Thursday, 20 September 2007

too much

Life is currently being overwhelming. I think it's very rude of it to sometimes be overwhelming and at other times to be unutterably boring. But variety and all that...

I have lots of work. I'm trying to do it all as well as doing important things like getting enough sleep/exercise, remembering to take my medication, eating, etc. I seem to be losing, but I think that's just mid-week perception and things will change towards the weekend. The problem is that the work is not very interesting.

I am an archaeologist because I am interested in people. Why do they do these things [as opposed to those]? Why do it one way instead of another? What do they believe? Why do they believe that? One of my favourite anthropological stories [and one of the most difficult to wrap my brain around] is the story of the Pacific Islanders [I forget which island and which group of people, but they lived on an island in the pacific] who starved to death. An entire population wiped out. Why? Well, their crops failed and there was nothing to eat. You see, fish was not considered 'food', so they couldn't use it to survive. But why not? I don't consider insects as food, or rodents, etc., but you can be damn sure that if I was starving I'd try to catch a few and eat them. So why didn't the islanders try to eat some seafood?

The problem with studying people is that there are so many of them and they all believe different things and behave differently, both in terms of cultural and temporal differences. So how can I ever figure it all out? Do you pick a region and look purely at the cultural and temporal changes in behaviour there? Or do you pick a culture that you're particularly interested in and learn all there is to know about those people? Personally, I'd go for both [pick a region and learn all there is to know about every culture through time], but that's just not possible. So you need some kind of compromise. You need a bunch of people who're experts on one culture. Then you need to come along and look at which cultures were in this particular region at which particular time and see what the experts say about those cultures. Then you somehow need to figure out the most interesting stuff of all - why and how those cultures changed/adapted/altered/etc. Of course, to do that you need a whole bunch of other experts who can tell you about the kinds of things that would be relevant to that sort of inquiry and so on and so forth. Which is why we never get anywhere very quickly.

Of course, by belief I'm not necessarily talking about religious ideologies, more about the beliefs that shape people's lives. Organised religion plays a part in that, sadly, but it is not the whole. There are very few people who, finding themselves starving to death on an island, would not try to catch a fish simply because their religion forbade it. Of course, that's not exactly a hypothesis we could test as people might die - it would lead to all sorts of liability issues I imagine, and probably wouldn't be very good for science overall. People believe all sorts of things and most of them never share their most personal beliefs with others. Of course, many beliefs are simply there, they're never articulated even to themselves, so you can't exactly find out what it is. You can, however, get at an idea of what they believe from their behaviour.

Like this person, who we'll call Adela. She would never accept this description of herself, but it's based on her behaviour and may well be a reflection of many things - subconscious beliefs, fear, insecurity, religious dogma, not thinking things through for herself but merely accepting what she's been told, etc. There are many reasons for her to behave the way she does. I don't understand them, but I find her utterly fascinating. She is extremely narrow-minded, if you disagree with or question her, you are being mean to her. If you don't agree with her she gets offended and tries to avoid the conversation - presumably she either dislikes arguments, is afraid of conflict or has simply learnt that I'm not going to concede to the weird religious beliefs that she does admit to. On the few occasions that you do manage to get her into a discussion on anything, she will not use reason. She will just state her beliefs or feelings, over and over again, until you either concede or she can't take it anymore and runs away. Your world must revolve around her, you must drop everything to attend to her whenever she wants your attention and you must agree with everything she says. She's also incredibly manipulative to get you to behave this way - she does not think that she's manipulative [or at the very least won't admit to it], however. Once you're aware of her manipulations they're so obvious and puerile that they've easily avoided.

And in spite of all this [though some may argue it's because of all this] I actually like her. It's not just that she fascinates me or that I think she's some kind of 'project', I actually genuinely care about her. I don't know why - my best guess is simply that it's because people are weird. To be fair, this is a completely one-dimensional view of her, detailing the behaviours that so particularly fascinate me about her. Also, I'm quite sure that I see some of the same behaviour in myself - I've got a clearer idea of the reasons behind it there though.

Anyway, that's been building for a while and is part of something that I've been doing in my breaks or while waiting for wendell to finish up in the mill, etc. I've been making a wishlist on www.loot.co.za of all the books I want. An overwhelming amount of them are either biographies, histories, or archaeological type books. There are quite a few that integrate history and weird beliefs for that matter. And just a smattering of fiction. But since I pick up most of my fiction at the market and currently don't have much time for reading the ones I'm busy with.

There's just too much work to be done...

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