simply deserve to live. stood by depth psychologists as the cirThe trouble with serpents in the Rica is invariably an unscripted expecular image of the Great Round, or a full neotropics is that many are venomous. rience. The guide may think he knows ecology of life. The repeating cycles of where some of the most crowd-pleasing Humans are not their prey, but rarely, nature with animal, plant, and human they can become their victims. It is animals might be found, and he might life constantly turning, one upon the be right. The monkeys of Costa Rica are much more likely that humans are the victims of their own misconceptions and other, is a basic understanding of how easy to see because in parks they can biological nature works. Out of the unwarranted fear of snakes. become habituated to us humans. death of one, another is born. SymboliWhat does it mean when you see a As the nature observation continues, cally, the hollow formed by the arc of snake biting its own tail? Actually, you you’ll stop often to see insects or catch are not likely to see such a sight, because the snake creates the potent image of glimpses of birds. And of course, the the womb of the mother, and thus, the group will stop often to admire the giant the image is an archetypal one arising world, oneness, beginning and ending not from a nature walk, but from the canopy trees of the forest, or watch the and beginning again, and the inextinslow-motion drama of an act of murder much wilder and unexplored depths of guishable pulses of life itself. as an acrobatic Strangler Fig tree slowly personal and collective interior states. The Uroborus is innite and immortal, The gure of a snake or dragon biting kills its host. but not in an escapist, transcendent and its own tail is called an Uroborus (from Harder-to-see creatures of the forest other-worldly way. The erce dragons the Greek, “tail biter”)––an ancient might play their brief part on the stage and menacing snakes, self-absorbed in before exiting unceremoniously. Maybe and many-dimensioned image. It repthe extreme, have solved the problem of resents, not a short-sighted and selfit will be a narrow green fellow, not in regeneration and of confronting the negdefeating, hungry animal, but a primal the grass, but in the tree branches, or a ative aspects of the self. In the ultimate fat boa curled up in a bromeliad, mind- state of being and the self-absorbed feedback loop of self-awareness, oppodawn-state of infancy. Further, the ciring its own business. sites are reconciled and consciousness cular act of slaying-by-digestion of the The snakes of the neotropics always fascinate and demand attention of visi- self also begets the self anew. Therefore, and understanding are born. The Uroborus is a symbol of the the symbol is shorthand for undertors and locals, whatever the occasion attempts at the perfection of the self and standing the autonomous power of the of the encounter. Local farmers and the constant renewal required to mainindividual and the collective society to campesinos habitually whip out their tain self and society. The Uroborus is machetes and dispatch the creature, no self-renew. the key to understanding that paradise Sometimes the image of the Uroborus questions asked--a practice the Costa is not a place or destination the anxious shows a snake, and at other times in Rican herpetological Instituto traveler can nd on a map, but the act of the long history of the image, a dragon. Clodomiro Picado is trying to extinself-renewal and re-birth itself.
ear of serpents by humans is an ancient one that extends to other species as well. Birds and small animals have a natural fear of one of their efcient predators that can make off with eggs or young chicks from the nest. Humans fear snakes from the experience of the bite of venomous reptiles, but also from a deeper psychic fear of self-awareness. The experience of the snake is primal and potentially transformative. The primitives imagined that the snake is biting, not the observer, but its own self and in the process forms a circle. The self-completing circle is a symbol of wholeness and perfection. Paradise is thus, not the garden, but the snake, where wholeness is achieved and masculine and feminine are joined psychically to give birth to the wholeness of the individuated self. The Uroborus is a heavenly serpent, that most ancient and powerful image found in prehistoric and historic worlds of meaning. The snake biting its tail is a sign of the continuing process of achieving a “perfect” world of wholeness, unity, and non-differentiation. The Uroborus is both an unrealizable dream and a shorthand textbook of a rather poetic biology that is found in symbol systems, artifacts, and documents everywhere. When the circuit of self-awareness and connection with the larger self of the world is completed, humans become grounded and lled with light at the same time. The completed act of biting makes a circle, a sphere, and an egg. The egg, in its three-dimensional integrity and paradoxical strength-in-a-fragile-shelled weakness, is another symbol of self. The ovum is the sphere from which we all came, where opposites have been united, where heaven and earth have been joined, and the world parents became as one. When the Abrahamic religious patriarchy turned the snake into evil, the natural order was turned on its head. Millennia of erroneous religious thinking is directly related to the state of the world we nd ourselves in now.
he bee colony of buzzing social insects is the prototype of the rst human societies—a gynocracy of a queen mother and females. The bee, writes Neumann, was seen as the symbol of the feminine power in nature, which manifested the bounty of the earth, and the energy required of motherliness to make groupings of humans successful. Bees suckle the sweet nectar of sexy-looking owers, and then convert the nectar to the even-sweeter honey—the milk of motherhood and the hive. Milk owing from the mother’s breast is like the honey produced collaboratively between ower and bee--the result of the cooperative works of plant and animal. The queen bee is an Amazon, fertilized once by a male who is then destroyed, the queen is practically a 26
virgin in comparison to amount of offspring she can produce from apparent parthenogenesis. Those tens of thousands of eggs produced continually over the long life of the queen seem like virgin births. The queen’s dispatching of her consort drone gives the super motherly queen a terrible aspect, that of the Amazon warrior queen The bee is associated with the moon, which was seen as the glowing hive, and the stars of the night are the busy working female bees. The moon is full of honey and the sexual rites of the honeymoon after marriage make full moons romantic whenever they are seen. Appropriately, full moons increase the birthrate, according to the experience of gynecologists and nurses who probably are not thinking of its archetypal pull or connection to bees.
he circle is the original perfection of the rotundumâ€”the round. This is the shape of the world, and the perfect shape of the cosmos and the self. There is no beginning, no end, no time, no above or below, no space. The primordial egg is the nucleus from which arises the world and the self. Opposites are uniď€ ed and become synthesized. The round holds both day and night, heaven and earth, male and female. The world egg is the container full of heaven and earth, male and female. It is self-contained and self-sufď€ cient. This wholeness also describes the most ancient concept of neither masculine nor feminine deity. Transformation is what we hope for in our quest for paradise. The world egg cracks open and gives birth to itself, but not the same self. Birth erupts us into time that brings the boon of growth along with the sad inevitability of decline. But things always turn into their opposites; from the dissolution of the self comes a collective transmutation which promises an eternal return.
Illustration: Stephen Duplantier
If you are traveling anywhere in Costa Rica on or before August 2, you might see some of the more than one million romeristas walking on all the roads leading to Cartago, the old ruined colonial capital of the country. Romeristas are pilgrims walking to Cartago to pay homage to La Negrita, La Virgen de los Angeles, the Virgin Mary of the Angels in the guise of a small black statue of a mother and child. La Negrita, so beloved of the country’s devout and nondevout alike, is the wildly-popular protector patroness of the country, loved because of the purported miracles attributed to her. Also near Cartago is Volcán Irazu, whose irregular eruptions have destroyed the city in the past and caused the move of the capital away from the volcano to the present site of San José. It was in Cartago that La Negrita, the little Black Virgin of the Angels, was discovered. The woman who found the statue was a Negro, but her blackness has been scrubbed away to brownness, though it wasn’t always so. Popular accounts today say she was a mestizo––a mixed European and Indian. This is the earliest written account of the legend, which comes from Miguel Bonilla, an early 19th century Costa Rican priest, political gure, and historian: In the area that is today “Los Pardos” [“dark, earth-colored” meaning a Black settlement] there lived a simple woman. Upon a rock, near a spring . . . this humble mulata encountered the extraordinary image. . . . In her home, she put it in a box and
returned to collecting sticks. A second time that same amazing sculpture appeared upon the rock. This repetition did not concern her: she took the image thinking that there were two just the same. But the holy Queen was having fun with this simple soul because when the woman came near the rock again, she encountered the same apparition for the third time. Afraid and unsure she went to the box and did not nd the other images except for the one she was carrying. She ran to the priest and explained her case. After hearing the story, the priest put the image in a chest. . . .But the image disappeared from there as well, and for a fourth time she was found in the eld upon the same rock by the priest and the same woman. From there she was returned and placed in the Tabernacle . . . [The next day] he opened the Tabernacle and the Image of Mary was not there. . . . Resolved, the parish priest and congregation went to the rock, where they found her once again. . . . A thatched roof was built over the rock while her Sanctuary was constructed, and Cartago and its surroundings celebrated the apparition with great joy (Miguel Bonilla, translated by Russell Leigh Sharman). The humble Negro peasant woman was the agent for the discovery of the statue and the eventual use of the black Virgen de los Angeles as the patroness of Costa Rica. Interestingly, Juan Santamaria, the male savior of the country, was also a Negro. He committed his brave act of
burning the fort of the psychotic American William Walker and his invading libisteros, and so cleansed the country with re. Santamaria’s story, like that of the unnamed black woman, was appropriated by the ruling classes as the ofcial creators of the imagined community of the state. A case could be made for the King and Queen of Costa Rican religious and political mythological cultus to be these two black Costa Ricans. The process of creating national culture by re-interpreting events of the past is, like war, a main instrument of state-
Mother –– the symbol of the ambivalent and troubled human experience that includes both the joy of birth and life, but is so intimately bound up with the sadness of destruction and death. The earth is a fecund womb and a sheltering cave that gives birth to all that is good, but is also the devourer who takes things back through the scourges of human life–– natural disaster, disease, hunger, general hardship and struggles, especially war. The Terrible Mother is the symbol of the earth that gives and then takes back. La Negrita was found on a large volThe Terrible Mother is the canic boulder ejected by Irazu in some symbol of the earth that unchronicled eruption from ages past. gives and then takes back. She was removed, but kept going back, emphasizing her connection to volcanoes and the earth. The volcano is the craft. Just as elites in the 19th century portal to the underworld of the growling in Costa Rica refashioned national narratives from historic and folk material, I and writing tectonic plates underneath, propose thinking of La Negrita as a Dark and is the symbol of the unconscious Goddess of the Volcano. This is the other ––the mysterious and poorly understood interior of the self and human side of the Virgin of the Angels. It’s not historical, nor is it disrespectful, but it is ways. This is the place of the night goddess, the crystal palace of black obsidian. archetypally mythic. But it is not hell. The terrible eruptions Everything has a shadow. Monsters of volcanoes produce the noxious gases populate the myths and folktales of all and racing red-hot lava, and eject ery peoples, places, and ages. Something boulders onto the surface of the daytime that dwells in each of us is revealed in earth. Yet geologically, this is a deposiour nightmares as the terrible gures tion of material that weathers to become and characters that are expressions of fertile soil. The biodiversity and the lush the dark side of our human life experiforests and elds of Costa Rica exists ences and thinking. Since every archebecause of the fertilizing and enriching type has a positive and negative aspect, there can be a dark side to any image of of the soil done by the work of volcanoes in taking the molten, unformed material paradise, as if you don’t already know. from deep inside the earth and putting The Great Mother is a symbol it on the surface where it becomes good of the bounty and benecence of the earth. Her negative aspect is the Terrible soil after weathering.
The big procession of pious walkers off to see the volcanic goddess (which also has a satellite mini-pilgrimage in Los Angeles Sur near San Ramón) is a liminal event that creates the temporary communities of those exempted from the normal rules and normal status relationships. All pilgrims are equal because all are removed from their normal positions in life. The liminality of pilgrimages also frees up less-than-devout behavior. Residents of Los Angeles Sur have complained that youthful pilgrims who care more for beer and drugs and hanging out are ruining the celebration of the pious practices of the majority. There are also criminal elements who take the opportunity of general relaxation of laws to rob a few houses. These two types of pilgrims t the ambivalent psychic energy of both sides of the Great Mother/Terrible Mother duality. The black stone statue, literally born of a volcano, is the dark goddess of the volcano itself. Devotees hope that she protects, and, when there are no eruptions of gas, rock and lava, she seems to be doing her job, just as when the volcano erupts, the Great Mother removes her mask of benevolence and reveals her terrible aspect as the avatar of the chthonic energy of the earth remerging from the portal of the volcano. The fuming, spitting volcano sends choking sulfur fumes and searing lava in mockery of the sweet, white milk that ows from the generous nourishing breast. 29
ecent paleontological discoveries have shown that many of the dinosaurs-- those dragons of Eden-had feathers and some dinosaur species evolved into birds following the catastrophic asteroid collisions into earth some 65 million years agoâ€“â€“an event which abruptly ended the dinosaur era That a dragon could turn into a bird is good contemporary paleontology, and also excellent paleontomythology, to coin a word. The dinosaur and their kin are as close to an ecology of dragons as we have. Our ancestors did not know that the birds they observed and used as food, and looked to in helping then to understand their world, were in fact the evolved cousins of giant dragons, but they would have really liked to have known this, one can imagine.
osta Rica, with its amazing biodiversity, is an excellent place to be a birdwatcher. Even if you watch birds without a a pair of $500 Nikon binoculars and don’t have a copy of Central American bird maven Alexander Skutch’s books tucked in your Audubon Society-branded backpack, you can’t help but notice birds. Your really old ancestors, whom you cannot look up on ancestors.com, noticed birds too. Flocking migratory birds make a giant, quavering V-shape in the sky. This was seen as a powerful and primal symbol of the goddess during the Upper Paleolithic times and well into the Neolithic. The V-shape was the connection between bird and goddess. Archaeologist and archaeomythologist Marija Gimbutas has discovered that the Vs were a symbolic shorthand code—a language really—for the female pubic triangle, and, by extension, for the formal symbolization of the positive feminine functions and attributes of birth, nursing, and caring. The pubic triangle formed at the anatomical junction of thigh and vulva and mons veneris forms an instantly recognizable grapheme. The V and its permutations as chevrons (repeated Vs), Ms (double upside down Vs) and meandering zigzags, all so easy to draw are found inscribed, engraved, and painted on so many surfaces and objects of the long prehistoric era where they originated and ourished, are so basic, yet they mean so much. Those simple Vs literally meant the world to the successions of cultures of the peoples of Old Europe, as Gimbutas characterizes them. Gimbutas’ discovery of the meaning of what before her discovery was described
only as “geometric motifs” by more positivist and less--inquisitive archaeologists is really a symbol complex associated with the life-generating and sustaining function of the female and the birth and nourishment of the child, both primal biological processes connected with moisture water, milk, blood, and amniotic uid. That the center of the female mysteries and dominant human patterns of birth and survival centered on her vulva, which looked like a V of a ying bird and was closely associated with moisture, made the water bird a powerful gure indeed. The symbol complex of Vs, bird-shaped goddesses remained constant for millennia, as Gimbutas found in her research. The bird goddess gives birth, nourishes with her milk and by extension, nourishes and feeds the people. The water birds signify sustenance, food and satisfaction, all basic necessities, but which are celebrated archetypally as the paradise of drinking the sweet milk of the goddess. Bird watching takes on a whole new meaning. For all the pleasure amateur naturalists get from watching bird activity, an archetypal bird watcher, who may not even known the name of any one species or much about its behavior at all, can still have a profound experience as he watches shore and marsh birds ying, feeding, resting, preening, and then taking off. The actions are simple and beautiful, but the symbolism is so deep and the connections with the most primal human feelings and thoughts create the most important poetry. Sharron Frye
The green, living earth is personied as a goddess and the mother of all vegetation. The great goddess of the earth’s vegetation is the cycle of fertility, rain, growth, and therefore of the food that springs from the earth. The sight of a mature, fruit-bearing tree that does so many nourishing motherly things, sheltering and protecting itself rst, and then the birds and animals who live in it, is a vision of a mother goddess. The mother tree has an impressive aspect with its protective canopy just as when a helpless child looks up to see her huge, loving and caring mother scoop her up into her arms. It is not surprising to hear constantly that the earth is perceived as a mother in common awareness and discourse. This is an ancient idea that has persisted. The tree in a garden, protective, mothering and wise, is seen unnaturally as the source of a wisdom-that-kills in the patriarchal accounts found in the Bible. The fruiting tree and its agent and avatar, the naked women giving its
fruit to her companion is, of course, the Adam and Eve story. This anti-natural irruption into the more ancient Great Mother myth describes and foretells the destruction of the natural order by the patriarchical consciousness which sees the mother/tree snake (symbol of wholes and wisdom) as evil. This sheer perversion of the natural order and the insertion of this destructive myth into the pantheon of human archetypes has had consequences that hurt women, the natural environment, and everything else to this day. The tree is a mother, but it is also the connection between earth and sky. The roots of the tree go deep into the earth, anchoring it securely, and the branches always reach for the heavens. The tree is the axis between earth and heaven, the connecting rod and principle of wholeness. The trunk of the tree is also phallic and has a masculine principle element to it as well. Thus the tree is uroboric—a round of feminine/masculine, undifferentiated.
aybe the most numinous experience of all in the neotropics is when a moon lights up a clear night and the stars of the sky’s bowl peek out where the ocean is salty and warm and cool breezes blow. Tropical nights under the stars reveal the ruling goddess of the night sky, and the “somnolent darkness of the unconscious” enchants all who are caught in the archetypal net. The night sky is our gateway and theatre of the cosmos. “Luminous bodies are always symbols of consciousness of the spiritual side of human consciousness,” writes Erich Neumann. Sunsets and sunrises are so enchanting because of the passage of the unrelenting demanding, patriarchal sun. The moon is more playful and whimsical. It is regular and irregular at the same time. The moon rules at night time, except when she is hiding. The night sky is magic because the stars at night are the many eyes of the queen of heaven, the great and good mother. The sun may rule the day with stern, relentless authority, but the night sky is an inverted bowl or overturned cauldron spilling the stars and the moon. This is the realm of the fecund womb of the goddess. The moon and stars can also be imagined as the fruit of the night tree of the sky and harvest of goddess consciousness. The gleaming stars at night show the branches of the cosmic tree; the stars are the fruit of the spreading branches and the darkness itself is the somber covering blackness of night,
hiding under the wings of dark birds, vulture and raven, the corpse eaters. The sky is the bowl of heaven, the deep inverted ocean that mirrors the watery ocean of earth lled with mystery. The earth passes into the midst of the darkness of daily death of the daylight of consciousness into a nighttime realm of the clear sky that has been transformed into the underground. But the day is always born again in the great round of cosmos, earth, light, and life. The moon in its early relationship with earth some 4.5 billion years ago was much closer to the earth. The effect of this was a tidal pull exerted upon the then-lifeless oceans which was 1000 times greater than the pull that exists today. This meant that where there would have been a ten-foot tide with the moon at its present distance from earth, there would have been a ten-thousand foot tide! The moon was the cause of the oceans’ washing over the land and scouring out the minerals from the earth’s surface and sending them back into the sea. The oceans became full of the minerals that were the source of the life that eventually formed in the oceans and, through evolution, formed all the creatures of the earth. The moon was both the midwife of life on earth, and the cause of the salty sea’s gestation of life. The moon is the goddess and the earth is its huge pregnant belly. The moon self-impreganated its belly and through a cosmic parthenogenesis, caused life as we know it to occur and ourish. Galileo’s sketches of the phases of the moon.
traveler to the tropics on vacation or relocation is embraced and overwhelmed by the slightly alien, but instantly comforting totality of the world he immerses himself in. The archetype of travel and paradise is for nourishment of soul and body, and also as protection, security, and refuge from pain and suffering. To be remolded back into the arms of the source is paradise as a re-infantalization, but not as a helpless, mewling baby, but as the realized and transformed adult. Searching for paradise has aspects of returning to the womb. Where is the womb? Follow the signs to any oceanside beach. On tropical beaches, the near nakedness of people shows glimpses of scenes of undifferentiated bliss. Almost naked, or in more and more parts of the world where there are nude beaches, completely naked people are cast up on shore. They are born from the amniotic sea, lying, resting, gathering energy, and warming in the sun. These are the children of the Great Mother nursing at warm, soft breast. A walk along a tropical beach with the tickling caresses of the warm waters is the siren call to return to its depths. People strip to minimal clothing or nakedness and return to the salty waters of the womb of the earth. There is an urge for swimmers to dive into the sea for pleasure and exploration of the depths. The world of land and ordinary reality is blotted out. Few sounds penetrate. Light drops off the deeper the diver goes into the mysterious deep. The sea is beautiful, but sad, too. The seas overtake the sailors and ships that dare its power and storms. The depths hold secrets and the bones of dead sailors. The laments for the damned by the crying widows howl more loudly than the wind, as the tears of the women ď€ ll the ocean.
Many tours in Costa Rica allow you to share the experience of an unmechanized cane sugar mill. This type of manual, ox-driven sugar mill is called a trapiche. Huge oxen walk in circles in rustic, smoke-lled sheds and turn gears to force the cane to yield its sweet liquid. The stalks are crushed and the juice is collected and boiled in huge woodred cauldrons in the steamy, smoke-lled sugar mills. The work is mostly man’s work, but a few modern Hecates stir the liquid and in sweet alchemical transformations, turn raw sap into sugar. The sugar witches of the world are still stirring bubbling cauldrons over hot res to show how the transformation of sap and self takes place and how sweet the results can be. The womb-like shape of containers, vessels, gourds, and cooking cauldrons are primal female alembics––symbols of transforming, gestating, and nurturing. Cauldrons add the idea of transformation because they are symbols of the belly and uterus. Caves are womb-like hollows, which protect and induce the transformations of mysteries and knowledge. A related symbol is vessel as bowl, goblet, grail, and breast—those containers of liquid that nourish and sustain. Water is stored and poured from vessels that portray the primal womb of life. The oceans, lake, pond and stream are less the vehicle and more the actions of what vessels do in holding and releasing the liquids that keep people alive and the earth green. Rain falls from heaven. The goddess sprinkles the hungry mouth of earth with sweet milk. The green plants grow and trees make owers and fruit. Stephen Duplantier Doña Virgilia at her cauldron, La Guaria, Costa Rica.
Être heureux: le bonheur par la psychologie positive
Being Happy: Overcoming the Gloom of the Human Condition Ghislaine Yergeau presents Christophe André Christophe André is considered an “authority on positive psychology” in France. He decided early in life, after reading Freud, that he would go into medicine and become a psychiatrist. He practiced psychiatry and played rugby in Toulouse for 15 years and after his marriage, settled in Paris where he switched from rugby to writing, from mêlées to museums.
Ghislaine Yergeau En France, Christophe André est considéré comme « une autorité de la psychologie positive » . Il décida très jeune, après avoir lu Freud, de faire des études en médecine afin de devenir psychiatre. Il pratiqua la psychiatrie et joua du rugby à Toulouse pendant 15 ans et après son mariage, s’installa à Paris, échangea le rugby pour l’écriture, les mêlées pour les musées.
A psychiatric doctor at Sainte-Anne university hospital in Paris, he is the author of several works, very popular both in France and elsewhere, and specialises in the treatment and prevention of emotional problems, anxiety and depression. He considers his three daughters to be his only real masterpieces.
Médecin psychiatre à l’hôpital universitaire SainteAnne à Paris, il est l’auteur de plusieurs œuvres très populaires avec le public, en France et ailleurs, et se spécialise dans le traitement et la prévention des problèmes émotionnels, d’anxiété et de dépression. Il considère que ses trois filles sont ses vrais chefsd’œuvre.
Christophe André looks like a Buddhist monk, a style which suits him well. He certainly doesn’t fit one’s image of a psychiatrist, and it’s evident that this image, which he cultivates through chatty and friendly blogs as well as his scientific writings accessible to the majority, are a good representation of this eminently approachable man.
Christophe André ressemble à un moine bouddhiste, style qui lui va bien. Il ne rentre certainement pas dans le moule que l’on peut s’être fait d’un médecin psychiatre et il est évident que cette image, qu’il cultive aussi à travers ses blogs loquaces et amicaux et ses écrits scientifiques accessibles à la majorité, représente bien cet homme éminemment abordable.
Here are five extracts which represent the philosophy of life and the wisdom of the French psychiatrist, Christophe André. 1. This first extract is taken from an interview with the magazine “Le Nouvel Observateur” entitled “What makes us more sturdy?”
Nous vous présentons ici cinq extraits qui représentent bien la philosophie de vie et la sagesse du psychiatre français, Christophe André.
“N.O. – You’re an authority on positive psychology in France and you often broach the question of happiness in your books. Why?
1. Ce premier extrait est tiré d’un interview avec la revue « Le Nouvel Observateur » intitulé « Ce qui nous rend plus costauds » « Le Nouvel Observateur – Vous êtes une autorité de la psychologie positive en France et vous abordez souvent la question du bonheur dans vos livres. Pourquoi? « Ch. André – Parce que nous ressentons davantage d’émotions négatives que positives. C’est une donnée objective dans notre psychobiologie. Dans les études où les gens doivent citer le maximum
Illustration by Stephen Duplantier
“Ch. André – Because we feel negative emotions more often than positive ones. This fact is a given in psychobiology. In studies where people are asked to use the maximum amount of adjectives to describe their moods, we get three quarters negative terms for just one quarter positive ones. Negative emotions such as mistrust, hate, wariness, indicate an adaptive advantage and are indispensable for survival. However, they make us fragile and nibble at our “joie de vivre”. But in the logic of evolution, positive emotions are also very precious for their ability to help us explore the environment or heal after being wounded. It suffices to slightly increase the
Être heureux d’adjectifs décrivant leurs états d’âme, on obtient trois quarts de termes négatifs pour un quart seulement de positifs. Les émotions négatives, comme la méfiance, la haine, la prudence, présentent un avantage adaptif et sont indispensables à la survie. Mais elles nous fragilisent et grignotent notre joie de vivre. Or, dans la logique de l’évolution, les émotions positives sont aussi très précieuses pour la capacité à explorer l’environnement ou à se réparer après une blessure. Il suffit d’augmenter légèrement les états d’âme positifs d’une personne – par des petites manipulations de labo, comme de le faire gagner à des jeux simples, ou de lui faire un petit compliment – et aussitôt, sa créativité, son esprit de synthèse, sa curiosité vont bondir. En thérapie, on peut donc se servir des émotions positives pour limiter l’impact des négatives. N.O. – Quelles sont les évolutions thérapeutiques en psychologie positive? Ch. André – Nous commençons à voir apparaître des groupes de méditation de la pleine conscience. J’en anime un à l’hôpital Sainte-Anne pour la prévention des rechutes dépressives et anxieuses. Ces exercises de méditation centrée sur l’instant présent sont très utiles pour des patients émotionnelmenent vulnérables. Ils voient que l’esprit à tendance à anticiper ou à ruminer, ils apprennent à ne pas se laisser embarquer, à revenir doucement sur l’instant présent. On intègre des exercices très simples de psychologie positive: apprendre à s’extraire d’une journée stressante, se poser, respirer, regarder le ciel et sourire en pensant « je suis vivant ». Cette psychologie du bonheur repose sur de toutes petites touches qui peuvent paraître niaises, mais leur efficacité est prouvée. » 2. Comment André est-il arrivé à sa philosophie de vie de « gentillesse joyeuse »? Dans « Confessions d’un gentil », in nous révèle ceci: « Tout petit? J’étais déjà gentil. Par empathie: je n’aimais pas voir les autres souffrir ou être malheureux. Et puis, j’étais timide: alors, je me réfugiais dans la gentillesse, pour que l’on m’aime, et parce que je ne savais pas dire non. Mais au-delà de cette nécessité, j’ai vu aussi que c’était utile d’être gentil: très efficace pour se faire apprécier et pour se faire aider. En grandissant, j’ai compris plus clairement encore que la gentillesse était une force. Mais à étoffer. Par exemple, j’ai appris à m’affirmer (dire non,
donner mon avis) tout en restant gentil. S’affirmer et Il appartiendra donc au XXIe siècle d’élargir les être gentil, c’est tout à fait compatible. objectifs du travail sur soi: ce dernier ne doit pas avoir pour but que l’égo. Car finalement, à quoi Les gens pensent que pour s’affirmer, il faut cesser nous servirait d’être parfaits si c’est pour l’être de l’être. Non! Je le rappelle souvent à mes patients: seuls? ne soyez pas moins gentils, mais plus affirmés. Depuis que je suis devenu médecin, la gentillesse est 4. Très candidement, André nous dévoile un petit à mes yeux une nécessité absolue, indiscutable. Je peu de son âme dans cet extrait de son blog du m’efforce d’en faire chez moi la règle, l’habitude. 22 mars, 2010 et intitulé « J’espère que tu vas Pour les personnes qui souffrent, elle est d’une dou- bien ». ceur infinie. (…) Ma spiritualité bicéphale – christianisme et bouddhisme – me rappelle chaque jour « Je commence souvent mes mails ou mes courrila force de la douceur et de la compassion: la gentil- ers par cette formule, « J’espère que tu vas bien». lesse est un don, sans conditions et sans attentes. On donne, et puis on verra bien: et on continue, même Une formule toute faite? Oui, c’est vrai, si on ne voit rien. Chaque jour, je m’applique donc puisqu’elle est presque un réflexe, avant d’aborder à une gentillesse joyeuse. Je suis moins souvent que le sujet qui motive mon envoi. Mais pas si anodin jadis dans la gentillesse « aimez-moi », davantage que ça. Car de temps en temps, je fais un petit dans la gentillesse « je vous aime et j’aime la vie pas de côté, et je me dis que oui, je le souhaite ». Être gentil me rend heureux. Et être heureux me vraiment, que cette personne aille bien, à l’instant rend gentil. Trop de chance! où je l’écris. Et que je souhaite le bien de tous les gens que j’apprécie, que je connais, et même 3. Et voici quelques conseils pour le développement de tous les humains. personnel, intitulés « À la recherche du bonheur » Ces bouffées automatiques de bienveillance uni« Aujourd’hui, la quête immémoriale verselle me semblent facilitées par l’existence de d’épanouissement personnel n’est plus seulement cette formule de politesse, qui de temps en temps réservée aux élites. Elle est même devenue un sort de sa torpeur, s’éveille et me secoue en me marché où le pire côtoie le meilleur. Ne serait-elle criant: « Eh! Ho! Ce que tu écris, éprouve-le qu’une facette de l’individualisme? (…) Parce qu’il maintenant, au lieu de seulement l’écrire ou le se serait mis à concerner le plus grand nombre, le penser, ce sera encore mieux! » souci de soi serait-il devenu un vulgaire narcissisme? 5. Finalement, dans la chronique « Devoirs de Il est légitime de considérer le pharmacien Émile vacances », André, « professeur de bonheur » Coué (1857-1926) comme le père fondateur du nous « délivre ses conseils pour mieux » habiter développement personnel contemporain. Sa célèbre notre vie, dans le chapitre intitulé, « Partager »: méthode était fondée sur La Maîtrise de soi-même par l’autosuggestion consciente (titre de l’ouvrage « En vacances, on se retrouve et on se découvre, dont la version définitive fut publiée en 1926), et on se rencontre et on se raconte. On agit ensemavait pour but de développer les capacités de guérir ble ou on ne fait rien ensemble. Même les ou de surmonter ses faiblesses psychiques en se besognes se transforment en actions communes basant sur la conviction suivante: « Toute pensée et joyeuses: réparer un vieux mur, descendre les occupant uniquement notre esprit devient vraie pour poubelles à la Déchetterie, ranger le grenier, tout nous et a tendance à se transformer en acte. » Simpeut être léger et gai, si on ne l’accomplit pas pliste? tout seul. On peut alors transformer tout acte quotidien en acte de partage, c’est-à-dire de bon(…) Les enjeux sociaux du développement personheur. C’est Goethe qui écrivait: « Pour moi, nel sont en effet importants: jusqu’où le soin de soi le plus grand supplice serait d’être seul en paraest-il compatible avec la morale, le bien commun, dis. » Vous vous imaginez en vacances dans un l’altruisme, l’abnégation, les renoncements nécesendroit de rêve, mais tout seul? Combien de saires à toute vie sociale? Une belle vie peut-elle temps resteriez-vous content de tout ce luxe, ce être une bonne vie? De nombreux philosophes rap- calme, cette beauté? Quelques heures? Quelques pellent volontiers que le développement personnel jours? Puis un matin arriverait le premier cafard: pour lui-même est stérile et n’a de sens et d’utilité s’il n’y a personne avec qui partager tout ça, c’est que s’il ne se fonde pas sur l’oubli des valeurs. comme si ça n’existait pas, comme si ça ne comp-
tait pas… Vous ressentiriez ennui et absence de sens: à quoi me sert tout ce bien-être si je n’ai personne avec qui le partager pour le transformer en bonheur? Voilà, c’est ce qui est bon dans nos vacances: elles nous permettent de redevenir pleinement humains, c’est-à-dire créatures de partage. _________________________ Vous vous souvenez des paroles de Coué? « Toute pensée occupant uniquement notre esprit devient vraie pour nous et a tendance à se transformer en acte. » Pas si simpliste, après tout! Rappelons-nous tout simplement de ceci pendant que nous contemplons l’endroit où nous avons choisi d’habiter, ce que nous désirons et ce dont nous avons besoin, pour arriver à ce que nous appelerions le paradis. De judicieuses manipulations de renforcement positif feront en sorte que notre nous créerons un environnement plaisant et de plus, notre expérience humaine en sera transformée. http://christopheandre.com
Being Happy positive moods of a person – through small laboratory manipulations, such as allowing the person to win simple games, through compliments – and immediately, their creativity, ability to synthesize, and curiosity will leap. In therapy, we can thus use positive emotions to limit the impact of the negative ones. N.O. – How have therapies evolved in positive psychology? Ch. André – We’re starting to see mindfulness in meditation groups. I lead one of these groups, aimed at prevention of depression and anxiety relapses, at Sainte-Anne Hospital. These meditation exercises centered on the “here and now” are very useful for emotionally vulnerable patients. They see how the mind has a tendency to anticipate or mull over problems, they learn not to allow themselves to go there but to gently return to the present moment. We integrate some very simple positive psychology exercises: learning to step back from a stressful day, to centre, to breathe, to look at the sky and smile and to think “I am alive”. This psychology of happiness is founded on very small steps that can appear to be silly, but their effectiveness is proven.” 2. How has André arrived at his “happy kindness” philosophy of life? In “Confessions of a kind man”, he reveals this:
make this a personal rule, a habit. For those who suffer, kindness is an infinite sweetness. (…) My bicephalous spirituality – Christianity and Buddhism – reminds me daily of the strength of sweetness and compassion: kindness is a gift, without conditions and without expectations. We give, and then we see: and then we continue, even if we see nothing. Therefore, each day, I apply myself to happy kindness. I dwell less often than before in the “love me” kindness, more often in the “I love you and I love life” kindness. Being kind makes me happy. And being happy makes me kind. Lucky me! 3. André shares with us some advice on personal development, “In Search of Happiness:” Nowadays, the immemorial search for personal fulfilment isn’t just reserved for the elite. It has even become a marketplace where the worst rubs shoulders with the best. Could this be just another facet of individualism? Because it now concerns so many people, has one’s care for the self become vulgar narcissism? The pharmacist Émile Coué (1857-1926) is rightly considered the founding father of modern personal development. His famous method was founded on Self-Mastery Through Conscious Autosuggestion (title of his definitive work, published in 1926), and aimed at developing the ability to heal or to surmount psychic weaknesses, based on the following conviction: “Any thought which is foremost in our minds becomes true for us and tends to transform itself into action.” Simplistic?
