Saturday, October 26, 2013

Part I: Our Monoculture Myth of Society and Farming

She Who Watches
Milkweed pod blowing in the chill winds after the 1st hard frost
CC Jean Stimmell: 10/26/13
We live utterly out of balance in a monoculture of rationality, bureaucracy, and corporate bean-counting.  If Uncle Sam were a person, he would be in desperate need of a chiropractor from walking bent-over-sideways, from favoring his rational side at the expense of his imaginative, instinctual and soulful parts.

We live and die today by only one myth: our god is science. As myths go, this one is as nourishing as a two-year-old Twinkie; it is a monoculture as dry and arid as a desert. Yet we go on staggering along like thirsty folks in Death Valley with no water in sight, blindly following this dead myth.

To work on behalf of society, myth must have certain key qualities that resonate with and give sustenance to the individual.  According to Joseph Campbell, myth is what makes human life “psychologically true, significant, and meaningful.”1We were not meant to dwell in the arid desert of scientific rationality, a monoculture of dried up theories and numbers. Campbell says that what humans seek is not more spreadsheets and cognitive therapy but “the rapture of being alive.”2

Monotheistic myths, no matter how expansive, can’t do justice to the human soul or psyche which is made up or many parts, each an essential part of the whole. What we need, according to James Hillman, is a polytheistic myth that can embrace all our various selves3.

Not only do our psyches have many directions and sources of meaning, these different parts are often in an ongoing conflict, according to Hillman. The question then becomes, if we take the polytheistic view, how do we make sense of our multiple parts that often are in conflict, how do we harness them to work together to move forward and create meaning in our lives.4

The way out of our “psychic turmoil” lies in reclaiming our imagination by having the courage to shift paradigms: To shift from viewing our lives through a single, limited viewpoint, governed by one god, to a polytheistic psychology inhabited by many gods. This is not as earth shattering as it seems: we are merely reactivating our imagination and reverting to the polytheistic worldview of our forebears.

For instance, according to Christine Downing, the classical Greeks viewed the world through the eyes of many gods, not just one; they saw the gods not as omnipotent and perfect but as energies that affect everyone; the gods were referred to “as theos, that is, as immortal, permanent, ineluctable aspects of the world.”5

No god in the ancient classical civilizations ever denied the existence of another god because as Downing says: “to deny even one of the pantheon diminishes the richness of individuals and of the world.6

No wonder our monoculture world of science is so diminished, artificial and plastic.

Throughout this essay, I have used monotheistic and monoculture interchangeably and I did that for a reason, making the connection in my mind after reading an excellent piece by Mark Bittman on agricultural monocultures; the article rails against annual monocultures controlling agriculture in the same manner that Hillman rails against monotheistic myths controlling society.7

I will writemore about this soon in the next entry in my blog, attempting to explain why the future of humanity depends on changing to a new paradigm based on perennial polysystems agriculture and polytheistic psychology –which, in reality, are two sides of the same coin.

Doing more research after writing this blog, I discovered that Craig Chalquist has already written extensively on the connection between how monocrops currently rule farming in the same manner that patriarchal monotheism rules society.8

2 Campbell, J. (1988). The Power of myth. New York: Doubleday p.5
3 Hillman, J. (1989). A blue fire: Selected writings by James Hillman. Thomas Moore (Ed.). New York: Harper Collins
4 Ibid. p. 41
5 Downing, C. (1993). Gods in our midst: Mythological images of the masculine: A woman’s view. New Orleans: Spring Journal Books p.9
6 Ibid., p. 10

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