To continue with our theme of the human journey, “Our Journey” December 28, 2017, we will look again at Gauguin’s thought-provoking questions “Where have we come from ? – Where are we ? – Where are we going?” These three questions are in line with the concepts of the past, the present, and the future.If History tells us about the past, it should also help us to understand the present, and also do something positive about the future. (Well – no harm in hoping!) The current theme will be “movement”.
Both animals and humans share an infinite capacity for movement. Since movement requires precious energy, there must be a motivation for such activity. It would appear that the greatest motivating force for movement is the need to eat. If we watch a bird, for example, nearly every movement is directed to spotting the nearest tit- bit, then taking up a position whence it can detect another one etc. etc. Even in our sophisticated human society we leave home to go to work to earn the wherewithal to go to the supermarket. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors followed the game on which they relied, and searched out roots and fruit as they went. The later farmers ,although more attached to a home base, spent the day tending the plants and animals on which they depended. The other two human needs, clothing and shelter, make fewer demands on our energy than our “daily bread”.
The apparently static aspects of the farmer’s life are more illusory than it would seem. Both plants and animals are dependent on the weather for their existence. Changes in weather patterns over even a brief period can have disastrous consequences. Death from starvation and disease, migration of whole populations in search of new food sources or of employment are obvious results. The human population has , as part of its survival strategy, , learned either to move or otherwise adapt to changed circumstances.
Seemingly in all human cultures there is a “folk memory”of how they came to be in their current environment. This can take the form of a “mythology” by word of mouth over an incredible period, eventually appearing in written form. These traditions are often dismissed by modern commentators as fictional, not taking into account the fact that they are based on historical fact, with exaggeration, confusion, and incorrect sequences.
Just a few examples would be theHebrew traditions recorded in the Old Testament, the Popul Vuh (the traditional account of the Quiche Maya in Central America), the Aeneid of Virgil (the account of the origins of Rome as a resultof the arrival of refugees from the Trojan War), the Book of the Invasions (the traditional account of the origins of the people of Ireland). There are so many of such accounts now available to us. Some are even more adventurous in carrying the account back to the origins of the human race. In the case of the Book of the Invasions the question of the change from hunter-gathering to farming is referred to. Sometimes there are recurring themes, such as feuds between two brothers, as in the Popul Vuh, Cain and Abel, Romulus and Remus, to give but a few (perhaps a philosophical attempt to look at areas such as sin,good and evil, etc).
This at least is an example of the question of “Where have we come from?”