now and then

Devotion to the past [is] one of the more disastrous forms of unrequited love.
Susan Sontag "Unguided Tour," quoted in The Past is a Foreign Country David Lowenthal

I was rereading an article from the April 16th New Yorker about an Amazonian tribe living in virtual isolation for thousands of years. Their language is, in certain respects, bafflingly "simple" and does not seem to adhere to current linguistic paradigms. They have no numbers beyond 2 or 3, no fixed color terms, no abstract ideas, no descriptive clauses, no perfect tense, no deep memory. That's what caught my attention:
Everett pointed to the word xibipío as a clue to how the Pirahã perceive reality solely according to what exists within the boundaries of their direct experience...“When someone walks around a bend in the river, the Pirahã say that the person has not simply gone away but xibipío—‘gone out of experience,’ ” Everett said. “They use the same phrase when a candle flame flickers. The light ‘goes in and out of experience.’ ” ...Everett...called it the “immediacy-of-experience principle.”
Essentially, they live eternally in the present. If something goes out of vision, it is out of experience and no longer of concern. This strikes me as humorously appealing only because, well, I need a little of that. It's very self-help and Power of Now, no?

In my endless preparation/procrastination for another post I've been lightly trying my hand at some Nietzsche, The Use and Abuse of History, on recommendation from the frighteningly erudite Dylan Trigg of side effects. Although the reading is for my next post, this seemed particularly apt for me, right now:
The person who cannot set himself down on the crest of the moment, forgetting everything from the past, who is not capable of standing on a single point, like a goddess of victory, without dizziness or fear, will never know what happiness is.
The more reading I do, the more my once-discreet ideas
on collecting, on the nature of the "museum", and on the past--personal, psychical--are now collapsing inwards and piling up. How ridiculous: to be caught in a stasis formulating ideas about the Past for some time in the future...

The incredible portraits of
Pirahã, at top, by Martin Schoeller seemed so 'timeless' they, ironically, reminded me of the inscrutable 2500 year old "archaic smile" of Ancient Greek art (kouros, and a figure from Ephesus)


Anonymous said...

This is a new idea ( to me )that could be very helpful in this world. To have things 'no longer of concern' would change things into a very happy present.

Doah said...

Wow, eternally in the present, we could learn a thing or two; reminds me of what I just wrote about, trying to escape technology.


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