The Aborigines of Australia make their environment into a brain that remembers by imbuing it with the spirit of their heroic ancestors and their adventures. This billabong is where Rainbow Serpent went into the ground, this pile of rocks is where Kangaroo and Dingo danced, this cliff is where Blue-tongue Lizard bit off a leaf from the Boab tree, chewed it up and spit it into the air where it became the stars could have been some of their myths and in this way they remember and know where to go and what to do. They call it the dreamtime. How else could you live in a huge desert, hundreds of square miles, with an average rainfall of 8″ a year and remember all the details of where water could be found and where the animals might be. They had no writing, only memory and art: rock paintings, body tattoos, the carved stick, stories, dance.
Nowadays we have iphones and convenience stores and roadways and airports but we rarely notice our surroundings. It’s just a set where the action happens, not even a place. It doesn’t even have a story it’s just something we arrange. We dream at night of strange things, unbelievable events, impossible connections, maybe beautiful maybe weird and then wake up to daytime and routine and some old same old.
The book I’m writing, the Ancient Book of Magic Secrets, is about what is human. Since we are one we would be the ones to know right? And we have been for 300,000 years or so, most of that time living more like the Australian Aborigines than modern day urban cave dwellers, I mean apartment dwellers. What a range of experiences, what a palette of colors we have to express ourselves with. Whatever it is to be human, it is certainly some sort of celebration. The cuisine, my god, the gods, my lord, the art, the poetry, the architecture, wow. It all falls down but what a building process. We have machines that look like the mythic dragons of old harnessed to our will and made to dig up the earth and pile up stones and structural steel as high as the sky.
Lovely and benign we appear, diminutive among the beasts of the earth and yet we seem intent on expressing something unique, something that has never been done before. And after that, something else that has never been done before either. Let’s go and walk on the Moon for it says in the scriptures that Earth is given to man but the Heavens belong only to God. Hell let’s go to Mars. The first one to get there will be famous. Like Lindbergh, like Armstrong, like Babe Ruth, like our heroic ancestors who walked all the way from Siberia across the Bering Straits and found a new land, a new continent actually that had been separated from the rest of the world since Pangea broke up a xillion years ago.
We are the brave hearts. Or this is what we tell ourselves in our stories. The animals have no need for bravery, they live with courage everyday facing the uncertainty and danger of the food chain. We need reminders. Maybe that’s who we are, those who remind. Hey, look at this oh humans! Strip away everything except for what can’t be removed. Find the core, find the undeniable essence, feel being alive. Maybe that’s human.