Wednesday, November 4, 2009
A SAVAGE MIND, INDEED
CLAUDE LEVI-STAUSS d NOVEMBER 3 2009
this shows what i know. if you'd have asked me, i'd have bet you he'd died years ago. i guess i should have known because if he had, much more would have been made of his death back then than now. weirdly, his very reasoned &, at the time, dismissed approach to anthropology has been assimilated in such a way that it's now the status quo w/o any real acknowledgement from the academy.
this man was a major, & i stress MAJOR, thinker & innovator in so many fields. w/maybe the exception of the linguistic structuralists, his application of structuralist principals to a LIVING academic field yielded deeper & better understanding of ancient or primitive cultures than any approach before or after his studies. his impact on modern thinking just cannot be overemphasized.
he made 100 years of living in this world. that, in & of itself, is reason to celebrate. i believe he's the last of that great generation of french thinkers(lacan, levinas, barthes, foucault, derrida, etc)who gave more than anyone has been willing to receive or understand. i guess we have another century to make sense of them.
“Writing is a strange invention.
One might suppose that its emergence
could not fail to bring about profound changes
in the conditions of human existence,
and that these transformations
must of necessity
be of an intellectual nature….
Yet nothing we know
and the part it has played
in man’s evolution
justifies this view.”
– A Writing Lesson, Tristes Tropiques
"Just as the individual is not alone in the group, nor any one society alone among others, so man is not alone in the universe. When the spectrum or rainbow of human cultures has finally sunk into the void created by our frenzy; as long as we continue to exist and there is a world, that tenuous arch linking us to the inaccessible will still remain, to show us the opposite course to that leading to enslavement; man may be unable to follow it, but its contemplation affords him the only privilege of which he can make himself worthy; that of arresting the process, of controlling the impulse which forces him to block up the cracks in the wall of necessity one by one and to complete his work at the same time as he shuts himself up within his prison; this is a privilege coveted by every society, whatever its beliefs, its political system or its level of civilization; a privilege to which it attaches its leisure, its pleasure, its peace of mind and its freedom; the possibility, vital for life, of unhitching, which consists --Oh! fond farewell to savages and explorations!-- in grasping, during the brief intervals in which our species can bring itself to interrupt its hive-like activity, the essence of what it was and continues to be, below the threshold of thought and over and above society: in the contemplation of a mineral more beautiful than all our creations; in the scent that can be smelt at the heart of a lily and is more imbued with learning than all our books; or in the brief glance, heavy with patience, serenity, and mutual forgiveness, that, through some involuntary understanding, one can sometimes exchange with a cat."
- Tristes Tropiques of 1955