Elemental views

Drawing by Kim Holten, 2008
Drawing by Kim Holten, 2008

from the animation, Connectivity


I am testing an idea:

Some worldviews give voice to environments through objective observations and subjective experiences of humans living within them. These views help me understand how places work and how people experience living within them. I am calling these worldviews Elemental.

You may hold an Elemental view about your place.

Polar expeditioners who approached the ice with romantic notions of the Sublime, or Heroism, did not possess Elemental views. They did not survive because they did not understand the ice. John Franklin (1845-1859) and Robert Falcon Scott (1868–1912) became tragic heroes.

Sealers who first ventured to polar regions, and Amundsen (1872–1928). who reached the south pole first, were predominantly practical people. They survived because they prepared for what they objectively knew of the ice. Amundsen brought his understandings of Norway to Antarctica. He knew what was needed to survive in the ice.

Realists, it appears, survive better in harsh conditions, than Romantic dreamers.

However, I suggest that if humans are to usefully evolve as a species, it is not enough to simply survive. We need to survive to tell the tale, to inspire confidence in the reality of environments and human capabilities within them. To survive and tell the tale, a balance between aesthetic and realistic world views is necessary. Traditional Australian Aboriginal cultures offer useful ways for us to be thinking today.

Traditional Australian Aboriginal views are Elemental because they give voice to Australian land through rituals that express human connectivity with environments. These views are known through sensory experience and objective observation. This knowledge is reflected through ritualistic practices that engage reasoning through sensory engagement. Sensory engagement typically involves drawing, dancing, music, story telling and making objects. Rituals engage humour and an aesthetic use of natural materials to raise awareness of the body as continuous with the land.

To many Western minds, Aboriginal Dreamtime is misunderstood; Dreamtime is misread as fiction.

Traditional Aboriginal Australians understand the reality of the land as continuous with all its creatures, including humans.

Aboriginal people survived here for 40,000 years because they knew the land for how it works, and how they connected within it.

Aboriginal stories, dances, images and objects are sacred because they provide symbols, myths and metaphors to describe the world as it functions, which is vital to know for human survival. These rituals connect objective observations with subjective experiences. They teach about maintaining balance through reciprocity between humans and the land.

Subjective experiences are known through our senses, and expressed through the various arts. These experiences are shaped predominantly by our right brain, through sense of connection with each other and our environments.

Objective observations are known through reason, predominantly using the left side of our brain. Logical lines of reasoning help us function in the world.

Our brains are internally complex systems, shaped by how we interconnect with other people and our environments. We can choose to think and to feel the reality of our connectivity.

Few artists can cast an Elemental eye on Antarctica because few have experienced much time there. But there are some who may be willing to share their thoughts.

Some questions:

I speculate there are other philosophies that accord with this view. What do you know?

What are your thoughts about your sense of place? What is your experience?

I welcome your responses, because they help to shape my thinking.