“While still very young, I had already learned kindness. Through empathy: I didn’t like to see people suffer or be unhappy. And also, I was shy: thus, I would take refuge in kindness, so that I would be loved, and because I didn’t know how to say no. But beyond this necessity, I also understood that being kind was useful: very effective to be appreciated and to get help. Growing up, I realized even more clearly that kindness was a strength––one that needed backbone. For example, I learned to be assertive (to say “no,” to express my opinion) while remaining kind. Being assertive and being kind, those are thoroughly compatible.
The social issues surrounding personal development are indeed important: up to what point is care of the self compatible with morality, the common good, altruism, abnegation, and all the self-denials necessary for all social interaction? Can a beautiful life also be a good life? Many philosophers remind us gladly that personal development by itself is sterile and has neither sense nor usefulness if its foundation lacks values. It is therefore up to the 21st century to broaden the focus of the work on self-mastery: its only goal cannot be the ego. After all, what would be the use of being perfect if it means being alone?
People think that to be assertive, they need to stop being kind. No! I often remind my patients of this: don’t be less kind, but more assertive. Since I became a doctor, kindness is in my opinion an absolute necessity, incontestable. I endeavour to
4. Very candidly, André reveals to us a bit of his soul in this extract from his blog of March 22, 2010, entitled “I hope you are well”.
“I often start my letters or my emails with this formula, “I hope that you are well”. A ready-made formula? Yes, it’s true, since it has almost become a reflex, before getting to the reason for my mailing. But it’s not so innocuous. Because from time to time, I step aside and I tell myself that yes, I really hope that this person is well at the moment I’m writing it. And I also hope that all those I appreciate are well, those I know, and even all humans. These automatic breaths of universal kindness seem to be made easier by this polite formula, which once in a while emerges from its torpor, wakes up and shakes me, saying: “Hey! Ho! What you’re writing, feel it now, instead of just writing or thinking it, and it would be even better!” 5. Finally, in his chronicle, “Holiday duties”, André, the “professor of happiness.” gives us his advice to better inhabit our life, in a chapter called “Sharing”: “While on holidays, we find and discover ourselves and others, we get together and we talk. We act together or we do nothing together. Chores, too, are transformed into happy communal actions: repairing an old wall, taking garbage to the dump, tidying up the attic, all can be light and carefree, if we don’t do it alone. Every daily action can be transformed into an act of sharing, which becomes happiness. Goethe wrote: “As for me, the greatest torture would be to be alone in Paradise.” Can you imagine yourself on holiday on a dream location, but all alone? How long would you be happy with all the luxury, the calm, and the beauty? A few hours? A few days? Then one morning, you’d wake up with the blues: if there is no one to share it all, it would be as though it didn’t exist, as though it didn’t count… You would feel boredom and meaninglessness: what’s the use of all this comfort if I have no one with whom to share and to transform it into happiness? There! That’s what is good about holidays – they allow us to become fully human: beings who share. • Translated from the French by Ghislaine Yergeau.
Translator’s Note: Remember Coué’s words? “Any thought which is foremost in our minds becomes true for us and tends to transform itself into action.” Not so simplistic, after all. Let’s just be mindful of this as we contemplate where we live and what we want and need to achieve in that which we would call Paradise. Judicious tweakings of positive reinforcement will go a long way to creating a pleasant environment and, if nothing else, will transform our own human experience. André has written 15 books including Vivre Heureux (”How to lead a happy life”). Find out more about Christophe André: http:// christopheandre.com
The Partnership Model Before recorded history, or what we know as recorded history, there were egalitarian, peaceful societies on all continents of our planet. A far-fetched statement? Not at all, if one considers archeological and paleonthological evidence. Then, if we couple these ndings with mythology, a picture emerges that is a very different one from the “man-the-conqueror” image we have been led to believe has been the only model for society since the beginning of times. Archeological evidence abounds of egalitarian and peaceful pre-patriarchal societies where Goddess worship was prevalent. Numerous sites have yielded sculptures and other artifacts dating back as early as at least 27,000 B.P., some of them found in the Gravettian-Aurignacian cultures of the Upper Paleolithic Age. (The Paleolithic Age goes back to at least 30,000 years B.P.) “Such nds have been noted in Spain, France, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, and Russia. These sites span a period of at least ten thousand years!” “Rich evidence has been yielded by the excavation of important sites such as Çatal Höyük in Turkey (the largest neolithic site ever excavated) and what Marija Gimbutas calls the civilizations of Old Europe in the Balkans and Greece (which even had a written language thousands of years before Sumer, which she is now deciphering). But perhaps most fascinating is that, in fact, we actually have known about these societies all along. That is, almost all societies have legends about an earlier, more harmonious time. For example, one of the most ancient Chinese legends comes to us from the Tao Te Ching, which tells of a time when the yin
or feminine principle was not yet subservient to the male principle or yang, a time when the wisdom of the mother was still honored above all. Hesiod, the Greek poet (ca. 800 B.C.), also writes of an age when the Earth was inhabited by a golden race who “tilled their elds in peaceful ease” (in other words, the Neolithic) before a lesser race brought with them Ares, the Greek god of war.”
by Ghislaine Yergeau
elebration of life is the leading motif in Old European ideology and art. There is no stagnation; life energy is constantly moving as a serpent, spiral or whirl....Life columns, upward winding snakes, leafy trees, bees, and butterflies rising from tombs, caves, crevices, or the Goddess’s powerful uterus. The Goddess in all her manifestations was a symbol of the unity of all life in Nature. Her power was in water and stone, in tomb and cave, in animals and birds, snakes and fish, hills, trees, and flowers. Hence the holistic and mythopoeic perception of the sacredness and mystery of all there is on Earth. This culture took keen delight in the natural wonders of this world. Its peoples did not produce lethal weapons or build forts in inaccessible places, as their successors did, even when they were acquainted with metalurgy. Instead, they built magificent tomb-shrines and temples, comfortable houses in moderately-sized villages, and created superb pottery and sculptures.
Goddess of Laussel, Southern France, 25,000 BP
This was a long-lasting period of remarkable cultural creativity and stability, an age free of strife. Their culture was a culture of art. The next stage, that of the pastoral and patriarchical warrior god, who either supplanted or assimilated the matristic pantheon of goddesses and gods, represents an intermediary stage before Christianity and the spread of the philosophical rejection of this world. A prejudice against this worldliness developed and with it, the rejection of the Goddess and all that she stood for. The Goddess gradually retreated into the depths of the forests or onto mountaintops, where she remains to this day in myths, fairy tales, and especially in the collective unconscious. Human alienation from the vital roots of earthly life ensued, the results of which are clear in our contemporary society. But the cycles never stopped turning, and now we find the Goddess reemerging from the forests and mountains, bringing us hope for the future, returning us to our most ancient human roots.
Merlin Stone, best known for her book When God was a Woman, was an art and history professor who became interested in archeology through her study or religion and ancient art, at a time (in the early 1970s) when most of the archeological nds dealing with pre-patriarchal societies, and especially statues of women or goddesses, were relegated to basements and storage areas of museums. If any mention was made of them at all, they were called “Venus” gures, or examples of a fertility cult. “In most textbooks of archaeology, the Goddess religion is referred to rather deprecatingly as a “fertility cult!” And, as Ms. Stone notes, the word “cult” always has the connotation of something less civilized than “religion,” and is nearly always applied when referring to the Goddess worship, while the rituals associated with that clever ET, Jehovah/Yahweh are always reverently referred to as “Religion,” with a capital! Ms. Stone conducted in-depth research for over a decade before writing her book, and although her ndings are still considered controversial in certain quarters, they have served to turn the spotlight on a distant past that certainly appears to have been peaceful and prosperous, and which tantalizes us with a vision of a possible future.
Marija Gimbutas, a Lithuanian-American archeologist, “directed major excavations of Neolithic sites in southeastern Europe between 1967 and 1980, including Sitagroi and Achilleion in Thessaly (Greece). Digging through layers of earth representing a period of time before contemporary estimates for Neolithic habitation in Europ––where other archaeologists would not have expected further nds––she
unearthed a great number of artifacts of daily life and of religious cults, which she researched and documented throughout her career.” Her conclusions, which she presented in three books, The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe (1974) The Language of the
Goddess (1989), and The Civilization of the Goddess (1991), were “that Europe’s origins lay in a cooperative, peaceful, neolitihic Goddess culture. Her theories challenge conventional archaeology, spirituality, theology, and religious studies, while inspiring artists, feminists, environmentalists, and activists.” Riane Eisler, a writer and social activist who has been described as a cultural historian and an evolutionary theorist, took these ndings and developed them into her now internationally-famous book,The Chalice and the Blade (which anthropologist Ashley Montagu called, “the most important book since Darwin’s Origin of Species”).
nator model called patriarchy which has been forged by the sword for the past 5000 years and under which more and more people are struggling to extricate themselves. Common Concepts of Paradise Could it be that our collective consciousness remembers a time before the sword when people lived in peace, an egalitarian society where people were truly fullled and happy? If we examine the idea of Paradise contained in all religious and cultural mythologies, we nd that they all point exactly there.
Here, the word “mythology” is used in the academic sense, which is “stories whose According to Eisler, archeological evidence cultures regard them as true (…) leaving indicating important characteristics conopen the question of whether the stories cerning pre-patriarchal societies and culare true or false.” I thus prefer to avoid tures are as follows: Neolithic societies the ongoing debate that denes religion as almost universally worshipped the Goddess one’s personal beliefs and stories attached and Neolithic agrarian life was the basis thereto, and mythology as everyone else’s for the development of civilization. There beliefs and stories. was equality between the sexes and the grave remains show that both priests and In African mythologies (south of the priestesses shared the same importance Sahara), the majority of stories tell how in religious expression. Eisler found that divinity (often female, sometimes male) in Neolithic art, there was no imagery rst created woman, who then gave birth that seemed to idealize the might of weap- to males and females. These humans lived ons, cruelty, and violence-based power. in a Paradise, where there was abundance, She nds no imagery in the archeological peace and contentment. Different stories evidence of noble warriors nor gloricaexplain the loss of this Paradise through tions of scenes of battle. There are no human disobedience: a test by god which images of conquerors with their captives or they failed; jealousies and quarrels among evidence of slavery. families; the construction of a high tower which angered the gods (the Tower of What Eisler does nd is a glorication Babel); and of course, the familiar eating of nature in the Neolithic art. There are of a forbidden fruit, this time because a themes of unity with nature in the rich pregnant woman couldn’t help her craving array of natural symbols. The goddess gu- and her husband gave it to her to eat. rine art likely had religiuous ritual purposes. North African mythologies can be grouped into two broad categories, Ancient EgypRiane Eisler presents convincing arguments tian and Middle-Eastern, or Islamic. In for what she terms a partnership model of ancient Egypt, the concept of Paradise, society, and not a matriarchy, as some may like all elements of Egyptian religion, is claim existed, which contrasts to the domi- complex. However, two main ideas of Par-
adise recur, one being the ship of the Sun God, Ra, where the deserving lived in eternal light. The other is the reed-elds, those magical and mystical hunting and shing grounds where Osiris ruled. Pre-Islamic Paradise portrays a garden area where water ows and where there is an abundance of food, a place of peace and beauty. This is found in Zoroastrian mythology, as well as in the art and literature of ancient Persia, for example. The Islamic Paradise, although a multi-layered one, is not much different from the earlier vision, each layer containing gardens with shade trees, owing streams, and earthly pleasures.
four rivers emerged, and a world-engirdling serpent. Valhala was also the place where the souls of half of the warriors go, to battle all day, enjoy themselves, eat and get drunk at night. The other half of warriors go to the goddess Freyja’s eld called Fólkvangr, which apparently serves the same purpose. It’s unclear what kind of Paradise this place would be for those who are not Norse warriors. In Eastern Europe, myths of the Slavic peoples mentioned a Paradise called Buyan, described as either a silent and peaceful underwater city or an island washed by a river of healing, although there seems to be little information available on this.
Oriental cultures espoused different views of Paradise. In ancient Tibet, the Zhangzhung people and the shamanistic Bon religion, older than Buddhism by thousands of years, held a belief in Paradise as Shambhala, a place of peace and abundance. Modern Tibetan beliefs now hold that the kingdom of Shambhala, symbolized by the eight-petaled lotus blossom “is in your own heart.”
The Celts, the people of the Goddess Danu, envisioned Paradise as a beautiful island, which later became known as Avalon in the legends of King Arthur, “a land of perpetual pleasure and feasting”, described as the Land of Promise, Plain of Happiness, Land of the Living, Land of the Young, and Hy-Breasail (Breasal’s Island). This latter became the name for the new found land of Brazil.
Because creation myths are absent from ancient Chinese religions, the idea of a Paradise or ideal place doesn’t appear until “well after the foundation of Confucianism, Taoism, and folk religions”, including Buddhism. The Taoists did not believe in a physical earthly paradise but rather a spiritual paradise. Somehow, this was mythologized into a place where immortals and deities dwell.
Although the Gods and Goddesses of ancient Greece dwelt on Mount Olympus, the people envisioned Paradise as a green garden-like afterworld which they called Elysium, the Elysian Fields. Greek mythology also gave birth to Arcadia, an earthly Paradise, “land of shepherds and idyllic peace that returns again and again in the poetry, prose, and painting of the West.”
In India, Hindu mythology names Meru as the mountain at the centre of the world, guarded by serpents, which is land of bliss of the earliest Vedic times. This paradisical place was the entrance to a realm of esoteric knowledge. The ancient Norse held a belief in a northern Paradise, associated with Yggdrasil,the world tree, a world mountain from which
There are hundreds and possibly thousands of archetypes of Paradise to be found in our world’s cultures. I have only mentioned a few. The Paradise myth, with which most of us in the western world are familiar, is in the Judeo-Christian “Bible.” Its origin is from creation stories found in ancient Babylonian writings, and the Talmud. Here also, we nd a Paradise, a Garden of Eden, in which the rst pair dwell in idyllic state.
Thus, “Paradise” can be described as “a place in which existence is positive, harmonious and timeless. It is conceptually a counter-image of the miseries of human civilization, and in paradise there is only peace, prosperity, and happiness.” The term also appears in Greek as parádeisos which originally meant park for animals. Except for the Norse version, a universal picture emerges of Paradise a beautiful place, garden-like, fertile and rich with sweet water and shade, a restful, peaceful place, “where the living is easy,” a place where people live in societies that are egalitarian, harmonious, and happy. That humans over the millenia have aspired to create or return to such a state is evidenced by our mythologies. Utopia, Eutopia, Dystopia and Hertopia Writers have been exploring the idea of Paradise for centuries. In the 14th century, Christine de Pizan, in her book,Citta delle donne (City of Women), envisioned a city without men. “Her analysis of the contemporary society was that men treated women in such a way that women could never be happy in a gender-mixed society. Women should therefore withdraw into a place of their own.” Utopia is a name for an ideal community or society coined in a book written in 1516 by Sir Thomas More, about a ctional island in the Atlantic Ocean possessing a seemingly perfect socio-politico-legal system. Although More coined the word utopia, which actually means “no place,” the word eventually assumed the meaning of the homophone eutopia ––a place of perfection. Such a place of perfection for women was created by Charlotte Perkins Gilman who wrote and published Herland in 1915. She presents an all-women society that is non-hierarchical, communal and therefore
Goddesses Facing page left: Woman of Willendorf, Austria, Ca. 24,000 BP Facing page right: Minoan Snake Goddess, Crete, Ca. 3500 BP This page: Goddess, Dolní Vestonice, Moravia, Czech Republic, Ca. 25,000 BP. The oldest ceramic object ever discovered. Next page left Mexican goddess gurine, Date unknown.
were still ghting for the right to vote, the right to be considered persons under the law, the right to an education.
Synopsis of Herland. In brief, three men, Jeff, Van and Terry hear about a women’s country and set out in their airplane to nd it. At rst, they “think they will nd a society wracked by chaos and disorder, since they believe that women are not intelligent and organized, or capable of surviving without their male-halves.” They represent a “civilization, which has been constructed and dened by men, and is therefore imperfect, full of suffering, war, disease, and other terrible atrocities.” They nd utopia, but a utopia that is disturbing to them as they realize that women don’t need men at all. As “Van and Jeff come to learn about and appreciate the social structure of Herland, the women begin to learn, through the men, about the outside world.” They “soon realize that, in comparison to the society they have left behind, Herland is a veritable paradise....Terry, however, refuses to see anything good in Herland apart from the beauty of its inhabitants. Terry is convinced that women are naturally subordinate to men and that women, in fact, desire to be ‘mastered’ by men. The very existence of Herland is an affront to Terry’s sensibilities, and the more he learns of it, the more he resents the ‘unnatural’ state of affairs.” Because the “women of Herland are themselves concerned about their lack of men, feeling that their society would benet from a masculine perspective and contribution...Celis, Alima, and Ellador are encouraged to continue the courtship the men had so crudely begun upon their rst arrival.” “Van and Ellador have the best, most equal relationship, soon becoming best friends and true lovers....Jeff is a romantic, full of chivalry and southern notions of gallantry, and his tendency to put women on a pedestal sometimes becomes condescending and hampers his relationship with Celis....Terry, in contrast, woos Alima in a brusque, aggressive way, convinced that she desires a “masterful” man and that all men should have a submissive mate.” “At the insistence of the men, a marriage ceremony is arranged for the three couples....Terry’s sexual advances become more aggressive and even brutal, and Alima is forced to defend herself physically. The leaders of Herland are shocked by Terry’s attempted rape of Alima and decide to exile the men. Celis is now pregnant, much to the joy of the Herlanders, and so Jeff decides to stay behind with her forever.... Ellador decides to accompany Van in order to see the outer world in his company and to report back on what she observes to Herland.”
Gilman’s Herland is an examination of society as we know it, and the kind of society desired by everyone who has ever wished for Paradise, or Utopia. In the novel, Jeff explains that their society is based on traditions thousands of years old and is decrying Herland’s complete rejection of tradition. Most of us understand the argument that just because slavery has been around for thousands of years does not make it morally right or acceptable. The women’s argument is that “the laws and customs of Herland are subject to constant scrutiny and revision...[and they view] their society and culture as human creations, meant
to serve human needs in the present, so neither the institutions nor the practices of the past are sacred.” Gilman has created an ideal state where women are truly equal in an egalitarian society, and where gender is not an issue. She has created Hertopia. When male writers dream up utopias of equality they do not separate the genders, as did Gilman. It could be argued that in societies where gender determines whether a woman has any kind of human rights, whether she can determine her own life in some way, if not completely, where she is treated differently (or as plainly inferior), where equal pay for equal work is still just a concept, where
women continue to ght/demand/hope for equal rights, those who suffer (usually the women) have a vested interest in dreaming of change. Those who don’t suffer from this– –usually it’s the men (of course there are exceptions)––have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Much has been written on the subject of women’s lack of equal rights and there is hardly a woman alive today who isn’t aware of the problems women have faced in the past, and still suffer in many parts of the world, for instance. Dystopian novels with these themes of danger to women are warnings to people of what can happen. Here are two important ones. The Fifth Sacred Thing, a novel by Starhawk, pits dystopia against utopia. The novel is set in post-catastrophe U.S. in 2048. San Francisco has evolved into an Ecotopia with sustainable ecology in a mostly Pagan egalitarian society, with nine elder women who constitute the city’s defense council. They are pitted against a theocratic Christian fundamentalist nation to the south who invade and wage war against them. Margaret Atwood’s novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, takes place in a theocracy of extreme Christian fundamentalists set in the U.S.A. In this frightening tale, women are in complete subjection. Atwood uses elements that already exist in our western society and takes them to their end to show the danger of the path we are on. A personal note: What also scares me as a woman is that I know these conditions exist today for women under the Taliban, to cite one example. I could cite more. Until such time as worldwide human consciousness changes to embrace true equality for all, women anywhere and everywhere are but rogue regime or maniacal autocrat away from these conditions. --GY References: Riane Eisler, 1987. The Chalice and The Blade. Malcolm Godwin, 1994. The Holy Grail: Its Origins, Secrets and Meaning Revealed. Merlin Stone, 1976. When God Was a Woman. Gimbutas, Maria, 1989. The Language of the Goddess Charlotte Perkins Gilman, 1915. Herland Starhawk, 1993 The Fifth Sacred Thing Margaret Atwood, 1985. The Handmaid’s Tale
From: The Handmaid’s Tale Margaret Atwood
argaret Atwood conceived the Republic of Gilead in The Handmaid’s Tale as one logical outcome of what she termed the ‘strict theocracy’ of the ‘fundamentalist government’ of the United States’ Puritan founding fathers. Her Gileadean government maintains its power by means of surveillance, suppression of information, ‘re-education’ centres, and totalitarian violence. Its major national issue, sterility consequent on nuclear and chemical pollution, it addresses through sexual surrogacy, turning its few fertile women into ‘Handmaids’ to its highest-level Commanders and their wives, using as justification the biblical story in which the barren Rachel directs her husband Jacob to ‘go in unto’ her servant Billah: ‘and she shall bear upon my knees, that I also may have children by her.’ We learn about Gilead through one of its (self-described) ‘two-legged wombs’ or ‘ambulatory chalices’, the Handmaid Offred, who records her story after she has escaped the regime. [She is] caught up in a dystopian state that the novel hypothesizes as the logical extension not only of Puritan government, but also of the agenda articulated during the 1980s by America’s fundamentalist Christian Right... Shirley C. Neuman “‘Just a Backlash’: Margaret Atwood, Feminism, and The Handmaid’s Tale,” University of Toronto Quarterly, Volume 75, Number 3, Summer 2006, pp. 857-86.
We slept in what had once been the gymnasium. The floor was of varnished wood, with stripes and circles painted on it, for the games that were formerly played there; the hoops for the basketball nets were still in place, though the nets were gone. A balcony ran around the room, for the spectators, and I thought I could smell, faintly like an afterimage, the pungent scent of sweat, shot through with the sweet taint of chewing gum and perfume from the watching girls, felt-skirted as I knew from pictures, later in miniskirts, then pants, then in one earring, spiky green-streaked hair. Dances would have been held there; the music lingered, a palimpsest of unheard sound, style upon style, an undercurrent of drums, a forlorn wail, garlands made of tissue-paper flowers, cardboard devils, a revolving ball of mirrors, powdering the dancers with a snow of light. There was old sex in the room and loneliness, and expectation, of something without a shape or name. I remember that yearning, for something that was always about to happen and was never the same as the hands that were on us there and then, in the small of the back, or out back, in the parking lot, or in the television room with the sound turned down and only the pictures flickering over lifting flesh. We yearned for the future. How did we learn it, that talent for insatiability? It was in the air; and it was still in the air, an after-thought, as we tried to sleep, in the army cots that had been set up in rows, with spaces between so we could not talk. We had flannelette sheets, like children’s, and army-issue blankets, old ones that still said U.S. We folded our clothes neatly and laid them on the stools at the ends of the beds. The lights were turned down but not out. Aunt Sara and Aunt Elizabeth patrolled; they had electric cattle prods slung on thongs from their leather belts. We learned to whisper almost without sound. In the semi-darkness we could stretch out our arms, when the Aunts weren’t looking, and touch each other’s hands across space. We learned to lip-read, our heads flat on the beds, turned sideways, watching each other’s mouths. In this way we exchanged names, from bed to bed: Alma. Janine. Dolores. Moira. June.
A Bibliography of the Utopian Imagination by Stephen Duplantier
he following list of books about utopias, dystopias, social dreams and nightmares, the societal engineering, visionary thinking, scrupulous planning, witty satire, and just plain crackpot schemes is a commentary of half of a millennium of mostly-dashed hopes written by the famous, the infamous, and the forgotten. Surely you haven’t read many of the ancient texts with their preposterous, paragraph-like titles; many of the latter ones you may have read, or at least heard about. Do not panic–– this is not a required reading list of books, but you might want to notice some patterns emerging from the utopian literary imagination. In other words, what does the list reveal about 500 years of thinking about our predicament and how to make better. The list is an introduction to the varieties of the imagined geographies of the human mind. You’ll find islands––lots of islands, the moon, other planets, imaginary territories, exotic places, just-discovered lands full of primitives, Indians, the shipwrecked, strange people at the center of the earth, bizarre republics and kingdoms, lands with no men, flying people, cannibals, tropical islands, impossible places. Travel, for example, with Hildebrand Bowman, Esq. to Carnovirria, Taupiniera, Olfactaria, and Auditante, to the Island of Bonhommica, and to the powerful Kingdom of Luxo-volupto–– places no Lonely Planet guide book ever sent a travel writer to cover. The explorers and travelers in these accounts are castaways, either by their own hand, or that of someone else. They have cast off old ways and ideas as they try to tell fresh stories about things that haven’t happened yet, but that maybe could; and also they tell cautionary tales of things that should never be allowed to happen
You’ll see the preoccupations of the writers, philosophers, and dreamers, all with varying obsessions with the problems of human organization, of the common weal, of happiness, misery, and technology. These are the writers who want to know, or think they already know, what to do with the problems of people in groups, how to organize them, keep them happy, productive, and out of trouble. This list of books of utopian literature represents the common collective dream of making things right and avoiding the catastrophes of the real. This utopian genre, which illuminates half a millennium, is the result of there actually being a new world discovered by Europeans in the 15th century. The existence of the Americas created the possibility of new geographies and territories full of new people and new cultures. After the discoveries, it became possible to think about consciously creating new plans and schemes about human polity. The discovery of another hemisphere of earth in a way rejoined the dual lobes of the global brain and created a dialectic of possibility and change, of things that have not yet happened, but that yet might be. Utopian literature is the readerly Corpus Callosum that bridges the human world’s bicameral geography of the real on one side, and the possible on the other side. Ultimately, the list makes us sad. So much despair and need, so much hope for change, and so little accomplished. Another world, and yet the same. The saddest thing of all is that we even need a utopian genre in the first place. Pieter Breugel, the Elder The “Little” Tower of Babel c. 1563 Oil on panel, Rotterdam
500 Years of “Another World, and Yet the Same” Notice the constantly repeated themes and fantasies in this chronicle of a future foretold. 16th Century 1516 More, Thomas. Libellus vere aureus nec minus salutaris quam festivus de optimo reip[ublicae] statu, deq[ue] noua Insula Utopia. [Louvain, Belgium]: Arte Theodorice Martini. In English: Utopia. Ed. and trans. George M. Logan and Robert M. Adams. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1989. Ed., with introduction and notes, Edward Surtz, S.J. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1964. 1532 [Rabelais, François]. Les Grandes et inestimables cronicques du grant et énorme géant Gargantua, contenant sa généalogie, la grandeur et force de son corps. Aussi les merveilleux faictz d’armes qu’il fist pour le roy Artus, comme verrez cy après. Imprimé nouvellement. By Alcofribas Nasier [pseud.]. Lyon: A. D.
ocritus Iunior to the Reader.” Pp. 56—61 in his The Anatomy of Melancholy, What It is. With all the Kindes, Causes, Symptomes, Prognostickes and Severall Cures of It. In Three Maine Partitions with their seuereii Sections Members and Subsections. Philosophically, Medicinally, Historically, Opened and Cut Up. By Democritus Iunior [pseud.]. Oxford: Printed by Iohn Lichfield and Iames Short, for Henry Cripps, 1621.
