How Do Individuals Fit into the Dark Torrents of History?
Updated: Jan 15
By Mary Scriver
What do people write about when they’re really writing for themselves? Seems like it might be a good question to ask myself. I do not try to publish, but blogging seems to be the right venue— not quite a journal and not quite a column.
Only one manuscript is sent off to a publisher but I have little expectation of publication. “As Though Struck by Lightning” is a test. Slantbooks.com is a publishing house returning to writing before all those French Algerian philosophers, and they’re not afraid of “religion,” even my attempt to discredit the institutional corruption of using the sacred for motives that are political.
I have few goals for this year, none of which is publishing — mostly thinking in plain sight. I continue to explore the impact of science as it has been renewed and expanded in recent years, even though my understanding of quantum mechanics is unlikely to improve since I lack math. Our grasp of the nature of humanity has changed now more than the nature of “god” and that has enormous impact on things like morality or personal desiderata.
No one in my nuclear family used computers. They never got beyond books and typewriters, but those inform the way I use the internet. I care not at all about “making friends” and “chatting” or even creating networks. I live here in order to be separate, as apart as I can safely be while I age.
If there is an overarching way of looking at what I’m doing, it is trying to explore how individuals fit into the torrents of history that produce us and then are altered by us into new ways. The most obvious and immediate is working the jigsaw of my own nuclear family. I’ve never had my DNA tested, mostly because I did a lot of reading that explained how little we know so far about DNA, RNA, genomes, e-genomes, the connectome, the proteome, and all the other little “omes.” Remarkable as the discoveries have been, they are distorted and exaggerated for merchandising. Not ready for prime time yet.
Porges’ discovery of the direct “wired” connection between brain and body/brain in polyvagal theory makes embodiment more vital and ends the division between rational and emotional. * I’ve seen the importance of learning anatomy, both the larger subjects like the many strands of neurology and blood supply that run through the back of the neck (what leopard tries to sever) and the tricky little bits of brain terrain like the six layers of wrapping laminates that may be what translates the raw code of the senses into our conscious experience of the world. The urgency of understanding the pre-frontal lobe is upon us now with Trump’s rapidly turning to dark space.
In addition, Porges opens the way to how mother/infant virtual space expands to the creative and empathic ground of communication between people and then beyond that to wider affinity and interactions of our societies. We need a lot of thought about this as we re-weave a changed world.
Related is awareness of the world-making ecologies that result from ways of making a living. My own parents and even some of we youngers are dealing with agriculture as a base, both animal and plant fields. Potatoes on my father’s side and prune orchards on my mother’s side had enormous impacts on them. For my father it was a near-religious respect for democracy, cooperatives, and mighty engineering projects. He accepted the dams and highways, the monuments, and parks around spectacular natural places like Grand Canyon. In fact, he was happy with the industrial revolution.
My mother’s take was different: a yearning for city life. And a missionary-inspired love of exotic cultures. Indigenous people were part of her rural life.
Now I discover that my paternal grandmother’s thyroid disruption from lack of iodine in northern Manitoba, in spite of moving to sea-soaked Portland, left a thread of subtle changes in our DNA that tip us towards the Dark Tetrad. † Add to that concussions, and the shadows are long through the generations.
I had an advantage if the mutations were carried on the Y gene, since I’m XX. The obsession with third-force humanistic psych systems that carried me past divorce remains vital. Possibly extended by genomics. But I’m out of patience with quick-fix merchandising and cheap obsession with sex.
The new generation of my family is so numerous and various that I can’t make generalizations about them, but they seem interested in agriculture again, blended with technology. Planetary environmentalism remains vividly, pressingly, alive for me, but I realize now how much culture is part of the environment, and how environment frames and guides the culture. Part of the problem of Christianity is that it has been dislocated from its origin and dragged into contexts it once actively opposed, like elites with privileges and wealth protected by hypocrisy.
Long narratives through deep time and alternative histories are fascinating to consume. I just ordered “The Horse, the Wheel, and Language” about the formation of a demographic that formed on the steppes and swept Europe.” Could something like that happen with the Plains Indians? Or did it. I’d have to write it as fiction.
No one in my nuclear family used computers. They never got beyond books and typewriters, but those inform the way I use the internet. I care not at all about “making friends” and “chatting” or even creating networks. I live here in order to be separate, as apart as I can safely be while I age. My ten year ministry cured me of romanticism about college-educated, prosperous, well-connected people. Feminism is often just man-hating. Local politics is plunder-based more than maintaining systems.
But I’m highly aware that computers have changed the world in ways both obvious and subtle. Locals scoff at our power-plants and dams being hacked, but I don’t. I see how one little meme can sweep the world. I think about how climate change is making Siberia into farmland that demands infrastructure and how that changes Russia. I still don’t understand what broke up the USSR, but if people there are listening to world communication it must have a lot of impact or China wouldn’t shut it down. Or try to.
Theatre is now translated to video, but I’m far too lazy about it. It has led me back to old friends from the end of the Fifties and the assumptions we had then. We laugh.
More later. I need to think about the parasitology of biography and how to fend off those who want to attach to my life, and how to give up doing that to others.
*The reference is to Professor Stephen Porges and his polyvagal therapy. Look it up, It will make you think.
What is the dark tetrad? People with any of the nine dark personality traits may belong to the Dark Tetrad. Colloquially, these people are known as sadists, narcissists, psychopaths, and sociopaths. But having some of the traits doesn't necessarily mean you have an antisocial personality disorder.
NOTE: Footnotes added by the keeper of this blog.