The Revenge of Dead Thoughts: A tale

The pressure is now on to finish my Phd! I am now writing it up as a series of four papers with interweaving texts. The University currently known as Rhodes holds an interesting workshop on how to write papers. I have not attended it but fellow Phd students have guided me through how the first step is to write your paper as a fairytale or a symbolic story and craft it from there. This is the symbolic tale that emerged when I took pen to paper and free wrote what I wished to say in the first of these papers which I’ve entitled “The Revenge of Dead Thoughts”.

Once upon a time, before we learnt to cognitively separate ourselves from our environments, the way we thought and acted in the world was intrinsically linked to the environment or context out of which we arose. As we walked and talked and thought the landscape, the trees, the sea, the rivers thought with us and talked to us. This has not changed. We still emerge, as physical and cognitive beings, out of the environment we find ourselves in. We are inseparable from this space but we have forgotten this. This forgetful moment has meant that some groups that are more powerful have taken up the space of naming the language of the world. They name it in one way and so, in the process, un-name it and the the way it is. They un-name all the relationships that people, animals and plants have with each other. In their quest for knowledge and power they name a relationship with the world as one of dominance and subservience.

Many human religions enabled this and the earth and all non-human relations were renamed as feminine: the tricky, secretive, un-tamable woman who had to be caught, raped and domesticated to enable the new naming of dominance over all that is not human. This was the case with most of the relationships with nature but not all. Some people remained free from this renaming of ‘power over nature’ and continued to sing and chant and name a relationship ‘with nature’ and to embody the mother as all powerful and all loving.

As with all things there is a choice. As the sages say with knowledge comes great power. Each new thing we learn we have a choice of using it to have power over or power with each other. When the nations of Europe learnt to sail in great wooden ships across the sea, they had a means to create a relationship. What they created was a relationship of taming the seas and taming the savages. As they did this it enabled them to name themselves as hero’s and saviour’s that come to foreign lands and redeem the people there whothey named as half-human, half –animal. As they had already learnt to word their devastation of the forests and the living beings within them as ‘progress’ so they could name their relationship with these other Human’s as ‘the half-human’ or any way they wished. Just as they cleared the great forests of their homeland so they could clear this new land of these half human beasts without endangering their soul or their status as hero. And so they named the people and the land and what was unnamed and silenced went underground and remained hidden from view.

Many years later the tale of dominantion and strength began to wane. There was much to explore and to take but what was taken did not rejuvenate. The relationship with earth began to shift because the Earth also names and sings and whispers. Rivers can stop talking ‘flow’ and instead whisper ‘dust’, the earth can stop anchoring trees and instead belch fire and gas. ‘Hard ice’ can turn to ‘talking water’ and changes can happen that are unforeseen. What was forgotten was that even in a relationship of dominance there is a relationship. The oppressed do not stay quiet and silent. They are not dead. They live and breath and fight back. So it is with the relationship with the Earth. It was not, as was thought, a one way street of simply naming and so owning. What was exchanged became integrated and so changed. No one thought about the changes. No one thought about what would change. No one thought about how, if named ‘poison’, we will eat poison. If we sing destruction we will be destroyed.

To begin naming liberation means to listen for the repatterning. By renaming, reorganising, seeing new patterns in the stories and the songs we may start seeing the moments when some words shut down other words, and when some songs outsang other songs. And we may wonder – what have we lost and what have these choices left us with today? What do we do with this song of dominance, this song that has become the white man’s anthem. But no matter how loud and how crafted stories of destruction are told there are always the struggle songs that start booming underneath the earth. There are the dances of defiance that shudder with the Earth and the soft whisperings that remember, that do not forget, that even create. These are the voices that demand that their words will not be buried and the relationships they create with each other and the world can bring about a new way of Being that is both a tale of the great discoverers and the gentle healers. These are the songs that this paper is listening to. These are the dances that this text wishes to understand. This is the strength, the power with and within us all that could mobilise the songs of defiance and make space for naming the world as our friend, our comrade and our home.

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