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Mar 18, 2013

More on Cannibalism (seriously!)

"Coniuctio", charcoal, Tim Holmes

We moderns don't believe in a greater God any more.  In our secular economic culture the god of religion has been replaced with the god of our own cleverness. We're so good at manipulating the outer world that we can provide for ourselves without the help of any other gods, thank you. Except our manipulations don't extend to large structures like nature, which might kill us, inconveniently, thereby proving us wrong.

We like to think that we are the pinnacle of evolution but if we don't survive the coming global crises the truth will perhaps be that more "primitive" societies were actually better adapted for earthly life. Despite the growing alarm that climate change presents us, many abdicate human responsibility for our critical condition, especially and most troublingly, among the faithful. It appears no amount of science or clear reasoning will trump the religious blindness of many climate deniers who block real change. They would send us all to our graves insisting a Rescuing God will save us from our own stupidity. Thus I find myself wondering whether we couldn't learn something from the Polynesian cannibals!... Stay with me here.

According to Lewis Hyde's marvelous book The Gift, Polynesian aboriginal cultures developed very complex gift-giving rituals which served to bind the community together. According to their religion the continued bounty of nature (a gift) was assured by sacrifices (reciprocal gift). Believers had to sacrifice their own flesh, to be "eaten" by their God. It sounds creepy when taken literally (like communion!), but as with all mythology, symbolically this is pure gold and could teach us an important lesson.

Every religion is true on some level, even a cannibalistic one! The only thing that will save humanity is humble obedience to the hard truths of reality. If we were beholden to a god that required our obedience to assure ongoing fertility of the earth, if we were required to sacrifice our own flesh (in the form of our most expensive comforts, like gas cars), given to this unseen god (nature) such humility would win favor from God. In other words it would save us from the worst of climate change that our hubris has brought on ourselves. But what would it take to convince people? Probably nothing short of a true, bone-deep devotion to something greater than themselves. Like conversion to a real faith in the God as found in religion. Such mythical, ridiculous (in the view of reason) superstition is exactly what survival requires, making the "reasonable" human less adapted for this life!

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I'm a sculptor/filmmaker living in Montana, USA. I am using art to move the evolution of humanity forward into an increasingly responsive, inclusive and interactive culture. As globalization flattens peoples into a capitalist monoculture I hope to use my art to celebrate historical cultural differences and imagine how we can co-create a rich future together.

I see myself as an artist/philosopher laboring deep in the mines of joy. I've had a good long career of exhibiting work around the world and working on international outreach projects, most notably being the first American to be invited to present a one-person exhibit in the Hermitage Museum. Recently I have turned my attention from simply making metal sculpture to creating films and workshops for engaging communities directly, tinkering with the very ideas and mechanisms behind cultural transformation. I feel that as we face tragic world crises, if the human species favors our imaginative and creative capacities we can cultivate a rich world to enjoy.

For me the deepest satisfaction in making art comes in engaging people's real life concerns rather than providing simple entertainment or decoration. Areas of conflict or tension are particularly ripe for the kind of transformative power that art uniquely carries. I invite any kind of challenge that serves people on a deep level.