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Christian Missionary Deconverted by Amazon Tribe

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Christian Missionary Deconverted by Amazon Tribe

Postby MrPeabody » Thu Mar 31, 2011 5:10 pm

A fascinating story of a Christian Missionary deconverted by a tribe in Brazil.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dr3q6Cid1po[/youtube]
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Postby BellaRuth » Thu Mar 31, 2011 6:43 pm

Thank you so much for this.

I read some articles and watched the video, then I went to have dinner. The news was on- the war in Libya, mostly.

I'm fascinated by tribes. If anyone else finds them interesting I recommend Bruce Parry's series called 'Tribe'. It's tempting to see them as more 'pure' human, 'how we should be', although I'm not sure how that would really stand up to arguement.

It makes me wonder how we have moved so far away from the species we originally evolved into, the hunter-gatherers, the small societies. The images of the Amazonian tribe juxtaposed with the war in Libya was just shocking, horrible. And yet we are all humans.

It reminds me of a passage I read from one of the Spanish invaders of South America centuries ago. I can't find the quote, but it read something like, "these people (the natives) are so innocent and carefree, so happy and childlike... how easy it would be for us to use and control them." Sad stuff.

How did we move from a simple, animalistic state to such jaded, violent individuals?
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Postby momopi » Thu Mar 31, 2011 7:31 pm

I recommend the movie The Mission (1986) by Robert Bolt & Roland Joffé.

Image


BellaRuth wrote:How did we move from a simple, animalistic state to such jaded, violent individuals?


Well, uh... the "simple" Amazon tribes chopped people's head off to make shrunken heads as spirit totems. They believed that by controlling the spirit contained within the shrunken human heads, they can make their women work harder in cultivating cassava.

I'm from TW and we had our fair share of head-hunters (not the job-hunting kind).
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Postby BellaRuth » Thu Mar 31, 2011 8:01 pm

momopi wrote:
BellaRuth wrote:How did we move from a simple, animalistic state to such jaded, violent individuals?


Well, uh... the "simple" Amazon tribes chopped people's head off to make shrunken heads as spirit totems. They believed that by controlling the spirit contained within the shrunken human heads, they can make their women work harder in cultivating cassava.


Not heard about those ones :lol: the only tribes I've watched/read about seem very chilled, pleasant, carefree, non-violent. I guessed you answered my question though- perhaps it's all coincidence and culture, and nothing more.
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Postby MrPeabody » Thu Mar 31, 2011 9:41 pm

Be there a people with souls so bright that among them is no chronic fatigue, extreme anxiety nor panic attacks, depressives, etc. Their language doesn't even possess a word for worry. The Dalai Lama would have us believe that such is the achievement of some advanced Tibetan monks, and so would his western scientific followers who now peddle, `the art of happiness' to the masses. Daniel Everett claims that is the natural state of the four hundred indigenous Pirahã in the Amazonian jungle. They live what Ram Das encourages us to do, "Be Here Now," and presumably possess what the popular spiritual author, Eckhart Tolle, expounds in his tome, "The Power of Now." The Pirahã know none of this. They are anything but spiritual. Everett lays their happiness at the feet of their culture and language.

Having been enamored of anthropologists' claims that among recently extent hunter-gatherers there are harmless peoples, forest peoples who live in harmony, debased peoples without culture and even intrinsically violent peoples, only to discover later that the lives of the people described are much more complicated and we were misled by the anthropologists' projections if not outright fabrications, how can we but meet Everett's assertions with other than skepticism. Yet on reading Everett's book I was prepared to be convinced. The book itself is kind of rough. Everett treats us to a humane and interesting story of his time among the Pirahã. They seem to exist in a never-never land surrounded by the Brazilian invasion of the Amazonian jungle which either destroyed other indigenous cultures or, at least, partially assimilated them. The Pirahã have resisted this without having to fight it, maybe because they are very few and their land was not valuable enough to make worthwhile overcoming their resistance. We don't get a clear picture of this. Everett takes his family on a linguistic evangelical mission. Over a period of years they spend time among the Pirahã while Everett tries to learn their language in order to translate the Bible. He succeeds in some translation but eventually loses his faith. He is swept away by the life the Pirahã lead which does not need the solace his religion promises. In fact, Everett discovers that the Pirahã live the happiness of Christian immortality and they live it now, not in some future heaven which their language and culture cannot conceive of. After years of study, this really sinks in at the expense of his beliefs and the consequent loss of his co-religionist and, alas, his family. He gives us no details of this. Nor do we learn much about the Pirahã's relation with somewhat more assimilated indigenous groups who surround them and possess equal jungle skills but don't share their attitude toward life.