1638 [Godwin, Francis]. The Man in the Moone; or A Discourse of a Voyage Thither. By Domingo Gonsales [pseud.]. London: Printed by John Norton.
1623 Campanella, Tommaso. Politicae Civitas Solis Idea Reipublicae Philosophicae. Appendix to Part 4 of Realis Philosophiae Epilogisticae. Frankfurt, 1623.
1641 [Plattes, Gabriel]. A Description of the famous Kingdom of Macaria; shewing its excellent Government, wherein the Inhabitants live in great Prosperity, Health, and Happiness; the King obeyed, the Nobles honoured, and all good Men respected; Vice punished, and Virtue rewarded. An Example to other Nations: In a Dialogue between a Scholar and a Traveller. London: Printed for Francis Constable.
1625 La Pierre, Jean de. Le Grand Empire de l’un et l’autre monde divisé en trois royaumes: le royaume des aveugles, des borgnes et des clair-voyants. Paris: D. Moreau. 1627 [Bacon, Francis]. New Atlantis, A Worke unfinished. Added to Sylva sylvarium or a Naturall Historie. In Ten Centuries. London: Printed by J[ohn] H[aviland and Augustine Mathewes] for William Lee. 1634 Kepler, Johann. Somnium, seu Opus posthumum de astronomia lunari. Frankfurt, n.p.
1553 Patrizi, Francesco. La Citta Felice. Venice: G. Griffio.
1657 Cyrano de Bergerac, Savinien de. Histoire comique contenant les états et empires de la Lune. Paris: C. de Sercy. In English: Cyrano de Bergerac’s Voyages to the Moon and the Sun. Trans. and notes by Richard Aldington, intro. by John Wells. London: Folio Society, 1991.
1580 Agostini, Lodovico. La Repubblica immaginaria di Ludivico Agostini. Turin: L. Firpo. 17th Century
1659 Baxter, Richard. A Holy Commonwealth, or Political Aphorisms, Opening the true Principles of Government: For The Healing of the Mistakes, and Resolving the Doubts, that most endanger and trouble ENGLAND at this time: (if yet there may be hope.) And directing the desires of sober Christians that long to see the Kingdoms of this world, become the Kingdoms of the Lord, and of his Christ. London: Printed for Thomas Underhill and Francis Taylor. Modern ed.: Ed. William Lamont. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1994.
1605 [Hall, Joseph]. Mundus alter et idem, sive Terra australis antehac semper incognita, longis itineribus peregrini academici nuperrime lustrata. London, H. Lownes. [Translation: Another World and Yet the Same: Bishop Joseph Hall’s Mundus Alter et Idem. Trans. and ed. John Millar Wands. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1981. 1609 La Vega, Garcilaso de, El Inca. Primera parte de los commentarios reales, que tratan del origen de los Yncas. Lisbon: P. Crasbeeck. 1611 Shakespeare, William. The Tempest. First published in 1623: London: I. Jaggard and E. Blount. 1619 Andreae, Johann Valentin. Reipublicæ Christianopolitanæ descriptio. Strasbourg: Héritier de L. Zetner.
1652 Winstanley, Gerrard. The Law of Freedom in a Platform: Or, True Magistracy Restored. Humbly presented to Oliver Cromwel, General of the Common-wealths Army in England, Scotland, and Ireland. And to all Englishmen my brethren whether in Churchfellowship, or not in Church-fellowship, both sorts walking as they conceive according to the Order of The Gospel: and from them to all the Nations in the World. Wherin is Declared, What is Kingly Government, and what is Common-wealths Government. London: Printed for the author. 1656 Harrington, James. The Common-Wealth of Oceana. London: Livewell Chapman.
1579 Nicholas, Thomas. A Pleasant dialogue betweene a lady called Listra, and a pilgrim, concerning the government and common weale of the great province of Crangalor. London: J. Charlewood.
1621 [Burton, Robert]. [“An Utopia of Mine Owne”]. “Dem-
1640 Sgualdi, abbate Vicenzo. Republica di Lesbo, overo della Ragione di Stato in un dominio aristocratico. Bologna: N. Tebaldini.
Thomas More’s “Insula Utopia”
1659 [Plockhoy, Pieter]. A Way Propounded to Make the poor in these and other Nations happy. By bringing together a fit suitable and well qualified people unto one Household-government, or little-Commonwealth, Wherein every one may keep his propriety, and be imployed in some work or other, as he shall be fit, without being oppressed. Being the way not only to rid these and other nations from idle, evil and disorderly persons, but also from all such that have sought and found out many inventions to live upon the labour of others. Whereunto is also annexed an invitation to
the Society, or little Common-wealth. By Peter Cornelius, VanZurik-Zee [pseud.]. London: Printed for G.C. 1666 [Cavendish, Margaret], Duchess of Newcastle. The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing World. Part IV (separately paged) of her Observations Upon Experimental Philosophy. London: Printed by J. Maxwell.. 1668 [Neville, Henry]. The Isle of Pines, or, a late Discovery of a fourth Island near Terra Australis, Incognita, by Henry Cornelius Van Sloetten [pseud.]. Wherein is contained, A True Relation of certain English persons, who in Queen Elizabeths time, making a Voyage to the East Indies were cast away, and wracked near to the Coast of Terra Australis, Incognita, and all drowned, except one Man and four Women. And now lately Anno Dom. 1667. a Dutch Ship making a Voyage to the East Indies, driven by foul weather there, by chance have found their Posterity, (speaking good English) to amount (as they suppose) to ten or twelve thousand persons. The whole Relation (written, and left by the Man himself a little before his death, and delivered to the Dutch by his Grandchild) is here annexed with the Longitude and Latitude of the Island, the scituation and felicity thereof, with other matter observable. London: Printed for Allen Banks and Charles Harper. 1675 Barnes, Joshua. Gerania: A New Discovery of a Little sort of People Anciently Discoursed of, called Pygmies. With a lively Description Of their Stature, Habit, Manners, Buildings, Knowledge, and Government, being very delightful and profitable. London: Printed by W. G. for Obadia Blagrave. 1675 Vairasse, Denis. The History of the Sevarites or Sevarambi; a Nation inhabiting part of the third Continent, Commonly called, Terra Australis Incognitae. With an Account of their admirable Government, Religion, Customs, and Language. Written By one Captain Siden [pseud.]. A worthy Person, Who, together with many others, was Cast upon those Coasts, and lived many Years in that Country. [Translated by A. Roberts]. London: Printed for Henry Brome. The second part, published in 1679, has the identical title except that A further replaces an before Account and The Second Part more wonderful and delightful than the First is added after Country. First published in French as L’Histoire [Histoire, Conclusion de l’Histoire] des Sevarambes, peuples [sic] qui habitent une partie du troisième continent communément appellé [sic] la Terre australe. Paris: C. Barbin, 1677. 1686 Fontenelle, Bernard Le Bovier de. Entretiens sur la pluralité des mondes. Paris: Veuve C. Blageart. 1693 [Lee, Francis]. Antiquity Reviv’d or the Government of a Certain island Antiently Called Astreada, In Reference to Religion, Policy, War, and Peace. Some hundreds of Years Before the Coming of Christ. London: n.p.
an Account of the surprizing Manner of his coming on board that Vessel, and his Death on landing at Plymouth in the Year 1739. Illustrated with several CUTS, clearly and distinctly representing the Structure and Mechanism of the Wings of the Glums and Gawrys, and the Manner in which they use them either to swim or fly. London: J. Robinson and R. Dodsley.
18th Century 1700 Gilbert, Claude. Histoire de Calejava ou de l’isle des hommes raisonnables, avec le paralelle de leur morale et du christianisme. [Printed at Dijon]. 1703 Russen, David of Hythe. Iter Lunare: or, A Voyage to the Moon. Containing Some Consideration on the Nature of that Planet. The Possibility of getting thither. With other Pleasant Conceits about the Inhabitants, their Manners and Customs. London: Printed for J. Nutt.
1752 Voltaire, François Marie Arouet de. Micromégas. London [Paris]: Lambert. 1753 Morelly. Naufrage des isles flottantes ou Basiliade du célèbre Pilpai, poème héroïque traduit de l’indien. Messine [Paris]: Une société de libraires.
1711 Lefebvre, François. Relation du voyage de l’isle d’éutopie. Delft: H. Van Rhin.
1755 Morelly. Code de la nature ou le Véritable esprit de ses lois de tout temps négligé ou méconnu.
1719 [Defoe, Daniel]. The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York, Mariner: Who lived eight and twenty Years all alone in an un-inhabited Island on the Coast of America, near the Mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque; Having been cast on Shore by Ship wreck, where-in all the Men perished but himself. With An Account of how he was at last strangely deliver’d by pyrates. Written by Himself. London: Printed for W. Taylor.
1755 A Voyage to the World in the Centre of the Earth. Giving an account of the manners, customs, laws, government and religion of the inhabitants. Their Persons and Habits described: With several other Particulars. In which is introduced, The History of an Inhabitant of the Air, Written by Himself. With some account of the planetary worlds. London: Printed for S. Crowder and H. Woodgate.
1726 [Swift, Jonathan]. Travels into several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver [pseud.]. 2 vols. London: Printed for Beng. Motte. 1727 Brunt, Captain Samuel. A Voyage to Cacklogallinia with a Description of the Religion, Policy, Customs and Manners of that Country. London: Printed by J. Watson. Reprinted, New York: The Facsimile Text Society, 1940. 1734 Rustaing de Saint-Jory, Louis. Les Femmes militaires, relation historique d’une île nouvellement découverte. Paris: C. Simon. 1741 Holberg, Ludwig. Nicolai Klimii Iter subterraneum. Copenhagen and Leipzig: J. Preus. 1745 [Kirkby, John]. The Capacity and Extent of the Human Understanding; Exemplified In the Extraordinary Case of Automathes; A Young Nobleman, Who was Accidentally left in his Infancy, upon a desolate Island, and continued Nineteen Years in that solitary State, separated from all Human Society. A Narrative Abounding with many surprizing Occurrences, both Useful and Entertaining to the Reader. London: Printed for R. Manby and H. Shute Cox.
1759 Voltaire, François Marie Arouet, dit. Candide ou l’Optimisme. Geneva: Cramer. In English:
1749 Seriman, Zaccaria. Viaggi di Enrico Wanton alle Terre Incognite Australi, ed al Paese delle Scimmie. Venice: Giovanni Tagier. 1751 Coyer, abbé Gabriel-François. Découverte de l’Isle frivole, augmentée de l’Année merveilleuse ou les hommes-femmes. La Haye: J. Swart. 1751 [Paltock, Robert]. The Life and Adventures of Peter Wilkins A Cornish Man: Relating particularly, His Shipwreck near the South Pole; his wonderful Passage thro’ a subterraneous Cavern into a kind of new World; his there meeting with a Gawry or flying woman, whose life he preserv’d, and afterwards married her; his extraordinary Conveyance to the Country of Glums and Gawrys, or Men and Woman that fly. Likewise a Description of this strange Country, with the Laws, Customs, and Manners of its Inhabitants, and the Author’s remarkable Transactions among them. Taken from his own Mouth, in his Passage to England from off Cape Horn in America, in the ship Hector. With an INTRODUCTION, giving
1759 Johnson, Samuel. The Prince of Abissinia. A Tale. London: R. and J. Dodsley. 1761 Tiphaigne de La Roche, Charles-François. L’émpire des Zaziris sur les humains ou la Zazirocratie. Pékin [Paris]: 1762 Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. Du contrat social ou Principes du droit politique. Amsterdam: M. M. Rey. 1764 [Burgh, James]. An Account of the First Settlement, Laws, Form of Government, and Police, of the Cessares, a People of South America: In Nine Letters, from Mr. Vander Neck [pseud.]. one of the Senators of that Nation, to his Friend in Holland. With Notes by the Editor. London: Printed for J. Payne. 1778 [Elliott, John, supposed author]. The Travels of Hildebrand Bowman, Esquire, Into Carnovirria, Taupiniera, Olfactaria, and Auditante, in New-Zealand; in the Island of Bonhommica, and in the powerful Kingdom of Luxo-volupto, on the Great
Southern Continent. Written by Himself; Who went on shore in the Adventure’s large Cutter, at Queen Charlotte’s Sound New Zealand, the fatal 17th of December 1773; and escaped being cut off, and devoured, with the rest of the Boat’s crew, by happening to be a-shooting in the woods; where he was afterwards unfortunately left behind by the Adventure. By Hildebrand Bowman [pseud.]. London: Printed for W. Strahan; and T. Cadell. 1784 Grivel, Guillaume. L’Isle inconnue ou Mémoires du chevalier Des Gastines, recueillis et publiés par M. Grivel. Paris: B. Le Franq. In Voyages imaginaires,1787. 1787 Casanova di Seingalt, Giacomo Girolamo. Icosaméron ou Histoire d’Edouard et d’Elisabeth qui passèrent quatre-vingts-un ans chez les Mégamicres, habitans aborigènes du Protocosme dans l’intérieur de notre globe. Prague: Ecole normale.
1787 Voyages imaginaires, songes, visions et romans cabalistiques ornés de figures. Amsterdam and Paris: Cuchet, then Panckoucke, 36 vols. published up to 1789. 1791 Bentham, Jeremy. Panopticon; or, The inspection-house: containing the idea of a new principle of construction applicable to any sort of establishment, in which persons of any description are to be kept under inspection... . London: T. Payne. 1793 Aratus. A Voyage to the Moon strongly recommended to all lovers of real freedom. London. 1793 Godwin, William. An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, and its influence on general virtue and happiness. 2 vols. London: Printed for G.G.J. and J. Robinson. 1795 Hodgson, William. The Commonwealth of reason. London: H. D. Symonds. 19th Century 1803 Gallet, Pierre. Voyage d’un habitant de la Lune à Paris à la fin du xviiie siècle. Paris: Levrault. 1811 Lawrence, James. The Empire of the Nairs; or, The Rights of Women. An Eutopian Romance. 4 vols. in 2. London: Printed for T. Hookham and E. T. Hookham. 1812 Wyss, Johann. Der schweizerische Robinson oder der schiffbrüchige Schweizer-Prediger und seiner Familie. Zurich: Orell. 1827 [Tucker, George]. A Voyage to the Moon: With Some Account of the Manners and Customs, Science and Philosophy, of the People of Morosofia, and Other Lunarians. By Joseph Atterley [pseud.]. New York: Elam Bliss. 1828 [Disraeli, Benjamin]. The Voyage of Captain Popanilla. London: Henry Colburn; Philadelphia: Carey, Lea and Carey. 1833 Etzler, J[ohn] A[dolphus]. The Paradise within Reach of All Men, without Labour, by Powers of Nature and Machinery. 2 parts. Pittsburgh, Pa.: Etzler and Reinhold. 1846 Melville, Herman. Narrative of a Four Month’s Residence Among the Natives of a Valley of the Marquesas Islands; or, A Peep at Polynesian Life. London: John Murray. Reprinted as Typee; or, A 49
1902 Herzl, Theodor. Altneuland. Berlin: H. Seemann Nachfolger.
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1847 [Cooper, James Fenimore]. The Crater; or, Vulcan’s Peak. A Tale of the Pacific. 2 vols. New York: Burgess, Stringer and Company. 1848 Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei.N.p. In English: T
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1930 Vassos, John, and Ruth Vassos. Ultimo: An Imaginative Narration of Life Under the Earth. New York: E. P. Dutton. 1932 Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. Garden 1904 Chesterton, G[ilbert] K[eith]. The Napoleon on City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Doran. Notting Hill. London: John Lane. 1932 Leacock, Stephen [Butler]. Afternoons in 1904 Wells, H[erbert] G[eorge]. A Modern Utopia. Utopia: Tales of the New Time. London: John Lane, London: Chapman and Hall, 1905. The Bodley Head; New York: Dodd, Mead, 1932.
1848 Mill, John Stuart. Principles of political economy, with some of their applications to social philosophy. London: J. W. Parker. 1852 Berlioz, Hector. Euphonia ou la Ville musicale, in Les Soirées de l’orchestre. Paris: Michel Lévy frères.
1907 Newte, Horace W. C. The Master Beast; Being a True Account of the Ruthless Tyranny Inflicted on the British People by Socialism A.D. 1888—2020. London: Rebman Ltd.
1872 [Butler, Samuel]. Erewhon; or, Over the Range. London: Trübner. 1876 Renouvier, Charles. Uchronie: l’utopie dans l’histoire, esquisse historique apocryphe du développement de la civilisation européenne tel qu’il n’a pas été, tel qu’il aurait pu être. Paris: bureau de la Critique philosophique.
1880—81 [Lane, Mary E. (Bradley)]. Mizora: A Prophecy. A Mss. Found Among the Private Papers of the Princess Vera Zarovitch [pseud.]. Being a true and faithful account of her Journey to the Interior of the Earth, with a careful description of the Country and its Inhabitants, their Customs, Manners and Government. Written by Herself. New York: G. W. Dillingham, 1889. 1888 Bellamy, Edward. Looking Backward: 2000—1887. Boston: Ticknor and Company. 1889 Flammarion, Camille. Uranie. Paris: C. Marpon et E. Flammarion. 1890 Morris, William. News from Nowhere; or, An Epoch of Rest. Being Some Chapters from a Utopian Romance. Boston: Roberts Bros. (unauthorized ed.).
1933 Hilton, James. Lost Horizon. New York: William Morrow & Co.
1933 Wells, H[erbert] G[eorge]. The Shape of Things to Come: The Ultimate Revolution. London: Hutchinson; New York: Macmillan, 1933. 1935 Lewis, Sinclair. It Can’t Happen Here. New York: Doubleday Doran. 1937 [Burdekin, Katherine Penelope]. Swastika Night. By Murray Constantine [pseud.]. London: Victor Gollancz. Reprinted, under the author’s real name, Old Westbury, N.Y.: The Feminist Press, 1985. 1938 Lewis, C[live] S[taples]. Out of the Silent Planet. London: John Lane, The Bodley Head. Reprinted, New York: Scribner Classics, 1996. 1938 Rand, Ayn. Anthem. London: Cassell. First US ed. Los Angeles: Pamphleteers, 1946. 1941 Borges, Jorge Luis. La Biblioteca de Babel, in El Jardín de senderos que se bifurcan. Buenos Aires: Sur.
1908 France, Anatole. L’Ile des pingouins. Paris: C. Lévy.
1942 Hesse, Hermann. Das Glasperlenspiel. Zurich: Fretz und Wasmuth. In English: Magister Ludi. Trans. Mervyn Savill. New York: Ungar, 1949.
1915 [Gilman, Charlotte Perkins]. “Herland.” The Forerunner 6 (January—December 1915).
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1921 Capek, Karel. R. U. R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots). Prague: Aventinum.
1945 Koestler, Arthur. Twilight Bar: An Escapade in Four Acts. London: Jonathan Cape.
1892 Robida, Albert. Le Vingtième Siècle, la vie électrique. Paris: Librairie illustrée. Text and drawings by A. Robida. 1894 Howells, William Dean. The Traveler from Altruria. New York: Harper and Bros.
1921 Shaw, George Bernard. Back to Methuselah; A Metabiological Pentateuch. New York: Brentano’s.
1945 Orwell, George [pseud. of Eric Blair]. Animal Farm; A Fairy Story. London: Secker & Warburg.
1922—23 Wells, H[erbert] G[eorge]. Men Like Gods. London: Cassell, 1923.
1947 Buber, Martin. Netivot be-utopyah. Tel-Aviv: Am oved.
1895 Wells, H[erbert] G[eorge]. The Time Machine: An Invention. London: William Heinemann.
1923 Tolstoy, Aleksey. Aelita. Moscow: n.p.
1947 Goodman, Percival, and Paul Goodman. Communitas: Ways of Livelihood and Means of Life. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1948 Skinner, B[urrhus] F[rederick]. Walden Two. New York: Macmillan.
1876 Richardson, Benjamin Ward. Hygeia: A City of Health. London: Macmillan. Reprinted, New York: Garland, 1985. 1879 Verne, Jules. Les Cinq Cents Millions de la Bégum. Paris: J. Hetzel.
1925 Madariaga, Salvador de. La Jirafa sagrada. Madrid: Espasa-Calpe.
1899 Kropotkin, Petr. Fields, factories and workshops; or, Industry combined with Agriculture and Brain Work with Manual Work. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Co.
1924 Hauptmann, Gerhart. Der Insel der Grossen Mutter oder Das Wunder von Ile des Dames. Berlin: S. Fischer.
1924 Zamiatin, Evgenii. We. Trans. Gregory Zilboorg. New York: E. P. Dutton. First publication was in English.
1900 Peck, Bradford. The World a Department Store. A Story of Life Under a Coöperative System. Lewiston, Maine: Bradford Peck.
1925 Harbou, Thea von. Metropolis. Berlin: A. Scherl. In English: Metropolis. Norfolk, Va.: Donning Co., 1988.
1949 George Orwell [pseud. of Eric Blair]. Nineteen Eighty-four. London: Secker & Warburg. 1950 Bradbury, Ray. The Martian Chronicles. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday. 1952 Daumal, René. Le Mont analogue. Paris: Gallimard.
1952 Pohl, Frederik, and C[yril] M. Kornbluth. The Space Merchants. New York: Ballantine, 1953.
1980 Hoban, Russell. Riddley Walker. London: Jonathan Cape.
1952 Vonnegut, Kurt, Jr. Player Piano. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
1981 Vargas Llosa, Mario. La Guerra del fin del mundo. Barcelona: Seix Barral.
1953 Blish, James. A Case of Conscience. New York: Ballantine, 1958.
1984 Gibson, William [Ford]. Neuromancer. New York: Ace
1953 Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451. New York: Ballantine.
1985 Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart.
1953 Clarke, Arthur C. Childhood’s End. New York: Ballantine.
1985 Le Guin, Ursula K. Always Coming Home. New York: Harper & Row.
1953 Waugh, Evelyn. Love Among the Ruins; A Romance of the Near Future. London: Chapman and Hall.
1987 Percy, Walker. The Thanatos Syndrome. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux. 1988 Acker, Kathy. Empire of the Senseless. New York: Grove Press.
1954 Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. London: Faber & Faber.
1988 Tepper, Sheri S. The Gate to Women’s Country. New York: Doubleday.
1957 Rand, Ayn. Atlas Shrugged. New York: Random House.
1989 Blais, Marie Claire. L’Ange de la solitude. Paris: Belfond.
1958 Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World Revisited. New York: Harper.
1992 Vonarburg, Elisabeth. Chroniques du pays des mères. Montreal: Ed. Québec/Amérique.
1959 Burroughs, William S. The Naked Lunch. Paris: Olympia. 1960 Miller, Walter M., Jr. A Canticle for Leibowitz. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott. 1961 Heinlein, Robert A[nson]. Stranger in a Strange Land. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons. 1962 Burgess, Anthony. Clockwork Orange. London: Heinemann. 1962 Huxley, Aldous. Island. New York: Harper & Row. Reprinted, London: Flamingo, 1994. 1963 Vonnegut, Kurt, Jr. Cat’s Cradle. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston. 1964 Havel, Vaclav. Zahradni slavnost. Prague, Orbis. 1969 Fuller, R[ichard] Buckminster. Utopia or Oblivion. The Prospects for Humanity. New York: Bantam. 1969 Le Guin, Ursula K. The Left Hand of Darkness. New York: Ace.
1998 Morrison, Toni. Paradise. New York: Alfred A. Knopf; London: Chatto & Windus, 1998. 1969 Soleri, Paolo. Arcology: The City in the Image of Man. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1969.
1999 Robinson, Kim Stanley. The Martians. New York: Bantam; London: HarperCollins, 1999.
1971 Percy, Walker. Love in the Ruins. New York: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux. 1972 Calvino, Italo. Le Città invisibili. Turin: Einaudi. 1974 Le Guin, Ursula K. The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia. New York: Harper & Row.
Edited from: Utopian Literature: A Selective Bibliography by Denis Bruckmann, Laurent Portes, and Lyman Tower Sargent. The New York Public Library utopia.nypl.org/primarysources.html
1975 Callenbach, Ernest. Ecotopia. The Notebooks and Reports of William Weston. Berkeley, Calif.: Banyan Tree Books. 1976 Piercy, Marge. Woman on the Edge of Time. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 1979—83 Lessing, Doris. Canopus in Argos: Archives. 5 vols. New York: Alfred A. Knopf; London: Jonathan Cape.
Illustrations; Nicolas Guedeville. Idée d’une répuplique heureuse: ou L’Utopie de Thomas Morus. Amsterdam, Francois l’Honoré, 1730.
The Library of Babel by Jorge Luis Borges
he universe (which others call the Library) is composed of an indefinite and perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries, with vast air shafts between, surrounded by very low railings. From any of the hexagons one can see, interminably, the upper and lower floors. The distribution of the galleries is invariable. Twenty shelves, five long shelves per side, cover all the sides except two; their height, which is the distance from floor to ceiling, scarcely exceeds that of a normal bookcase. One of the free sides leads to a narrow hallway which opens onto another gallery, identical to the first and to all the rest. To the left and right of the hallway there are two very small closets. In the first, one may sleep standing up; in the other, satisfy one’s fecal necessities. Also through here passes a spiral stairway, which sinks abysmally and soars upwards to remote distances. In the hallway there is a mirror which faithfully duplicates all appearances. Men usually infer from this mirror that the Library is not infinite (if it were, why this illusory duplication?); I prefer to dream that its polished surfaces represent and promise the infinite ... Light is provided by some spherical fruit which bear the name of lamps. There are two, transversally placed, in each hexagon. The light they emit is insufficient, incessant. Like all men of the Library, I have traveled in my youth; I have wandered in search of a book, perhaps the catalogue of catalogues; now that my eyes can hardly decipher what I write, I am preparing to die just a few leagues from the hexagon in which I was born. Once I am dead, there will be no lack of pious hands to throw me over the railing; my grave will be the fathomless air; my body will sink endlessly and decay and dissolve in the wind generated by the fall, which is infinite. I say that the Library is unending. The idealists 52
argue that the hexagonal rooms are a necessary form of absolute space or, at least, of our intuition of space. They reason that a triangular or pentagonal room is inconceivable. (The mystics claim that their ecstasy reveals to them a circular chamber containing a great circular book, whose spine is continuous and which follows the complete circle of the walls; but their testimony is suspect; their words, obscure. This cyclical book is God.) Let it suffice now for me to repeat the classic dictum: The Library is a sphere whose exact center is any one of its hexagons and whose circumference is inaccessible. There are five shelves for each of the hexagon’s walls; each shelf contains thirtyfive books of uniform format; each book is of four hundred and ten pages; each page, of forty lines, each line, of some eighty letters which are black in color. There are also letters on the spine of each book; these letters do not indicate or prefigure what the pages will say. I know that this incoherence at one time seemed mysterious. Before summarizing the solution (whose discovery, in spite of its tragic projections, is perhaps the capital fact in history) I wish to recall a few axioms. First: The Library exists ab aeterno. This truth, whose immediate corollary is the future eternity of the world, cannot be placed in doubt by any reasonable mind. Man, the imperfect librarian, may be the product of chance or of malevolent demiurgi; the universe, with its elegant endowment of shelves, of enigmatical volumes, of inexhaustible stairways for the traveler and latrines for the seated librarian, can only be the work of a god. To perceive the distance between the divine and the human, it is enough to compare these crude wavering symbols which my fallible hand scrawls on the cover of a book, with the organic letters inside: punctual, delicate, perfectly black, inimitably symmetrical.
Second: The orthographical symbols are twenty-five in number. (1) This finding made it possible, three hundred years ago, to formulate a general theory of the Library and solve satisfactorily the problem which no conjecture had deciphered: the formless and chaotic nature of almost all the books. One which my father saw in a hexagon on circuit fifteen ninety-four was made up of the letters MCV, perversely repeated from the first line to the last. Another (very much consulted in this area) is a mere labyrinth of letters, but the next-to-last page says Oh time thy pyramids. This much is already known: for every sensible line of straightforward statement, there are leagues of senseless cacophonies, verbal jumbles and incoherences. (I know of an uncouth region whose librarians repudiate the vain and superstitious custom of finding a meaning in books and equate it with that of finding a meaning in dreams or in the chaotic lines of one’s palm ... They admit that the inventors of this writing imitated the twenty-five natural symbols, but maintain that this application is accidental and that the books signify nothing in themselves. This dictum, we shall see, is not entirely fallacious.) For a long time it was believed that these impenetrable books corresponded to past or remote languages. It is true that the most ancient men, the first librarians, used a language quite different from the one we now speak; it is true that a few miles to the right the tongue is dialectical and that ninety floors farther up, it is incomprehensible. All this, I repeat, is true, but four hundred and ten pages of inalterable MCV’s cannot correspond to any language, no matter how dialectical or rudimentary it may be. Some insinuated that each letter could influence the following one and that the value of The Library of Babel by Erik Desmazières (Contemporary French printmaker)
MCV in the third line of page 71 was not the one the same series may have in another position on another page, but this vague thesis did not prevail. Others thought of cryptographs; generally, this conjecture has been accepted, though not in the sense in which it was formulated by its originators. Five hundred years ago, the chief of an upper hexagon (2) came upon a book as confusing as the others, but which had nearly two pages of homogeneous lines. He showed his find to a wandering decoder who told him the lines were written in Portuguese; others said they were Yiddish. Within a century, the language was established: a Samoyedic Lithuanian dialect of Guarani, with classical Arabian inflections. The content was also deciphered: some notions of combinative analysis, illustrated with examples of variations with unlimited repetition. These examples made it possible for a librarian of genius to discover the fundamental law of the Library. This thinker observed that all the books, no matter how diverse they might be, are made up of the same elements: the space, the period, the comma, the twenty-two letters of the alphabet. He also alleged a fact which travelers have confirmed: In the vast Library there are no two identical books. From these two incontrovertible premises he deduced that the Library is total and that its shelves register all the possible combinations of the twenty-odd orthographical symbols (a number which, though extremely vast, is not infinite): Everything: the minutely detailed history of the future, the archangels’ autobiographies, the faithful catalogues of the Library, thousands and thousands of false catalogues, the demonstration of the fallacy of those catalogues, the demonstration of the fallacy of the true catalogue, the Gnostic gospel of Basilides, the commentary on that gospel, the commentary on the commentary on that gospel, the true story of your death, the translation of every book in all languages, the interpolations of every book in all books.
