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04 January 2013

a is for apples and adaptation: a statement in favor of firsts

Adapt to survive; adapt to thrive.

I'm taking a history course right now entitled, "Native Americans in US History." There are two main themes which I'm taking away from this course, which is nearing its end. The most obvious is that Euro-Americans have been some seriously genocidal motherfuckers. I think we all pretty much knew that already, but I'm getting a much more detailed account of our historical treachery and modern apathy through this course than anything I've gotten before. The second theme is far more uplifting, and that is a theme of adaptation.

We tend to look back on our histories as a listing of chronological events in which monolithic groups of people clashed or merged. Even those Euro-Americans who believe themselves sympathetic to Native Americans in the power struggle between them and the various invading entities (my white girl self included), tend to see only that the Native Americans were beaten back, and beaten down, until their cultures had been all but decimated. What I hadn't given much thought to, before taking this course, was that there were tribes and individual Native Americans who attempted to adapt their own culture in order live peacefully, or even successfully, within the new economic and social structures being built by the Euro-Americans. There don't seem to be many success stories, but some came closer than I had ever realized.

I'm not here to give a history lesson today. My point is, I'm realizing that when we look back we need to remember that nothing happens in a vacuum, everything that happens has a first time, and nothing stays the same. I suppose what I'm working toward is a theory in defense of UPG (Unverified Personal Gnosis), but I think it's more than that. It's a plea for us all to look at each other - all the other humans we encounter every single day - and remember that every thing has a first.

Last autumn, when I needed something for my first-ever offering to Odin, I scanned my kitchen for available potential offerings. My eyes found apples, and something told me that was appropriate, despite having never heard of any connection between Odin and apples before. I offered Odin an apple, just on a hunch, and there are plenty of anti-UPG people who would have cried foul. When I later learned that there was  a verifiable reference to a positive relationship between Odin and apples, I felt validated in my earlier UPG-based offering. It was a good feeling. Kind of a raspberry in the face of the nay-sayers. It was also my first intentional step onto the UPG path, because, what the hell, it seemed to be working for me.

The more I think about it, though, the more I'm inclined to view UPG as the continuation of the longest human tradition of all: adaptation. There had to be a first, after all. Every story we tell, every myth we learn from, every parable and every divine truth we uncover in our reference books - every single one of those had a first time. First time being told, being written, and even a first time being thought of.

When we stop thinking of firsts, we stop growing, and we shut out our natural capacity for adaptation. If we picture all our various cultural paths as branches on a tree, perhaps we can more easily recall that stagnation is death: the tree will die if new branches, new leaves, and even new roots do not continue to grow.

Our species is not stagnant; we are not static. We are dynamic.

5 comments:

  1. "There had to be a first, after all. Every story we tell, every myth we learn from, every parable and every divine truth we uncover in our reference books - every single one of those had a first time. First time being told, being written, and even a first time being thought of."

    Absolutely! I really enjoyed reading this post.

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  2. Very in depth and beautiful post. I very much enjoyed your perspective. Thanks for sharing. I agree we need to turn around and look at our past, because if we don't well never move anywhere in the future.

    Thanks for linking up to PPBH!

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  3. Thanks for the share. I only just recently came across "UPG" and it's meaning and realized that I've been testing boundaries for a long time. I feel that while it is wonderful to look into the past and recreate old traditions, it's also a good idea to forge your own relationship with the deities by making your own traditions. Even if you'd never found a past connection with Odin and apples, that doesn't mean he wouldn't appreciate the gesture. Great post!

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  4. Yes! This rings true and speaks to my own experience as well. Sometimes you just know something is right, even if you can't prove it. Very well said.

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