An Ancient Mistake by Shirley Lutzky

Passionate Person of the Planet and local author, Shirley Ann Cowart Lutzky shares a timely excerpt from her book…

Back in the nineties I wrote a novel, “Those Beautiful Eyes” that interwove between ancient and modern times. It portrayed the attitude toward women, spirituality and nature that was developing during the ending of the fertility “Goddess” times (circa 2700 B.C.). And it contrasted that attitude, with its outcome - the ways of the late twentieth century. Hopefully that “modern” time will soon also be seen as an ending - of the Patriarchal times - and the opening to an era of Harmonious Yin-Yang style human outlook and action.

This book was published in 2001 - predating Al Gore’s films, in other words. Which I mention because sometimes people make statements that imply that Mr. Gore - whose very informative movies POP just showed at Arlington - was the “inventor” of the idea of human-caused climate change. So it is useful to remember that people have long been trying to alert the world to human danger to the planet since way before Mr. Gore began his great work... And not just since the nineties, eighties, or even seventies. To quote Wikipedia:

 “The history of the scientific discovery of climate change began in the early 19th century when ice ages and other natural changes in paleoclimate were first suspected and the natural greenhouse effect first identified. In the late 19th century, scientists first argued that human emissions of greenhouse gases could change the climate. ” 

Of course the problem itself - of our specie’s rivalry with Nature (with “the Feminine” principle, including Mother Earth)  - is much older than that...

I would like to  elaboarate on that history by sharing a couple of excerpts from my book, the first from the more modern time, the second  from the ancient.

Excerpt 1    In this chapter, the protagonist, a newly acclaimed film-making environmentalist, is coming to the end of being interviewed by a young S.F. Chronicle journalist:

 ...Deborah, waiting for the reply to her latest question, looked up and saw that she had lost the man’s attention. She, too, had gone inward. She rephrased: “And why did you say what you just did, Michael? Tell me what it is, exactly, that leads you to see these clues you’re talking about? You say clues are there, in the Gilgamesh story—but we’re talking about the first written epic ever. Isn’t that so? From Sumeria—wasn’t that the first civilization?! You honestly see things in that ancient story that are relevant solutions to our present environmental—”

 “Well, no, Deborah, no, actually I don’t. You’re carrying it a little too far, there. And in a misleading direction, in fact. No, ‘solutions’ are not my area. What I do see in the epic are motifs—motifs that point to a useful way to focus, that’s all. A way to see the problem more clearly. Which is what must happen first. Before we can truly solve anything of great significance.

 “See, in the Gilgamesh project I’m focusing on a vision. A universal perception that could cause catharsis. In a threshold quantity of humanity! In order to achieve the will—the motivated energy—which is still the main thing lacking.

“Only with a passionate, universal motivation can humanity change sufficiently. To preserve the life of our planet, I mean. And we can first achieve the effective focus, I believe, by using a wide-angle lens. Not just observing our own little high tech episode on earth, our own narrow view. But rather by looking at the wide historical picture. And I don’t even mean just the industrial period—I’m talking about looking at the entire history of civilization. Beginning with Sumeria. Looking at that emotionally, and very deeply. In other words, with our minds in the surreal . . . ”

His voice had lost its earlier impatience. It took on, now, its normal calm. A harmonious bass, with a compelling quality that years before had carried him, shy though he thought he was, through “Love Me Tender” and “Heartbreak Hotel” at several high school parties. With an unrestrained conviction he spoke, as he glimpsed the end of his tunnel. He was just about home free.

“The situation in ancient Sumeria, at the birth of civilization, is congruent, Deborah, intriguingly congruent, with what we have today—in civilization’s “old age.” The Sumerians, some of them, were profoundly aware that the greedy and the powerful of their world were planning to not only use wild nature, but to completely destroy the wildness. Those kings did not cherish, did not want, the free wild life to thrive on earth!

 “Their world had developed agriculture, had domesticated meat. Now the leaders wanted the destruction of the wildness. The uncontrolled and formidable wildness. Partly out of fear they desired its destruction, partly out of arrogance. And partly from an immense desire to dominate. So much ignorant desire! If only they had known the forest intimately. They might have had the wisdom to care.

“It was not only beautiful cedar furnishings that those Sumerian kings were beginning to demand. ‘I am committed to this enterprise: to climb the mountain, to cut down the cedar and leave behind me an enduring name . . . ’ That’s the translation of the Sumerian text of Gilgamesh’s statement! From nearly five thousand years ago!

 “Gilgamesh was the mover and shaker in his world. All the leaders and investors of all the multinationals, all rolled up into one man. Not that the numbers have changed that much, though, you know. We still have the situation that three or four human beings possess more wealth than nearly half the world’s population. Did you know that, Deborah?

 “So, anyway, now . . . in the epic that Sumerian poet-philosophers created, they present this ‘hero,’ Gilgamesh. The legendary king of Uruk, or ‘Erech,’ if you like. People are in awe of the man—a god-man, they call him. They depend on him. They fear him. He protects them. And he demands their women. Every bride in the city, on the night before her wedding, is required to lie with Gilgamesh. Jus primer noctis—an ancient custom, even in his time.

