As Quiet as the Woods

Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: & / Teaching / Society / Survival /
@ IonaArc 2005 05 23

The city slicker walks into the woods. What does he hear? Nothing! What does he see? Not much. Trees. The trees are rooted, can’t hide. The wood dweller walks through the woods. What does he hear? Why, everything: except for a local envelope of silence which moves with him. If he’s still, the envelope shrinks to just beyond his skin. Bwana goes tramping into Africa? Even the lions shut up for the moment. But once the city slicker has gotten back into his car, roared off, once the wood dweller is still, or, in his own niche where the critters know his habits, normal wood-life carries on.

Oh, it isn’t just a man that will shut things up temporarily. The gallinules, the coots, squawk away: until they see a big alligator sneaking up on them. The shadow of the hawk will silence the song birds. And it isn’t just woods: plunge your head into tall grass, cannonball into the water … For a moment, not a cricket will chirp, the fish go invisible.

So: danger quiets things down (and we know of nothing more dangerous than man). (Always temporarily.) But danger is merely the most familiar thing that will silence any species (and most whole ecologies, temporarily): any traumatic experience will do it. And trauma can issue from truth, from art, from revelation, as well as from danger. After the Beethoven adagio the audience is silent: the more cultured, the more silent (and it isn’t just convention). At the Temple the priests babbled all the time. When Jesus spoke they went silent. Then they roared.

The bigger the truth, the longer the silence that will follow.

I intend to take the balance of this into more than one illustration, more than one type. I’ll install a “permanent” module at, the Society section, and add examples as I like. I intend to offer examples from my own experience — pk speaks, the room goes silent; then, gradually, resumes its babble: about diapers, about prices, about the playoffs, the election … For the moment though I’ll conclude this launch with a classic example (important to pk’s own work):

Abelard, soon after the turn of the 12th Century, said that ordinary things were real: tables, spoons, you and me. Silence. Then Roar! Then he got his balls cut off for him. By the 20th, 21st Century we think we agree. But that’s because we don’t really know how to think, can’t address what’s really at issue, are blind to how revolutionary the statement remains (and how moot!) Exactly as we remain blind to what we quote from Jesus. (Or Darwin, Frazer, Freud, Godel, Bateson …)

Social Survival

About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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