Cecilia’s anthropology professor mentioned something called the Human Resource Area File, which sorts out the religion, law, material culture, whatever else of any studied people. To codify and organize these culture traits are valuable, but the structure itself is influenced by the culture of those who presume to do the studying. If one studies a theocracy, does one simply make duplicate file copies for the area of religion and the area of law? Maybe it’s more sophisticated than that. I’ve only sat in for one class, after all.
But if I write that I interpret Dreamtime (what little I’ve read of it) as like some animistic “genius locii”, or as cosmic concepts that can be ritualized similar to the classical elements of Ancient Greek philosophy and mysticism, or with a symbolic aesthetic and ritual performance closer to the various medicines of Neo-Shamanism…all under one term of (translated to) “Dreamtime”, of course, it’s not going to be that or any of those things anymore. Just by naming these features and drawing parallels, I’ve already changed the nature of what I refer to by extracting each from their contexts and lumping them together.
All that’s left is an attempt to articulate my own interpretation, which probably stems from a belief* system I already have that hasn’t been articulated. (* And I consider life experience through the physical senses an integral component of belief, so my definition of belief isn’t necessarily a thing separate from that which is known or lived or done.) Belief systems that have been articulated–alchemy, faelatry, narrative analysis, sciences and mysticisms–give me models of articulation. I hope that’s the extent of their influence.
I’ve had difficulty forging a relationship with the corporeal. The beauty, danger, and harmonious niches of natural environments do demand my attention whenever I find myself there, but the same qualities in a city I’ve taken for granted. Only after a while and lot of reading did it occur to me to sanctify the sort of environment I was born and now live in, regardless if some administrative force made it, or if war comes through and leaves rubble, or if natural disasters and corruption in public funding combine to leave rubble, or if the rainforests reclaim the monuments for future people to find and wonder about. The world remains spiritually significant, although I admit to a personal tendency towards shutting down.
Cities in the highlands take on a particular character in its steeply sloping roads. For all the polish and glamour of the city I live in now, it seems to still remember that it used to be a marsh–and reminds its citizens of this every monsoon season. During road trips, my family would often stop at diners near (not too near–at least not at those times) active volcanoes for which the towns in-between were famous. I’d thought these aspects added character to the location, but more obviously it shows that cities never fully escape the natural environment.
I’ve had that idea for a while, but it hasn’t become more than noted until recently. Now I wonder what the character of each location can become. What more could it mean to designate some part of the nation as “the honey pot” or “the bread basket” for their main export, or as a “university town”, or as a “tourist trap”? Or as residential and business districts?
Perhaps the same thing happens as has been happening long before urban development: the geography becomes the people. This next tidbit came up when Cecilia and I got to talking about what sort of names we’d have in the style of Westerosi bastards. Tagalog is the language of the capital, originally spoken by the tribe of the same name. It comes from the conjunction taga (meaning “from”) and ilog (meaning “river”) so roughly translates to “(the people) from the river”, although to some southerners it’s come to mean “damned imperialists” and they aren’t exactly wrong.
My bastard name would be Fort, by the way, Cecilia only thought at first it would be Rivers but my maternal grandmother came from somewhere else known for its military fortresses. Cecilia’s bastard name would be Blackwest after the translation of her hometown’s name, although I would have thought it would be Cane after the main export…but world banks and international funds have made perpetually terrible decisions when it’s come to telling the nations who borrow from them exactly what to produce in order to pay back the loan, and apparently the growing of sugar cane in all climates that can grow sugar cane is one of them. More sugar cane being grown, harvested, and exported lowers the market value of sugar cane, the immediate solution to which has been to…grow more sugar cane. While Cecilia appreciates what the surplus of Cane has done to the culinary arts of her hometown, in protest against senseless economic imperialism she would not take the name of Cane.
Settling on the most significant aspect after which to name a territory is an interesting process. They won’t be Dreamings, of course–they aren’t. I might count them as Ways.
My family moved a lot while I was growing up, and it may be too late for me to achieve fluency in the Tagalog language. Language is one way, however, that one can do what one is, which is ritual enough. Other rituals and stories of my people before the colonial times remain embalmed in pages of barely-accessible academic studies. Maybe they’ll wake up again one day. For now, I pay more attention to the rituals and stories I have on hand, while keeping a renewed understanding in mind of how they associate with an environment (as well as how they’re transmitted.)
EDIT: The sugar cane growing had to do with the Tidings-McDuffy Act, not the IMF or World Bank strongarming specific industries to debtors, although the banks do do that with other industries and other developing nations.