What we are presented with is Pirahã culture as reflected in their language and grammar. And here the author makes a complex argument about linguistic theory which is difficult to follow without knowing something about a field that is very technical. The picture of Pirahã culture is intriguing and I write more about it below. But Everett's arguments against established ideas in linguistics go over my head. I can assent to his claims: they seem sensible, but I would like to know how the people who represent the ideas he says are inaccurate would answer. And then I might not understand because I simply do not know technical linguistics. Everett claims Pirahã language disobeys all sorts of universal rules propounded by Noam Chomsky in his theory of grammar. I am predisposed to think language and culture interpenetrate each other: how we see the world effects what we can say and the reverse. No big deal. But apparently it is in the academy. Though I read the parts of Everett's books where he goes into this, I found my attention floating away. Despite my training as a mathematician and having interpreted Chomsky's mathematical like talks to anthropologists when I was a visiting scholar at Princeton in the mid `60s, I found presentation of the nitty-gritty of the debates in Everett's book interfering with other things I would have preferred to have learned about the Pirahã, such as the delicate balance they maintained with respect to tools they obtained from the outside or whether any Pirahã strayed to the towns or worked for traders and what this might imply about the Pirahã's world view. I would like to know more about how the author personally managed to move between the world of the Pirahã, his university studies, and his religious institution. And now that he is a university professor, how does that fit with his continued contact with the Pirahã. We know that famous anthropologists who studied the Mbuti, the Yanoamo, and !Kung have both exploited and helped their subjects. Also since so much of Everett's thesis is based on language, did he ever become a fluent speaker? And his children, we know that kids learn languages without much effort. Did his children, playing for hours with Pirahã kids, come to speak and think like Pirahã. How did may that have affected them? So I liked the book but it also frustrated me and led me to want to know more.

Here is my take on Pirahã life and thoughts about its relation to the spiritual goal of being here now:

The Pirahã live in the present. They are happy. They are sexually promiscuous and change family partners with only a modicum of fuss. They spend much of their time together, sometimes in family groups but often in larger gatherings. They talk and they talk and they talk. They don't seem to sleep much, talking all night long. Sometimes they help each other but at others, let nature take it course without interfering, especially around childbirth. They may not come to the aid of a birthing mother who is in trouble and dispose of infants without mothers. They make a big fuss about old men lost in the jungle. They let children play with dangerous things and don't coddle them when they hurt themselves. The crying of weaned children, who no longer get so attended to, are ignored. Children are quickly given adult tasks. They don't seem to fight much among themselves but have killed outsiders and exiled members who were troublesome. The author witnessed one incidence of gang rape which was forceful but not violent. The author doesn't tell us how it affected the victim. Women and men seems to have equal power in the culture. The Pirahã use imported tools but do not maintain them. They don't preserve food. They do not believe in spirits but experience them as real. They regard dreams as real. They have no rituals. They resist counting, have an odd relationship to the concepts `each', `all' and `every', and don't use generalized color terms. They have a simple kinship system. They have no history, no folklore, nor creation myth. Sometimes they dress in costume and then appear and act something out. But when asked later, did so and so act like a snake, they simply reiterate that a snake came. They apparently have not changed over time, resisting acculturation and conversion.

The Pirahã are only interested in events witnesses by the interlocutor or related by someone who was alive during the lifetime of the speaker. Since Jesus can not be witnessed, they are simply not interested They are not interested in abstractions. They use simple past, present and future tenses but no perfect tenses. Everett feels that the Pirahã world view as embedded in their language is governed by what he calls the principle of "immediacy of experience." They never say, "the man who is tall is in the room," because "who is tall" is not relevant to the moment. They have few consonants in spoken language but possess a number of different ways of communicating. They have normal speech, whistle speech, shouting speech, and humming speech. The latter is highly developed between mothers and infants. For those of us who often feel much more is communicated non-verbally than verbally this is some kind exoneration. Last night I went to what was advertised as a popular talk on geology. The speaker dove in using geology terms (of which there are an incredible abundance) without making generalized explanations so that it was really hard to follow and somewhat boring. Nonetheless he conveyed much about his youth in the energy toward and comments about the images of cliffs and gorges he was showing. So the presentation demonstrated a kind of weariness of his 60 or so years but a life that had been packed with excitement. During the break I spoke to a construction worker whose hobby is political theory. While the content of our conversation was dense, it was the pacing, modulations and uneven rapport (sometimes supportive, sometimes competitive) which marked the human meaning of the interchange.

