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  #1  
Old 05-21-2010, 09:13 AM
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Default Original Wisdom.

The book "Original Wisdom" (Robert Wolff) is really fascinating. It describes the experiences of the author in his dealings with aboriginal people of Malaysia and how they live a life that is so different from ours and very much like many of us think of the NA'Vi. The call themselves "the people" and live in harmony with their nature. They are semi-nomadic hunters and gatherers, valueing the dream time in their lives. It is a sad book as it also describes the endangerments these people faced (illnesses brought by westerners, logging etc). Much of it is from the 1960ies to 1970ies and if you look them up nowadays, their way of life seems to be replaced by western lifestyle. But it is also showing what was once (and may once be again) possible. It is a journey into ancient knowledge and a way of thinking of this world that is strange but also familiar to all people.

I also like the "Book of dreams" short story collection from the same author which is more of a fictional book as it is based mainly on his dreams.
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Old 07-16-2010, 02:18 PM
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I have read this book and I must say it is a great read. Lots of points draw similarities to how the Na'vi live but these people actually existed. I love one part where one of the tribe visits the sea for the first time...
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Eventually after centuries of war they gave up fighting and assimilated the enemy and found the enemy was themselves.

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Old 07-18-2010, 04:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Muiä View Post
I have read this book and I must say it is a great read. Lots of points draw similarities to how the Na'vi live but these people actually existed. I love one part where one of the tribe visits the sea for the first time...
Thanks for reminding me of that part. It really makes you think about how deep human capabilities may run.
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  #4  
Old 07-21-2010, 02:56 PM
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It was a fascinating part indeed. What really fascinates me are of course the shared dreams but also the way they spend their days - they do not plan for some work, they basically do what they please and what their dreams told them. I am so sad that they seem to have lost their ways as whatever I can find about these people in the present does only faintly remind one of the people described in the book.
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"Humans are storytellers. These stories then can become our reality. Only when we loose ourselves in the stories they have the power to control us. Our culture got lost in the wrong story, a story of death and defeat, of opression and control, of separation and competition. We need a new story!"
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Old 01-16-2013, 07:29 AM
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I know I'm making a massive necropost here, but after seeing the title of this book tossed around on this site every now and then, I finally decided to check it out from a library. I've just finished reading it.

I feel like I should be describing what I read and quoting various portions that I found particularly intriguing. However, what I really feel is that I simply cannot describe it. I just have so few personal experiences that I can use to relate to aspects of Sng'oi life. My own frames of reference barely work to help me understand. Sure, I can read and be told what their life is (was?) like, but I really cannot feel and know what it's like. I could regurgitate facts and observations from the book, but I would not truly know what it is I'm regurgitating. (And now already I'm even more conscious of when I use the word "know.")

If it sounds like I didn't enjoy the book, that's not true: I read the last half in almost a single day. But man, does it stretch my mind. I'm already thinking of re-reading it before I turn it back in.
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  #6  
Old 01-17-2013, 04:39 PM
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Yes, that is very true. Reading about these cultures reminds of what is meant by "different cultures". We tend to think of the US and Germany or of Canada and the US or France and Sweden as different cultures - and in a way they are that. But boy compared to really OTHER cultures, they are all basically subcultures of a single cultural group that has way more similarities than differences and the differences are more or less superficial (what kind of alcoholic beverage is drunken,...)
The Sng'Oi are very very different and reading this book is to accompany the writer on his discovery of this culture and his attempts to understand it. Me, it reminded me a lot of Jake trying to understand the NA'Vi which is why I posted the book here (though obviously Wolff needed many years to at least get a glimpse of how things are in that culture and was not rushing through to becoming a full member within weeks as in Avatar )
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Know your idols: Who said "Hitler killed five million Jews. It is the greatest crime of our time. But the Jews should have offered themselves to the butcher's knife. They should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs.". (Solution: "Mahatma" Ghandi)

Stop terraforming Earth (wordpress)

