An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of October 20, 2008
Written in Yokdzonot and issued from a ciber in Pisté, YUCATÁN, MÉXICO

LITTLE MAYA VILLAGES

The little Maya villages I've lived in usually are inhabited my members of just one or two families. Everyone knows everyone else exceedingly well. There are no secrets and few pretensions. Households merge into one another with kids, chickens, turkeys, sheep and others circulating promiscuously. If a house has a radio or TV, because it's played at top volume, everyone for houses around participates in the entertainment. If someone acts up, as a man when he's drunk, as soon as the person is normal again, people behave as if nothing ever happened. Nearly all jobs are done in small groups. Community peace and solidarity are unspoken laws.

When one moves through various cultures, eventually the question arises as to what keeps people behaving one way and not another. Why do the Maya keep acting like Maya, but never even for a moment assume the habits and outlooks of Arabs or Polynesians? When I'm back in Mississippi or rural Kentucky, why are most but not all people socially conservative Republicans with high cholesterol levels believing that global warming is mostly bleeding-heart-liberal propaganda?

A liberating feature of experiencing deep immersion in very different cultures is that at some point during the process you begin seeing how the vast majority of people dedicate their lives to living like people around them, unthinkingly, even when it may not be in their own best personal interest, or that of the community. Since all cultures I've ever experienced proved to have at least one unsustainable feature, over the years I've developed the notion that the herd instinct and the momentum of tradition and often-repeated routines are lethally powerful agencies.

Yet, each human, I've also decided, has a kind of "switch" in the brain that can be flicked whenever the person wants. It's the abandon-this-culture switch. Having reached a certain threshold or saturation point in something, just flick that switch, start thinking of yourself as belonging to another sphere of influence, or maybe no sphere of influence at all, and it's done, you're out of it.

Recognizing the presence of this switch is important because herd instinct, tradition and habits aren't going to save Life on Earth. Only people with their abandon-this-culture switch flicked, thinking rationally and behaving decisively -- always at some point working in conflict with some elements of the surrounding culture -- can save Life on Earth.

However, reality is strung together so that you never get by with just abandoning something. Something else must always take its place -- fill the vacuum. What should take the place of an abandoned culture?

Intimacy with Nature is the most appropriate substitution. Nature experienced firsthand, Nature reflected upon, Nature interpreted the way you personally interpret it. Nature provides the paradigms needed upon which ethical, sustainable, loving lives can be built. Nature fills the human spirit's vacuum when old, unsustainable, dead-headed manners of being are flicked OFF. Facebook Icon.