The challenge of meditation implicit in Ram Das' and Eckhart Tolle's works and explicit in Buddhism is to strip away the noise and reside in the essence of existence. Is the interwoven cultural and linguistic baggage that civilizations carry a crucial part of what gets in the way of doing this? If one approaches meditation from one of its many perspective, inquiry, could we look at all those grammatical forms we use which are alien to the Pirahã and find in them some of the causes of our suffering? If my mental chatter (and I don't know if anyone has studied whether it is governed by English grammar) contained only immediate experience would I then be aware as meditation defines awareness? There are several levels to this. The fundamental five aggregates of Buddhism are form, feeling, perception, mental formations and consciousness. So I am sitting there meditating. I am not talking but there are those noisy mental formations. Except for my chattering mind, there is sensation---nothing to talk about. If the mental formations evoked by sensation were only the present, the simple past or future would paying attention to the sensation be easier. "It hurts," but no generic notion pain with all that is packed into to it like the accompanying, "I will never walk again." The ingrained habits of abstraction, built into our speech keep us out of the present, so that mental formations are loaded with what makes for suffering without even having to take account of our psychological history. Can you entertain the idea that without numbers, abstractions, the world `as if,' that is speculation, addictive planning (the Pirahã don't' have Blackberries or discuss when they are going fishing), no history, ritual, folktales, creation myths or global warming, life might have less suffering. It does not look like the Pirahã spend much time alone. They live in one big family, yet seem to have autonomy. Because there is not much tension, mechanisms of social control are not heavy. They have disappointments, like spouses hooking up with someone else, but they don't seem to dwell on them. What would it be like if I tried during meditation practice to relate to my mind in the spirit of Pirahã language and culture. Without words could I notice number, abstraction, past and future perfect, generalization, etc. and could I carry that into my daily life? Well, to begin I couldn't write this. But it is an interesting challenge to try to observe where my suffering hooks into my fundamental speech patterns. And then when I am really in the present, either on the cushion, or in daily life, is it because those speech habits are in abeyance as they are presumed to be among the Pirahã. If I could really hang out in that space would my troubles abate, but then again maybe I would not be able to function as the I think world now demands of me. I have tried to look at the internal narrative while meditating to see if I could how much my "self" is embedded in the grammar of the narrative. It is an overwhelming task but an interesting inquiry to pursue. When Zen Master Soen sa Nim came to talk to my meditation students, they asked him why he spoke when he so emphasized silence. His response was, "Your were born that was a mistake, but what to?" It may be that unraveling the self that is embedded in grammar would unravel my relationship to my world. But then Buddhist folklore, particularly Zen, is replete with characters who did not abide by convention. Thanks you Daniel Everett for giving me so much to chew on.

Charlie Fisher emeritus professor and author of Dismantling Discontent: Buddha's Way Through Darwin's World
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Postby Truthville » Thu Mar 31, 2011 9:54 pm

Fascinating!!!!!!!

Thanks MrPeabody!

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Postby Winston » Tue Nov 08, 2011 11:37 pm

I think you said the name of the book about this story is "Don't Sleep, There are Snakes". Here it is on Amazon.com:

http://www.amazon.com/Dont-Sleep-There- ... 274&sr=8-1

Book Description

A riveting account of the astonishing experiences and discoveries made by linguist Daniel Everett while he lived with the Pirahã, a small tribe of Amazonian Indians in central Brazil. Daniel Everett arrived among the Pirahã with his wife and three young children hoping to convert the tribe to Christianity. Everett quickly became obsessed with their language and its cultural and linguistic implications. The Pirahã have no counting system, no fixed terms for color, no concept of war, and no personal property. Everett was so impressed with their peaceful way of life that he eventually lost faith in the God he'd hoped to introduce to them, and instead devoted his life to the science of linguistics. Part passionate memoir, part scientific exploration, Everett's life-changing tale is riveting look into the nature of language, thought, and life itself.
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Postby AmericanInMexico » Wed Nov 09, 2011 4:48 am

Once again, the inconvenient truth is that it amounts to racial differences in brain structures.

The white brain causes people to want to seek knowledge and go conquer the world. The brown brain on the other hand is perfectly content with living in a tribe.
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Postby Winston » Wed Nov 09, 2011 5:04 am

AmericanInMexico wrote:Once again, the inconvenient truth is that it amounts to racial differences in brain structures.

The white brain causes people to want to seek knowledge and go conquer the world. The brown brain on the other hand is perfectly content with living in a tribe.