When it was proclaimed that the Library contained all books, the first impression was one of extravagant happiness. All men felt themselves to be the masters of an intact and secret treasure. There was no personal or world problem whose eloquent solution did not exist in some hexagon. The universe was justified, the universe suddenly usurped the unlimited dimensions of hope. At that time a great deal was said about the Vindications: books of apology and prophecy which vindicated for all time the acts of every man in the universe and retained prodigious arcana for his future. Thousands of the greedy abandoned their sweet native hexagons and rushed up the stairways, urged on by the vain intention of finding their Vindication. These pilgrims disputed in the narrow corridors, proferred dark curses, strangled each other on the divine stairways, flung the deceptive books into the air shafts, met their death cast down in a similar fashion by the inhabitants of remote regions. Others went mad ... The Vindications exist (I have seen two which refer to persons of the future, to persons who are perhaps not imaginary) but the searchers did not remember that the possibility of a man’s finding his Vindication, or some treacherous variation thereof, can be computed as zero. At that time it was also hoped that a clarification of humanity’s basic mysteries -- the origin of the Library and of time -- might be found. It is verisimilar that these grave mysteries could be explained in words: if the language of philosophers is not sufficient, the multiform Library will have produced the unprecedented language required, with its vocabularies and grammars. For four centuries now men have exhausted the hexagons ... There are official searchers, inquisitors. I have seen them in the performance of their function: they always arrive extremely tired from their journeys; they speak of a broken stairway which almost killed them; they talk with the librarian of galleries and stairs;
sometimes they pick up the nearest volume and leaf through it, looking for infamous words. Obviously, no one expects to discover anything. As was natural, this inordinate hope was followed by an excessive depression. The certitude that some shelf in some hexagon held precious books and that these precious books were inaccessible, seemed almost intolerable. A blasphemous sect suggested that the searches should cease and that all men should juggle letters and symbols until they constructed, by an improbable gift of chance, these canonical books. The authorities were obliged to issue severe orders. The sect disappeared, but in my childhood I have seen old men who, for long periods of time, would hide in the latrines with some metal disks in a forbidden dice cup and feebly mimic the divine disorder. Others, inversely, believed that it was fundamental to eliminate useless works. They invaded the hexagons, showed credentials which were not always false, leafed through a volume with displeasure and condemned whole shelves: their hygienic, ascetic furor caused the senseless perdition of millions of books. Their name is execrated, but those who deplore the ``treasures’’ destroyed by this frenzy neglect two notable facts. One: the Library is so enormous that any reduction of human origin is infinitesimal. The other: every copy is unique, irreplaceable, but (since the Library is total) there are always several hundred thousand imperfect facsimiles: works which differ only in a letter or a comma. Counter to general opinion, I venture to suppose that the consequences of the Purifiers’ depredations have been exaggerated by the horror these fanatics produced. They were urged on by the delirium of trying to reach the books in the Crimson Hexagon: books whose format is smaller than usual, all-powerful, illustrated and magical. We also know of another superstition
of that time: that of the Man of the Book. On some shelf in some hexagon (men reasoned) there must exist a book which is the formula and perfect compendium of all the rest: some librarian has gone through it and he is analogous to a god. In the language of this zone vestiges of this remote functionary’s cult still persist. Many wandered in search of Him. For a century they have exhausted in vain the most varied areas. How could one locate the venerated and secret hexagon which housed Him? Someone proposed a regressive method: To locate book A, consult first book B which indicates A’s position; to locate book B, consult first a book C, and so on to infinity ... In adventures such as these, I have squandered and wasted my years. It does not seem unlikely to me that there is a total book on some shelf of the universe; (3) I pray to the unknown gods that a man -- just one, even though it were thousands of years ago! -- may have examined and read it. If honor and wisdom and happiness are not for me, let them be for others. Let heaven exist, though my place be in hell. Let me be outraged and annihilated, but for one instant, in one being, let Your enormous Library be justified. The impious maintain that nonsense is normal in the Library and that the reasonable (and even humble and pure coherence) is an almost miraculous exception. They speak (I know) of the ``feverish Library whose chance volumes are constantly in danger of changing into others and affirm, negate and confuse everything like a delirious divinity.’’ These words, which not only denounce the disorder but exemplify it as well, notoriously prove their authors’ abominable taste and desperate ignorance. In truth, the Library includes all verbal structures, all variations permitted by the twenty-five orthographical symbols, but not a single example of absolute nonsense. It is useless to observe that the best volume of the many hexagons under my administration is entitled The Combed
La Biblioteca de Babel El universo (que otros llaman la Biblioteca) se componte de un número indenido, y tal vez innito, de galerías hexagonales, con vastos pozos de ventilación en el medio, cercados por barandas bajísimas. Desde cualquier hexágono se ven los pisos inferiores y superiores: interminablemente. La distribución de las galerías es invariable. Veinte anaqueles, a cinco largos anaqueles por lado, cubren todos los lados menos dos; su altura, que es la de los pisos, excede apenas la de un bibliotecario normal. Una de las caras libres da a un angosto zaguán, que desemboca en otra galería, idéntica a la primera y a todas. A izquierda y a derecha del zaguán hay dos gabinetes minúsculos. Uno permite dormir de pie; otro, satisfacer las necesidades nales. Por ahí pasa la escalera espiral, que se abisma y se eleva hacia lo remoto. En el zaguán hay un espejo, que elmente duplica las apariencias. Los hombres suelen inferir de ese espejo que la Biblioteca no es innita (si lo fuera realmente ¿a qué esa duplicación ilusoria?); yo preero soñar que las supercies bruñidas guran y prometen el innito... La luz procede de unas frutas esféricas que llevan el nombre de lámparas. Hay dos en cada hexágono: transversales. La luz que emiten es insuciente, incesante.
Thunderclap and another The Plaster Cramp and another Axaxaxas mlö. These phrases, at first glance incoherent, can no doubt be justified in a cryptographical or allegorical manner; such a justification is verbal and, ex hypothesi, already figures in the Library. I cannot combine some characters dhcmrlchtdj
which the divine Library has not foreseen and which in one of its secret tongues do not contain a terrible meaning. No one can articulate a syllable which is not filled with tenderness and fear, which is not, in one of these languages, the powerful name of a god. To speak is to fall into tautology. This wordy and useless epistle already exists in one of the thirty volumes of the five shelves of one of the innumerable hexagons -- and its refutation as well. (An n number of possible languages use the same vocabulary; in some of them, the symbol library allows the correct definition a ubiquitous and lasting system of hexagonal galleries, but library is bread or pyramid or anything else, and these seven words which define it have another value. You who read me, are You sure of understanding my language?) The methodical task of writing distracts me from the present state of men. The certitude that everything has been written negates us or turns us into phantoms. I know of districts in which the young men prostrate themselves before books and kiss their pages in a barbarous manner, but they do not know how to decipher a single letter. Epidemics, heretical conflicts, peregrinations which inevitably degenerate into banditry, have decimated the population. I believe I have mentioned suicides, more and more
frequent with the years. Perhaps my old age and fearfulness deceive me, but I suspect that the human species--the unique species--is about to be extinguished, but the Library will endure: illuminated, solitary, infinite, perfectly motionless, equipped with precious volumes, useless, incorruptible, secret. I have just written the word “infinite.’’ I have not interpolated this adjective out of rhetorical habit; I say that it is not illogical to think that the world is infinite. Those who judge it to be limited postulate that in remote places the corridors and stairways and hexagons can conceivably come to an end -which is absurd. Those who imagine it to be without limit forget that the possible number of books does have such a limit. I venture to suggest this solution to the ancient problem: The Library is unlimited and cyclical. If an eternal traveler were to cross it in any direction, after centuries he would see that the same volumes were repeated in the same disorder (which, thus repeated, would be an order: the Order). My solitude is gladdened by this elegant hope. Translated by J. E. I.
La Biblioteca de Babel El universo (que otros llaman la Biblioteca) se componte de un número indenido, y tal vez innito, de galerías hexagonales, con vastos pozos de ventilación en el medio, cercados por barandas bajísimas. Desde cualquier hexágono se ven los pisos inferiores y superiores: interminablemente. La distribución de las galerías es invariable. Veinte anaqueles, a cinco largos anaqueles por lado, cubren todos los lados
Borges’ Dystopia of Information The Library of Babel (“La Biblioteca de Babel”) is a short story by Argentine author and librarian Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986). Borges imagined a universe of knowledge in the form of a vast library. The narrator describes this universe as a nearly-infinite series of interlocked hexagon-shaped rooms, which contains the basic necessities of life and wall-to-wall bookshelves. No Dewey Decimal system has ever been used to classify these books! The shelf arrangement and the contents of each book is random and meaningless. Probably the circulation librarians of this library have all committed suicide some time ago. Yet the people who live in this confusing, bookish universe are convinced that somewhere buried in all the gibberish are hidden all the real, understandable books ever written and all the future books that might ever be written. The narrator-guide on the tour of this library-with-obsessive-compulsive disorder notes that the library must contain every possible scrap of information, all biographies of every person, all future knowledge and everything must be translated into every possible language. Needless to say, no one can ever find what they want in this library. One solution that the neurotic librarians have imagined is that, since the library contains all possible books, somewhere there must be a catalog of the library. The problem is that no one knows where it is, save one person. This evanescent, ghostly librarian is the mysterious Man of the Book, who, like all the information in the endless labyrinth of inaccessible knowledge, cannot be found.
The Futurist Manifesto F.T. Marinetti, 1909
101 years ago,
the Futurist art movement was founded in Italy in reaction to the sentimentalism and romanticism of the 19th century. It was no concidence that the Futurists coalesced and promulgated their manifestoes just as the use of oil to make machines, and make machines go faster, began its ascent to the technological dominance of the 20th century. Oil made automobiles, trains, and airplanes possible, and also made possible their shadow technologies, the jeeps, tanks, armored personnel carriers, ghter airplanes and bombers of war. Warfare has always been a constant human companion, but oil increased the scale of the ferocity and barbarism. The Futurists loved machines that went fast and made noise, and noxious fumes; they were excited by the very things, which would, in excess, make cities and contemporary life so stressful and dangerous. Futurists accepted the speeded-up life made possible by oil and machines. They loved the danger and excitement of modern times. They embraced the political fascism that joined society with oil-fueled mechanization to create the monster hybrid of the totalitarian state. In the end, they were consumed by the monster they loved.
We have been up all night, my friends and I, beneath mosque lamps whose brass cupolas are bright as our souls, because like them they were illuminated by the internal glow of electric hearts. And trampling underfoot our native sloth on opulent Persian carpets, we have been discussing right up to the limits of logic and scrawling the paper with demented writing.
We are witnessing the third and nal act in the tragedy of Monster Oil--those Seven Corporate “Oiligarchs” of that era of World Wars and Cold War, of unparalleled genocides and ecocides, the delight of the Futurists--the late, not-so-great XXth Century.
Our hearts were lled with an immense pride at feeling ourselves standing quite alone, like lighthouses or like the sentinels in an outpost, facing the army of enemy stars encamped in their celestial bivouacs. Alone with the engineers in the infernal stokeholes of great ships, alone with the black spirits which rage in the belly of rogue locomotives, alone with the drunkards beating their wings against the walls.
The Seven Monsters. They used to be called the “Seven Sisters,” but it is a slander on women to call these spawn of corporate capitalism “sisters.” Only the real word--monsters-will do. This is the genealogy of those huge, incestuous multinational oil companies who fucked each other and produced unholy offspring even more deformed than the monster parents. * Standard Oil of New Jersey (Esso), which merged with Mobil to form ExxonMobil. * Royal Dutch Shell (Dutch 60% / British 40%). Merged in 2005. * Anglo-Persian Oil Company (APOC) (British). This later became Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC), then British Petroleum, and then BP Amoco following a merger with Amoco (which in turn was formerly Standard Oil of Indiana). It is now known solely by the initials BP. * Standard Oil Co. of New York (“Socony”). This later became Mobil, which merged with Exxon to form ExxonMobil. * Standard Oil of California (“Socal”). This became Chevron, then, upon merging with Texaco, ChevronTexaco. It has since dropped the ‘Texaco’ sufx, returning to Chevron. * Gulf Oil. In 1985, most of Gulf became part of Chevron, with smaller parts becoming part of BP and Cumberland Farms, in what was, at that time, the largest merger in world history. A network of stations in the northeastern United States still bears this name. * Texaco. Merged with Chevron in 2001. The merged company was known for a time as ChevronTexaco, but in 2005, changed its name back to Chevron. Texaco remains a Chevron brand name. As of 2005, the remaining companies are ExxonMobil, Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell, and BP.
Then we were suddenly distracted by the rumbling of huge double decker trams that went leaping by, streaked with light like the villages celebrating their festivals, which the Po in ood suddenly knocks down and uproots, and, in the rapids and eddies of a deluge, drags down to the sea.
The Great Race of the Seven Monsters to see who would be the world’s worst ecoterrorist was won handily by BP in April 2010 as their oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, the Deepwater Horizon, blew up lling the Gulf of Mexico with crude oil, and killing ecosystems right and left. BP’s lies, corporate malfeasance, and criminal behavior in the miscalculated risk of this manmade disaster are more jewels in their deadly crown. The massive ecological destruction of the Gulf of Mexico is the tting end to the late, unlamented Century of Oil. ---Lionel Cafard, Surrealist Movement of the USA
Then the silence increased. As we listened to the last faint prayer of the old canal and the crumbling of the bones of the moribund palaces with their green growth of beard, suddenly the hungry automobiles roared beneath our windows. “Come, my friends!” I said. “Let us go! At last Mythology and the mystic cult of the ideal have been left behind. We are going to be present at the birth of the centaur and we shall soon see the rst angels y! We must break down the gates of life to test the bolts and the padlocks! Let us go! Here is the very rst sunrise on earth! Nothing equals the splendor of its red sword which strikes for the rst time in our millennial darkness.” We went up to the three snorting machines to caress their breasts. I lay along mine like a corpse on its bier, but I suddenly revived again beneath the steering wheel — a guillotine
knife — which threatened my stomach. A great sweep of madness brought us sharply back to ourselves and drove us through the streets, steep and deep, like dried up torrents. Here and there unhappy lamps in the windows taught us to despise our mathematical eyes. “Smell,” I exclaimed, “smell is good enough for wild beasts!” And we hunted, like young lions, death with its black fur dappled with pale crosses, who ran before us in the vast violet sky, palpable and living. And yet we had no ideal Mistress stretching her form up to the clouds, nor yet a cruel Queen to whom to offer our corpses twisted into the shape of Byzantine rings! No reason to die unless it is the desire to be rid of the too great weight of our courage! We drove on, crushing beneath our burning wheels, like shirt-collars under the iron, the watch dogs on the steps of the houses. Death, tamed, went in front of me at each corner offering me his hand nicely, and sometimes lay on the ground with a noise of creaking jaws giving me velvet glances from the bottom of puddles. “Let us leave good sense behind like a hideous husk and let us hurl ourselves, like fruit spiced with pride, into the immense mouth and breast of the world! Let us feed the unknown, not from despair, but simply to enrich the unfathomable reservoirs of the Absurd!”
I felt the red hot poker of joy deliciously pierce my heart. A crowd of shermen and gouty naturalists crowded terried around this marvel. With patient and tentative care they raised high enormous grappling irons to sh up my car, like a vast shark that had run aground. It rose slowly leaving in the ditch, like scales, its heavy coachwork of good sense and its upholstery of comfort. We thought it was dead, my good shark, but I woke it with a single caress of its powerful back, and it was revived running as fast as it could on its ns. Then with my face covered in good factory mud, covered with metal scratches, useless sweat and celestial grime, amidst the complaint of staid shermen and angry naturalists, we dictated our rst will and testament to all the living men on earth. MANIFESTO OF FUTURISM 1. 2. 3.
As soon as I had said these words, I turned sharply back on my tracks with the mad intoxication of puppies biting their tails, and suddenly there were two cyclists disapproving of me and tottering in front of me like two persuasive but contradictory reasons. Their stupid swaying got in my way. What a bore! Pouah! I stopped short, and in disgust hurled myself — vlan! — head over heels in a ditch.
Oh, maternal ditch, half full of muddy water! A factory gutter! I savored a mouthful of strengthening muck which recalled the black teat of my Sudanese nurse!
As I raised my body, mud-spattered and smelly,
We want to sing the love of danger, the habit of energy and rashness. The essential elements of our poetry will be courage, audacity and revolt. Literature has up to now magnied pensive immobility, ecstasy and slumber. We want to exalt movements of aggression, feverish sleeplessness, the double march, the perilous leap, the slap and the blow with the st. We declare that the splendor of the world has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing automobile with its bonnet adorned with great tubes like serpents with explosive breath ... a roaring motor car which seems to run on machine-gun re, is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace. We want to sing the man at the wheel, the ideal axis of which crosses the earth, itself hurled along its orbit. The poet must spend himself with warmth, glamour and prodigality to increase the enthusiastic fervor of the primordial elements. Beauty exists only in struggle. There is no masterpiece that has not an aggressive character. Poetry must be a violent assault on the forces of the unknown, to force them to bow before man.
We are on the extreme promontory of the centuries! What is the use of looking behind at the moment when we must open the mysterious shutters of the impossible? Time and Space died yesterday. We are already living in the absolute, since we have already created eternal, omnipresent speed. 9. We want to glorify war — the only cure for the world — militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of the anarchists, the beautiful ideas which kill, and contempt for woman. 10. We want to demolish museums and libraries, ght morality, feminism and all opportunist and utilitarian cowardice. 11. We will sing of the great crowds agitated by work, pleasure and revolt; the multi-colored and polyphonic surf of revolutions in modern capitals: the nocturnal vibration of the arsenals and the workshops beneath their violent electric moons: the gluttonous railway stations devouring smoking serpents; factories suspended from the clouds by the thread of their smoke; bridges with the leap of gymnasts ung across the diabolic cutlery of sunny rivers: adventurous steamers snifng the horizon; great-breasted locomotives, pufng on the rails like enormous steel horses with long tubes for bridle, and the gliding ight of aeroplanes whose propeller sounds like the apping of a ag and the applause of enthusiastic crowds. It is in Italy that we are issuing this manifesto of ruinous and incendiary violence, by which we today are founding Futurism, because we want to deliver Italy from its gangrene of professors, archaeologists, tourist guides and antiquaries. Italy has been too long the great second-hand market. We want to get rid of the innumerable museums which cover it with innumerable cemeteries. Museums, cemeteries! Truly identical in their sinister juxtaposition of bodies that do not know each other. Public dormitories where you sleep side by side for ever with beings you hate or do not know. Reciprocal ferocity of the painters and sculptors who murder each other in the
same museum with blows of line and color. To make a visit once a year, as one goes to see the graves of our dead once a year, that we could allow! We can even imagine placing owers once a year at the feet of the Gioconda! But to take our sadness, our fragile courage and our anxiety to the museum every day, that we cannot admit! Do you want to poison yourselves? Do you want to rot? What can you nd in an old picture except the painful contortions of the artist trying to break uncrossable barriers which obstruct the full expression of his dream? To admire an old picture is to pour our sensibility into a funeral urn instead of casting it forward with violent spurts of creation and action. Do you want to waste the best part of your strength in a useless admiration of the past, from which you will emerge exhausted, diminished, trampled on? Indeed daily visits to museums, libraries and academies (those cemeteries of wasted effort, calvaries of crucied dreams, registers of false starts!) is for artists what prolonged supervision by the parents is for intelligent young men, drunk with their own talent and ambition. For the dying, for invalids and for prisoners it may be all right. It is, perhaps, some sort of balm for their wounds, the admirable past, at a moment when the future is denied them. But we will have none of it, we, the young, strong and living Futurists! Let the good incendiaries with charred ngers come! Here they are! Heap up the re to the shelves of the libraries! Divert the canals to ood the cellars of the museums! Let the glorious canvases swim ashore! Take the picks and hammers! Undermine the foundation of venerable towns! The oldest among us are not yet thirty years old: we have therefore at least ten years to accomplish our task. When we are forty let younger and stronger men than we throw us in the waste paper basket like useless manuscripts! They will come against us from afar, leaping on the light cadence of their rst poems, clutching the air with their predatory ngers and snifng at the gates of the academies the good scent of
our decaying spirits, already promised to the catacombs of the libraries. But we shall not be there. They will nd us at last one winter’s night in the depths of the country in a sad hangar echoing with the notes of the monotonous rain, crouched near our trembling aeroplanes, warming our hands at the wretched re which our books of today will make when they ame gaily beneath the glittering ight of their pictures. They will crowd around us, panting with anguish and disappointment, and exasperated by our proud indefatigable courage, will hurl themselves forward to kill us, with all the more hatred as their hearts will be drunk with love and admiration for us. And strong healthy Injustice will shine radiantly from their eyes. For art can only be violence, cruelty, injustice. The oldest among us are not yet thirty, and yet we have already wasted treasures, treasures of strength, love, courage and keen will, hastily, deliriously, without thinking, with all our might, till we are out of breath. Look at us! We are not out of breath, our hearts are not in the least tired. For they are nourished by re, hatred and speed! Does this surprise you? it is because you do not even remember being alive! Standing on the world’s summit, we launch once more our challenge to the stars! Your objections? All right! I know them! Of course! We know just what our beautiful false intelligence afrms: “We are only the sum and the prolongation of our ancestors,” it says. Perhaps! All right! What does it matter? But we will not listen! Take care not to repeat those infamous words! Instead, lift up your head! Standing on the world’s summit we launch once again our insolent challenge to the stars! •
(Text of translation taken from James Joll, Three Intellectuals in Politics)
“Fascism should rightly be called Corporatism,as it is the merger of corporate and government power.”
he Futurists saw clearly the coming convergence of authoritarian political philosophy, international corporate capitalism, the corporate/fascist love of war and weaponry, plus the growth of the “mega-machine” –– society and people conceived of as a machine–– and all of it speeded up by the amphetamine-like jolt provided by oil to technology. The trouble was they liked it. Their vision can be read as a manifesto, or it could have been taken as a warning. Unfortunately it went unheeded. The result was the 20th century as we know it.
Posing for a picture at the photographer’s studio. These three are excited by a future that will destroy the foundations of eveything they knew as solid.
Ever faster! Felice Nazzaro and the winning Fiat automobile at the French Grad Prix, 1907. Top speed 62 miles per hour.
“Beauty exists only in struggle.” Filippo Marinetti (right) Giacomo Balla (Italian, 1871-1958) Speeding Automobile Balla expressed the Futurist aesthetic of dynamism and energy in this celebration of speed and the framentation of static reality. The single image of the automobile appears to be composed of compressed frames of a film--a single image time lapse of a car going so fast that it is barely visible: all we see is the motion of the car. Futurists loved the “the beauty of speed...a roaring car. . .is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace,” proclaimed the Futurist Manifesto. The Futurists wanted to leave the past behind as quickly as the supercharged gasoline-fueled motorcars of their machine aesthetic would take them. One year after the Manifesto, a famous event involving a car would change history forever. The car is question was a 1911 Gräf & Stift Double Phaeton luxury convertible, made in Austria. This was the car in which the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his Czech wife Sophie were riding at the time of his assassination in Sarajevo on June 14, 1913, by a Bosnian Serb terrorist assassin, the infamous Gavrilo Princip. Franz Ferdinand’s open top Double Phaeton took a wrong turn and had to reverse itself as it drove near the Latin Bridge. The open car allowed Princip to run up to the vehicle and fire two shots at close range. The Archduke and his wife died minutes later. The result of the assassination was the Great War, whIch was followed by World War II. The Futurists had their war, and cars, tanks, airplanes bombs, speed, and they saw the beginning of the abolition of the old order. At the end of the conflict, 37 million people had been killed or wounded. World War II was responsible for the deaths of 70 million people, not even counting the wounded. Most of the Futurists were killed early in the Great War.
Stroll through a towering corridor of bamboo on a hot summer’s day and you can experience one of the best stress reducers of all time. The Asian temple-like sounds created by the hollow timpani rustling in the breeze wash over you like a giant wave. Pockets of cool air provide a serene spot in which to meditate or simply contemplate the simple beauty and myriad uses for bamboo. It was in these bamboo oases of emptiness, referred to as the philosopher’s womb, that the great teachers Buddha and LaoTzu retreated to pursue enlightenment. Throughout the ages, other would-be Buddhas and the seven sages of third century China developed from their experience of the hollow, but useful, nothingness of the bamboo, a model for the monasteries of Asia that grew and spread as fast as bamboo itself grows. A monastery became like bamboo––a place for a mind vacation, and to promote stillness of the heart and of the will. Patricia Spinelli 60
Ink painting by Sharron Frye
With more than 1500 documented uses for bamboo––from acupuncture needles to zithers––it’s not hard to understand the place of reverence bamboo holds in Chinese culture. Its versatility is limitless when you consider that its shoots are edible and nutritious; it’s strong enough to be used as building materials for both interior and exterior design; and before there was paper, the famous philosophical tracts of Lao-Tzu, known as the Tao Te Ching written more than 2500 years ago, were recorded on scrolls of bamboo and held together with string. Although today bamboo pulp is used to make paper, there are actually more economic and ecological uses for this family of grasses that can grow as much as four feet in a single day. When you get right down to it, bamboo can be used for almost anything. For ancient Asian cultures, bamboo was the staple of their lives, used for arrows, baskets, blowguns, boats, brushes, fences, fertilizer, rewood, furniture, lacquerware, lanterns, rafts, junks, sugar, waterwheels, and umbrellas; and in a round about way, bamboo was responsible for the introduction of silk to the Western world. Silk worms stashed in the hollow of a bamboo stalk and smuggled by two Persian monks across China to Constantinople in A.D. 522, ultimately led to the creation of the silk empires of Lyons and Genoa. It is generally accepted that all varieties of silk worms are descended from those worms which the Persian monks smuggled into Europe. Because of its resonant quality, bamboo is a superb choice for musical instruments including drums, xylophones, chimes, and utes. It also
makes fabulous y rods, which are constructed from bamboo cane which is rst split and then worked into angles and reassembled with a rod binding machine. As other cultures discover the wonders of bamboo, new uses are put into play, and one of the most recent uses is for the construction of bicycles. Because it is incredibly strong, lightweight, and rigid, bamboo is a superb material for bicycle frames. But cheap they are not. Exquisite in design and extraordinary in function, a bamboo bicycle can cost anywhere from $2000 to $4000. Bamboo is also now being used for skate boards and surf boards, replacing the traditional berglass with a material that is even lighter and stronger. Although bamboo has long been revered in Asian countries for many very good reasons, it has only been recently that the Western world has been made aware of this sustainable product in the form of bamboo sheets and clothing. It appears to be a trend that is here to stay. Besides being almost as soft as silk, it actually surpasses silk in quality and desirability for bed sheets because it has much more traction, thereby eliminating the slipping and sliding which was always a big criticism of silk sheet devotees. Bamboo sheets are lightweight and strong, and with proper care, they will last for decades. For people with allergies, an added perk of bamboo sheets is that they have anti-bacterial and hypoallergenic qualities, and bamboo’s ability to resist bacteria makes it an exceptional material for bedding in light of the recent disclosure of the growing problem with bedbugs. Its light weight makes bamboo sheets ideal for both summer and
winter; they keep you warm in winter and cool in summer. Besides its unique ability to insulate and to breathe, it also wicks perspiration, making it ideal for not only bedding, but sport clothes as well. As miraculous as bamboo is, its most important contribution to culture is that it embodies qualities that are germane to basic Taoist philosophy. Taoists teach that one should strive to be like bamboo: graceful, supple, resilient, upright, strong, receptive, and humble. One should bend with the wind, but not break. If one is supple like bamboo, it will be easy to return to being upright after adversity. For thousands of years, bamboo has been a symbol of beauty, moral integrity, loyalty, and resistance, and represents not only loneliness but elegance. For these reasons, bamboo has been a stalwart feature in Chinese paintings, calligraphy, and poetry. Poet Bai Juyi (A.D.772-846) extolled bamboo’s characteristics by declaring that its deep roots denoted resoluteness, its towering, upright stem represented honorability, its hollow interior represented modesty, and its ascetic exterior represented chastity. It’s easy to nd the nativized green and yellow striped bamboo in Costa Rica growing luxuriantly in groves around the countryside. Visit some towering stands of this bamboo and experience the same source of inspiration for wisdom used by the ancients who believed it was, indeed, noble to strive to be more like bamboo. • 61
A Bamboo Utopia by Jeff Garner Bamboo, it’s true, is nothing new, but something worthy of review.
Bamboo has been an important plant material for millennia. In the last several decades, however, it has come to the forefront with forward-looking architects, engineers, builders, and anyone interested in sustainable material sources. A little research––and there is an abundance of information about it––reveals why. Bamboo is a truly remarkable plant. It grows incredibly fast, up to several feet a day. Its soilretention characteristics make it ideal for reforestation and watershed protection. Its absorption and retention of atmospheric carbon make it a strong counter-measure to the production of greenhouse gases. Its strength and resilience are extraordinary. It is useful in nearly every part: the poles for building structures and furniture; the milled wood for ooring, plywood and utensils; the split wood for screens, baskets, lath and partitions; the ber for cloth and paper, the young shoots of many species are edible. The leftovers of production and used products are bio-degradable. All this, and it’s beautiful too. The concern, over the last forty or more years, for environmentally sustainable building materials and practices has given impetus to research and experimentation with bamboo as a structural component. Testing by a number of universities and research organizations worldwide has veried bamboo’s extraordinary characteristics. It has around twice the compression strength of concrete, and is approximately equal in tensile strength to steel. Its shear strength equals most woods used in construction. While its exibility reduces its usefulness as conventional beams or rafters, this limitation is easily overcome by designing with trusses or arches. Together, its exibility and lightness give bamboo a high seismic resistance. Compared to the major conventional building
Gene Warneke materials - milled lumber, concrete and steel - the environmental impact of bamboo production is also very impressive. Milled lumber, particularly plantation Hem-Fir, is also a renewable building resource. However, it requires some twenty to forty years from planting to harvest, at which time it exposes an expanse of clear-cut soil to erosion. The machinery to cut and transport it is less than Earth-friendly. Plantation bamboo, on the other hand, can reach rst harvest in as few as six years, and thereafter be harvested every two to three. Furthermore, it neither requires clearcutting, nor does it need a lumber mill to produce construction timber. As a result, structural bamboo timbers require about half the energy to produce as milled lumber.
