The Golden Years of Belief

Lets say you live in a remote area of the rainforest. You live during the settlement of the Americas. You live in isolation, pretty much. But not geographically too far from these emerging civilizations so as to limit any pretense of interaction.

The common dogma of your particular tribe is a typically religious one. A sort of nature myth inspired tradition passed on from the village priest to the village priest; it’s gotten so that its common knowledge. There really is no divergence of thought in any major way so as to threaten the integrity and stability of the ontology in question.

You quite frequently hunt and explore and maintain boundaries. You fight off adjacent tribes raiding to kill you.

And that is your life. It’s hard, brutal and uncanny but at the same time it makes complete sense. You see the message in the forest, in the stars, in the faces of those you love, so to speak; it’s a life of constant, beneficient self-revelation. In your generation you haven’t been particularly bothered by raiding parties or anything like the stories passed on; and that just bolsters your superstitious faculties. Lets say you reason that God particularly likes you; you and your people are particularly special, particularly worthy. Some even put forth the notion that perhaps the end is near for all; that this may be some sort of golden age, an age following the terrible strife and warfare that made your ancestors question their beliefs, but that ultimately seeks self-affirmation in your own life; quite readily. But this by no means a widely popular idea; it’s simply an idea.

Your understanding of the world around you is that this is the world around you. The world consists of the rain-forest in which you occupy; for reasons we can avoid going in to, you’ve found no need to test this hypothesis; you’ve gone to one sea, and heard of others reaching another; the continent you live on, is the only continent. And water pours off the world in which you live.

You go out one day and trade with a local tribe. You have been hearing whispers faintly of a far off land; a superior race of ‘white ghosts’ settling on your lands in these massive monstrous sea machines.

You alone have heard these truths and no one else; you were alone in your trading that day. ON the long journey home to your village you feel heavy and burdened; like some great weight has been placed on your shoulders. You feel conflicted. You feel frightened. But for the largest part, you feel doubtful. Your mythology supports revelations of this sort; of ghosts coming and snatching people away to take them to their final resting place; your mythology, the ethos of your religious convictions, actually inspires you to incorporate this new evidence into your theology. But there’s something different about this; something tangible in the way the telling of the story was spoken of – a grave significance. A realization of real danger, and of real wonder.

You go back and you look around your camp and survey it before the night’s rest. You make sure the animals are secured, that the sentries are posted – a formality at this point, due to the hard work you’ve done to ensure good relations between the adjacent tribes; a gift from the gods, to be sure. You walk into your home and kiss your children good night. And then you lie down with your wife.

You see, that very morning you believed what was common to believe; you believed what everyone believes. That your gods are the only gods, that the patch of land you live on is the only patch of land to live on. That other than a few warring tribes, you and your people are the only people. And who could blame you? Given all your duties and responsibilities, how could you possibly be expected by anyone of knowing anything more or anything less. You look at your wife and these are surely her convictions. You look to the most clever among your tribe and that is surely what they too think. Now you know more though. Now you know of a thing called a sea machine. A thing which has brought men to your land. You see, previously such a thing never happened; how could there be land other than your land? Where did these men come from? The world falls off in a fall of water on every side of you, how could these men have come from anyone save for a god? But why have you heard no mention from your religious oracle of gods sending gods in a sea-machine from the end of the world?

You rise the next day as perplexed as the last. Your kin notice a change in you and try to coax some answers from you, but you resist. When everyone is distracted with their duties, you sneak off from the encampment. What was a quiet walk quickly turns into a jog, then a sprint. Before long fatigue breaks and your escape halts. After gathering your composure you realize you’re in a very unfamiliar part of the forest; you don’t recognize the trees or the plants; there are no markers suggesting this is your territory at all. Panic quickly takes over as you try to reorient yourself. You run one way, then another. After nearly an hour you see what faintly resembles an old foot path. To the untrained eye it looks no different from the forest floor. But you’re trained to see paths; you were raised in the rainforest. Your families have lived here since the beginning of time. You ran here as a child and hunt here as an adult.

But this path hasn’t been used in quite some time. You have no choice but to gamble and follow it wherever it may lead. So, staring only a few feet ahead of you, you blindly follow this new path, hoping it leads to home. A few hours go by when suddenly you look up and things seem very familiar. You recognize the plant life, the trees and the smells.

You make it back home safely. Your wife asks where you were, and you tell her of your journey; of a new exploration, getting lost and finding your way home. You tell her of the old footpath which took led you to safety. As you speculate on its origin you see her eyes light up; she wants to see it. It’s late, but you promise to take her the following day.

After completing the morning chores you steal her into the bush. You show her the footpath. You lead her backwards down the trail you followed home to show her where you found it; where it started. You want her to see what it was like being all alone in that forest, disoriented and not knowing where you were. And, after an hour, you reach that point. You point and say ‘look, there it is. That’s where I lost myself, and where we stand, this is where I found myself’. She looks confused. She points back and says ‘look. All I can see is your footprints. I can see where you ran backwards and forwards, but all that tells me is that someone ran backwards and forwards here’. Perplexed again, you say, ‘but look where we stand. Do you see how faint this footpath was? It was good that I could spot it out’. Again she points, ‘but look where we stand. Yesterday you ran down this path, and today the two of us ran down this path. All I see is a path’.

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