Science, i.e. the culture and practice of inquiry performed by civilization, has always, and will always (as long as it can) embody the relationship of civilization to the community of life. I characterize this relationship as one of domination and blindness to the living reality all around us. Civilization, as expressed by authors such as Derrick Jensen and Daniel Quinn, and indigenous speakers of many tribes and continents, cannot help but destroy itself by destroying its habitat, its home. If it didn’t do this, we could no longer call it civilization.
So, if Science embodies an abusive relationship to that which it studies, how do we walk away from it? How do we study the world in a way that ensures Life, and a future for our grandchildren?
Animists have an answer in this, in the Way of Tracking.
Animistic “Tracking” differs from the discipline practiced by civilized hunters and sportspersons in many important ways. I give Tracking a capital “T” in the same sense that give Science a capital “S”; both embody far more than the act of science or tracking, they contain an entire worldview.
Formerly I wrote about Tracking as the first animist “science”, but I’ve since seen this clouds the issue, and distracts from the true nature of science as a beast of civilization.
One could also call Tracking “animist inquiry”, but I prefer Tracking because it contains the understanding that an animist starts with the story of the track, and builds onto that the study of the entire universe.
By studying Tracking, an animist studies everything; things we might call soil geology, fluid dynamics, meteorology, ethology, psychology, zoology, botany, epistemology, astronomy, physics, and on and on. Tracking includes the study of so many phenomena that expand out from and return back to the Track, it truly becomes a study of the universe itself.
Or rather, it becomes a study of the animist universe. It extends to any area of study that assumes a living universe.
Any knowledge base gained from an insensitivity to a living, sensitive universe, falls outside that which exists to an indigenous mind and body.
Our Science has propelled an immense productivity in scientific knowledge precisely because it does not consider the universe alive; it proceeds at a meteoric pace, because it need never ask permission of a dead universe, it need never pause in its breakneck progress. Because of this, it will also never know certain things, and actually will perpetuate a blindness of other relationships. The Scientific process actually acts as a ceremony that further inculcates the worldview of a dead universe.
A Tracker constantly asks the flesh of the world permission to proceed, how it feels so far, and the Tracker expresses thanksgiving for what knowledge they have received.
Thus Tracking acts as a ceremony that inculcates a radically different worldview; that of a living, sensate universe. A Tracker then experiences, ever more richly, a world described by the Lakota as “Mitakuya Oyasin”…’All My Relations’.
Most of us have a foot in both worlds, belonging fully to neither; enacting the ceremony of one stunts the relationship with the other.
“Scientific knowledge” gained from generations of nonconsensual experimentation on the living world, contains within it the assumption of a dead universe. By its very nature, it answers questions one would ask of a corpse. Geologists don’t see stones as alive; so any geologic information we have describes a dead mineral object. Not just dead…it never lived at all. If one has truly dived into an animist worldview, this knowledge doesn’t just come across as fragmented, but comes across as imbued with an insane sheen…the ghosts of the living world hang heavy on it.
So what does one do? How do we relate to scientific knowledge, and our vast array of devices, machines, and electronic wizardry, and still remain animists?
It all comes down to informed consent. You do what you have to do, with a knowledge of the impact of your actions. No pure path exists. Some of us, to share what our hearts demand, must use the infrastructure of a mad culture to contact the people enslaved by that culture. And yes, engaging machines begins to feed a relationship with those same machines. We cannot avoid this. We can minimize it, mitigate it, and when the time comes walk away from it, but until that day comes, we do what we need to do.
In the end, knowledge has a value less than that of dust…at least the dust has a body. But our relationships determine our wealth, and when we have earned the trust, respect, and love of other living beings in our world, they will rain down all the knowledge we could ever want. It all comes down to the process of building the relationship.
This happens in a very real way with Tracking…one can spend an entire Life studying the Fox, but if the Fox doesn’t want to, you will never see him, except in a cage. Once he trusts you, watch out! Once he loves you, the limits fall away and universe upon universe opens up; more knowledge than a thousand generations of persistent field biologists could imagine in their wildest dreams.