Bamboo’s production energy requirement is only about ve percent of that for concrete, and closer to two percent of the requirement for steel. In 2002, the Journal of Forestry cited studies that estimated the energy consumption to build a conventional wood-framed house, including the production and transport of the materials, to be a little over 300 billion Joules (GJ, the International System unit of electrical, mechanical and thermal energy.) A typical concrete house - built of steel-reinforced concrete block walls with a metal roof - requires about 400 GJ, and a typical steel-framed house around 525 GJ. This certainly suggests that milled lumber is a ‘greener’ building material than concrete or steel. Thus, the lumber industry quite rightly pro-
motes its products as renewable and production-energy efcient. They use much the same rhetoric in their promotions as we are now seeing for bamboo. Weyerhauser, perhaps the largest tree-farming company in the world, touts the numbers of trees it plants each year, and its efforts to ‘go green’ with its manufacturing processes. Many of its efforts have netted certication as sustainable practices and products. Still, the rhetoric of Weyerhauser and its peers in conventional wood building products reads more like post-problem justication than realistic future sustainability. The evaluation of materials and their production for their environmental impact and sustainability is highly complex, however, and comparisons
must be made with care. The longevity of the building must be taken into account; how often must the materials be produced to maintain or replace the structure? Bamboo, with a structural life span of 30 to 40 years, falls short of the others, in particular concrete, which is near to permanent. Still, given the ease with which bamboo can be removed, reworked or replaced, this seems a small disadvantage, at least for residential construction. Also unlike concrete and steel, it will support fungi and vermin. In fact, it must be treated to be an effective structural component, as termites, beetles and fungi can destroy it in two or three years. This is an aspect very important to its environmental friendliness: it would be antithetical to develop a sustainable building product that required treatment by toxic chemicals, especially petrochemicals. Fortunately, it isn’t necessary to resort to such toxins. Traditionally bamboo was simply immersed in water for about six weeks. In Nepal, where this technique is still in practice, it is considered to extend the useful life of bamboo by ten years. Apparently, bamboo’s appeal to insects and fungi is owed mostly to the high starch content of its cells, which is to some extent leached out by soaking in water. There are impracticalities to this method, however, especially in large-scale harvesting operations. Other immersion methods, like those used to treat lumber are also problematic, as the hard, non-porous surface and physical structure of bamboo make it resistant to the penetration of liquids. Nripal Adhikary, co-director of the Adobe and Bamboo Research Institute (ABARI) in Kathmandu, Nepal, began a research project aimed precisely at this problem. He had been working with adobe construction in the southwestern U.S. and in Mongolia, seeking building techniques that were economically and technologically accessible. Faced with the wet climate and seismic activity of Nepal, however, adobe alone was not feasible. Bamboo offered a possible solution, but only if the rapid decay problem could be prevented. Several methods were tested, including the traditional immersion in water. The best results were achieved with a system known as Boucherie, in which the sap is displaced with a preservative, in this case a boron solution. The
solution is applied under pressure to the basal end of the culm, such that it is forced through the vascular system. The result is that the bamboo is treated from the inside, avoiding the difculties of immersion treatments. Elsewhere, mechanical pressure treatment systems and drying chambers for bamboo are being developed and used, and as with the experiments done by ABARI, boron compounds seem to be the popular choice for preserving bamboo. Boron preservation of wood extends beyond the realm of bamboo to that of conventional lumber and of logs for pre-fabricated log homes. Boron in not an anti-fungal poison, nor an insecticide. Neither is it toxic to the workers that apply it, nor the residents of a structure built with boron treated wood. It functions as a preservative by changing the pH of the treated wood, making it less appealing to fungi and to wood-boring insects. As it leaches from the treated wood into the environment, as all chemical treatments do to some extent, it is a benecial element in soil nutrition (provided there isn’t a pre-existing excess of boron, a rare condition.) Boron’s solubility, which make it all the more suitable for the Boucherie or pressure treatment of bamboo, does create a problem: it is easily leached from the wood, leaving it once again susceptible to attack by vermin and fungi. For this reason, researchers are working to nd a way to x the boron. For instance, CIRAD (a French agricultural development research organization) has been testing the effectiveness of compounds of borates and vegetable oils over the last several years, with considerable success in boron retention. Unfortunately, the addition of the oils adds to the ammability of the wood being treated. For this, the addition of ame retardant is being considered. In the case of bamboo, which is highly ammable due to its hollow structure, treatment with a compound that adds to its ammability is a serious consideration; one that would render it far inferior in comparison to concrete or steel. Nothing is perfect. Despite whatever shortcomings bamboo may have, the Utopian-minded ––there are many of us––see bamboo as a great boon to humanity’s struggle to balance sustainable economy with a minimal ecological impact. Such desires have launched many research and
development projects. As with ABARI in Nepal and CIRAD in France mentioned above, many private and public organizations are working to discover and test bamboo’s assets, and to solve the problems of its limitations. These projects range from standardization testing to plantations for offsetting greenhouse gasses to full-scale building programs, and represent both temperate and tropical regions the world over. One of the most successful of such projects is the National Bamboo Project of Costa Rica. Begun in the mid-1980s, it was a cooperative effort of the Costa Rican government, the United Nations Development Program, the Dutch government, and HABITAT. Its chief engineer was Dr. Jules Janssen, of Eindhoven University of Technology in Holland. A civil engineer, he has been involved in the testing and promotion of bamboo as a building material since as early as 1974, when the university was asked for assistance in a large-scale bamboo roong project in southeast Asia. In Costa Rica, he was responsible for the oversight of both plantation planting and construction of residential structures. Since it inception, the project has been very effective, resulting in the creation of several hundred homes and hundreds of hectares of plantation of Guadua (Guadua angustifolia), a large bamboo native to the Americas. The number of houses built and hectares planted vary depending on who is reporting, but they are consistently impressive. In the mid-1990s, the project took on a permanent life in the form of FUNBAMBU, a foundation chartered to see to the continuation of the project. Inspired by the success of Costa Rica’s National Bamboo Project, enthusiasm for bamboo has spread throughout Central America, and the bamboo timber industry is now very active, growing and exporting boron-treated bamboo construction timber to the U.S. and South America. Similarly, Dr. Kent Harries, professor of engineering at University of Pittsburgh has been studying and testing the remarkable building qualities of bamboo. Working with Tre Gai (Bambusa stenostachya), one of the large bamboos of Asia, he and his team have been involved in the building of a school and community center in Mungpoo, India, near the Nepalese border. His interest in bamboo is centered around its
excellent resistence to seismic activity, and he is working to forward its standardization with the recognized agencies of building materials certication, such as ASTM and the International Standards Organization. Such acceptance with the ofcial agencies of testing and standards is critical for bamboo to enter the mainstream of building practice. Dr. Janssen, like so many others, sees the lack of standards for including bamboo construction materials in building codes as a major obstacle to be overcome. He has been active in creating a methodology for testing and grading bamboo products such that specications of its strength and exibility, like those that exist for lumber and steel, can be created. The Utopian-minded see bamboo as a great boon to humanity’s struggle to balance sustainable economy with a minimal ecological impact. Progress is good. An ICBO (International Congress of Building Ofcials) approved test lab is underway at the University of Hawaii. The Association of Bamboo for Construction (ABC) whose purpose also includes the standardization of sustainable farming practices, is working toward code acceptance with the Wood Sciences Institute, which tests conventional timber products. The International Network of Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR), a fty-nation consortium formed by treaty in 1997, is formulating code standards for bamboo’s structural performance. Bamboo Technologies, a distributor of Tre Gai products from Viet Nam, has obtained ICC (International Code Conference) recognition of bamboo as a suitable material for residential structures. The ICBO Evaluation Service, a testing subsidiary of the ICBO, published the Acceptance Standards for Structural Bamboo in March of 2000. This publication presents standardization criteria in accord with the Uniform Building Code, the International Building Code, and the International Residential Code. Notably, it cites INBAR’s “Determination of Physical and Mechanical Properties of Bamboo (January 2000),” which was edited by Dr. Janssen. While it may not represent inclusion in specic building codes, it provides the necessary data for a building ofcial to approve the use of bamboo.
Full code acceptance is, in other words, close at hand. Change takes time, and the conventions of building practice are as calcied as the mortar between old brick. Many of the promoters of bamboo construction have run into more resistance than a mere lack of standards and codes. Bamboo is often ignored or outright eliminated as a choice for building because in much of the world it is a symbol of poverty. Even if bamboo escapes that prejudice, architects, engineers and builders are like any other body of production workers. It is easy to imagine their objections to new and very different design and building considerations resulting from an unconventional material. But the desire and necessity to nd sustainable solutions––from offset of greenhouse gases to renewable building resources to economically accessible and seismically safe habitat––appear to put bamboo in a good position to overcome such prejudices. What shall we expect of bamboo’s future? It’s simply too soon to say with any authority. No matter how bright that future may now appear, we have yet to discover, for lack of experience, the problems of large-scale production, processing and construction with bamboo. It certainly seems an encouraging alternative to Hem-Fir plantation wood, but it is still well within the troublesome paradigm of monoculture for harvest. The well documented ill effects of monoculture for harvest appear to be offset by bamboo’s rapid growth and soil retention qualities, but we would be wise to maintain a healthy cynicism. Our history is full of transplanted varieties run amok, varieties that were supposed to be the solution to one or many of the problems of human encroachment on the environment. Another question: What shall we ask of it? As remarkable and versatile as it is, we needn’t expect it to be the answer to all. It is probably not necessary to nd a total replacement for concrete and steel, and imagining the highway department calling for a freeway overpass of bamboo is difcult (although it conjures a marvelous image.) For the time being, while maintaining a cautious eye for possible troubles, we can remain enthusiastic for the promise bamboo shows.
By Hakim Bey (Peter Lamborn Wilson)
“...this time however I come as the victorious Dionysus, who will turn the world into a holiday...Not that I have much time...” --Nietzsche (from his last “insane” letter to Cosima Wagner)
Pirate Utopias THE SEA-ROVERS AND CORSAIRS of the 18th century created an “information network” that spanned the globe: primitive and devoted primarily to grim business, the net nevertheless functioned admirably. Scattered throughout the net were islands, remote hideouts where ships could be watered and provisioned, booty traded for luxuries and necessities. Some of these islands supported “intentional communities,” whole mini-societies living consciously outside the law and determined to keep it up, even if only for a short but merry life. Some years ago, I looked through a lot of secondary material on piracy hoping to nd a study of these enclaves--but it appeared as if no historian has yet found them worthy of analysis. (William Burroughs has mentioned the subject, as did the late
British anarchist Larry Law--but no systematic research has been carried out.) I retreated to primary sources and constructed my own theory, some aspects of which will be discussed in this essay. I called the settlements “Pirate Utopias.” Recently, Bruce Sterling, one of the leading exponents of Cyberpunk science ction, published a near-future romance based on the assumption that the decay of political systems will lead to a decentralized proliferation of experiments in living: giant worker-owned corporations, independent enclaves devoted to “data piracy,” Green-Social-Democrat enclaves, Zerowork enclaves, anarchist liberated zones, etc. The information economy which supports this diversity is called the Net; the enclaves (and the book’s title) are Islands in the Net. The medieval Assassins founded a “State” which consisted of a network of remote mountain valleys and castles, separated by
that one cannot struggle for what one does not know; and the heart revolts at a universe so cruel as to visit such injustices on our generation alone of humankind. thousands of miles, strategically invulnera- To say that “I will not be free till all ble to invasion, connected by the informa- humans (or all sentient creatures) are tion ow of secret agents, at war with all free” is simply to cave in to a kind of governments, and devoted only to knowlnirvana-stupor, to abdicate our humanity, edge. Modern technology, culminating in to dene ourselves as losers. the spy satellite, makes this kind of autonomy a romantic dream. No more pirate I believe that by extrapolating from past islands! In the future the same techand future stories about “islands in the nology-- freed from all political controlnet,” we may collect evidence to suggest -could make possible an entire world of that a certain kind of “free enclave” is autonomous zones. But for now the connot only possible in our time but also cept remains precisely science ction-existent. All my research and speculation pure speculation. has crystallized around the concept of the TEMPORARY AUTONOMOUS ZONE (hereafter Are we who live in the present doomed abbreviated TAZ). Despite its synthesizing never to experience autonomy, never to force for my own thinking, however, I don’t stand for one moment on a bit of land intend the TAZ to be taken as more than ruled only by freedom? Are we reduced an essay (“attempt”), a suggestion, almost either to nostalgia for the past or nostalgia a poetic fancy. Despite the occasional Ranfor the future? Must we wait until the terish enthusiasm of my language, I am not entire world is freed of political control trying to construct political dogma. In fact, before even one of us can claim to know I have deliberately refrained from dening freedom? Logic and emotion unite to conthe TAZ--I circle around the subject, ring demn such a supposition. Reason demands off exploratory beams. In the end, the TAZ is almost self-explanatory. If the phrase became current it would be understood.
e are living in postmodern times that have been characterized as the era in which there reigns, not surprisingly, an incredulity regarding grand metas-narratives–– the big stories that try to explain how things work. The phrase “grand meta-narratives” may be obscure, but you know only too well what they are. You have heard these big stories––those explanations that purport to put the human world in order and make sense of things. The trend is toward disbelief.
Here is a list of those meta-narratives: Progress, Growth, Human (especially male) Mastery, God, Church and Religion, War, the Enlightenment (and even Reason itself), Nation-State, the Machine, Domination of Nature, the Corporation, Capitalism and the Free Market, Communism, Socialism, the West. I may have left out some. Maybe all these big narratives can be grouped under the grandest of the grand metanarratives of all–– that of Utopia and its supporting ideologies.
If you are an expatriate from the Global North now living in Central America, or anywhere else for that matter, and even if you are an expatriate only of desire, and haven’t yet embarked from where you presently live, your motives for the move probably include an assortment of various failures of meta-narratives that have filtered down to the scale of your life. Which ones? Make your selection from the menu of offerings at the Restaurant of Big Explanations. Maybe there are items in your laundry list of reasons for leaving connected to the horrific things done in your name such as war, invasions, state terrorism, assassinations, and other nefarious tactics of statecraft. Or maybe your triggers were the deep political and ideological underpinnings that show up in militarism, imperialism, criminal corporate/political symbiosis (technically called fascism, although the word is overused and misused), illusory “representative” democracy, and flat-out political and societal corruption in your natal land. Maybe it’s not just the hypocritical and ludi-
crous things you have heard in political speeches and the debates of congresses and parliaments that convinced you to buy your ticket to the Expat Express. The powerful, controlling domains of churches, religions, and theologies give comfort to so many yet are easily abandoned when the endemic hypocrisy, ineptitude, moral lassitude, and criminal corruption pop up every day or so. (The best current example is the Catholic Church hierarchy’s deep involvement in worldwide pedophilia and sexual misconduct and criminal cover-ups, now even tied directly to the current Pope). There is seldom a need to expatriatize oneself because of bad religion, corrupt churches, or irrelevant theologies, but it is part of a general disaffection. In the United States, the fraudulent national historical mythologies could be compelling factors in the jettisoning of connections to the Auld Sod. The constant cheerleading about America’s greatness and its exceptionality--the city shining on a hill, the New Jerusalem, the greatest country the world has ever seen, and other fabrications--is embarrassing in light of the plain facts. Does your expat’s portfolio contain a dossier of dissatisfaction as a result of failures of insurance company-controlled “healthcare,” or failed retirement plans, or corporate malfeasance, or crooked banks, and a rancid banking and monetary system, chorused by constant whining and threats of “conservatives” wanting to dismantle social safety nets and entitlement programs, especially social security? Maybe the problems are deeper and harder to pin down because they are so embedded in life as the Americans know it: hypergrowth of suburban cities full of ultimately shoddy, pseudomansions scattered carelessly in the hinterlands where once family farms stood, and supported by the costly, long-distance hauling of supplies and food, requiring long commutes in inefficient cars with rising gasoline prices. This kind of ubiquitous American landscape was built during the second half of the 20th century on cheap oil. We thought we were clever and smart, but it was only the availability of easily-
extracted oil that gave us such an extravagant, bloated lifestyle. Tied to the domination of our lives by oil and the giant corporations is the food we eat and the rapacious, unsustainable practices used to grow it through the use of poisons and oilbased fertilizers. It would take a massive book to explain it all, and many have already been written, but it is enough to say in summary that our food supply is not sustainable and not healthy. The growing practices of factory farming of the agribusiness giants, genetic susceptibility to pathogens, genetically-modified and corporate-owned plant genomes, and the use of toxic pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides is ruining agriculture and destroying lives. Well, the party is over. Everything will change and the change will not be pretty. The solemnly-repeated meta-narratives have claimed to be able to make sense out of the complexity of the lived human universe. The problem is that they have been constructed by those in power. Under the sway of dominant narratives enforced by powerful institutions, few could have resisted. But we have witnessed the crumbling of the grand narratives–– crumbling, but not yet completely crumbled. The battles of the titans are still raging as one by one the modern giants fall. The daily headlines, news reports, and especially our own wrenching experiences chronicle the latest skirmishes. As we pick our way through the still-smoking, corpse-littered landscape of the battle scene where the giants lie broken, and wonder what being postmodern means, it becomes obvious that not everything postmodern is good. Yet our present postmodern condition might mean the possibility of the progressive re-emergence of local, human-scale communities intertwined sustainably with fuller and wider natural communities of animals and plants, with cultural and biological diversity, and celebrating difference. That would be an improvement.
These are radical principles that literally allow the full community of the living to suffer less and even live happier lives. This is probably as much utopia as you can hope for. These are the counternarratives of postmodern paradise-the possibility of living and writing your own life story.
Being freed from the tyranny of grand metanarratives leaves us feeling giddy. The prisoners escape from jail. They run and hide. Where do they go next? Are they being followed? How long do they have? The stories of the postmodern landscapes might need to be immediately situational, provisional, and just good enough.
All is not rosy. Those conditions that impelled and allowed you to have become your own unique blend of expatriate, refugee, émigré, pilgrim, wanderer, nomad, exile, explorer, outcast, adventurer, and traveler through the postmodern landscapes have been derived from the privilege of living in the Global North. We are the selfmarginalized who are also the privileged ones. Our exile is voluntary. Maybe there was some specific desperation that was the tipping point of your self-inflicted marginalization and expatriation, but it was nothing like the millions in the world today on the move for reasons of ethnic violence and harm, drought, floods, famine, natural disasters, and pestilence. Those are your fellow expats who stare at you with sunken eyes and gaunt looks. They won’t be building a house in Costa Rica. What do sincere postmodern people do about the wreckage left over from the crumbling of the grand narratives? Maybe we should look to the Haitians for a moral tale.
The big, failing and failed narratives sucked up power and went hypertrophic. There is a proper scale for everything. Humans are obviously partial to the human scale. Anything much bigger turns monstrous and machine-like. Maybe all we really have from which to weave our lives and stories are our families and friends, our adopted familes, our small-scale communities, villages, gardens, animals, plants, and environment. How do we do it? What is solid? What endures, if anything? What makes us happy? These are the big questions of our small, local lives. We have traveled to the margins? What do we do there? The task of living and rewriting counternarratives is how we make the possibilities of paradise. The answer is educating ourselves and becoming cultural workers to remake our own culture and reinhabit wherever it is we live.
What can our postmodern counternarratives be? What stories do we want to tell about ourselves?
Let’s not put any labels on it, or try to make it into a new grand narrative. Our small stories will work just fine.
“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrari-wise; what it is it wouldn’t be, and what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?”
--Alice, in Wonderland
ales of expats living in foreign countries dubbed “paradise” might very well be a modern version of Alice in Wonderland replete with beautiful gardens, strange smiling characters, unintelligible language, and societal customs that are rarely and barely understood. The uninitiated expat, after falling down the rabbit hole and then crawling through the tiny door to find himself–– in this case in Costa Rica–– will be greeted with nearly as many surprises as Alice, for it cannot be denied that Paradise is unlike any other place, right? Paradiseis a cross-cultural concept, with references to this mythical place in every religion. It is generally accepted that
goes back to 5th and 6th Century Persia where the literal translation meant a beautiful garden enclosed by walls to protect you from the outside world – a mini-heaven on earth. Since 9/11, Paradise has become part of the collective consciousness because we’ve been exposed to the promise of Paradise as a weapon in the Jihadis’ aggressive brainwashing and recruitment of young men to their suicide squads. Rivers of milk and honey, pastoral valleys, and of course, umpteen beautiful virgins who await them upon martyrdom, are a far cry from the Paradise our expats are seeking.
Paradise is the opposite of the miserylled existence of the real world. It is a place of contentment, peace, and happiness, and is often used interchangeably with Utopia or the Garden of Eden. In other words, Paradise represents that perfect state prior to the introduction of evil. The etymology of the word “Paradise”
Just Google “Paradise Costa Rica” and more than three million references, all capitalizing on the “P” word are listed, including almost any service you could ever want: restaurants, hotels, real estate companies, weddings, travel packages, vacation rentals, maps, blogs, tours, boat trips,
honeymoon spots, land development, and photography. There’s no denying that the word “paradise” is an innitely marketable commodity primarily because it conjures up images of white sand beaches with scantily clad, beautiful young women, swaying coconut palms, warm and caressing trade winds, magnicent sunsets, lush tropical forests, exotic
owers, fruits, monkeys, and birds, and most importantly, a life free of stress and strain. And in Costa Rica, there’s that special enticement of eternal spring-like weather, at least in the Central Valley. Who wouldn’t want to experience those things? Judging by immigration statistics, a lot of people do. The last ofcial immigration count was taken in 2006 according to “The REAL Costa Rica Blog” website. Their headcount revealed that there were 289,237 legal residents (foreigners) living in Costa Rica, of which only 8,400 are
US citizens. Approximately 200,000 are Nicaraguans who have come here for job opportunities in a country that hasn’t been torn asunder by war and American-backed political shenanigans. It’s impossible to know the exact number of perpetual American tourists who are not included in that 8,400 headcount – the ones who live here on 90 day visas, leave the country for a new entry stamp, and return to resume their residency below the radar of any statistics kept by immigration. The remaining population of expats is comprised of Europeans, Canadians, and South Americans. Unfortunately, there are no accurate statistics on the exact numbers of expats who often arrive with lock stock and barrel, and bail out within the rst two years, vowing never to leave their homeland again. Numbers tossed about are anywhere from forty to seventy percent, while others swear it is only a measly twenty-ve percent. Whatever the true stat, it’s still a sizable number of people who have become disenchanted with Paradise for one reason or another.
The gringuitica.com website boasts this heading: “Road to Paradise, or Path to Hell?” Either way, almost everyone knows someone who checked out of Hotel Paradise within those rst two years after having their hearts set on spending the rest of their lives here. What happened to shatter their dreams? The most oft-cited reasons for them to skirl in horror on their way out of country are crime in general (Costa Rica is safer than many places in the US), having been a victim of crime (which
often includes being swindled by unscrupulous real estate agents), bureaucrazy (not a misspelling – read Allen Dickinson’s article), racism (expats swear they get charged more than Ticos), increased cost of living (duplicating their gringo lifestyle is expensive), language barrier (many expats speak no Spanish at all), missing the grandkids (even though they rarely saw them), and just plain culture shock (stranger in a strange land syndrome). So why do they come here in the rst place?
Read the directions and directly you will be directed in the right direction.
--spoken by The Doorknob
The expats come to Paradise, rst and foremost, for nancial considerations and the desire for a simpler and less stressful life than the one they had in the States. Websites and bulletin boards claim that it’s possible to live in Paradise on a meager pension. When you consider that the average American only gets a little over a thousand dollars a month in Social Security, nding a place to live well on that amount of money is indeed a quest. But beyond the nancial reasons for moving to another country, there are more human and emotional reasons that drive people to uproot themselves to travel to and live in a environment so unlike the place that they call home.
Lise P. or “Flower Lise” as she is known to her friends in Costa Rica, lives in the Puriscal area. When asked what brought her to Costa Rica, she eagerly shared her
wonderful memories. “My father was a ower grower rst in Northern Europe and then in the United States. My happiest childhood memories are of the time I spent with him in his greenhouses, as he explained how plants grew healthier and produced superior leaves and owers when we were able to reproduce the climate of their native lands. His greenhouses had ideal humidity, temperature, light and combination of vegetation, as well as a few toads, lizards, and birds to duplicate the tropical origins. He won many prizes for his pointsettias, cyclamens, lantana, and various ferns and Dracaenas. “Many years after my father’s death, my husband was invited to participate in a senior’s soccer tournament in Costa Rica. As soon as we disembarked in San Jose and walked across the tarmac, I felt as if the very air embraced me and bid me ‘welcome home’. We stayed at the Best Western Irazu where the garden amazed me with the familiar plants and the scent of warm, wet earth. During a drive through La Garita and Atenas, we admired the living fences. I said to my husband, “ If I could retire in a place where one can put a Hibiscus branch in the ground and watch it grow, I would feel that I was in Paradise while still alive! “During the next ten years, we researched many of the regions of Costa Rica, and learned that the coffee growing regions have the healthiest climates for us. We have a large family
with whom we wish to spend as much time as possible and consequently, we have acquired a house and guest house with a pool and playground for the family . . . and a large garden for me. Yes, we have indeed been blessed with Paradise on earth and I hope we can continue to enjoy it for many years.” “Flower Lise’s” quest for Paradise is indeed heart-warming. During my ethno-
can’t really buy the land; it’s more like a 25-year renewable lease. That works for those of us who are optimistic, trusting, and spiritual, but big businesses can’t get their investors on board with the idea that there is no title. Despite that, it is modern yet rustic and charming at the same time. My backyard looks like I am in Hawaii for a fraction of the cost. The people are sweet, friendly, trusting, and many speak some English. I don’t feel that anyone is jealous here, and the expats are not snobby. Most are open-minded Zen-types. Many are vegetarians and most are up everyday to enjoy the sunrise. This is my vision of Paradise.” Teresa V’s concept of paradise was similar. She said:
logical research among the Expat tribe, I discovered dozens of happy ones nestled in all areas of Costa Rica, from the cooler mountains where the best coffee is grown to the tropical, humid coasts. With more than seventy micro-climates there is a spot to suit almost everyone’s needs. Settled in these unique areas are other expats with similar mindsets and philosophies. Victoria, who just bought a house in Playa Zancudo, also believes she has found Paradise. Victoria said: “There are no big hotels or franchises here, primarily because you
“Paradise did not gure in it at all in the beginning. I reluctantly moved here for my husband’s business, but I stayed because it just might be a little bit of Paradise in that at the very least we eat breakfast and dinner together almost every day, we spend weekends together, and we enjoy the outdoors. I don’t have to spend all my energy cleaning house because I have a parttime housekeeper; I walk the dogs almost every day, and I have the time to learn yoga. I’ve made good friends from all over, and I have taught myself to cook, bead, and crochet. I have time to read many good books, and while I could have done these things in Southern California, the fact is, I didn’t.”
Not everyone moves here because it is their rst choice. Costa Rica often becomes the destination by default because it reminds the future expat of someplace they would rather live, but can’t afford. As residency and nancial requirements in other ideal retirement spots become more stringent, places they hadn’t considered before now look enticing. A thread on one of the bulletin boards declared: “Looks like Hawaii, but cheaper!” The writer goes on to say: “I rst noticed in 1991 how certain areas in CR are similar to Hawaii. I am happy that CR is more modern now with better roads, satellite, and wi-, but I pray it never loses its charm or innocence.” A few hours later came this reply: “I noticed that too, and that’s a BIG part of why I am planning this relocation. I lived in Hawaii for three years, and had planned on returning on Social Security, but times and economics have changed and I can’t afford Hawaii. Upon examination, CR looks even better.”
And so they come. Young ones, old ones, rich ones, poor ones, even potential expats with an entrepreneurial spirit who want to start a new life, or a new family, away from the former pressures of life in the United States. Sometimes the old ones come to take advantage of the lowcost, high-quality medical services that are available for the nal stage of their life. The young couples often come with the specic intent of dropping an “anchor baby” to be born soon after their arrival to guarantee their access to legal residency. Regardless of their age
or socio-economic circumstances, they arrive with suitcases full of hopes and dreams, but not everyone’s experience of expatriation is as positive as the stories I cited.
When I rst began working on this article, I met a woman (whom I will call “Jane”) in a local expat hang-out. Jane was middle-age, attractive, welleducated, and had arrived just a few weeks before. I rst encountered her as she was busy searching the web for English-speaking schools in Costa Rica that might employ her. She held a degree in English so she assumed that nding a use for her skills would be relatively easy. Her enthusiasm was boundless; she was sure that she had made the right choice to come to Costa Rica. She’d had no luck nding a job in the States, so why not take her chances here? Several of us pointed out that even if she did nd a teaching job, she probably wouldn’t earn enough to totally support herself. By her own admission, she had come to Costa Rica with only a small amount of money, had no pension or other resources on which she could rely, but nonetheless she was hopeful. She’d met many other expats who had shown her incredible kindness and this bolstered her idea that everything was going to be just ne. A week later, the shock of her suicide by gunshot resounded through the expat community. Because none of us had known her for very long, or very well, we could only speculate what drove her to such a desperate act. In retrospect, she was
one of the expats who came unprepared– –not enough resources, no local language skills, and nothing left in the States to return to if it didn’t work out here. After writing about this incident for a website dealing with life in Costa Rica, I received a half dozen emails from expats who also had known someone who had committed suicide here in Paradise. They lamented how the expat had taken up drinking after moving here, had isolated themselves or never really integrated
a barrio near San José. The nuns heard the gunshot and, suspecting a robbery in progress, immediately locked the doors and called the police. Upon their arrival, the police discovered a middle-aged man with a gunshot wound to the head. He carried no identication, but was believed to be a foreigner. Somewhere in Paradise, another expat community is asking all those questions once again.
icine and government monopolies. If you aren’t patient, stay home; and for God’s sake, don’t move to Costa Rica if you are broke and poor! Don’t move to Costa Rica if you think it is the easy way to solve all your problems; and lastly, don’t move to Costa Rica if you are from my old neighborhood. You are one of the reasons I am moving to Costa Rica!
