I’ve been reading Colin Turnbull’s The Forest People. He lived ‘a while’ with pygmies to understand their life, their ‘culture’, their beliefs. Turnbull doesn’t lecture, or present the material as an ethnography. It’s more like a biography of a tribe. As such, I get to wander through their lives, see what they do, how they do it, what’s important to them, without any judgments or conclusions other than my own. What a treat for a writer! A chance to explore a culture, understand their decisions, life style, what makes a society other than mine/ours work.
It didn’t take me long to realize Pygmies have no leaders. How can that be, you might ask? Doesn’t somehow just assume that mantle? Well, until I read this book, I would have agreed whole-heartedly, but that doesn’t seem to happen. A tribe member might demand everyone go hunting with him (it takes a large group to capture/kill the forest animals) and people may go, or they may not. Whatever they feel like. When they move to a new camp, houses and furniture must be built. People may start full of energy and ambition, promising to help neighbors and build big houses with multiple rooms. And then dwindle away as something else grabs their attention. Maybe finish, maybe not. Maybe use some of their neighbor’s roof leaves, or even his house since theirs isn’t built.
Most surprisingly, I have yet to discover a belief in a god. They don’t pray for help, for food or safety, for anything. If life doesn’t seem quite right, the closest they get to wishing it was better is to return to the forest where life is always good. So they do, to a camp surrounded by the depths of the jungle, where outsiders are afraid to go. But the forest isn’t their god, it’s merely where life is always good.
Hmmm. I have to ponder this…
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blog, Technology in Education featured blogger, IMS tech expert, and a bi-monthly contributor to Today’s Author. In her free time, she is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.