Unreal Nature

June 19, 2015

In an Instant of Golden Sunlight

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:42 am

… We fear, and never in this century will we cease to fear.

This is from the essay ‘The Winter of Man’ found in The Star Thrower by Loren Eiseley (1978):

… Man, achieving literacy on the far Mediterranean shores in an instant of golden sunlight would take the world as it was, to be forever.

[ … ]

… “We fear,” remarked an Eskimo shaman responding to a religious question from the explorer Knud Rasmussen some fifty years ago. “We fear the cold and the things we do not understand. But most of all we fear the doings of the heedless ones among ourselves.”

… But surely we can counter that this old man was an ignorant remnant of the Ice Age, fearful of a nature he did not understand. Today we have science; we do not fear the Eskimo’s malevolent ghosts.

… Yes, this could be admitted, but we also fear.

… For what is it that we do? We fear. We do not fear ghosts but we fear the ghost of ourselves. We have come now, in this time, to fear the water we drink, the air we breathe, the insecticides that are dusted over our giant fruits.

… We fear the awesome powers we have lifted out of nature and cannot return to her. We fear the weapons we have made, the hatreds we have engendered. We fear the crush of fanatic people to whom we readily sell these weapons. We fear for the value of the money in our pockets that stands symbolically for food and shelter. We fear the growing power of the state to take all these things from us. We fear to walk in our streets at evening. We have come to fear even our scientists and their gifts.

We fear, in short, as that self-sufficient Eskimo of the long night had never feared.

… We fear, and never in this century will we cease to fear. We fear the end of man as that old shaman in the snow had never had cause to fear it. There is a winter still about us — the winter of man that has followed him relentlessly from the caverns and the ice. The old Eskimo spoke well. It is the winter of the heedless ones.

My most recent previous post from Eiseley’s book is here.

-Julie

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