At least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.
Phil Baker, author of Costa Rica Now: A Travel Guide to Living and Owning in Paradise, has been mopping up the messes expats nd themselves in for years. He penned this book as a way to keep people from repeating some of the mistakes he’s seen.
CostaRicaLiving is a Yahoo group with nearly 6,000 members, most of whom opine on a regular basis about, well, living in Costa Rica. A thread caught my eye. It was titled “Fill in the blank.” The blank came after this prelude: “Don’t move to Costa Rica if. . .” into a community, or simply became depressed because Costa Rica just wasn’t what they had hoped it to be. Most who sent me these stories echoed the familiar refrain: What clues did they miss? What should they have been looking for? Should they have been more vigilant or curious when they didn’t see that expat for a few days or weeks? Should they have been friendlier or more welcoming? The questions swirl for months, but nobody really has a answer. Just recently I logged on to the online English language web newspaper AMCostaRica to see a headline announcing that a man had committed suicide inside a church in 74
Some of the responses were comical or tongue-in-cheek, while others were just good advice or cautionary, such as: Don’t move to Costa Rica if you are paranoid of home invasions and/or getting robbed, or if your relationship with your signicant other has not already been tested. There are many divorces and separations at the hands of the pressure cooker of Costa Rica. Don’t move to Costa Rica if you are not comfortable living in a semi-socialist, left-of-center nation that has no military and does have national health insurance. Likewise, don’t move here if you want to escape socialized med-
“I believe that my book can really inuence those who are a t for Costa Rica to come and check it out. It will discourage those who have a Paradise illusion from moving here after they have visited, or maybe even before they come. As a consultant, I have saved my clients literally millions of dollars; I have recovered property from squatters, titled property for which the owners unknowingly only had possession rights, and saved estates from long probate nightmares. The experience I gained from personal legal battles, subsequent consulting, and years of traveling, living or investing in Costa Rica, created the information presented in my book, which is designed to keep others from making costly mistakes.”
Good advice. If I listened earlier, I wouldn’t be here. But that’s just the trouble with me. I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it.
--Alice Phil’s book lays out the three most common mistakes made by the starryeyed expat wanting to own a piece of Paradise. Although it would seem that some things are just common sense, the pervasive joke among the longtime residents of Paradise is that many an expat arrives in country having seemingly left their brain in the overhead bin. One of the three biggest mistakes they make, says Baker, is,
“...buying in a beautiful area and then nding another area better suited to their needs. It makes them wish they had better researched the country’s many diverse regions. The rst section of my book, Costa Rica’s Six Unique Regions, helps prevent that mistake by offering a regional guide that compares each region by weather, access, beauty, infrastructure, and amenities.” Winding up in an area totally unsuited to your needs or life patterns will denitely exacerbate the stress most people feel from living in a foreign country, and if the expat is lacking basic language skills, the simplest task can become monumental. Baker adds,
“The second most common mistake is moving to Costa Rica without having a clue about its culture. Sure, it’s enchanting to live with people and customs to which you relate, but it’s disenchanting if you don’t resonate with the people and their unwritten social rules.”
my book, Costa Rica Owner’s Manual prevents this from happening, provided you heed the advice. It is designed to help you make a seamless purchase and learn how to deal with the professionals involved.”
Another popular real estate guide titled How to Buy Real Estate Without Twas brilig, and the slithy toves Losing Your Camisa, was written by Did gyre and gimble in the wabe: longtime, and seemingly happy resiAll mimsy were the borogroves, dent and nancial adviser, Scott Oliver. And the mome raths outgrabe “Camisa” is Spanish for shirt! For Jabberwocky some expats, not only do they lose A Poem found by Alice their shirts, but everything else, too! in Through the Looking-Glass Scott’s book will save the uninitiated expat from many common, and expenThe third problem area is when you think sive, mistakes. you are buying a property, but in fact you are buying a problem. Like Alice, not everyone takes advice. Even their own. Phil Baker would “This mistake is most costly,” Phil prefer to be in his meditation garden says, “because you will be battling in by the river, landscaping, or cooking a foreign land, using a foreign legal for his 10 year old, rather than extricating expats from their entanglements in Paradise. But he just can’t seem to say no to those who are in desperate straits. Baker feels very strongly that referring to Costa Rica as “Paradise” creates images which are impossible to live up to. “Once you have conjured up a 21stcentury utopia, you must then reconcile the myth with reality. In the end, most people will nd it lacking. Images are dangerous creatures because they have no faults.” system written and practiced in a foreign language. The third section of
In a personal e-mail, he told me, “If you are of my generation, then
you know Bob Dylan well. Or do you? Yes, you think you do from his freewheeling tambourine in time lyrics and rhymes, but you don’t really know him at all. He is a businessman who created an image for his product (music). He was one of the rst to admit that his image was a business asset: a marketing tool. As a result of the marketing, people conjured up an altruistic 60’s revolutionary leader, and it sold well. The same goes for Paradise.” In the movie “Collateral,” the taxi driver had a postcard of a tropical island on his visor, and when he had a moment, he would pull down the visor to look at it and mentally go there. It was an escape, even if only for a few seconds. Maybe he dreamed of owning a piece of that Paradise one day. On a sobering note, judges in Costa Rica are not sympathetic to people who claim they were fooled by salesmen. Baker warns,
the same with Paradise. People don’t want to know the truth and with a few exceptions, Paradise is the same as any other place. The expat would rather maintain their unrealistic image of the country because this image serves them well when they are in the doldrums of daily life. In reconciling Paradise, it comes down to do you really want to know?” Andrew Mastrandonas, owner of the Boomers in Costa Rica tour, generally agrees with Baker’s assessment. “Peoples’ expectations of Paradise look a lot different on the Internet because oftentimes they are only reading about the good things. It’s important to visit Costa Rica––or any Paradise– –several times to see what it’s really like, particularly by meeting others who’ve already made the move.”
aradise is not for everyone. For some, it is/was a form of Hell, but for many others it has lived up to their expectations, and they can’t imagine living anywhere else. For those who ignore the warnings, their lives will surely become curiouser and curiouser. Knowing Paradise, with all its warts and limitations, also means you must know yourself, know the culture, and know the language to truly understand what Paradise is . . . and what it is not. --P.S. •
“In Paradise, it’s expected that salesmen to spin their words to sell a product, which usually boils down to withholding information or out and out lying.” Given the expats’ own interpretations of marketing and their ignorance about the land, the law, and its people who create the myth of Paradise, it takes time to learn to deal with the hypocrisy and the little lies told daily in Costa Rica. Baker thinks it is actually a more realistic view of life. “We accept lies and hypocrisy as part of daily living in Paradise.”
Alice goes through the Looking Glass
According to Baker, “Dylan was in it for the money and so is Paradise.” With a tinge of disappointment in his voice, he adds, “After I read a biography about Dylan, knowing about the artist tarnished the art. It’s
Illustrations by John Tenniel from various editions of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, by Lewis Carroll.
rillaba, brumeando negro, el sol; agiliscosos giroscaban los limazones banerrando por las váparas lejanas; mimosos se fruncían los borogobios mientras el momio rantas murgiblaba. ¡Cuídate del Galimatazo, hijo mío! ¡Guárdate de los dientes que trituran y de las zarpas que desgarran! ¡Cuídate del pájaro Jubo-Jubo y que no te agarre el frumioso Zamarrajo! Valiente empuñó el gladio vorpal; a la hueste manzona acometió sin descanso; luego, reposóse bajo el árbol del Tántamo y quedóse sesudo contemplando… Y así, mientras cavilaba firsuto. ¡Hete al Galimatazo, fuego en los ojos, que surge hedoroso del bosque turgal y se acerca raudo y borguejeando!! ¡Zis, zas y zas! Una y otra vez zarandeó tijereteando el gladio vorpal! Bien muerto dejo el monstruo, y con su testa ¡volvióse triunfante galompando! ¡¿Y haslo muerto?! ¡¿Al Galimatazo?! ¡Ven a mis brazos, mancebo sonrisor! ¡Qué fragarante día! ¡Jujurujúu! ¡Jay, jay! Carcajeó, anegado de alegría. Pero brumeaba ya negro el sol; agiliscosos giroscaban los limazones banerrando por las váparas lejanas; mimosos se fruncían los borogobios mientras el momio rantas necrofaba…
Jaime de Ojeda. A través del espejo y lo que Alicia encontró al otro lado, Alianza Editorial, Madrid, 1973.
Allen Dickinson “Costa Rica’s ....Uncertainty Avoidance Index, indicate(s) the society’s low level of tolerance for uncertainty. In an effort to minimize or reduce this level of uncertainty, strict rules, laws, policies, and regulations are adopted and implemented. The ultimate goal ... is to control everything in order to eliminate or avoid the unexpected. As a result of this high Uncertainty Avoidance characteristic, the society does not readily accept change and is very risk adverse.” Dr. Geert Hofstede, Maastricht University
Maybe one of the biggest problems expats have while living Costa Rica is dealing with the basic differences between the Latin culture and the North American or European ones. Of course there are similarities too. But one outstanding and important difference in Costa Rica, and all the Latin countries, is what seems like the perpetual need for more and more paperwork. Inevitably you always need one more document, form, or other piece of information needed to complete some personal, business, or legal action. The quintessential example can be seen when trying to open a bank account. Applicants are required to provide all kinds of what (to us Gringos) are unrelated and unneeded documents before we can actually put our money in their bank. In our ingrained Gringo mindset, we can’t understand why. To us, many of the items demanded by the bank are pointless and seemingly do nothing to aid in achieving the desired results. This causes us endless aggravation. For expats to be comfortable and assimilate into a new culture, it is important to
comprehend not only what the often obvious differences are, but to also try to understand why they exist, because when we know why things happen as thy do, we can then deal with them better. And then hopefully some of the irritation goes away. To aid understanding, I’ll attempt to explain why one cultural difference between the Tico and Gringo cultures exists. There are many obvious differences between the Latin and North American cultures that are connected to a different style of thinking about risk and surprises. The more paperwork problem comes from this difference. What does it mean to say that we have different thinking styles? Simply put, Gringos are predominately results oriented, whereas the Latin American cultures are generally process oriented. (Note: For ease of writing, I’ll lump all North Americans and Europeans under the Gringo label, though it’s not accurate historically.) In practical application, this thinkingstyldifference is exemplied when Gringos think and say things like: “I don’t care how you get it done, just get it done!” For us, the results are paramount. Latins, on the other hand, are much more focused on the process. For them it’s more like: It doesn’t matter how complicated it is or how long it takes, to avoid any surprises, all the steps of the designated process must be completed. To Latins, foreknowledge of an outcome is highly desirable As the quote at the beginning of this article points out, this difference in perspective arises out of a differing ability to accept risks. Not knowing all the possible consequences of something in advance is, to a Gringo, a natural part of our results-
oriented thinking. Latins are more culturally bound to want to know the results of some action before starting the process. To achieve that certainty, they rely on the security of correct procedure. To the Latin way of thinking, correct process prevents unexpected surprises. Put another way, the process style of thinking dictates that if an outcome is to be consistently predicted, and results achieved without surprises, the proscribed process must be consistently followed ––even if some of the steps serve no easily evident purpose. Obviously then, the two cultures handle the risk factors of things very differently. In Gringo cultures in order to deal with unexpected consequences, we engage in something called critical thinking. Critical thinking is where one “...employs not only logic, but broad intellectual criteria such as clarity, credibility, accuracy, precision, relevance, depth, breadth, signicance and fairness” to reach a decision (Wikipedia). In other words, in doing critical thinking we consider the desired outcome and devise a system that addresses the most likely procedure to obtain those results. If we nd that system doesn’t address some unplanned-for result, we simply use our knowledge and insight to improvise; adapting the parts of the system that t, discarding those that don’t, and/or inventing a new method, on the spot, to deal with any surprising outcome. The overriding objective is to get whatever the task is, done. Our Latin counterparts have developed a different approach, one that attempts to reduce all the possible unexpected outcomes ahead of time by creating a predesigned process that can include a very complex and involved set of rules and
requirements. The expectation that the results will be consistently predictable is based on the assumption that if the designated process is followed exactly, there are no surprises. The downside of the process oriented system is that when an unexpected variable occurs, it can cause the process to come to a halt while a completely new process is devised. On the positive side, one of the benets of process style thinking is the building of consensus and, therefore, a buy-in from a group or community members, That makes for a more orderly and predictable society. Another characteristic is that people operating within the process system don’t have to do as much spontaneous problem solving. I have spoken to a Gringo who is a highly qualied expert who has a couple of Ph.Ds in his eld. He does consulting work with various high ofcials in governments all over the world, including here in Costa Rica. He tells me that he is most frustrated trying to accomplish some change in the Latin American countries because of their reluctance to “think outside their box” and not do critical thinking. He says that during his consultations, when an unforeseen conict is encountered, or when someone throws in a variable not already inside the established box, his clients are often at a complete loss to deal with it. Frequently, the only way they can approach an unanticipated dilemma is to either ignore the problem or go back to the beginning and redesign the process so that it includes the answer to the new problem. In my friend’s opinion, the cultural drive to use the process style of thinking is so strong that it can inhibit the thinkers ability to deal with new problems. And that can limit rapid progress and slow all nature of things down to a crawl. Additionally, the reliance on process char-
acteristics of having contingencies, rules, laws, procedures, and requirements built in to every transaction can create some very ungainly and inefcient situations. The lack of the critical reex can even be fatal in some circumstances. It’s been suggested that an inhibited ability to think critically may be one of the reasons for the high trafc fatality rate in Costa Rica. The argument is that the trait of relying on an
established process (ash headlights, blow horn) inhibits the ability to respond rapidly to an emergency situation. Emergencies are outside the normal process and, therefore people freeze-up when faced with the stress of a potential accident. Why this cultural style prevails may be difcult to know. Maybe it’s a result of the Spanish-based system of law that is used throughout much of Latin America, or
maybe it’s of some other origin. But, what ever the underlying cause, if you want to avoid the frustration created by this cultural difference in thinking styles, you need to know that it is operating. And although it may not appear to be strictly necessary to you, it is important to the Latin mind. no matter that it consumes extra time, effort, or inconvenience for someone. That’s just the way it is.
In the end, it doesn’t make any difference why the thinking style differences exist: If we choose to live in a Latin culture it’s a part of what we have to deal with. Understanding and accepting it, not ghting it, can make our lives a lot easier. Do not think that I am being critical of the process style of thinking. Please be advised that I am not. In fact, it is my position that the Gringo problem is spend way too much time and energy thinking only about the results we want and want now! Costa Ricans have a longer than average life expectancy–– the country is 54th on the list of 224 countries listed in the CIA World Factbook for 2009. This high ranking may be due in part, to the lack of stress that comes from living a life with the reduced risk of surprises. Maybe Gringos would be better off to incorporate more of the Latin style of thinking into their lives. Accept that there are processes, let them take their course, and let the devil (the results) take the hindmost. I think that by adopting a respect for the process style of thinking, and the personal and social benets it can bring, we will, in the long run, have more peace––and thus allow us to more fully integrate ourselves into the communities and the culture in which we have chosen to live. After all, isn’t one of the reasons for living here to get out of the rat-race and live a more relaxed, stress-free life? The Latin style can free us from worrying about unrealistic and stressful immediate goals. If we can adopt that approach, maybe our lives will be a little more fun, and we’ll enjoy more of the joys of life that were passing us by. That’s part of why I’m here. • Illustrations by Domenico Gnoli, 1968. Bestiario Moderno, or, Cos’è un mostro L’opera grafica di Domenico Gnoli, Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, 1985.
Ethelyn Boustrophedon colonies in the Americas, “...every aspect of colonial life down to the most minute and insignificant detail was regulated by a voluminous body of paternalistically-inspired legislation issued by the council. Viceroys and o find the source of the process-based governors were under standing orders to enforce system of organizational administration and these mandates,” notes John Phelan. The adminbureaucracy of Latin America requires a look istration of such an unwieldy, Byzantine system back at 300 years of Spanish colonial experience of laws and minute regulations, ultimately conin the Americas. trolled in a top-down hierarchical structure Latin American-style bureaucracy was derived from Spain, was based on an idea of how from the autocratic Catholic ecclesiastical cus- people should behave, but did not consider how toms that were based upon the presumed existhey actually did behave, writes acholar Mark tence of absolute truths. Theologically, the creed Hanson. and church traditions were not open for discusFrank Moreno observes: “From its very sion. There was one way and one way only. origins, written Spanish law was far more an Deviations from ritual and procedure, and espe- expression of ideals to be attained than a refleccially from theological orthodoxy, led to the tion of reality. The idealism and universalism of harsh persecutions of the Spanish Inquisition. the Romans translated into Christian terminolTorture and death was the price paid for deviogy determined the Spanish conception of law ance and heresy at the notorious orthodoxy and politics. Custom and tradition gave way to trials of the late Medieval period. No stronger high-sounding ethical and spiritual principles as reminders were needed of the high importance the ordinary sources of law. The acceptance of of correct ideas and procedures in the Spanish ancient local habits was undermined by a legal mentality. system which claimed moral superiority. Law, in The kind of expectation of theological orthothe name of justice, parted from reality.” doxy that could exact the punishments of the When the bureaucratic and organizational Inquisition was a legacy of writing and the structures of daily life became separated from book-based religions of Judaism, Christianity, reality, the result was a system of procedures and Islam. The respective holy books of the big that satisfied in the sense that they were prethree monotheistic religions were important as dictable and known, but ultimately frustrating the basis for imposing laws derived from the because they were not connected with the reality autocratic theology of a single powerful deity, of the situation at hand. but also from the brain-changing effects of writing itself. That religions of the book ••• are monotheistic and autocratic is not an accident. Writing has a linear logic to it and Toward a Ladino Ethos it entrained in brains and behavior the order that became monotheism. The one-thing-afterIt may be arrogant and somewhat out-of-style another of writing creates a type of perception to even attempt an anaysis of ethos. Surely and mindset that has begotten the world order there would be little agreement about a general that we know and now take for granted. Ladino mind and behavior complex in Latin In the mentality of the Spanish Catholic America, since neither the region nor the middle ages that dominated the life of Spanish people are homogenous, and there are ecological Maybe expats won’t whine as much when they understand why things are the way they are. This is a contribution to creating a whine-free expat environment.
and historical factors that have created variability through complicated historical and cultural chains of events. Yet, there are undeniably certain common denominators. The prime characteristic of the Ladino ethos is to effect control and domination of the universe. Ladino’s feel that the universe can be manipulated by humans, and “that control and power can be established not only over things and other animals, but also over other men,” writes anthropologist John Gillen. The heroic Spanish complex of “solo yo” has spilled over to the Ladinos of the Americas who
ing back and forth of power and fortune are a definite pattern in Ladino mental culture. Competition is common and males learn techniques of aggression and hostility whether open or covert. High status means the right to order others and make demands, but also requires politeness and listening. This is the pattern of the caudillo (boss), whether military or political. Political advancement is regarded as a legitimate way of advancing one’s own status at the expense of others and members of community, whether they be Indians or Ladinos. Ladinos in social interactions exhibit great ceremonial politeness and tenderness toward the other person’s social position and ego and yet feuds between families and groups occurs regularly. In relations with others, the Ladino pattern can be one of ordering and domination due to the preeminence of the individual and his striving for predominance. These are a few of the general trait patterns of Ladino culture in Latin America. It would be instructive, and also fair, to compare a similar capsule description of generalized gringo expat patterns.This may be a future project of Neotropica. ••• The Spanish Inquisition
see in the individual confronting the universe a noble gesture of high worth. This is the principle structure of their mental universe. The group, the family, and the faction exist to support the individual.The Ladinos confront the processual organization structure of Hispanic culture and recognize that because of circumstances they are forced to submit to the frustrations of life, but the Ladino philosophy holds that this is no reason that they should not keep on trying to remove or avoid it, writes Gillen. This general Ladino ethos can run headlong into the bureaucratic and administrative structures of controlthrough-process. The antinomian streak and the embracing of conflict adds zest to life. Struggles and the shift-
Although the results of the paternalistic, processual-style of administrative practice could hardly be compared to the Spanish Inquisition, at times it does seem like you are have been strapped to the potro--the rack-- and are going through a torture session administered by the Grand Inquisitor himself, Tomás de Torquemada, the Dominican enforcer of orthodoxy in the Catholic Church during the Inquisition. Standing in lines, and worse, getting to the head of the line and discovering you have been in the wrong line, or, worse still, that you don’t have nearly enough paperwork, might seem somewhat inquisitorial--or at least feel like you are stuck in a Franz Kafka novel, but it was much worse back in the 15th century.
The Spanish Inquisition labored with fanatical diligence to root out heresy and make sure that recent “converts,” especially Jews, and Muslims, stayed on the straight orthodox path. The Inquisition also increased the monarch’s political authority, crushed the opposition, and helped the monarchy and church profit from the confiscated property of the heretics, but these were side benefits to the inquisitors and their sponsors. When expats meet the smiling or smirking clerk in an official administrative setting who, with no rancor, but with a unsettling bureaucratic fatalism, informs them that they must go home, or to their lawyer’s office, retrieve a long list of hard-to-remember-where-you-put-them documents and papers that are full of legal stamps, rubber stamp impressions, seals, and always those curiously unreadable, but very distinctive, signatures, (don’t forget your passport and cédula numbers), and return, but not today, some other day, they have met the reincarnation of the Dominican Friar from 15th century Valladolid, Spain, that archetype of the evil, single-minded, fanatical bureaucrat, the Grand Inquisitor himself, Tomás de Torquemada. The Grand Inquisitor was an implacable fanatic. His very name causes shivers of angst and loathing. His original office and tribunal for hounding and burning the heretics grew into two dozen satellite offices. He was the Wal-Mart of rooting out heresy and torturing his victims. During his fifteen year reign of terror, he burned 2000 “heretics” and tortured countless more. By comparison, your smiling clerk is an angel. So buck up, go get the damn papers, and count yourself lucky. •
e all dream of our own version of Shangri-La. It’s usually a place that is simultaneously placid and intellectually invigorating, a place of eternal peace with a utopian glow, a combination of the spiritual wisdom of the East, and the technical comforts of the West. And surely it offers the added spice of natural wonders and lush and verdant refuge for resplendent animal and vegetal life. We arrive in our chosen country of promised bliss to encounter many of these classic characteristics of Paradise. Initially, the seduction of those many shades of green, infused with the sporadic surprise of the sight of an unexpected Toucan, are thrilling. We settle in to the dream of that place, free from worldly malaise, though not from creature comfort. Depending on the need to interface with hierarchy and rules---and any level of home improvement-- the reality of life’s pitfalls in rubber time can quickly challenge any inner calm. The general desire of the locals to please often offers the quick answer of ‘Yes’ instead of the more rational “Maybe.” The result is a continual stream of disappointed moments, confusion, frustration, and ultimately, impatience.
The cycle will continue, especially for the newcomer trying to nd the familiar and taken-for-granted “luxuries” of a car, a cell phone, a bank account, electricity, hot water, a leak-proof roof, passable roads– –in short, the Western technological canon. Slowly, the repeated long lines and the
superuous paperwork to accomplish seemingly simple tasks can turn the promised glory of Paradise into its own kind of trap or prison. What to do? Many people are shocked and dismayed. They stick it out for a while, but give up and leave within a year or so. The others, for varying reasons of either logistical need or stubbornness, stay and gure it out, and ultimately experience an unexpected spiritual growth spurt. The Buddhists believe that every monastery needs the appropriate number of annoying people and discomfort to keep the monks on their toes. Fortunately, for those sincere monks, the consistency of mindfulness meditation will offer a soothing calm to uncurl their aching toes. We really would like to believe that there’s a formula that will nally give us ongoing calm and blissful days free from unexpected challenges. But isn’t that just a techno-capitalist dream? There is a way. The Buddhist philosophy of embracing pain as food for self-growth is the path to internal peace. Yes, there will be pain remaining, but not necessarily with the accompaniment of suffering. Finding Paradise becomes the ultimate bootcamp for learning to calm down and accept things the way they are. The senses are receptive, and the mind opens. The disappointments of painful reality are softened against the backdrop of lush nature and sublime views. •
Where Fear Ends Fear is nding fault with the future. If only we could keep in mind how uncertain our future is, then we would never try to predict what could go wrong. Fear ends right there.
––Ajahn Brahm from Opening the Door of
Useless Science, or the Alchemist (1955) by Remedius Varo from Giornale Nuovo of Mister Aitch. Remedios Varo Uranga (1908--1963) was a Spanish-Mexican surrealist painter. Born in Girona, Spain, Varo fled the Spanish Civil War to Paris and met the surrealists. She left Paris during the Nazi occupation and moved to Mexico City. She worked in Latin America and died in Mexico City in 1963. Her artistic friends included André Breton, Frida Kahlo, and Diego Rivera; her artistic influences included Hieronymus Bosch, Francisco Goya, El Greco, Picasso, Braque, and Giorgio de Chirico.
Knocking on doors in Des Moines, I remembered that Buddhism is a practice of penetrating and accepting the here and now—not only the bliss of meditation, but the irritations of mundane human interaction and the pain in the morning paper. Just as the lotus needs muddy water to live, the pain of the world can inspire compassionate and effective action. The imperfect, as the poet Wallace Stevens said, is our paradise. - Katy Butler, “The Lotus and the Ballot Box” (Fall 2004)
The Poems of Our Climate
I Clear water in a brilliant bowl, Pink and white carnations. The light In the room more like a snowy air, Reflecting snow. A newly-fallen snow At the end of winter when afternoons return. Pink and white carnations - one desires So much more than that. The day itself Is simplified: a bowl of white, Cold, a cold porcelain, low and round, With nothing more than the carnations there.
Practical Tips for Paradise Seekers Wisdom is that which makes a vessel into a teacup when it is lled with tea, a sauce dish when it is lled with sauce, and a rice bowl when it is lled with rice The Zen master Seung Sahn would say,
II Say even that this complete simplicity Stripped one of all one’s torments, concealed The evilly compounded, vital I And made it fresh in a world of white, A world of clear water, brilliant-edged, Still one would want more, one would need more, More than a world of white and snowy scents.
“When you eat, just eat. When you read the newspaper, just read the newspaper. Don’t do anything other than what you are doing.”
III There would still remain the never-resting mind, So that one would want to escape, come back To what had been so long composed. The imperfect is our paradise. Note that, in this bitterness, delight, Since the imperfect is so hot in us, Lies in flawed words and stubborn sounds.
One day a student saw him reading the newspaper while he was eating. The student asked if this did not contradict his teaching. Seung Sahn said, “When you eat and read the newspaper, just eat and read the newspaper.”
Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)
mericans who go to the countries immediately to the south are much like Americans anywhere at home. Yet they are also different, because any foreign country, from the very fact that it is foreign, presents a challenge, and the impact of it changes each individual. That challenge can be met by defiance or by complete acceptance, or by a compromise of the two. The conflict begins with little things and works up to a whole attitude toward a foreign people. Take a petty example. The knobs on Mexican doors are set closer to the edge than in the United States. As a result, until you become habituated, you are constantly bruising your hand. Many visitors curse out the Mexicans. Others are merely amused. A few seek to understand why these doorknobs are different, which leads to the reflection that Mexicans are not nearly in such a hurry as Americans. And so in a foreign land the visitor has to learn how to do a series of simple things in a new way--which is doubly disconcerting to the resident of a country as standardized as the United States. But every minor detail of this sort in some way conforms to the logic of a different cultural pattern-provided one has the wit to see it. Is is obvious enough why a special fork, unknown to the American silver service, is used to eat a mango, but the reason for other unexpected contrivances is not always easily discovered. For purposes of state, it may not matter to Mr. Cordell Hull that the minute you cross the Suchiate River from Mexico into Guatemala the thatched roofs are steeper; but for the traveler who sees the fact as an index of changing climate, and along with that a different complex of customs, institutions, and national psychology, the resultant understanding will enrich his thought for life.
Merely to compare things in a foreign setting with what you have at home is the surest way to go wrong about what you see. Our cultural pattern is handed to us, ready-made, at birth. For Americans, it comprises accessibility to material things in a standardized form, a group of commonly-shared ideas about American efficiency, democracy, government, property rights,
education, sex relations, the freedom of women, rules of the road and what not. It usually also includes a firm belief in the superior greatness of America and the inferiority of all other peoples, and an almost pathological fear of germs. The instinctive reaction of Americans abroad is to resist any change whatsoever in their homeland habits and outlook. And so the American who can afford it, hurries to surround himself with as many truly American appurtenances as possible. He lives exclusively in his own small circle of American friends; he has his own clubs, his own schools, and, wherever possible, his own hospital and graveyard. The normal process of the American in Latin America is to become as insulated as possible from his environment. Back home, if he is absent long, his own community is evolving, modernizing; and its ideas have altered to suit. But the American resident abroad clings to his idea of what Homeville was when he left. He is cut off from the evolution in his own country and has no organic connection with the one in which he lives. All this is accompanied by an ever-growing feeling
The wise man in a foreign land goes with the constant question â€œWhy?â€? on his lips. That simple question, for those who remember it, will unlock more secrets of the ways of mankind than any other. of superiority. He is prone to view the life of the country in which he finds himself solely according to the possibilities for personal gain or for profit for the corporation which employs him. Often he believes in the most reactionary dictatorship for his adopted country, in armed intervention, and in American territorial imperialism. He becomes an ardent admirer of American democracy as he conceives it, yet in the next breath is telling you that the only solution for a country in Latin America is the man-on-horseback, strong-arm rule. It would be completely unjust to say that all Americans abroad display such provinciality. Many really seek to understand the country and the people about them. Many, especially women, become collectors of native handicrafts, or they go in for Indians in a big way, sal-
lying forth to quaint Indian villages in the same spirit as the New Yorker visits the Metropolitan Museum. In time they even regret the influence of American motorcars, movies, and jazz. Some more temporary visitors come down to get away from the machine age, and to dote on the simple life. I am reminded of a New York theater man who spent two weeks of his short stay trying to find a place with a native setting that had all the conveniences of a New York apartment. He remained in the most Americanized hotel in the city. Some visitors ardently affect to be part of the scene, even try to be native. They live in out-of-the-way places, without comforts, wear serapes and broad sombreros, and drink tequila, or pisco. Sometimes in the case of the artist, this is a legitimate activity, for he is sincerely trying to experience the life he hopes to portray. But often it is a characteristic stunt of uprooted Bohemians. The old adventurous American was more likely to adapt his ways to the environment than is the modern sedate businessman. Time was when most Americans in Latin America were either wanted in the United States or not wanted. Today the number of personal adventurers has declined and the number of respectable, middle-class citizens increased. The epoch for great independent promoters has definitely passed. The days when that bold genius Meiggs built his railroad against the skies in Peru, when Keith carved out a banana kingdom in Central America, when Steinhart laid the foundations of his public-utility empire in Cuba, when Doheny wild-catted for Mexican oil, now belong to the romance of a fast-vanishing frontier. For one thing, the natural resources of Latin America, barring new discoveries, have been pretty well mapped out, and those which can be exploited within a reasonable length of time have been largely snapped up by large corporations. Second, the growth of economic nationalism to the south makes native governments more skeptical of the adventurer type. Third, nearly all the southern countries have built up barriers against the more adventurous foreigner. Mexico decrees that ninety per cent of all employees must be Mexican; other countries have similar restrictions. Many have severe immigration laws. A sinner can get by St. Peter more easily than into Venezuela or Bolivia.
