A pygmy's view...


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... on the nature of God.

I'd like to share a quote from 'The Forest People' by Colin Turnbull. Turnbull is/was an anthropologist and the book is a record of his time spent with the Mbuti pygmies in the Congo.

He has asked one of the tribe's elders about a ritual, called a molimo, that they have that involves the use of a pipe instrument by the same name. The elder, Moke, is speaking at the beginning of the quote.

"Normally everything goes well in our world. But at night when we are sleeping, sometimes things go wrong, because we are not awake to stop them from going wrong. Army ants invade the camp; leopards may come in and steal a hunting dog or even a child. If we were awake these things would not happen. So when something big goes wrong, like illness or bad hunting or death, it must be because the forest is sleeping and not looking after its children. So what do we do? We wake it up. We wake it up by singing to it, and we do this because we want it to awaken happy. Then everything will be well and good again. So when our world is going well then also we sing to the forest because we want it to share our happiness."

All this I had heard before, but I had not realized quite so clearly that this was what the molimo was all about. It was as though the nightly chorus were an intimate communion between a people and their god, the forest. Moke even talked about this, but when he did so he stopped working on his bow and turned his wrinkled old face to stare at me with his deep, brown, smiling eyes. He told me how all Pygmies have different names for their god, but how they all know that it is really the same one. Just what it is, of course, they don't know, and that is why the name really does not matter very much. "How can we know?" he asked. "We can't see him; perhaps only when we die will we know and then we can't tell anyone. So how can we say what he is like or what his name is? But he must be good to give us so many things. He must be of the forest. So when we sing, we sing to the forest."
Hi Sara:

Great post.

I've heard of this too. By the way, the pygmies of the Congo, the San/xosha people of the Kalahari, and the recently discovered so called "hobbit" people of the Island of Flores, are considered by some to be the three original branches of the modern human family, homo sapiens. I don't know if genetic testing has been published or not to verify that.

Two flourished, and the third (which is considered to be closer to nature than the other two, and more mystically inclined) disappeared. The Kalahari people are vitally threatened as we write this as they have been cut-off from nomadic life and forced to live in fixed encampments by their governments. The pygmies will be next. I just guess one has to view it all as Joseph Schumpeter did as "creative destruction" one of the hallmarks of capitalism and a primary engine of western civilization.

As I've suggested elsewhere musical and acoustic structure seems to be popping up around the universe in many places which affects our realities. But especially so in biological work.

We in the West pretty much lost our ability to communicate with the universal harmonies such as the pygmies have for millenia, and benefit from the results. But the story certainly doesn't surprise me.

sara, this post is beautiful and inspiring...thank you for sharing it.

I particularly like it seeing as how I'm a professional singer myself. I like the idea of having such an important job to do.:D