“After, the men of earth started walking, straight toward the sun that was falling. Before, they too stayed in the same place without moving. The sun, their eye of the sky, was fixed…They were peaceable and without anger. Before the time afterwards…Then why, if they were so pure, did the men of earth begin walking? Because one day the sun started falling. They walked so that it wouldn’t fall any farther, to help it to rise. So Tasurinchi says…That, anyway, is what I have learned— (from pages 37 and 38)
The Machiguenga walked to keep the sun from falling from the sky—the story has variations, and there are many stories about the moon, death, the fireflies, floods, droughts, sickness and the little devils that cause all kinds of troubles, and there is even a Gregor-Tasurinchi metamorphosis story—what a beautiful book, it is joyful, it is sad, it is hopeful—it is a human document. I thoroughly enjoyed myself reading it, a real treat.
Storytelling, what a magical gift—I starved for stories as a child and often made up my own—I was called a liar by other kids who didn’t like it that I told stories that sounded a bit too real, so they must be a lie—and I, a liar. Sometimes, when we’re young, the imagination is a wee bit too overactive and the stories that come from that curious place where they are conceived feel real enough—it’s learning to understand the difference as the creator as well as the receiver of the stories. Ah, fiction—a precious gemstone of many facets –the truth and the lie, the mundane and the adventure, all wound tight together, a thread of thoughts, a word or two of conversation, an observation—a sky, a land, a path to follow through the trees—tree trunks, roots and branches—light and shadow—a sense of place and time, stories occupied by people and their doings. It’s amazing how stories come together while we’re making them up. Storytelling is a very old tradition—the passing on of knowledge, the retelling of legends—the explanation for the how come of things made up on the spot by the tribal shaman and the story told and retold, built upon and told again—shared, passed on. Storytelling is the preservation of a way of life—an existence threatened by humanity’s constant progress—well, some of us progress, while others prefer to cling to old ways, taking comfort in the familiar stories, familiar rituals, familiar ways of doing things—it all served a purpose. Why must we [humans] impose ourselves on the ones we feel we must conquer? Convert. Exploit. All the profits lining the pockets of some rich bastards who never once got their hands dirty in the process of exploitation. The way of progress stinks, it’s corrupt, it is morally wrong—yet we do it, have been doing it for ages—assimilating—trying to eradicate what is not like us. It’s a sad old story, one that repeats itself time after time, after time—slowly wiping out cultures of people and the creatures great and small, spoiling land, polluting the water, destroying everything in our path like a force of nature. It is not sustainable.
Before the time afterwards…
I lament. I’m getting older now and so I lament for there are things that I hold dear that are slowly being dissolved by progress—many of us see it, but do we admit to it? Or do we just shrug and chalk it up to ‘progress’? We’ve always done it that way—why change what works (even if it’s not working for everyone)?
I want to believe that the Machiguenga of Llosa’s story are still walking—don’t let the sun fall from the sky—you’ll never get it back again once it’s gone.
That, anyway, is what I have learned—