Certain Americans in the Tropics But the human backwash of that earlier glamorous adventure period may be found in the nooks and corners of Latin America. A few have built up small businesses or have worked into good corporation jobs. But many have gradually sunk into the pattern of their environment. I recall a handsome jovial American on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, married to an equally handsome Tehuana Indian woman, with five strapping children, all of whom speak Indian and Spanish, but no English. At the headwaters of the San Juan River in Nicaragua, I found an old American who had come in on a sailboat with the last of William Walker’s filibuster expeditions and had settled on a little plot of ground in an interior province. He had married a Nicaraguan girl and had gradually become a wealthy landowner. He had never once in sixty years left the interior of his adopted country. While some Americans have set out deliberately to go native, as an artist friend of mine did, others have lived snobbishly aloof from the native scene until some dramatic experience has suddenly melted them into emotional kinship with the land of their adoption. Such a story is excitingly told in Mrs. Rosa E. King’s Tempest Over Mexico. Mrs. King was the owner of a fashionable hotel in the tourist resort of Cuernavaca. Her clients were Presidents, wealthy Mexicans and foreigners, diplomats, and the cream of society. But one day revolution swept over the land, and she went on a four-day march with eight thousand refugees to reach the capital and safety. At first she had bitterly resented the revolution, had said that she was no part of it or the land. But preparing for flight at dawn, she thinks: “We are all in the same plight. . . . They had lost their home. I had lost mine. Death stared us in the face.” Strangely, at such a moment, peace came over her. She no longer felt alone, apart. Distinctions of race, nationality, class, meant nothing at such
a moment. “I was with these people. I was one of them.” Her feeling deepened still more as they all fled. She suddenly realized that since she had lost everything, she really belonged with those revolutionists who were trying to destroy her.
A large class of Americans is comprised of the goodwillers. I remember one woman who was trying to convince the local government to let her install American playgrounds in all the hamlets of the land. In places where the child, not
a great love for human foibles. The American, his motives, his actions, his hopes, stand out in strange relief against the broad canvas of an alien scene. Sometimes freed from homeland trammels, his baser instincts immediately come into play. During America’s Prohibition days the stock saying in Mexico and Cuba was that nobody ever saw a drunken native or a sober American. The antics of the most correct and circumspect schoolteacher, once she gets where she can kick a mean slipper, are sometimes wondrous to behold. Conversely this liberation may equally cause many a circumscribed soul dedicated to mean pursuits at home to blossom out along noble lines. For some the foreign scene is an opportunity to throw off a mask long maintained and become natural human beings; for others it is a grand chance to pose as something they aren’t. And some, posing at greatness, become great. There simply is no rule.
Certain Americans drinking beer in Havava, ca. 1930 “I caught the rhythm of their feeling and understood that to them la revolución was infinitely more than the revolution of 1910. It was a long continuous movement of resistance, like a rolling wave, that had swelled against Cortés and the conquistadors, and the greedy Aztec warlords before them; that had engulfed the armies of Spain and the armies of France as it now engulfed the hacendados. It was a struggle of these people for a birth-right, to develop in their own way, in spite of strangers. . . . And so silent and vast and unceasing was the struggle that it seemed to me as though the sleeping earth itself had stirred to cast off the artificial things that lay heavy on it.”
part of an industrialized system, has all outdoors as his back yard to play in, I can imagine no greater means of atrophying his imagination and normal play instincts. Another good woman of Amazonian proportions was intent on founding in Mexico a society for the prevention of cruelty to animals. Any little innocent burro would have curled up and died in agony just at the sight of her. In a land which had just been swept by revolution, the efforts of this particular goodwiller seemed singularly out of place. Critical as my account sounds, it is written with
And so like all maxims, the one which states that foreign travel broadens the mind is often not true. Some travelers, indeed, broaden until they lose all perspective. For others, travel merely means a further confirmation of their own narrow concepts. For still others, this process of growing into a new scene is rich and enjoyable. The wise man in a foreign land goes with the constant question “Why?” on his lips. That simple question, for those who remember it, will unlock more secrets of the ways of mankind than any other. • Reprinted with permission from The Rotarian, Official Magazine of Rotary International, for March, 1943, pp.16-20.
Carleton Beals 1893-1979 American journalist and book author Carelton Beals wrote 45 books and more than 200 magazine articles.He wrote biographies of Huey Long, Carrie Nation (his stepmother), and Leon Trotsky, among others. Beals covered Latin America beginning in the 1920s. He was the only American journalist to interview Nicaraguan patriot and anti-imperialist fighter General Augusto Sandino during the war against U.S. military occupation. Beals was a political radical who, after a professional lifetime of being a foreign correspondent, consistently supported progressive causes. His work is largely unknown today, but eminently worth reviving. Look for reprints of his writing in future issues of Neotropica.
by Gene Warneke
Paradise Yearned For My search for the Garden of Paradise started in 2005. Perhaps it was being brushed against mortality from the loss of my wife to suicide and then watching my mother slowly die cell by cell from dementia. My son was grown and on his own, and there was that dream home I sketched out fifteen years before that I could never have afforded to build in California. The American political and economic scene was being dominated and mismanaged by the second Bush. Paranoia had been become the national temperament, and was ensconced after 9/11. Being downsized from a high-level corporate hotel job gave me the idle time to realize just how stressed out and directionless my life had become. I hadn’t backpacked, camped or gone looking for eagle tail feathers for years. The tipping point for me was meetings with financial advisers telling me I could retire in San Diego, California on my savings comfortably until the age of 74, if I found a high-paying part time job! Life must be better somewhere else. Where could I find my little piece of “Paradise”? I went looking. I traveled to other parts of the U.S., Mexico, Belize, a magical Peru. and much of north and central Europe and my beloved Italy, but didn’t find paradise. Then I went to a seminar on buying real estate in Costa Rica and decided I should go there to see if it was for me. Six weeks in Costa Rica learning Spanish and surveying much of the country with a consultant by my side convinced me that I could find what I was looking for.
Although too many Ticos carelessly trash the environment, especially in urban and suburban areas, the land remains vibrantly rich in flora, fauna, and spectacular mountain and coastal landscapes. As a former burnt-out professional advertising, nature, and travel photographer, I was constantly pulling out my cameras. With my lover often in the foreground scantily clad, the chiaroscuro effect gained new meaning to me. I was re-energized with what once was my favorite pastime. It felt like I was in heaven. I found and bought a gorgeous classic Mercedez-Benz 380SEC––a one of a kind in Central America. I would come home to a tropical garden Bohemian penthouse that I could never have afforded in the States. We would stand on the rustic wooden balcony and pick delicious, sun-ripened mangoes and other fruits I had never heard of before. Vibrantly-colored squirrels would eat out of our hands, hummingbirds were always at the feeders, and butterflies that I had only seen before at the San Diego Wild Animal Park begged me to shoot close-ups. In the late mornings, we would relax and play in the secluded garden pool with its bubbling waterfall.
Anytime during the day or night, we would soak in the heartshaped Jacuzzi tub in front of huge plate glass windows looking up at the volcanic and verdant Escazu Mountains. At nights, I would introduce her to international cuisines and go to various musical and dance performances. On my first New Years Eve in Costa Rica, we shot off fireworks, including very powerful rockets, from the balcony for close to two hours as we sipped sparkling wine. During the week, we would head off to beach resorts and find secluded beaches where we would body surf and lay naked in the sand and sip cold and sweet tropical drinks.
More than several things made Costa Rica seem like my paradise. I was no longer considered over-the-hill at age 54. The respect level is so much higher here for the middle aged
After several months, I found my dream property above Grecia and met a very talented and creative architect. A sculpture disguised as a house was conceived, designed, and building com-
“Paradise exists internally and externally.For one to re-enter the proverbial Garden of Paradise momentarily, the seeker must enjoin them with both one’s heart and spirit. To reside there permanently may be well nye impossible, but well worth the effort.”
and elderly. After the tragic loss of my wife in San Diego, I yearned to be respected outside of the workplace and to love and be loved again. The first day I arrived, I was introduced to a young, extremely beautiful and sensual Tica woman who couldn’t get enough of me. In the shower, she would wash me from foot to head. I never had to ask her to peel my grapes as I lounged on the pillows in a scene out of A Thousand and One Arabian Nights, and she never had to ask me.
menced. To be close to the construction sight, we moved to a small secluded finca with dozens of citrus and fruit trees, premium grade coffee bushes, and flowering plants everywhere. A short walkway took us to a pond stocked with tilapia. We barbecued in the little rancho beside the pool and sat and contemplated the large rock in the middle of the pond. We breathed the pure mountain air.
Paradise Almost Lost The house cost estimates given to me by the architect and builder were less than half of what it would turn out to actually cost, practically bankrupting me and not allowing me to do finishing touches. Building supply costs had almost doubled during the year and a half of building, the two pools came in at triple the cost estimate because of some design changes.
Three months later, I was finally able to return home with at least one friend to look after me at all times. I suffered like I had never suffered before. Once I was professional ballroom dancer. I was successful at all sports. I was a practitioner of Tai-Chi and Aikido. For me to use a leg was akin to an accomplished pianist losing a hand. If it wasn’t for the powerful beauty of my home and the ability to gaze into the distant vistas to imaginee a new future, I would have gone down completely.
Paradise Regained? “It is best to re-enter the Garden of Eden with your Eve.”
Her name is Anay and she may have been sent to me by angels and she is my Eve. She revels with glee at the smallest things and grew up a pioneer’s life on a remote While inspecting support welds, I fell, farm in the mountains of the Osa Penincaught myself, but pulled three tendons sula close to Panama on the Pacific Coast completely off of my right shoulder. My of Costa Rica. We fell in love virtually companion started drinking too much too at first sight. She’s taught me to love my often, stole money from me, and one night stump as she does and literally got me got violent on the third day of a drinking back on two legs by helping me learn to binge. use a prosthetic leg. She tries to be with me everywhere to ensure my safety and So, I was left with little cash to continue to enjoy my company. Having had cancer having fun, especially after paying to get twice herself, she understands her mora shoulder repair that needed months to tality and intuitively knows of my frusheal. Also, I was living solo again. It trations and newfound fears. She brings was virtually impossible for me to use my me floral arrangements that almost match camera for my favorite pastime. I mudher beauty from flowers she has gathered dled through, and had not lost my adoraon her long walks. She is mi cielo (my tion of Costa Rica. I eventually moved heaven) on earth. into my unfinished home and started to socialize again. The house was perfect for Side by side, we have worked in my the occasional party and felt like a moun- extensive gardens that were neglected tain top Buddhist monastery with astound- during my recovery. With my knee on ing views. the ground and my hands back in the soil again, I’m back in touch with mother Then catastrophe struck. I lost my left earth adding more color and form to my leg due to a misdiagnosed blood clot in paradise regained. I’m still strapped for my groin. The first amputation below cash, but we find pleasure every day. With the knee didn’t work, so the Caja (CCSS) my prosthetic leg, I’ve ridden horses and doctors had to amputate above the knee. even danced a fairly decent salsa or two.
My internal paradise is being nurtured while my eyes have been reopened to my surroundings. My beautiful scupltured home on the mountain is now sold. This has freed us to move to the Osa Peninsula, Anay’s home territory, and one of the earth’s richest and most biodiverse areas. Scarlet Macaws sit in the Almendro trees across the street from Anay’s home enjoying the wild almonds. Cariblanca monkeys clamber over their tree highways above the dusty roads below. Butterflies are ever-present. My camera is back in my hands as we explore up and down the peninsula and onto the Golfo Dulce with its incredible array of marine mammals. No angel’s feathers are found in the real paradise, but there must be eagles there. It has uplifted my spirit to look for those eagle feathers again, and the quest has led me to the gates of the garden. Anay and I have re-entered our wider Garden of Paradise––a place without the confining walls of those ancient Persian gardens where the word “paradise” comes from originally. We have found the gate wide open and, while there is still time for its earthy sensual delights, we have re-entered Paradise. •
Illustrations. (Facing page) Jan Brueghel the Younger. Paradise. c. 1620. Oil on oak. Gemäldegalerie, Berlin, Germany. (This page) Paul Gustave Doré. 1861. La Divina Comedia, Dante y Beatriz en el Paraíso
Anay and Gene Warneke
Those Judiciously-placed Leaves of Paradise Hans Baldung Grün (c. 1480–1545). Adam and Eve 1507, Uffizi Gallery, Florence
Hans Baldung Grün (c. 1480–1545). Adam and Eve 1524, Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest
hether it’s cultural karma or pure irony I couldn’t say, but here it is: I live in paradise, I don’t have a job to go to, and I have a commute. Each weekday morning, I pick up my two workers in their nearby barrio, and bring them back to where we are building a little house by the river. It takes a half hour each way, and it seems crazy to be getting in my car at vethirty in the morning, interrupting the stillness and driving away. I rst came to this place with agents showing me properties, and on the way I had already decided not to buy it. Three bumpy kilometers past the end of the pavement, it was too far out. I have lived in very rural places before, and know the challenges, the extra time and effort it takes to build and live at a distance from services and supplies. I had sworn it off for starting over at my age. We arrived and got out of the car. On the valley oor, and not situated with a view, it was merely a peaceful country setting: nothing remarkable. Then we walked down through a tiny meadow and a thick woods lled with the tumble and burble of running water. Here, the river makes a sharp turn, and has carved a deep pool in the bedrock. Surrounded by steep hillsides, the banks densely wooded, the pool is a haven of serenity. The water is clean and clear, the air a soft caress. I was transported in fond memory to days playing by the Big Sur River in California, to the steep woods along Forty-Nine Creek in the mountains of British Columbia. A Blue Morpho buttery meandered past. I wanted to stay. Driving back to town, I assured the agents that lovely as it was, it was not for me; too remote, too much work. But the call of paradise is strong, irresistible as it turns out, and I bought it a couple months later. I don’t regret it. Five-thirty is sunrise in the high tropics of Costa Rica, and one needn’t live here long to realize that the mornings are precious. Despite driving away from the stillness and serenity of my place by the river, I’m happy to have a daily tour of this paradise. The valley is up and active early. Cows, who are as much outside as inside the fences, watch me bump past. Some of them have egrets perched on their backs. Occasionally I meet my neighbor with his oxen pulling a cart of sugarcane to a local trapiche. They are huge, but cute
is the way to describe them under their wooden yoke of bright orange with swirls of owers. I pass two young men on horseback, weedwhackers slung on their backs and accompanied by several dogs, then another construction crew packed into a small pickup on its way to work. We exchange the Tico whoop of greeting. Here in the cloud forest, the weather is anything but consistent: One morning dense fog, another, pale blue sky with peach clouds. These are my favorites, though I love the fog too. As I come out of the mountains, the patchwork panorama of farms and houses, church steeples, and soccer elds opens before me. The sun casts its pink glow in the sugarcane tops. At the bus stops there are small crowds, each one lling the air with a collective cloud of colognes. Tractors pull loads of sugarcane or caña india, and truckloads of workers head to harvest. Now that the coffee is being picked, there are whole families walking together, middle-aged to near toddlers, carrying their baskets. They are bundled up against the cool of the morning, belying that we are only eleven or twelve degrees above the equator. Many of the people I pass are regulars: a big man on a little motorbike with tools on the back (a level, a small ladder, one morning a wheelbarrow nearly as big as the bike); an old man with his milk cow; a nurseryman setting up to water his rows of potted plants; the organic farmer who has his booth in the local farmer’s market every Friday. They know my face and car, and wave or call out as I pass. Having collected my companions, we head back, chatting of the day’s work ahead, and as always in Costa Rica, the goings on in family and barrio. We arrive, and set to work to the churning whir of the cement mixer, the clang of hammer and steel, and the ever-present song of the river. I know I am a part of the change of this place. I add to the trafc, noise, and fumes of the road, and although we are as clean and gentle as we can be, we are altering the forest and riverside by building here. But we build, and dream of a quiet and peaceful life with our feet by the river and our heads in the clouds. Paradox found. •
by Jeff Garner
ranklin Chang Díaz, Costa Rican astronaut, scientist, and plasma rocket creator, is a modern-day Central American Quetzalcoátl, or Feathered Serpent. Maybe you have seen Quetzalcoátl millenarianism in the news predicting dire events for the year 2012 because it is the end of a 5000+ year Mayan calendrical cycle. Dr. Chang is a serious scientist (though with the biggest smile you’ll ever see); he would never have anything to do with Mayan catastrophist mania, but when a comparison is made between both culture heroes, strong similarities are plainly seen. The Quetzalcoátl of old, who goes as far back as some 2500 years ago, was a complex historical and mythological hero, He was related to the ancient gods of the wind; he was connected to the mysteries of the important evening planet Venus; he was a god of merchants, and of the arts, of technology, and knowledge. The original Quetzalcoátl was also the patron god of learning and knowledge as expressed in the traditions of the Aztec priesthood. In the tradition of the ying winged deity Quetzalcoátl who came before him, our modern Costa Rican feathered serpent with a Ph.D. in plasma physics from MIT seems to share similar attributes. His plasma rocket is a complicated piece of engineering, which uses
plasma––the fourth state of matter—with its superheated ions owing in a ultra hot and mighty wind to push his rocket to the “stars.” (To be accurate, Chang’s rocket will only go the stars metaphorically. The name of his entrepreneurial rocket company based in Guanacaste and Texas is Ad Astra, Latin for “to the stars.”). Dr. Chang, no doubt is interested in Venus, but his real passion is getting to Mars—close enough! The Costa Rican with the Chinese name (his father was the son of a Chinese immigrant early in the last century) is a also merchant: in 2010 he sold his rocket motor to two private aerospace rms. There is little doubt that his old outt, NASA, will use his rocket in space, so count that as a future sale too. The connections of this modern Quetzalcoátl to the arts, technology, and learning are massive. He just wrote and published the rst volume of his three-part autobiographical memoir, and he may be the best entrepreneurial scientic technologist on the planet. After all he invented and patented the plasma rocket that he and his Central American scientic and engineering colleagues are making in Guanacaste. And as for learning and knowledge, the man is brilliant, with degrees and accomplishments over the span of his career to prove it. So the comparison with Quetzalcoátl is a near-perfect match. Deities are normally worshipped; so is Dr. Chang. He is an absolute hero to 500 million Latin Americans. He has had the most Space Shuttle missions with NASA, and has logged 1600 hours in space, making him high ying and adored around the world for his accomplishments. During the many overlapping periods of the high civilizations of Central America, Quetzalcoátl was an agricultural deity of vegetational renewal connected to the cycle of the seasons of wet and bone. Historian David Carrasco argues that a prime function of Quetzalcoátl in his many forms and names throughout Mesoamerican his-
tory was as the special deity of the city, and therefore, the god of culture and civilization. Franklin Chang is nothing if he is not a rainmaker. He has gathered great technological talent to cluster around his brilliant ideas and engineering skills at centers in Houston and Costa Rica. Even more, he is inspiring new scientists-to-be through his extensive work in promoting scientic education in Costa Rica. Chang’s far vision of deep space travel has powered the development of a plasma rocket technology worthy of any deity’s space chariot. Here is a utopian with a vision to match his technical skills. Chang’s technical dream of civilization on Mars puts him in an exclusive pantheon of visionaries. The combination of his skills in technology and entrepreneurship elevates Chang to a place his humility would probably not let him go, but is richly deserved––a place in Mesoamerican history, for sure, but even more so, in Mesoamerican mythology.
Quetzalcoatl, the Dragon from
Why a Dragon ?
The Dragon and Creation: Reclaiming the Sacred in Our Lives by Susanne Iles “....I shall leave my song-image on Earth. My heart shall live, it will come back...” Quetzalcoatl is a...dragon-being who, through self-sacrifice, organized the cosmos and formed a world nourishing both man’s physical and spiritual life. He created the fifth cycle of mankind by using the ancestor’s ashes and bones to give their bodies form. Knowing [that] humans must be connected to Heaven and the essence of the Divine for their survival, he used his own blood to animate them and thus became humanity’s protector. Also known as the “Feathered Serpent,” Quetzalcoatl is the ancient cultural hero among the Aztec, the Toltec and other Middle American peoples.... Varying and apocryphal stories show him to be a gentle deity who requested the end of human sacrifice, accepting butterflies and serpents instead. In his dragon form he ruled the wind, the rain and the fertility of the Earth, the cycles of human sustenance. As a celestial and terrestrial being he was man’s magical connection to the mysteries of the heavens and the sacred earthly realm. When he was driven away by war he promised to return to his people one day. Some accounts have him leaving in a dragon boat or on a raft of serpents. Some believe he sacrificed his human body and flew off into the sky to become the bright planet we know as Venus. By sacrificing himself and empowering mankind, Quetzalcoatl left behind a legacy of knowledge, culture, and the secrets of creation and rebirth, gifting man with the potential for greater enlightenment. http://www.bonesinger.com/essaycreate.html
Dragons in the East are good, and represent order, while in the West, dragons are symbols of chaos. The differences seem opposite and irreconcilable, but opposites always turn into one another. The act of embracing the opposite––the symbolic biting of your own tail--is the brilliant gambit of the Uroborus, which produces wholeness, and yields the precious egg of the world and the self.
Quetzalcoátl is a Nahuatl word that is usually translated as “feathered serpent.” However, the Nahuatl word for beautiful was quetzál, so it could also mean “beautiful serpent.” The serpent caresses the earth with every movement as it travels along the ground, however, it has even higher ambitions. The green tree snakes of Central America can leave the earth by climbing through the trees. Symbolically, the tree is the axis of the world and the bridge between heaven and earth, and ancient people saw a symbol of themselves in the earthbound serpent with higher aspirations to reach for the sky above. Quetzalcoátl spans the lower earthbound realms of the patient, dark earth––the source of food and nurture–and the upper world of the wild, uncontrolled sky, where the winds blow and from where life-giving moisture comes. Symbols are usually complex, with the best symbols being multi-layered and charged with different levels of meaning. Putting feathers on a snake was an elaborate metaphor and pun for the people of Central America and Mexico. The beauty of the snake is that it wants to be more and to do more. And this is also the human condition: We are not satised with being a simple animal; we always want more, and we want to go beyond our dened limits. That impulse could be called a divine spark and the desire to be a god. The actual interwoven stories of the women, men, and the imagined gods of Mesoamerica are interesting, but not in an important way. The destruction of the texts and documents of the Mesoamericans by Spanish priests and bureaucrats is a terrible, unforgivable thing--a sin in the terminology of the Christian missionaries and zealots who perpetrated the madness.
Detail of a mural tableau in Tepantitla in the ruins of Teotihuacan. The painting, with the feel of a Breugel or Bosch canvas, shows ordinary people at work doing familar and unfamiliar activities. Notice the speech curls, or banderoles. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Yet as terrible as the physical and cultural ethnocide was, it could not have really succeeded because new stories are always born to replace and build on the old ones. Indeed, new stories must be told. Luckily, there are enough fragments existing in old codices and manuscripts, especially in the brilliant art of the Mesoamericans, that can be put to good use for symbolic continuity. The stark power of the images themselves could be used in rebuilding cultural myths of understanding. What would be wrong with creating a postmodern Mesoamerican mythocultural corpus of stories? The great Latin American novelists and poets have already begun this task and they continue to remake the cultural mythographic landscape, but so much more is needed. Quetzalcoátl is everyone in Latin America’s secret last name. The double surname system could be thought of as really being a hidden triplex-tres apellidos. The culture hero is always the people writ large, but the obverse is also true that the people are the culture hero writ small. How could it be otherwise for a hero like Quetzalcoátl who “...represented life, motion, laughter, health, sexuality, and the arts and crafts of civilization, farming, cooking, and music.” Therefore, everyone in Latin America is a part of Quetzalcoátl. The complex myths of the Mesoamericans are more involved than a Wagnerian opera. The carvings on temple walls and the surviving fragmentary paintings are tantalizing clues to the intricacy of the actual mythic narratives. Imagine how much more there was in the oral traditions and the ritual life and understanding of the interwoven and layered civilizations and culture that has been lost! The “speech curls” or banderoles that are depicted coming out of the mouths of the human gures in pre-Columbian art are symbols for discourses we will never hear. These people are telling stories, but we will never know exactly what they were saying. Although we would like to know, the fact is we do already know: they were saying the same things we are saying now. They are telling stories that try to make sense of their lives. Any person who pauses to reect on what their life might mean knows the stories the ancients were telling. People don’t
necessarily have the answers, and if they claim they do, it is time to be suspicious. But they do have the questions, and that appears to be the common denominator of humankind: lots of the same questions, but very few good answers. Quetzalcoátl is a constant gure in Mesoamerican art motifs, appearing rst in a temple building in Teotihuacán, a huge Mexican archaeological site from circa 200 BCE. At Teotihuacán, recent reinterpretations of famous murals now identify a Great Goddess gure. She is sometimes called the Teotihuacán Spider Woman, because spiders have been identied in her motifs. With a green feather headdress and the face of a bird––perhaps a stylized raptor-beaked owl, or short-beaked Quetzál (so thought because of the green feathers)––the gure has scary fangs emerging from a nosepiece mask. Spiders crawl and butteries hover on the vegetation while water drips from the branches. Moisture ows from her lower body. Quetzalcoátl also appears on structures in the ancient city of Teotihuacán. A mask is the representation of transformation of one thing into something else. We don’t have to identify any historical person behind this mask. She could be considered the Mesoamerican Everywoman, just as behind the masks and images of Quetzalcoátl is Everyman. Could this be a divine couple? Are Quetzalcoátl, the male, and Spiderwoman/Great Goddess, the female, and together the Mesoamerican parents? Several interpretations of these tantalizing images are possible. With no disrespect to professional archaeologists, the art can speak directly to people today. Although there may be canonical scholarly interpretations of the archaeological nds, all interpretations are valid at the
level of personal and collective archetypal meaning. C.G. Jung’s technique of active imagination provides a method to produce a sufcient and meaningful interpretation. Accessing images from the past and allowing them to resonate between the collective and the personal unconscious within the psyche can reveal insights that can be valid personally, and also in wider contexts of human experience
Quetzalcoátl has a particularly ancient lineage and a subsequent confusing genealogy because later rulers assumed his name in order to capture some of his archetypal essence. The named kings and royalty who showed up in the lists of kings, and the glyphs of their deeds that were preserved, can be taken both literally and mythically. What we do not see are the names and deeds of the countless common folk who felt a ctive kinship with the great Quetzalcoátl culture hero. As a hero, Quetzalcoátl is the embodiment of the hard work of countless generations of people who gured out how to grow maize, and how to look up at the stars at night and tell stories that made sense of the cosmos. These anony-
mous ones gured out how to keep track of the days of peoples’ lives and what those days meant. Unnamed heroes learned how to make the goods that people needed, and knew how to be wise and live well in the place they found themselves. People gave a name and a personality to the collective anonymous creators of the cultural gifts that they have made. There is no Quetzalcoátl, nor is there a Spider Woman, because the heroes and heroines are every man and every woman who built their own lives and cultures.
from the east (though his forebears anyway) and who still bears a name and the gene pairs of a Chinese ancestry, the man who ew around the earth over and over, the educator, the visionary who inspires people, the smart engineer who knows how to make wondrous technologies and especially, the man who can take humans to the stars as a hero. Chang is the larger-than-life man who knows how to harness the divine wind of plasma--that transformed state of matter, the breath of the cosmos––and construct a machine that can go to Mars.
The disappearance of Quetzalcoátl is part of the myth, as well as part of everyone’s personal experience. We are lost, leaderless, but we have hope that our muse will return and that once again we will gure things out. When legends and their interpretations speak of the return of Quetzalcoátl, and a return of the Great Goddess and the Spider Woman, this is a way of calling for the renewals that are always necessary in individual and collective lives. The Mesoamericans’ story of Quetzalcoátl being tricked into disappearing by his enemy, Tezcatlipoca, tells how Quetzalcoátl left his people by throwing himself onto a re that consumed his body. As his body burned, birds ew out from the chaotic ames and into the sky to become the bright morning and evening star Venus. Another version of the myth has Quetzalcoátl sailing east into the primordial chaos of the sea on a symbolic earth made of a raft of serpents--those animals closest to the earth. The Aztecs literalized the myth and waited for the return of the hero from the east. When bearded Cortés and his small gang of invaders landed in México, the opportunistic Spaniard heard the story and encouraged the people to believe that he was indeed the returning Quetzalcoátl. The terrible results of the Spanish invasion exemplies the perfect object lesson–– people should not literalize their myths. It is easy to look at Dr. Franklin Chang, the man who came
Franklin Chang is the return of the culture hero Quetzalcoátl. This has nothing to do the currently predicted Mayan calendrical apocalypse and renewal due in 2012. The return of Quetzalcoátl is the return of the hero in all of us--our own teacher who can show us how to re-inhabit our life places. You and I will never go to Mars. Our trip is not to a literal Mars anyway, but it is the hero’s journey of exploring new paths, and especially of renewing hope for living on the best planet anyone will ever know. The speech scrolls, or banderoles, that are depicted being sung and chanted in the ancient murals near Tenochtitlán will be mysteries forever. But our personal speech scrolls are in our discourses, and the songs we sing with our mouth and from our heart that help us make sense of the world and where we nd ourselves on that always freshly-painted mural of the tableaux of our lives.
Banderoles, or speech scrolls, being uttered by a stickball player on a mural from Tepantitla, México INSET: Photo of a mural at the Tetitla compound showing what has been identied • as the Great Goddess of Teotihuacán. She is identied as a woman because of the clothing and the exploded frontal view. She wears a green stone mask and jewelry ear spools. She wears a Quetzál feather headress and a stone mask with fangs.
by Stephen Duplantier
ber by Mexican archaeologist Alberto Ruz L’Huillier in 1948, which had been missed by looters and Spanish conquistadores for 1,000 years, and the uncovering of the skeletal remains and artwork, easily rivals the story of the archaeology of Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon, discoverers of the tomb of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt in 1922.This is the archeologist’s description of what he saw: Out of the dim shadows emerged a vision from a fairy tale, a fantastic, ethereal sight from another world. It seemed a huge magic grotto carved out of ice, the walls sparkling and glistening like snow crystals. Delicate festoons of stalactites hung like tassels of a curtain, and the stalagmites on the oor looked like drippings from a great candle. The impression, in fact, was that of an abandoned chapel. Across the walls marched stucco gures in low relief. Then my eyes sought the oor. This was almost entirely lled with a great carved stone slab, in perfect condition.
