artificial intelligence

Space, Place, Land and the Deceptions of Language

Things are what they are.

If you see in that image a boulder covered in two varieties of lichen, you are seeing words and the resonance they make when they draw on memory for life. This form of incarnation is a gift from the Greeks.

Kore, the Maiden, 530 BC, The Acropolis

Over the course of 2,000 years, the Mysteries of Eleusis, of which Kore and her mother Demeter were essential parts…

The Eleusinian Temple, now an archaeological site.

… created out of alternating cycles of death and rebirth, honoured through ritual, what is known in European tradition as consciousness.

Artificial Intelligence 101

The human body artfully remade, cast in bronze, and maintained past death, aka consciousness turned inside out.

This ability to radiate life from a lifeless form is what language, in the Western tradition, relies on for its effects.

However, it doesn’t apply in this human-centric way to the Nlaka’pamux Illahie.

Stone Marmot in Spring Sleet

Here, memory is not in a mind, communicated as consciousness by language or art, but is a power to walk through — a power,  by the way, that has shaped the rock as much as any path through it.

Note the human and animal forms and narratives. Rather than being made by human ritual, human ritual is made by working to assimilate to them.

Of course, there’s language. The Nlaka’pamux, the people of the rivers now known as The Fraser (and the Thompson), define themselves as the people (in a world in which there are many kinds of people)…

Some People of the Thompson

… who lived between air (flowing north) and water (flowing south). But don’t let a reference that the Nlaka’pamux live stand in place of Nlaka’pamux knowledge and don’t let language fool you in other ways. Language is a habit of mind, a path that allows for thinking. It is not the only path that does so. Water is not a stuff or a thing. It has no place. In all the Indigenous cultures of the Plateau, it is a spirit. If you turn around from the social group above, there it is.

If words tell you that this is a river, ask them to be still, just for a moment, so you can get your bearings, because this is not a “river.” Neither is it a stream, a Strom, a water, an aqua, an á, a run, a rapid, a fleuve, a flow, or any of those beautiful Indigenous European words. For them to make sense, you have to know this spirit. You have to give your mind away, and all of Eleusis, and all of the Athenian love of representing the human body as an eternal form in place of the one above and the one below.

These lichens at the foot of the Venables Valley Road are older than either Canada or the United States.

Note the narrate figures, especially the red marmot and the black shaman dancing.

Imagined? Real? Don’t let language have its way with you. You will never be of this energy field if you let that happen. To get you started at living in thought outside of your own memory (but deep in other story) the image below shows thinking at work, in a place other than language.

There is an honesty in mind reading itself in unified moments like this.

And there is memory that is held in stone and life.

Germans would call the image above a Gestalt, which is defined in English, according to Dictionary.com, as

To see how language is making fools of us and having its colonizing ways about our bodies…

Yes, Our Bodies

…compare that to the German definition, which is derived from the collision of German forest culture with Greek sculpture:

Gestalt meint umgangssprachlich die äußere Form, den Umriss, Wuchs oder die Erscheinung von Personen, Skulpturen oder allgemein von Lebewesen (und deren Darstellung), aber auch deren Wirkung und Präsenz, beispielsweise als „Lichtgestalt“.

The outer appearance, in other words. The ways in which an energy is, literally, gestaltet, or shaped, created or given form, and even relaxed from rigid interpretations and allowed to be itself (a formal crowd becomes a Gestalt when it relaxes and ‘is itself.) In psychology, a gestalt is the condition in which an inner drive seeks out external completion. If you are thirsty, for instance…

After the Fire

… then you will go here…

… and fulfill the condition. Body, action and world will be unified. In other words, the image below is from the Nlaka’pamux Illahie but it is not space.

Space is a region that one can see onself expand into. If you are already here, or if you draw power and identity from the energy that has arranged the above rock, these trees and this grass in spring sleet, it is not space. If you move, you are only deepening, where you are. Similarly, the following image…

… does not show a forest of ponderosa pines. It does show an ancient trail in a grassland, that has been taken over by trees, allowed to grow here in a culture that sees this as space, and sees the push of trees into an area cleared of people, but does not see the people cleared. This is a very old trail in the Nlaka’pamux Illahie. But, beware. “Trail” is the wrong word here.

Remember, this is not a trail through space, nor a forest. It is a slope of grass, and it is within your mind. In certain ways and certain instances, you are part of its gestalt. To deepen the footsteps of those who came before you, you come to this head. It marks your entrance to the canyon and your exit into another canyon.


It is a story, in other words, one that has been lived in by many people before you, and now you are in it. You are not “passing through it”. There is not “room to breathe” here. The patterns of your mind, your body sense, are not distinct from the things you pass among. That’s how stories work.

There are many kinds of stories. Words and story are not the same thing.

There are several kinds just in this rock face, high up a hidden canyon, including the water writing old stories, and veins in the rock writing another. Just to name two. Once you have learned to see them, the naming only gets in the way of your new self.

I can’t (and won’t) tell you where this story is, because it is not a place. A place is  the act of placing, of setting down permanently. You can’t do that if you are already here. In the same way, setting down your self in your self is just too many words for something simple. Here’s a Secwepemc image from just a little further up the river, an old story of the creation of the world by Sen’klip, the Transformer, who brought salmon to the Thompson and was accompanied by his friend Fox, who brought him back to life playing the ancient bone game, s’lahal, whenever Sen’klip’s recklessness got the better of him and turned him to a pile of bones.

Again, these are not my stories to tell, although the Earth’s stories are mine, and it touches them. These are old stories. They shape the mind, but the mind is not within any person, although all persons, even this young ponderosa pine …


… are within the mind.

We face the rock that faces us, because things are what they are.

If it were facing away, we could not face it, but we don’t have to because we are already there. That is what it is to be actualized as a place.

These images don’t show ‘land.’ They show a relationship between energies. Land is an old North Atlantic word derived from an action, a landing (a Land-ung) through the flame of a surf (a Brand-ung), and the sudden lifting up of the keel as solidity holds it rather than the pure, undifferentiated energy of the sea. One receives a point of view in sight. One sees, instead of being at sea. But it is not this:

If the word is used like that, along with words like space and place used to give value to the energy of unified presence, it is a part of the violence of possession, conquering, and colonialism. That these colonial terms are ever-present does not reduce the burden placed on humans by these old energy relationships to set them aside and be shaped by the energy here, even if they are the only words and the only habits of mind you know. This is an ethical imperative.

When you get to the waterfall, watch out for the poison ivy.

They have an important relationship it is your duty, as a part of the breath of the world, to learn, and to align yourself to.

Now, forget all that, and be present.

This is one being, not many.

~

Tomorrow: the energy here.

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