I wonder if that applies to Filipinos too.
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Postby Winston » Wed Nov 09, 2011 5:12 am

momopi wrote:I recommend the movie The Mission (1986) by Robert Bolt & Roland Joffé.

Image


BellaRuth wrote:How did we move from a simple, animalistic state to such jaded, violent individuals?


Well, uh... the "simple" Amazon tribes chopped people's head off to make shrunken heads as spirit totems. They believed that by controlling the spirit contained within the shrunken human heads, they can make their women work harder in cultivating cassava.

I'm from TW and we had our fair share of head-hunters (not the job-hunting kind).


That movie has very good reviews on IMDB. Wow. I'm going to download it.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0091530/reviews

"There are many great movies but The Mission is in a class of its own. It belongs to a select group of films which are able to penetrate our lives and change us forever. The powerful themes of forgiveness, love, innocence, guilt, freedom, and human nature are presented against a backdrop of incredible scenery and Morricone's now legendary score. At first glance The Mission is a story about a political struggle. Upon closer examination it is no less than divine revelation about the nature of the human heart."
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Postby Winston » Sat Dec 29, 2012 1:58 pm

Winston wrote:
momopi wrote:I recommend the movie The Mission (1986) by Robert Bolt & Roland Joffé.

Image


BellaRuth wrote:How did we move from a simple, animalistic state to such jaded, violent individuals?


Well, uh... the "simple" Amazon tribes chopped people's head off to make shrunken heads as spirit totems. They believed that by controlling the spirit contained within the shrunken human heads, they can make their women work harder in cultivating cassava.

I'm from TW and we had our fair share of head-hunters (not the job-hunting kind).


That movie has very good reviews on IMDB. Wow. I'm going to download it.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0091530/reviews

"There are many great movies but The Mission is in a class of its own. It belongs to a select group of films which are able to penetrate our lives and change us forever. The powerful themes of forgiveness, love, innocence, guilt, freedom, and human nature are presented against a backdrop of incredible scenery and Morricone's now legendary score. At first glance The Mission is a story about a political struggle. Upon closer examination it is no less than divine revelation about the nature of the human heart."


I saw the film a few months ago. It was ok. Great scenery. But a lot of senseless violence which didn't seem to serve any purpose. The people's actions were strange, and the end was disappointing. I didn't think it was as good as the reviews raved. Maybe I missed the meaning of the film?
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Postby Jester » Sun Dec 30, 2012 12:07 am

Winston wrote:
momopi wrote:I recommend the movie The Mission (1986) by Robert Bolt & Roland Joffé.

Image


BellaRuth wrote:How did we move from a simple, animalistic state to such jaded, violent individuals?


Well, uh... the "simple" Amazon tribes chopped people's head off to make shrunken heads as spirit totems. They believed that by controlling the spirit contained within the shrunken human heads, they can make their women work harder in cultivating cassava.

I'm from TW and we had our fair share of head-hunters (not the job-hunting kind).


That movie has very good reviews on IMDB. Wow. I'm going to download it.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0091530/reviews

"There are many great movies but The Mission is in a class of its own. It belongs to a select group of films which are able to penetrate our lives and change us forever. The powerful themes of forgiveness, love, innocence, guilt, freedom, and human nature are presented against a backdrop of incredible scenery and Morricone's now legendary score. At first glance The Mission is a story about a political struggle. Upon closer examination it is no less than divine revelation about the nature of the human heart."


Scenery was the best thing. I really enjoyed it. And the military engineering -- the siege-craft.

It was also interesting to see what real Catholic penance might look like, for a real sin.

And the slavery sub-plot seemed interesting. Paralleled the critique in DeFoe's "Robinson Crusoe". Slavery from the POV of a slaver, whom life forces to reconsider.

Overall story was generally historically true, about a private Jesuit mini-colony versus an encroaching secular society.

But the reason the movie got made was that Jesuits have for decades (or longer) now, reportedly been Satanist-led, and have definitely engaged in spreading Communism in Latin America. Though Catholic and conservative in religious terms, they are therefore comrades to the Left.

Quite a pattern of Jesuit-Left links, actually. Full-blooded Jew Fidel Castro, for example, was from a converso branch of the family, and was, I believe, Jesuit trained. Many other Latin Commies as well. Also Adam Weishaupt, founding director of the Illuminati, was another Jesuit-trained converso.

Anyway this movie presents Jesuits as historical good guys, as many no doubt were, doing social engineering rather than doing the job of priests. The closing credits make this clear.
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Postby noog » Mon Dec 31, 2012 2:29 pm

Very interesting story. I would like to read this book sometime.
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