Facing page: Line drawing of sarcophagus lid of Pakal; This page color rendition of lid..
r. Franklin Ramón Chang-Díaz could also be K’inich Janaab’ Pakal. This Mayan celebrity is not a household name today, but if you had lived around Bàak’ (Palenque, in Chiapas) in the seventh century of the last millenium, you would have trembled at the name. K’inich Janaab’ Pakal (603-683 BCE) is better known as Pakal the Great to those outside the Maya homeland near the Usumacinta River in the modern state of Chiapas in México. Bàak’ is the Mayan name for what
others call Palenque. The site of Palenque, with its meticulously restored ruins, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. If you saw it, you would know why. Pakal the Great, who ruled it for 68 years, was a visionary genius responsible for, among other things, the excellent architectural designs that have rarely been bettered even within the alreadyexcellent Mayan artistic traditions. Pakal’s tomb was found in the Temple of the Inscriptions in Palenque and excavated. The discovery of Pakal’s burial cham-
Pakal’s sarcophagus lid is as famous as the mighty architectural works and pomps of Pakal the Great, especially since it is only through relatively recent scholarship in Mayan epigraphy that more accurate translations of the glyphs have been made. The lid of the sarcophagus shows artwork with a stylized Pakal character in a semi-reclining position surrounded by the usual baroque array of Mayan glyphs and a profusion of other structures and objects. Traditional Mayan cosmology sees the universe as Yakche or the “World Tree.” The branches of the tree are in Cab (“heaven”) ––the abode of the Gods–– and the roots grow underground in Xibalbá (the Mayan “underworld”). The accepted interpretation of the artwork is that it is a depiction of Pakal descending into Xibalbá. Border glyphs representing the Sun, the Moon, Venus, and various star constellations put
the event as occurring at night. Below Pakal is the water deity guarding the underworld, also showing jaws of a dragon or serpent, which Pakal eludes as he is poised contemplating the World Tree—the open realm of the Mayan cosmogenic imagination. The popular pseudoarchaeology writer Erich von Däniken’s 1968 best seller, Chariots of the Gods, compared the pose of Pakal in his sarcophagus to that of the original Project Mercury NASA astronauts, who were positioned in similar semi-reclining poses in those rst cramped capsules red into low earth orbits. Some of the mysterious Mayan structures were seen by von Däniken as the parts of a “rocket ship.” The image has been described as follows: In the center of the frame is a man sitting, bending forward. He has a mask on his nose, he uses his two hands to manipulate some controls, and the heel of his left foot is on a kind of pedal with different adjustments. The rear portion is separated from him; he is sitting on a complicated chair, and outside of this whole frame, you see a little ame like an exhaust. (Source: Wikipedia) There are huge details of Mayan technology that might have made this possible missing, such as their lack of metal. Yet the image was enough to suggest to von Däniken that there were extraterrestrial inuences on the development of the advances made by the Mayans in the Yucatán peninsula. Of course, serious scientists are both amused and annoyed at this fanciful interpretation. Franklin Chang would probably smile one of his huge smiles and give an engineer’s response to such overly-imaginative pseudoarchaeology. The Mayan king Pakal was not an astronaut blasting off in a limestone rocket for unknown destinations in space. Pakal the Great’s deeds were sublimely terrestrial, but were engineered with the soaring imagination of a gifted ruler. Chang the Great, the Costa Rican astronaut,
is now intent on creating something just as imaginative as the Mayan king, but backed up with 21st century technologies to make it possible. In mid 2010, U.S. president Barack Obama announced a program to go to Mars. “By the mid-2030s, I believe we can send humans to orbit Mars and return them safely to Earth. And a landing on Mars will follow. And I expect to be around to see it,” said Obama. This gives even more impetus to Chang’s Mars rocket projects. Dr. Chang is as important in scientic, engineering, entrepreneurial and intellectual circles in Costa Rica today as Pakal the Great was in his administrative, architectural, and engineering roles in Palenque of the 7th century. Both were involved with building monuments to quite different, but somehow similar, lofty visions of earthbound humans striving for something beyond. Both culture heroes had and have the practical engineer’s sense of realism: if you want something good, roll up your sleeves, or the Mayan equivalent, and make it happen! Pakal the Great went along with what his Mayan hagiographers and theologians would make of him following his death, since continuity of tradition was a major pillar of Mayan life and belief. But Pakal the Great was a man of action who left behind a gleaming, perfectly-ordered, citystate, balanced and well-situated in the Mayan universe––a good-enough utopia. Chang the Great is still building the monuments to the vision he rst had as the smart little boy with a Chinese name in Costa Rica. To look at his resumé and list of accomplishments, you might think Chang, 60, would be thinking of retirement. No such thoughts have entered his head or affected the youthful enthusiasm of Chang the Great. His story is still being written, and the chroniclers have not yet seen end of the mighty works this man can do. • 97
The ancient Mayan city of Bàak’ (Palenque, in the State of Chiapas, Mexico) may be one of the most beautiful archaeological sites anywhere. The tops of the buildings permit inspiring views of the surrounding countryside and of the sky––so important in looking at earth and the heavens, which were Mayan obsessions. When Pakal the Great ruled here in the 7th century, the buildings were limed in plaster and painted beautiful colors. The ruins were lost for a thousand years, protected by the guardian forest. Their rediscovery in the 19th century revealed the crown jewel of the Mayan terrestrial cosmos. The photograph shows the Temple of the Inscriptions, the pyramid temple of Pakal the Great.
Temporarily Autonomous from Gravity
--a Weightless Chang with fellow astronauts
by Peter Scaevola
Edgar Rice Burroughs’ The Chessmen of Mars is the story of Tara of Helium, the daughter of John Carter, a promethean Earthman with multiple lives, and Dejah Thoris, a princess from Barsoom (the name the Martians gave their planet) who take off on an adventure. This scene has the feeling of a clip from the James Cameron lm, Avatar, or something a young Luke Skywalker might have done in the George Lucas Star Wars saga.
Galileo mostra i pianeti Medicei alle allegorie dell’Ottica, dell’Astronomia e della Matematica. Galileo Galilei, Opere, Bologna, 1656. Wikimedia Commons
The following excerpt from The Chessmen of Mars is by a novelist with too much imagination to be limited to Earth. Burroughs’ scenes and characters belong more to the sword & fantasy, imaginative science ction genre than to the type of science ction writing that would emerge later in the 20th century. The technologies of war, especially the Nazi ballistic rocket program of Werner Von Braun and others led to the space exploration efforts of the Soviet Union and the United States, and later other countries. No matter what the technological development, the characters and situations are always based on deep human archetypes of experience and history.
Orbium Planetarum Terram Complectentium Scenographia by Andreas Cellarius (c. 1596–1665) a Dutch-German cartographer, best known for his Harmonia Macrocosmica
The practical engineering and hard science of Dr. Chang and his engineers seems light years away from the primitive science ction technologies of Edgar Rice Burroughs. All Burroughs had was the recently-developed automobile and early aircraft through which to project his imagination. Charles Lindbergh’s transatlantic solo ight was still ve years away when
Burroughs wrote Chessmen. The common element between Burroughs and Chang is daring to dream, and a desire to ll in the gaps in knowledge with, on the one hand, fanciful ction, and on the other, physics and engineering. Space is for dreamers, whatever their skill sets. 101
of those small thoats that are the saddle animals of the red Martians, but the sight of the billowing clouds lured her to a new adventure. Uthia still slept and the girl did not disturb her. Instead, she dressed quietly and went to the hangar upon the roof of the palace directly above her quarters where her own swift flier was housed. She had never driven through the clouds. It was an adventure that always she had longed to experience. The wind was strong and it was with difficulty that she maneuvered the craft from the hangar without accident, but once away it raced swiftly out above the twin cities. The buffeting winds caught and tossed it, and the girl laughed aloud in sheer joy of the resultant thrills. She handled the little ship like a veteran, though few veterans would have faced the menace of such a storm in so light a craft. Swiftly she rose toward the clouds, racing From:The Chessmen of Mars with the scudding streamers of the stormEdgar Rice Burroughs swept fragments, and a moment later she (1922 original text) was swallowed by the dense masses billowing above. Here was a new world, a world of It was this game that Dejah Thoris and John chaos unpeopled except for herself; but it was Carter were playing when Tara of Helium bid a cold, damp, lonely world and she found it them good night, retiring to her own quarters and her sleeping silks and furs. “Until morning, depressing after the novelty of it had been dissipated, by an overpowering sense of the my beloved,” she called back to them as she magnitude of the forces surging about her. passed from the apartment, nor little did she Suddenly she felt very lonely and very cold guess, nor her parents, that this might indeed and very little. Hurriedly, therefore, she rose be the last time that they would ever set eyes until presently her craft broke through into the upon her. glorious sunlight that transformed the upper The morning broke dull and gray. Ominous surface of the somber element into rolling clouds billowed restlessly and low. Beneath them torn fragments scudded toward the north- masses of burnished silver. Here it was still west. From her window Tara of Helium looked cold, but without the dampness of the clouds, and in the eye of the brilliant sun, her spirits out upon this unusual scene. Dense clouds rose with the mounting needle of her altimseldom overcast the Barsoomian sky. At this eter. Gazing at the clouds, now far beneath, hour of the day it was her custom to ride one
the girl experienced the sensation of hanging stationary in mid-heaven; but the whirring of her propeller, the wind beating upon her, the high figures that rose and fell beneath the glass of her speedometer, these told her that her speed was terrific. It was then that she determined to turn back. The first attempt she made above the clouds, but it was unsuccessful. To her surprise she discovered that she could not even turn against the high wind, which rocked and buffeted the frail craft. Then she dropped swiftly to the dark and wind-swept zone between the hurtling clouds and the gloomy surface of the shadowed ground. Here she tried again to force the nose of the flier back toward Helium, but the tempest seized the frail thing and hurled it remorselessly about, rolling it over and over and tossing it as it were a cork in a cataract. At last the girl succeeded in righting the flier, perilously close to the ground. Never before had she been so close to death, yet she was not terrified. Her coolness had saved her, that and the strength of the deck lashings that held her. Traveling with the storm she was safe, but where was it bearing her? She pictured the apprehension of her father and mother when she failed to appear at the morning meal. They would find her flier missing and they would guess that somewhere in the path of the storm it lay a wrecked and tangled mass upon her dead body, and then brave men would go out in search of her, risking their lives; and that lives would be lost in the search, she knew, for she realized now that never in her life-time had such a tempest raged upon Barsoom. She must turn back! She must reach Helium before her mad lust for thrills had cost the sacrifice of a single courageous life! She determined that greater safety and likelihood of success lay above the clouds, and once again she rose through the chilling, wind tossed vapor. Her speed again was terrific, for the wind seemed to have increased rather than to have lessened. She sought gradually to check the swift flight of her craft, but though she finally succeeded in reversing her motor the wind but carried her on as it would. Then it was that Tara of Helium lost her temper.
Tara of Helium, the sensual and nude princess of Barsoom, is a young heroine archetype— inexperienced, somewhat foolish, but full of life and sensuality. Her nakedness ties her to Eve as an unashamed and impetuous princess/ goddess gure. Her name alludes to Tara, the female Boddhisatva, the Buddhist “mother of liberation,” and “helium --the lightest of the gases, named for helios--the Sun. The illustration of Tara of Helium is the work of Ana Magalhaes. The artist writes: “Tara of Helium is Carthoris’ younger sister. There’s no use in asking me why she’s naked…people on Barsoom (Mars) supposedly don’t wear any clothes, just jewelry and some silks and furs for sleeping. Nope, I don’t know why... maybe it’s very warm up there in Mars. Who can say? Burroughs wanted it that way and we can’t ght the author’s view of his own creation. Tara is willful and very spoiled by her parents–– especially her father - but after a dangerous adventure where she is saved by a disguised nobleman (whom she had met before, hated and then of course, falls head-over-heels in love with), the immature Tara learns of life and its hardships, coming out of her trial a more sensible and braver woman.”
Had her world not always bowed in acquiescence to her every wish? What were these elements that they dared to thwart her? She would demonstrate to them that the daughter of The Warlord was not to be denied! They would learn that Tara of Helium might not be ruled even by the forces of nature! And so she drove her motor forward again and then with her firm, white teeth set in grim determination she drove the steering lever far down to port with the intention of forcing the nose of her craft straight into the teeth of the wind, and the wind seized the frail thing and toppled it over upon its back, and twisted and turned it and hurled it over and over; the propeller raced for an instant in an air pocket and then the tempest seized it again and twisted it from its shaft, leaving the girl helpless upon an unmanageable atom that rose and fell, and rolled and tumbled—the sport of the elements she had defied. Tara of Helium’s first sensation was one of surprise--that she had failed to have her own way. Then she commenced to feel concern--not for her own safety but for the anxiety of her parents and the dangers that the inevitable searchers must face. She reproached herself for the thoughtless selfishness that had jeopardized the peace and safety of others. She realized her own grave danger, too; but she was still unterrified, as befitted the daughter of Dejah Thoris and John Carter. She knew that her buoyancy tanks might keep her afloat indefinitely, but she had neither food nor water, and she was being borne toward the least-known area of Barsoom. Perhaps it would be better to land immediately and await the coming of the searchers, rather than to allow herself to be carried still further from Helium, thus greatly reducing the chances of early discovery; but when she dropped toward the ground she discovered that the violence of the wind rendered an attempt to land tantamount to destruction and she rose again, rapidly. Carried along a few hundred feet above the ground she was better able to appreciate the Titanic proportions of the storm than when she had flown in the comparative serenity of the zone above the clouds, for now she could distinctly see the effect of the wind upon the surface of Barsoom. The air was filled with
dust and flying bits of vegetation and when the storm carried her across an irrigated area of farm land she saw great trees and stone walls and buildings lifted high in air and scattered broadcast over the devastated country; and then she was carried swiftly on to other sights that forcedin upon her consciousness a rapidly growing conviction that after all Tara of Helium was a very small and insignificant and helpless person. It was quite a shock to her self-pride while it lasted, and toward evening she was ready to believe that it was going to last forever. There had been no abatement in the ferocity of the tempest, nor was there indication of any. She could only guess at the distance she had been carried for she could not believe in the correctness of the high figures that had been piled upon the record of her odometer. They seemed unbelievable and yet, had she known it, they were quite true--in twelve hours she had flown and been carried by the storm full seven thousand haads. Just before dark she was carried over one of the deserted cities of ancient Mars. It was Torquas, but she did not know it. Had she, she might readily have been forgiven for abandoning the last vestige of hope, for to the people of Helium, Torquas seems as remote as do the South Sea Islands to us. And still the tempest, its fury unabated, bore her on. All that night she hurtled through the dark beneath the clouds, or rose to race through the moonlit void beneath the glory of Barsoom’s two satellites. She was cold and hungry and altogether miserable, but her brave little spirit refused to admit that her plight was hopelesseven though reason proclaimed the truth. Her reply to reason, sometime spoken aloud in sudden defiance, recalled the Spartan stubbornness of her sire in the face of certain annihilation: “I still live!”
Edgar Rice Burroughs
A Literary Mars Science fiction is the utopian literature of our time. There are thousands of science fiction books about Mars. The red planet is part of the utopian dream, but the dream is really about earth and its discontents. These below are fictional books in English about Mars from the 1990s alone as reported on Wikipedia.
a three-person Mars expedition in 1986 using Apollo-derived technology.
* Mars Underground (1997) by William K. Hartmann * Olympus Mons (1998) by Bud Sparhawk. the mountain is the setting for a 21st century downhill race. * Beige Planet Mars (1998) by Lance * In Terry Bisson’s Voyage to the Red Planet Parkin and Mark Clapham, a novel in Virgin (1990), the first expedition to Mars is organized Publishing’s New Adventures series is set on by a Hollywood producer so he can film a scia terraformed Mars which has become a retireence fiction movie on location. * Red Genesis (1991) by S.C. Sykes, about a ment home for Earth’s wealthy elderly. The title is a deliberate play on the books of Robrebellion by human colonists. * Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy (Red inson’s Mars Trilogy. * Semper Mars (1998) by Ian Douglas Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars, 1992–1996) is depicts the Cydonia region of Mars as home concerned with a centuries-long program of terraforming the planet. In Robinson’s companion to ancient alien ruins where mummified early book The Martians, the escarpment is the scene humans are found in 2040. * The Martian Race (1999) by Gregory of an epic multi-pitched rock climb. His IceBenford henge (1984) also features a Mars in process * Brian Aldiss and Roger Penrose wrote of terraforming. Olympus Mons features as the White Mars (1999) as a response to the tersite of an annual festival. Mars is also one raforming science fiction of Kim Stanley Robof the terraformed worlds visited during the course of Robinson’s The Memory of Whiteness inson and Paul J. MaCauley above. However, their work rejects terraforming and Mars has (1985). * Mars (1992), and Return to Mars (1999) by been designated as a “planet for science”, analogously to Antarctica’s current status as Ben Bova from the Grand Tour series. * Moving Mars (1993) by Greg Bear depicts an ecologically preserved site for managed scientific experimentation. a colonised Mars gradually seeking indepen* A Harlot of Venus (1996, Richard dence from the control of Earth. McGowan) is a lurid, erotic swashbuckler set * Red Dust (1993) by Paul J. McAuley takes place against a backdrop of a failing attempt at on a low-tech Mars much in the adventurous spirit of Burroughs. The book features many terraforming Mars by the Chinese. place names that correspond with actual Mar* Bright Messengers (1995) by Gentry Lee a novel set in the Arthur C. Clarke’s Rama uni- tian geography. verse. A faithful priestess and an engineer who share the same vision of sparkling particules on Earth meet on Mars as civilization faces total collapse. This affects the Mars colony and during the threat of a global sand storm, they found escape of the doomed outpost inside an alien pod, which carried the fugitive humans into a gigantic and spherical spaceship orbiting Mars. * Voyage (1996) by Stephen Baxter. An alternate history about the 20-year lead-up to Soviet Martians, movie poster, 1927
John Carter of Mars by Frank Frazetta
by Lisa Anello Before there were the nine-foot tall blue aliens and the strange creatures of the planet Pandora in the fantasy & science fiction blockbuster film Avatar, there was a closer planet of dreams-- our neighboring red planet, Mars. What would it be like to go there? People may have wondered about life beyond earth since the discovery that the sky has other planets. Of all the nearby planets, Mars is the planet of dreams. There have been so many B-movies and comic books, some with scary, man-eating creatures with huge brains and various strange shapes. In some fanciful depictions, the Martian has a human form and has even moved in to become a favorite member of the family! But Hollywood aside, wouldn’t it be cool if these dreams could come true? This is the planet we’ve all thought about. Can it support life? Science fiction writers have imagined that it could. Almost 100 years ago Edgar Rice Burroughs, who created Tarzan of the Apes, also wrote pulp science fiction about fearsome Martian creatures, abducted princesses, and brawny, tough-guy adventurers. Burrough’s Mars was somewhat Earthlike, but more forbidding. Few would sign up for travel there. In the1950s, Ray Bradbury published his Martian Chronicles. Bradbury’s more sophisticated tales describe the colonization of Mars by humans escaping an earth ruined by atomic warfare. (Remember, Bradbury was writing in the 40s and 50s, the beginning of the atomic arms race and the doomsday war gaming of U.S. and Soviet generals). In Bradbury’s tales, humans go to Mars and the germs they bring wipe out most of the original Martians. War intensifies on Earth, and the original colonists go back to fight on Earth. Earth is even more devastated after the war and Mars has been depopulated. But a lone family from Earth in a stolen rocket goes back to Mars to start over, burning anything that reminds them of Earth. The pioneering little family becomes the new Martians. ••• 104
ere is my science fiction dream about Mars. Imagine it’s the year 2075. The earth is dying. Wars are out of control. Food and water supplies are dwindling down to nothing. The seas are so polluted that they’ve turned black and lifeless. All the trees have been cut and and there are few plants left. Wildlife has lost its battle to live because of a lack of food and water. Let us hope this bleak scenario never comes true. But if it did, what are our choices? What do we do? Where do we go? We know that there is the possibility of space travel. We’ve been working on it for years, maybe for this reason. Could humans make a quick escape after we’ve used up everything that we were given on earth? Do we have the real possibility of flying through space at just below the speed of light to check out the real estate in a far away galaxy? Where is that map to Pandora anyway? The logistics of deep space travel are unimaginable, but maybe we could stick closer to home! Who would go anyway? This scenario seems unlikely any time soon. “Mars: the Planet of Your Future. Prime lots still available.” In 2075, would we see these real-estate signs everywhere on billboards and the Internet? Will we hop aboard a specially made rocket ship with a
plasma engine built in Guanacaste, Costa Rica and be expats on Mars? Maybe the Mars of our dreams has tall trees with enormous, emerald green canopies and lush, albeit strange-looking, vegetation with the most abstract and colorful flowers that you have ever seen. Will the water be clean and sweet with a rosy-purplish tint to it because of the red sky? There would be no garbage, no smog, no pollution of any kind on the Mars of my imagination. The animals woulkd be as abundant as they once were on Earth. The Martian ecology may be very different than what we’re used to, but some animals will be cute, some majestic, and some just plain scary, like it used to be on our formerly-wonderful planet. The birds will be beautiful: my favorites will have rainbowhued feathers and phosphorescent dots on the tips. The beauty of our imaginary Mars will be breathtaking. When you wake sober, but still hung over, from your dream of starting over on a new planet, you may think a bit differently. If we must seek refuge from the mess we have made of our home planet by an improbable, expensive journey in a cramped spaceship, maybe it’s time to renew our efforts at saving what is by far, the best planet in the Solar System, and for so many light years beyond. •••
The Mars Society Says:
The time has come for humanity to journey to Mars We’re ready. Though Mars is distant, we are far better prepared today to send humans to Mars than we were to travel to the Moon at the commencement of the space age. Given the will, we could have our first teams on Mars within a decade. The reasons for going to Mars are powerful We must go for the knowledge of Mars. Our robotic probes have revealed that Mars was once a warm and wet planet, suitable for hosting life’s origin. But did it? A search for fossils on the Martian surface or microbes in groundwater below could provide the answer. If found, they would show that the origin of life is not unique to the Earth, and, by implication, reveal a universe that is filled with life and probably intelligence as well. From the point of view learning our true place in the universe, this would be the most important scientific enlightenment since Copernicus. We must go for the knowledge of Earth. As we begin the twenty-first century, we have evidence that we are changing the Earth’s atmosphere and environment in significant ways. It has become a critical matter for us better to understand all aspects of our environment. In this project, comparative planetology is a very powerful tool, a fact already shown by the role Venusian atmospheric studies played in our discovery of the potential threat of global warming by greenhouse gases. Mars, the planet most like Earth, will have even more to teach us about our home world. The knowledge we gain could be key to our survival.
Mars, Planet of Dreams
We must go for the challenge. Civilizations, like people, thrive on challenge and decay without it. The time is past for human societies to use war as a driving stress for technological progress. As the world moves towards unity, we must join together, not in mutual passivity, but in common enterprise, facing outward to embrace a greater and nobler challenge than that which we previously posed to each other. Pioneering Mars will provide such a challenge. Furthermore, a cooperative international exploration of Mars would serve as an example of how the same joint-action could work on Earth in other ventures.
We must go for the youth. The spirit of youth demands adventure. A humans-to-Mars program would challenge young people everywhere to develop their minds to participate in the pioneering of a new world. If a Mars program were to inspire just a single extra percent of today’s youth to scientific educations, the net result would be tens of millions more scientists, engineers, inventors, medical researchers and doctors. These people will make innovations that create new industries, find new medical cures, increase income, and benefit the world in innumerable ways to provide a return that will utterly dwarf the expenditures of the Mars program. We must go for the opportunity. The settling of the Martian New World is an opportunity for a noble experiment in which humanity has another chance to shed old baggage and begin the world anew; carrying forward as much of the best of our heritage as possible and leaving the worst behind. Such chances do not come often, and are not to be disdained lightly. We must go for our humanity. Human beings are more than merely another kind of animal, -we are life’s messenger. Alone of the creatures of the Earth, we have the ability to continue the work of creation by bringing life to Mars, and Mars to life. In doing so, we shall make a profound statement as to the precious worth of the human race and every member of it. We must go for the future. Mars is not just a scientific curiosity; it is a world with a surface area equal to all the continents of Earth combined, possessing all the elements that are needed to support not only life, but technological society. It is a New World, filled with history waiting to be made by a new and youthful branch of human civilization that is waiting to be born. We must go to Mars to make that potential a reality. We must go, not for us, but for a people who are yet to be. We must do it for the Martians. Believing therefore that the exploration and settlement of Mars is one of the greatest human endeavors possible in our time, we have gathered to found this Mars Society, understanding that even the best ideas for human action are never inevitable, but must be planned, advocated, and achieved by hard work. We call upon all other individuals and organizations of like-minded people to join with us in furthering this great enterprise. No nobler cause has ever been. We shall not rest until it succeeds. http://www.newmars.com
by Peter Scaevola Looking for Paradise or Utopia? Time to think way out of the box.
erraforming is the theoretical process of engineering Mars––a presently uninhabitable planet––and making it just like Earth. The model for such an ambitious process is Earth itself. Once, Earth was a lifeless planet, and just look at it now-- full of life, though probably too many of one particularly aggressive species. Enough is known about the process of biogenesis on Earth to have made the idea of humans assisting in the process on other planets a technical possibility. It would only be a dream if humans were not able to travel to the more remote planets of the solar system, 106
and until now, this has been the stuff of science ction. Thanks to Dr. Franklin Chang’s ambitious plasma rocket project, NASA has put going to Mars on an operational track. May I suggest that the rst order of business would be to rename the Red Planet? We call it Mars, the Latin version of the Greek Ares, God of War and Storms. As long as we are recreating an entire planet, with all the huge bioengineering challenges required, the least we could do is pick a better name. Earth has had enough warfare in its long, bloody history. The last thing we need is to create a duplicate Earth and drag with it traditions and legacies of war. The perfect anti-war name for Mars would be Eirene––the Goddess of
Peace. It’s true we already have a planet called Venus, named after a goddess, but another goddess planet certainly would not hurt. I think Eirene is better than Barsoom, that silly name for the Red Planet that science ction writer Edgar Rice Burroughs used. Presently Eirene seems lifeless, but like all the planets of the solar system, it is full of most of the chemical elements that are found on Earth, and therefore capable of the same kind of chemical evolution. The idea of terraforming is to kick-start some of the processes that led to the chemical evolution on Earth, and in the process convert the planet into one hospitable to Earthian life forms, especially those large, pushy, two-legged primates.
According to the terraformers, the rst step is to make Eirene’s atmosphere thicker with carbon dioxide. This wouldn’t be a problem for humans. We are experts at adding CO2 to the atmosphere. In fact, it is one of the reasons terraformers and other Earth escape artists are planning to make a new planet in the rst place. Our present home planet has been overused and abused nearly to the point of abandonment, at least for those who do not care to try to save it. The terraformers want to use the chlorinated uorocarbons, which did such a great job of creating the greenhouse gas effect on Earth, as a tool to trap enough heat and CO2 on Eirene. As the planet heats up, the carbon stored in the rocks
on Eirene would outgas and make a thick, though unbreathable, atmosphere. Humans obviously cannot breathe CO2, but plants can. That’s the key bioengineering triumph. Cover Eirene with plants, so content in their CO2-enriched environment, and the plants will produce oxygen by photosynthesis. Soon, there would be enough oxygen for people, and then would follow houses, parks, streets, schools, factories, cars, fast food joints, and strip malls. You know, Earth. The terraformers have a long view of the future. Although conditions on Earth for its present 6.5 billion human population are good for some, tolerable for many, and miserable for the lower billion or two, and although things seem bad
now, just wait. Everything is going to get a lot worse. After the climate changedeniers are dead and gone, moldering in their graves with those articial selfsatised looks on their embalmed faces, and after the mobs of survivors of the climate change catastrophes have desecrated their graves and done unspeakable things to the bloated corpses of the climate change deniers for preventing remedial measures, things on Earth will get much, much worse. Despite the probable die-offs caused by disease and starvation, there will still be billions of surplus humans. Can our species escape to Eirene and avoid extinction on a dying Earth? Yes, say the terraformers, though just who makes the cut and gets one of those expensive one-way tickets to Eirene is still up for grabs. Who will these ultimate expats be? You can be sure it won’t be those poor people from Bangladesh, or the Sahel. Will there be a genetic lottery to pick the best sets of genomes to send to Eirene? I can think of personality traits and political philosophies I would like not to see get aboard the plasma-rocketed spacecraft for the voyage, but I’ll keep that to myself. Here’s some startling, though fortunately safely-distant, solar system news. In seven billion years or so, our Sun will have become so swollen in size that it will be bigger than the distance from the Earth to our present Sun, and will be 3000 times brighter, as well. But actually, the news is more urgent than that! Astronomers have estimated Earth’s present position in the habitable zone will be eclipsed by a warming and growing Sun in (gasp!) just one billion years. The growing heat of the Sun will evaporate the oceans, and it will be really hard to get good tuna sushi.
Even if there are people left on Earth by then, they will have long since run out of SFP 100 sun block. Things will get so hot that Earth will actually turn into a molten blob of red-hot rock. Real estate values will plummet. It will denitely be time to get to Eirene. The sweet spot of the habitable zone in the solar system will shift to approximately the orbit that Eirene lies on now, and by then, humans will have migrated, ark-like, from the burnt-out husk of Earth to the New Earth of Eirene. When Eirene gets too hot, with that huge, hot sun pulsating on the horizon, the knowledge the terrafomers gained by converting the old Mars into a new world will be useful in transforming cooler planets farther out in distant solar orbits. So it goes. All aboard for Uranus!
“When the last living thing Has died on account of us, How poetical it would be If Earth could say, In a voice oating up Perhaps From the oor Of the Grand Canyon, “It is done. People did not like it here.” — Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Left: Mars at Rest Diego Velázquez 1636-40 Museo del Prado, Madrid Right: Goddess of Peace, Eirene holding Plutus, from the Glyptothek Museum, Munich. Roman copy of the Greek original by Kephisodotos.
Slouching toward Utopia Franklin Chang DĂaz walking in space 108
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