Thursday, November 10, 2011

Riding out the Wave / Retrenching a Bit

Thursday, November 10, 2011—Orange, California

Busy days are these. But I do seem to be getting a handle on things. I can see the semester closing out and a reduced work load on the horizon. Still, there’s not much going on besides school I’ve been too busy to work on the novel lately (or much else in the way of “personal” writing—that’s why I’ve only been doing about an entry a week here). Greg came down from Santa Cruz this week and it was nice to hang out with him. (Unfortunately he’s down because his brother was in a nasty car accident, which really took the edge off his visit.) I’ve been doing some interesting reading lately. I’ve decided to put down the Brothers Grimm for a while so I don’t get burned out on that stuff. I’ve picked up Part 1 of Mallory’s Le Morte D’Arthur, which is something I’ve been meaning to get to for a while. I’m also reading NJG Pounds’ classic An Economic History of Medieval Europe, which so far is really good. I’ve also started the process of prepping the BSP books for Kindle editions, which is something that’s been hanging over my head for a while. I can’t wait till break, though, when I’ll have time to see more people. Feeling OK these days, but a touch isolated. My life’s also far too narrow at the moment for my tastes. Just about five weeks to go, though, and then a bit of freedom will come by way …

Forgot to mention that I’m still working on learning Greek. I’m also still enjoying it. I wish I had the time to dive into it head first—right now all I can do is nibble around the edges of the language.

I’ve been looking back at my last couple entries and can now see how tangled they might seem to the average person, how big and crazy. This is because I’m going thru a period where a lot of different streams of thought are coming together for me—I’m beginning to realize how interconnected everything is; those posts are me wading into this understanding and trying to make sense of it for myself and others. They are of course first steps, so they’re bound to be a bit messy.

After getting some comments from people who’ve read them I also understanding a bit more what I’ll have to do to both develop these ideas and get them across to other people. Most people have only a light understanding of history. Or more specifically, they don’t really understand what it is. This, I think, is because they’ve been so poorly taught in regards to this subject. History, especially at the more introductory levels (which is all most people experience), is taught as series of events that have little reason for being except that people are doing things—in other words, force of personality drives human events. This turns history into the study of a kind of political psychology. This, though, is only a tiny part of what’s going on. What’s often all but ignored is the ecological and economic contexts in which humans make their decisions. In other words, many of the mechanisms that drive human socio-cultural evolution are largely left out of the equation.

I now see very clearly that if I want to write about the issues that now interest me I have to explain this broader context along the way. Human cultural evolution is driven not by "great" men and women, but by resources and our attempts to control them—human actions are a byproduct of these quests. History then is really the study of human ecology—understand the nature and value of resources (including their geography) and you understand a great deal about why our societies have developed in the ways they have and what our future options might be. Any book I write on this subject will have to start and then work out from this basic understanding. This means that the first essay in this book will have to be a broad overview of human biological and cultural evolution up to the beginnings of agriculture. From there I will have to explain the massive changes that came with the domestication of plants and animals. From that point on I can begin to branch out into the cultural ecology of our current predicaments.

Ok, I've got to cut this short. I'm sure I have more to say, but I just can't spare the time right now. Onward!

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