I”m trying to remember where I was. Until I do please let me entertain you with a tale of local color.
When my family moved from to Westhampton about eight years ago, one of the first friends we made were our neighbors, Dan and Jessie Krug. We were very lucky to meet them because they know everybody in town, in part because Mr. Krug enjoyed standing on the town green hollering to people, “Hey! What are you doin”?”—a greeting, and just an opening line. In part, too, because Mrs. Krug grew up on a Westhampton dairy farm (and went to school in the small brickhouse you see across the street when you go to Outlook Farm for good cider).
Mr. Krug was born in South Hadley and lived on a dairy farm that bent into the CT River; it was eminent domained, and he moved on, to Holyoke (where he sold chickens and rode trolleys to the top of Mt Tom) and then to Westhampton.
They knew all the people who”d lived in the old Judd Store, three generations back and beyond. It was during these discussions of local history that I began to understand how colonists lived in this part of the Nonotuck biome without gas and electricity. Mrs. Krug grew up without either.
When the economic collapse occurred in 2008, I was inspired to imagine what life would be like without the myriad technological inputs of industrial capitalism. We know what happens when the power goes out. What if it stayed out, what if there was no gas to drive to Northampton or anywhere else? Those kinds of questions led me to scrutinize the necessity of my own, and our collective, actions.
Well, it turns out that the Krugs knew the answer. They showed me, and many a Wing, the Westhampton Blacksmith Museum. Every metal-, wood- and stone- working tool, every plow and snow roller, came with a story of the people who used them, neighbors the Krugs remembered and knew as friends. Many of the museum artifacts, I soon learned, came from the old Snow Farm, where Mrs. Krug grew up.
One of the clearest memories I have our chats: Indian summer, 6pm, darkening, sunset over Mt Tom, standing in front of our mailbox post on the green. Leaves perfectly pyrotechnic, that wet cardboardy smell of dead leaves. I was wondering about refrigeration.
Mr. Krug riddled me: “Well, where does it stay cold in the summer and above just above freezing in winter?”
“Well, it”s not cold enough in the summer, is it?”
“Well, how deep?”
“A yard deep?”
“Well, that”s not deep enough!”
“I give up.”
“Well, I already told you.”
“Well, at least three times.”
“Ok, I give up again then—five times.”
“We lowered our food in buckets into the well we got water from. Cranked it right down. Whenever we wanted something we cranked it back up. Cold in summer, never freezes in winter.”
OK. Let”s compare the trans-generational memory that is the Blacksmith Museum, and the storytelling and lives of the Krugs, to this:
Bet you didn”t know the Ram brand is honored and humbled by our belief in its “Farmer” message.
“And this is only the beginning.”
Nietzsche opined that humans are the promise-making animals. The fact that we make promises sets us apart from all other creatures.
The fact that we don”t live up to those promises is why we seek to forget. And do forget, as a way of life.
Transgenerational amnesia is a key part of the American character and we use it to ignore the effects that industrial capitalism has on us and our biomes.
The truck in the pic is the biggest one on the market, and gets around 14 mph. It is swaddled in American nostalgia, the Jeffersonian ideal of the yeoman farmer. The audience”s national cultural pride is inspired—the truck requires “belief” in the yeoman dream. There is religion at work here: the nationalist, industrial capitalist religion of the 1950″s that got God”s name printed on our currency.
This is an image of a dinosaur, last of its species.
In it, we can identify our peril—the longer we cling to abandoned promises, the longer they will determine our everyday actions.
We are a very visual people, and not so good at critical thinking; and both of these facts make us susceptible to being brainwashed by advertising. Hollywood is one our biggest industries—proving we are great at creating realities that are so believable and so influential that Michelle Obama even handed out an Oscar a few nights ago.
Mentally, we prefer to inhabit made-up fantasies more than we do our actual place—our biome.
Language and image creates a cosmos that is not the actual cosmos. Typing “hot” warms not my cold feet.
—Why am I suddenly remembering this epistemological rupture: when Colin Powell bullshitted the UN by claiming that Iraq had WMDs—so embarrassing, for all Americans and Ameri-philes. Talk about living a fantasy! And knowing so little of the actual cosmos. He bullshitted himself, he later admitted—learning that too much bullshit, too much baseless fantasizing and karma gets ya!
Colonists are not at home. They are unsettled, often frantic, wanderers. They don”t know where they are, or who they are. They project their dreams upon reality because they don”t understand the reality—why am I thinking of the shape of the state of Colorado right now? Oh yes, the rectilinear grid.
They use the word, images, art to create fantasy worlds—like the truck ad and Locke”s 2nd Treatise on Government—that seem realer and more consequential than emerald ash borers or spotted fruit flies.
Transgenerationally, these fantasy worlds have assumed a greater part of the mentality of Americans than our actual biotic reality.
Most of us know where the cheapest gas is in town, right? How many know where their water comes from?
Not knowing where one”s water comes from is = to not knowing where 65% of our selves comes from.
You are more than you have ever been taught.
Discover the more you are.
If water is so much you, you are so much water.
You are rain and clouds—
did you know?
(It is possible to have more water in your thoughts than advertising. Totally natural in fact.)
Why the need for fantasies, when there”s more than enough going on outside to keep you entertained forever?
Let background become foreground, the quiet hum, and the voice inside the head be familiar and strong and friendly. Let that voice learn to speak as something rooted: rooted in the biome watered by … more than just clouds and rains, which we are thoroughly grateful for.
Our trans-generational amnesia is caused by our clinging to the unfulfilled promises of our parents, and their parents. We have inherited not the world they dreamed of.
We inherited the one we inhabit, which is propitious, for the best medicine for trans-generational amnesia is inhabition:
knowing where you are is knowing who you are.
, we belong here.
This is a black walnut tree planted by Sylvester Judd, Jr. about two hundred years ago: