June 10, 2011

The Garden of Eden lay in ruins

Even modern historians are condescending in their accounts of the peoples who wandered through luxuriant nature without the need to violate or exploit it. Instead of looking for traces of a distinct Aurignacian or Magdalenian culture they usually try to find in these civilisations only the faltering beginnings of our era. It does not occur to them that the unity from which the diverse mineral, vegetable, animal and human elements originated may have undergone a radically different development from the social orientation imposed on it since Neolithic times. One day we must analyse the cave paintings and artifacts -- with their frequent feminine symbols, their fusion of male and female principles, and their graceful depiction of humans and animals. We may expect to discover traces of a milieu that actually favoured life. Perhaps we shall discover a society careful not to disavow its connection with nature, a civilisation that, through its analogical mode of understanding, was moving toward a living science that could take whatever the natural forces blindly offered, whether harmless or beneficial, and turn it to the advantage of the living.
-- Raoul Vaneigem, from The Movement of the Free Spirit, Zone Books, 1994. Image from Cave of Forgotten Dreams, directed by Werner Herzog, 2010.