Monday, October 10, 2016

the New World

I see him as a funnel and through this funnel the New World pours into my genes and becomes, perhaps, the saving remnant. For what this discovered hemisphere gave us is a chance to recover the irrational, the illogical, and the powerful. The forests that overwhelm us, the mountains that dwarf us, the forces that crush us. Here the drums were not yet stilled. Here God still lived, though at times God drank copious goblets of blood, or was a stone, or a buffalo skull, or a mountain.

But the mess we lament, that is the thing that part of me celebrates. The strange mongrel mixture of races, ideas, seeds, spores, viruses, bacteria.

The landmass we call Europe had been butchered, all the forests made groves, all the meadows made fields, all the ground made tame. All the signs of decadence were present  and this failure of the heart was seen as innovation. A new burst was occurring in writing, in painting, in machines. The things scholars for the coming centuries would celebrate and call a rebirth, these things were actually signs of a vast dying of the spirit. Of this I am convinced because five centuries later I live at a similar moment in the history of my breed. We too live in a dead culture with dead gods and yet we are flailing outward into space, the depths of the seas, the secret crevices of the earth, the once sacrosanct gardens of our cells. We are mining the double helix, poking about in the strange codes of life itself. We sail on our clumsy caravels and galleons just as Christopher himself once did.

What the jungles and plains and mountains and deserts and forests of the New World accomplished is this: they permanently poisoned the faith of Europeans in rationality. They brought us back the night.

Charles Bowden, Blood Orchid: An Unnatural History of America (1995)

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