 “Gilgamesh stands alone. But he finds one friend, one peer in virility. This is Enkidu—significantly, a man who once was one with nature. Enkidu is a newly civilized wild man—a Mowgli, a Tarzan—a man raised by the animals of the forest. Through sophisticated manipulation, with the help of a courtesan, Enkidu becomes civilized, and friend to Gilgamesh.

 “After meeting, and immediately clobbering each other—in the earliest bonding battle in recorded history—Gilgamesh and Enkidu set out to kill a monstrous enemy together. Their enemy is none other than Huwawa, the Great One of the Forest.

 “The forest! Do you see it, Deborah? The forest, which noncivilized peoples, even to this day, cherish and hold sacred! The forest, which we present civilized ones, of five thousand years later, at least some of us, are at last beginning to know is essential to human well-being, in fact to our existence.

 “We are seeing this only now, as we approach the finish of the destruction which was begun intentionally, something like three hundred generations ago. By such as Gilgamesh. And by the tendencies of yang-dominated civilization that he and others like him—” But suddenly he stopped, with a low, barely audible intake of breath—Deborah wasn’t even sure she’d heard it. He rushed to move on, before she could ponder what he’d just said, so mindlessly. For he had nearly introduced—like a complete fool, he later told himself—exactly what he had so efficiently avoided for over two hours. The goddess.

He began to cough. Loud, prolonged, and intentionally annoying, the coughing fit distracted his interviewer. And he was lucky; she missed her cue.

 “Excuse me, Deborah. A little something in my throat. Maybe too much talking. But, anyway now, as I was saying . . . the problems came from an imbalance. An entrapping tendency—it’s with us yet today.

 “The individual Gilgamesh actually did live, and die, thousands of years ago. But as for Huwawa—contrary to the epic—he has not been finished off. There still is time for the Spirit of the Forest. And time for ordinary, ‘unheroic’ humanity. Time to claim the victory. But only if we act, and act now. We can’t be late! I propose, Deborah, that—”

 “Your old obsession, isn’t it Michael?”

“Pardon me?”

 “You know, Michael—‘We can’t be late.’ Your need to be on time. Your school days in Africa? Your principal?”

 “Oh, yeah. Yeah, I see what you’re getting at. Sure, maybe so.” The kid’s been listening. He looked her in the eyes, which at that instant were rather solemn. Then he smiled. And suddenly all the composure, all the upper-handed confidence that Deborah Anderson had been gathering all day, was instantly shattered by his radiantly affirming smile.

She moistened her lips with her tongue, passed her hand over her hair and recrossed her legs, nearly all at once. He watched her for a moment and then continued.

“There is right now just enough time for the forest. Enough time for the children of the forest, the multitudes of ordinary humanity—the less greedy, the less proud, the less controlling—to be the final conquerors—”

“Oh, but, wait just a minute now, Michael! Aren’t you looking at most of humanity through rather rosy colored—”

“If, that is—please excuse me Deborah—if we can find it in ourselves to be as children of the forest. Gentle, innocent, and strong. Stronger than greed; stronger than we’ve been for the last five thousand years. That which the great teachers—the Buddhas, the Rabbis, the Masters and Avatars, the ‘Realized Ones’—have always told us that we can be!

“And does that really seem so outrageous to you, Deborah? We may be thoroughly acculturated to our civilized ways—but what is it that is still truly there, there in our DNA, in our genes? By nature we are the strong and gentle children of the forest—of the mountains, of the grasslands, of the seas. We are fundamentally of the earth. Disguising earth beneath our pavements and ourselves within our costumes and contraptions, and finally these days, within our cyberspace: none of all that changes who we really are, does it? Not in the least. After all, aren’t our genes, even today, only infinitesimally variant from Cro-Magnon’s?”  

“But Mi—”

“No, please, Deborah. Let me finish. I just want to say that I believe the time has come to expose the play-acting mimicry we call civilized culture. Mimicry—learned behavior—it’s a primate trait that has gone way, way out of balance, for the good of the species. As aspects of nature sometimes do. Learned behavior now overpowers our deeper, more instinctual wisdom. It’s clear that the time has come to readjust—another natural tendency, fortunately. It’s time to ‘be all that we can be,’ in the true, peaceful sense of those words. Time to recapture

 the wisdom.” ...

Excerpt 2:  from “Anarisha: My Life ” (a CIRCA  2700 B.C. chapter)

They were safafi,  the “whisperers”,  big ones.   I had observed their kind all of my life,  especially in my childhood,  when I  would be thoroughly absorbed in the world of those creatures.  Except for my mother and I,  my family was united in their disgust of them, and destroyed them without hesitation.  But I have never found it possible to kill anything.  I regarded the safafi as something akin to my toys,  interesting and not to be mishandled any  more than I would my doll, with whom it was only natural to be considerate.  The safafi, and all the other small ones - the ants, the butterflies, the spiders, as much as the birds and the cats; the pigs, the goats - those big ones; or the quiet ones - the vines and grasses, the simple shrubs and the great good trees, the splashing water and the strong everlasting mountains: I was certain that all creation prefers kindness.”