Thursday, October 24, 2013

Our ancestors were a lot happier than we are today

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (People's School-on-Air) with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 evening class Monday to Friday

Throughout history and through countless generations our ancestors brought about a wealth of native knowledge and folk wisdom.

Like Lola Basiang relating folklore to children, we imagine a campfire, around it our ancestors exchanged knowledge and recounted experiences, with spices of imagination and superstition. It was a prototype open university.

Like Homer’s epics, Iliad and the Odessey, we can explore, retrieve and study knowledge in olden times through early writings, archeology, and interview with old folks. With modern science and technology, we can even create virtual reality scenarios on the screen and in dioramas, reliving the past and deliver them right in the living room and in the school.

But it is important to undertake the enormous task of gathering the fragments of knowledge transcended through our old folks. And before we can draw the threads of wisdom and weave them into a fabric we call science, we should be able to distinguish facts from myths, reality and imagination.

We know that rediscovering indigenous knowledge and folk wisdom enlarges and enhances our history and tradition. Even beliefs and practices, which we may not be able to explain scientifically, can be potential materials for research. And if in our judgment they fail to meet such test, still they are valuable to us because they are part of our culture and they contribute immensely to the quaintness of living.

There is a beautiful novel Swiss Family Robinson written by Johann Wyss nearly two centuries ago. It is about a family stranded in an unknown island somewhere near New Guinea and during the many years they lived in the island, they learned to adapt to a life entirely disconnected from society and devoid of the amenities of modern living. When finally they were rescued, the family chose to stay in the island – except one son who decided to go back to Europe to study and promised to return.

There are stories of similar plot such as Robinson Crusoe, a classic novel by Daniel Defoe, and recently, Castaway, a modern version of a lone survivor shown on the screen. We can only imagine what we could have done if we were the survivors ourselves.

But to many of us, particularly the young generation, such stories seem to have lost their appeal, more so their relevance. It is as if we have outlived tradition in such a manner that anything which is not modern does not apply any longer. What aggravates it is that as we move in to cities we lose our home base and leave behind much of our native culture. There is in fact an exodus to live in cities, whether in ones own country or abroad, and the lure is so great nearly half of the world’s population is now living in urban centers. Ironically the present population explosion is not being absorbed by the rural areas but by cities, bloating them into megapolises where millions of people as precariously ensconced. And now globalization is bringing us all to one village linked in cyberspace and shrunk in distance by modern transportation. We have indeed entered the age of global homogenization and worldwide acculturation.

Maybe it is good to look back and compare ourselves with our ancestors from the viewpoint of how life is well lived. Were our ancestors a happier lot? Did they have more time for themselves and their family, and more things to share with their community? Did they live healthier lives? Were they endowed - more than we are - with the good life brought about by the bounty and beauty of nature?

These questions bring us to analyze ten major concerns about living. In the midst of socio-cultural and economic transformation from traditional to modern to globalization - an experience that is sweeping all over the world today - these concerns serve as parameters to know how well we are living with life. As the reader goes over the various topics in this book he can’t help but relate them with his own knowledge and experiences, and in fact they way he lives. This is essentially the purpose of this book.

1. Simple lifestyle
2. Environment-friendly
3. Peace of mind
4. Functional literacy
5. Good health and longer active life
6. Family and community commitment
7. Self-managed time
8. Self-employment
9. Cooperation (bayanihan) and unity
10. Sustainable development

I have been able to gather some traditional practices and beliefs and put these into writing. Primarily these are ethnic or indigenous, and certainly there are commonalities with those in other countries, particularly in Asia, albeit of their local versions and adaptations. It leads us to appreciate with wonder the vast richness of cultures shared between and among peoples and countries even in very early times. Ironically modern times have overshadowed tradition, and many of these beliefs and practices have been either lost or forgotten, and even those that have survived are facing endangerment and the possibility of extinction. It is a rare opportunity and privilege to gather and analyze traditional beliefs and practices. It is to the old folks that I owe much gratitude and respect because they are our living link of the past, they are the Homer of Iliad and Odyssey of our times, so to speak. It is to them that this book is sincerely dedicated.~

No comments: