THE STAR THROWER (excerpts) Loren Eisely 1978 Has the earth's glacial winter, for all our
THE STAR THROWER (excerpts)
Loren Eisely 1978
Has the earth's glacial winter, for all our mastery of science, surely
subsided? No, the geologist would answer. We merely stand in a transitory spot
of sunshine that takes on the illusion of permanence only because the human
generations are short.
Has the wintry bleakness in the troubled heart of humanity at least equally
retreated?--that aspect of man referred to when the Eskimo, adorned with
amulets to ward off evil, reiterated: "Most of all we fear the secret
misdoingsof the heedless ones among ourselves."
No, the social scientist would have to answer, the winter of man has not
departed. The Eskimostanding in the snow, when questioned about his beliefs,
said: "We do not believe. We only fear. We fear those things which are about
us and of which we have no sure knowledge. . . ."
But surely we can counter that this old man was an ignorant remnant of the
Ice Age, fearful of a nature he did not understand. Today we have science; we
do not fear the Eskimo's malevolent ghosts. We do not wear amulets to ward off
evil spirits. We have pierced to the far rim of the universe. We roam mentally
through light-years of time.
Yes, this could be admitted, but we also fear. We fear more deeply than the
old man in the snow. It comes to us, if we are honest, that perhaps nothing
has changed the grip of winter in our hearts, that winter before which we
cringed amidst the ice long ages ago.
For what is it that we do? We fear. We do not fear ghosts but we fear the
ghost of ourselves. We have come now, in this time, to fear the water we
drink, the air we breathe, the insecticides that are dusted over our giant
fruits. Because of the substances we have poured into our contaminated rivers,
we fear the food that comes to us from the sea. There are also those who tell
us that by our own heedless acts the sea is dying.
We fear the awesome powers we have lifted out of nature and cannot return to
her. We fear the weapons we have made, the hatreds we have engendered. We fear
the crush of fanatic people to whom we readily sell these weapons. We fear for
the value of the money in our pockets that stands symbolically for food and
shelter. We fear the growing power of the state to take all these things from
us. We fear to walk in our streets at evening. We have come to fear even our
scientists and their gifts.
We fear, in short, as that self-sufficient Eskimo of the long night had
never feared. Our minds, if not our clothes, are hung with invisible amulets:
nostrums changed each year for our bodies whether it be chlorophyl toothpaste,
the signs of astrology, or coldcures that do not cure: witchcraft nostrums for
our society as itfractures into contending multitudes all crying for
liberation without responsibility.
We fear, and never in this century will we cease to fear. We fear the end of
man as that old shaman in the snow had never had cause to fear it. There is a
winter still about us--the winter of man that has followed him relentlessly
from the caverns and the ice. The old Eskimo spoke well. It is the winter of
the heedless ones. We are in the winter. We have never left its breath.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank