There was a surge in human consciousness around a certain age that spawned great civilizations: the Mesopotamian, Chinese and Indus civilizations. How they happened as near-simultaneous occurrences is anybody’s educated guess. The more current view was of an Indo-European nation of horsemen that reached Europe, China and India so that similar and near simultaneous surges could be observed. The revisionist view—based on re-reading a bull-inscribed artifact as that of a horse—is that the horsemen started from the Indus valley and went to the other areas. Whichever way you take it, both versions are linked to horses. A more intriguing angle would be to ask what is at stake in all this horseplay that potentially links great civilizations to living groups of people. If one were to generalize it, our definitions of what/who we are and are not, if done without a constant self-reminder of our imaginations of the 'other' on whom we rebound our defintions of ourselves, could easily slip into seemingly definitive and yet trite ethnophobic horseplay.
There was once a brush-dappled hill with water-lined clefts sourced by perennial springs. The river at its foot would wax and wane with the seasons. Life abounded lacking only human presence. We then, on moving in and in needing to do so, tapped into its beat-the hill provided our essentials-so that life was synchronous in its diversity. Over time, the human population grew exponentially--after all, we don’t just hunt and gather-which in turn imperiled the precarious synchronicity because the hill refused to reciprocate. Our ingenuity conjured up attitudes and ways of being that would hopefully minimize the human demands on the hill. And then something almost irreversible happened.
Yards of barbed-wire crisscrossed the hill's face marking off my land from your land. Concrete structures were needed to house comfort and utility. In a word, life was different but nonetheless a lot easier and convenient. I just felt this urge to better my lot and so had to widen my network--got wired, got mobile, got miles, got plastic--effectively raising the bar for keeping up with the Chhakchhuaks. The race was on but beneath its din, the hill-clefts had become lined with a lifeless trickle of excesses. Peeping out of the slush and among an occasional Zepdyl bottle, I noticed a crumpled piece of paper with the picture of a bald and bespectacled man.
In the footsteps of one I consider an exponent of the 'parable', let me also expand: 'Ancient Futures' is the title of a rather readable book...nothing original about it. I also think this exponent used his parables to say things differently while spanning the intended range of his ideas. He was eliciting the engaged response of his listeners...remember his famous question, "Which of these three was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" Moreover, the symbols are used suggestively rather than prescriptively so as tease out creative interpretations hopefully to make meaning-making more democratic and dynamic.
Having listed my caveats, modernity's promises of a 'better' life hold water to an extent but at many points are delusional because that life is based on homogenized commodifications that prey on the human instinct for want. 'Ancient Futures' does not romanticize an irretrievable past but suggests future possibilities within that which has been erased in our rush to modernise or chide others for not being a 'changkang' people.