"Humans are storytellers. These stories then can become our reality. Only when we loose ourselves in the stories they have the power to control us. Our culture got lost in the wrong story, a story of death and defeat, of opression and control, of separation and competition. We need a new story!"
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  #7  
Old 01-17-2013, 09:48 PM
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Sounds like a book about something completely unrelatable that people like or find inspiring out of awe.
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Old 01-18-2013, 12:40 AM
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Sounds like a book about something completely unrelatable that people like or find inspiring out of awe.
And how.
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Old 01-18-2013, 02:54 AM
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Originally Posted by auroraglacialis View Post
Yes, that is very true. Reading about these cultures reminds of what is meant by "different cultures". We tend to think of the US and Germany or of Canada and the US or France and Sweden as different cultures - and in a way they are that. But boy compared to really OTHER cultures, they are all basically subcultures of a single cultural group that has way more similarities than differences and the differences are more or less superficial (what kind of alcoholic beverage is drunken,...)
You bring up a very good point which leads me to something in the book that fascinated me - the idea that different languages shape different realities for the people who speak them. The only other language I know in any significant degree is of European origin, and although I'll admit I've never been 100% fluent in it I had never thought that languages could shape one's world as much as Robert Wolff described. Reading about how the languages he used to communicate had no possessives and no ways of indicating whether the past, present, or future was being talked about...like what you said, here is a mark of a culture that really makes the differences between North America and Europe seem insignificant. Linguistically, Wolff was in a very unique position to write this book, and I'm glad that he highlighted these things.
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  #10  
Old 01-18-2013, 12:49 PM
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I would not say that one cannot relate to anything in the book. One can definitely relate to the author who is discovering this culture and observe what he experiences. But as with all such reports of people sharing their experiences, you never ever know how it really is like to experience this. If someone goes to the moon and back, you can never really relate to that, but still it is fascinating and as humans we do have some imagination that lets us think of how it might be like.

Language is indeed a very interestin thing and it really is closely related to culture not only as a means of communication but also in context of the worldview of a culture. So one can really say that the large number of indigenous languages that go extinct every year are equal to whole cultures that are lost. There were languages that did not have numbers because for that culture it was not approrpiate to say "three people" because it was a difference if these people were bob, frank and alice or frank, martin and jessica. They did not understand what people from Europe meant if they put any three people in one group and then claimed it to be the same as any other three people in terms of language. Or there are cultures that have less distinction between verbs and nouns. In that language it is the same if a human behaves like a coyote and a coyote behaving like a coyote normally does - in both cases the being and its action were interwoven and the language expressed both in the same way. There were even many languages that use animal sounds. One language group for example uses bird language for some things like a sunrise or certain weather because the birds make the same sound daily when the sun goes up, so the people used that sound to describe the sunrise. These languages and cultures are hard to understand indeed, but that is what makes a culture truely different. It was as different as that for Europeans to understand the Japanese culture when they first met. Nowadays, the differences are still considerable but one has many more similarities that are part of a global industrial culture and that basically make up most of the cultural background we live in. This includes iPhonies and Starbucks coffee and McDonalds and Google and all that - globalization is creating a global culture and reducing local cultures to subcultures, to funny specialities like japanese school uniforms, Swedish canned fermenting fish, Bavarian blood sausage and Pudding from Scotland. Its accessoires more than real fundamental cultural differences. And frankly we are not good in dealing with fundamental cultural differences sadly and instead people tend to fight them. Which is understandable if they feel their own culture threatened. But overall we react not very nice - if people in some part of the world unbury the bones of their dead to burn them, that is considered evil by some, if they eat their enemies after killing them, we are disgusted, etc. So cultural differences as interesting as they may be are also a problematic topic. In the case of this book however, the culture described is one that people from this culture probably rather tend to envy than hate. People sharing dreams and knowing things by intuition, unspoken communication and of course the "leisurely lifestyle" - that is something that people in our global culture are missing...
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Know your idols: Who said "Hitler killed five million Jews. It is the greatest crime of our time. But the Jews should have offered themselves to the butcher's knife. They should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs.". (Solution: "Mahatma" Ghandi)

Stop terraforming Earth (wordpress)

"Humans are storytellers. These stories then can become our reality. Only when we loose ourselves in the stories they have the power to control us. Our culture got lost in the wrong story, a story of death and defeat, of opression and control, of separation and competition. We need a new story!"
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  #11  
Old 01-18-2013, 08:06 PM
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And how.
A wild Iron Jones has appeared!
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  #12  
Old 01-19-2013, 06:05 PM
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A wild Iron Jones has appeared!
I am never wild.
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  #13  
Old 01-23-2013, 02:35 AM
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It is possible to relate to something outside of one's experience if it is part of the universal subconscious, for want of a better word. A very few works of epochal art can reach that place. I submit we are-most of us, for sure-here because Avatar touched such a place, even though none of us have ever had an experience like Jake's. It (and the stories in Original Wisdom) reach that place in the collective unconscious, the instinctive brain, that says, "This is right."

In my experience, the closest I have come to the Sng'Oi was some very intense group personal development trainings. Hippies who were in the right communes in the sixties may have come closer, out of people in the West that we may be or may know.
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  #14  
Old 01-23-2013, 12:49 PM
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This "collective unconscious" sounds like something kind of personal which might not apply to everyone.
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  #15  
Old 01-23-2013, 01:15 PM
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This "collective unconscious" sounds like something kind of personal which might not apply to everyone.
And who knows, the "collective unconscious" might not even be a thing.























It's not.
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