CALVIN LUTHER MARTIN on RIVERS OF WIND
Imagine a universal consciousness of wildness. Think of it as a kind of supercontinent of mind. A Pangaea of Wildness. Reigning supreme are totemism (animal kinship and consciousness) and the Gift (the knowledge born of the womb and re-affirmed by totemism that mankind is taken care of).
Imagine that in the Middle East (not limited to the Middle East, though perhaps more pronounced here than anywhere else) a fault line forms deep within this consciousness. A rift — a doubt. “How do you know you’re taken care of?” The question, once released like the genie, can never be coaxed back into the enchanted lamp.
The cleft deepens. A new template forms, broken off from the Mother Continent, working at cross purposes to it. From Lascaux to Descartes, the story of human consciousness is the tension between these two great continental plates slowly grinding past one another: wild and domesticated.
One of adama's tasks was to name the animals. (Listen. The river of language is about to change direction.) "Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every fowl of the air and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them" (Genesis 2:19).
Adama, First Agrarian Man, finds himself caught between two massive continental plates now, just now, beginning to move in opposite directions. The tension between wild and domesticated is tremendous.
Adam's god screams at him to name them. It is modern man's defining moment.
Behold the Fall. Before it — for hundreds of thousands of years — language flowed from loose-limbed undulating wildness, moving like a flickering flame across rock walls and open-air boulders, moving like a Dark One emerged from winter sleep in the spring snows of Yellowstone Park. Like hydrostatic pressure carving the chambers of the embryonic heart, language welled up within the womb of wildness to carve the mind of man.
Full stop. This is the context of the book you're holding in your hand. Ben Kessler's courageous effort to "stem the great wheel / over which the powerful waters run" (Rilke) — the waters of language which have been flowing in the wrong direction since Adam's revolutionary and treasonous act.
CALVIN LUTHER MARTIN is the author of The Way of the Human Being and The Great Forgetting, among others.