...a wild ride on the frontier of archeo-linguistics; a man-hunt in search of the greatest killers on Earth.
APOLOGY TO A WHALE
Words to Mend a World
by Cecile Pineda
author of Devil's Tango: How I Learned the Fukushima Step by Step
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ISBN: 978-1-60940-440-6 • $16.95 • www.wingspress.com • also by ebook
Pineda's urgent reframing of current ecological thinking, Apology to a Whale addresses what the intersection of relative linguistics and archeology reveals about the world's power relations, and the need for a new consciousness based on what the extraordinary communication of plants, animals, and the world's first people can teach us.
"Cecile Pineda has the nerve to ask the one simple question that eludes our public posturing....It is the one question that could save us: What has happened to our mind that we are killing our world? What is it, at the root of our culture that sets us against the rest of creation? The genius of this book is that the question [itself] supersedes the answers and takes us on explorations where we make our own discoveries. These widening apprehensions not only pierce us with heartache for what we have lost, but invite us to examine the imprisoning structures of the very language we use. Cecile Pineda has the rare and enviable capacity to address the big questions without falling into abstractions or sermonizing. It is the artist in her that I trust, and that utters so potent a call to personal and collective liberation."
—Joanna Macy, author of Coming Back to Life
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There will come a time perhaps not too far off when the San or Ju/wasi will have lost their history. In the words of Elizabeth Marshall Thomas
To live in the old way is to live with the sky. On the flat savannah, the sky is the spectacle, always with you, telling you where you are heading, how much more darkness or daylight you can expect, and what will happen next in terms of heat or cold, wind, or rain. All living things are alert for its signals. If the Ju/wasi knew the things of the earth for their qualities and their details, they knew the things of the sky for their power, their mystery, and their enormity and, as was true of the rest of their knowledge, they had known these things for a very long time.
According to Thomas, the Ju/wasi observed the constellations in much the same way as the so-called “civilized” world. Stories of Orion matched those of more familiar narratives in some respects, but there was one constellation that the Ju/wasi alone could identify, and whose brief turn in the sky presages the rainy season. An old stargazer named Gau, who had been instructing Thomas’ mother about the heavens, ran to her tent, awakening her well before dawn to show her, deep against the northeastern horizon, a star he called Tshxum, the Green Leaf Horn, identified by Thomas as Capella. She quotes her mother,
For a moment of breathtaking beauty, in a seeming arc soaring over the sunrise glow, Capella and Canopus were paired, matched in brilliance and color, marking the north and south. An arc drawn between them would bracket the earth. With the Pleiades they formed a great embracing triangle.
But of all the earth’s people only the Ju/wasi can actually detect this constellation because the sky has shifted slightly since their historic memory began sometime in the Paleolithic, some 60,000 years ago. That remarkable fact marks how old and unique the Ju/wasi are as a people.
But the time will come when the Ju/wasi will no longer recognize Tshxum in the night skies. And on the blackboard of our own nights strange figures will appear. What will they tell those who come eons after we are gone? Where will life, new life, begin? Will it elaborate itself from the strange white substance even now spreading on the floors of the ruptured reactors at Fukushima? What will it consist of? Will it answer to its own intelligence? Will it become a better keeper of the planet than we were? or will it multiply as mindlessly as we did?