Monday, 14 November 2011

If You go Down to the Woods Today...

Not, I hasten to add, a continuation of the teddy bears theme although it does make me wonder what deep, embedded folk memories gave rise to that song. I recently read a post on The Solitary Walker's blog in the course of which he posted this anonymous 14th century poem:

While leaves were green, I gave
Veneration to my sweetheart's leafy bower.
Sweet it was awhile, my love,
To live under the birch grove,
Sweeter still to clasp fondly
Hidden together in our woodland hide,
Strolling together by the seashore,
Lingering together by the wood-shore,
Planting birches together, goodly task!
Weaving the branches together,
Love-talking with my slender girl.

An innocent occupation for a girl -
To stroll the forest with her lover,
To mirror expressions, to smile together,
To laugh together and, mouth to mouth,
To lie together in the grove,
To shun others, to complain together,
To live together kindly, drinking mead,
To repose together, to celebrate love,
To keep love's secret cordon, covertly:
Truly, I have no need to tell you more.

Did I hear someone on TV the other week (Ronald Blythe?) talking about or did I read in Deakin's Wildwood the fact that in the past romance went on in the woods, there being no privacy in house where many people shared a room? Whoever it was claimed that for centuries most people in Britain were conceived in the woods.

So, perhaps we actually had a "mating season" at one time. Perhaps what people see as an "over sexualized" culture in the West has more to do with general improvements to the standard of living and housing than sexual imagery in the media and all the usually cited causes. (Of course it does, as any fule kno. Seems obvious when I write it). If so, all the usual suspects (however unwholesome they are) may indeed be the effects, the symptoms - rather than the root cause.

No-one would choose a return to Victorian living conditions, but the fact is we were not designed for too much comfort. I find myself wondering what would happen to any animal if you serruptitiously removed it from the natural cycles it took for granted and find myself looking at our own species. Perhaps the process in our case has been going on for thousands of years, ever since our intelligence began to develop and we started to make more and more "intelligent" rather than intuitive decisions. This perhaps created a vicious circle, which would fuel the evolution of our kind of intelligence. I'm imagining that, stepping outside the bounds of instinct and intuition, we create problems that need solving, and need more and more of that intelligence to solve them, reducing our intuition to an advisory capacity. The bigger the hole we dig for ourselves, the more we have to think about how to get out of it - and we started digging millenia ago. How much deeper will it get? And how much more "intelligent" will we get? Will we ever get so intelligent we decide to stop digging?

To put it another way, once cheetahs started chasing prey, they had to evolve to run faster and faster, I imagine, as the also-evolving prey took up the challenge. Similarly, as soon as we began to rely on "bright ideas" to survive, we needed to have brighter and brighter ones to fix the mistakes of the past. I speculate, but if you live on fish and invent a way to fish more effectively, you exhaust the fish stocks and have to think up a new way to avoid starving. If you lacked the intelligence to invent spears and nets you would have to rely on grabbing your fish. Both you and the fish would get by.

Now, what are we going to do about all that nuclear waste?


Rachel Fox said...

Feed it to bankers?

The Weaver of Grass said...

Do you mean to tell me that you heard my favourite writer, Ronald Blythe, speak on radio and you didn't tell me?

Rachel Fenton said...

Love in the trees, "the root cause"..lovely ideas in this post.

I'm not sure I could be fagged scoopung fish for dinner everyday - I think monotony is behind many design "improvements" - death of the planet propelled by desire to alleviate boredom.....bonking the woods to death - that sounds like fun...

GOAT said...

Yes, it was definitely in 'Wildwood'. And I remember a haunting scene in 'The Wicker Man' in which a pagan mass erotic-hysteria overtook the island and people were going at it outdoors in the fields etc...

Dominic Rivron said...

Thanks for these comments, everyone.

RF: Could do - but then it would end up in the sea.

WG: No I didn't, it seems - must have dreamt it (see Goat's comment).

RF: Yes. And I suppose our intelligence generates our sense that something is monotonous. The brighter we get, the more aware of monotony we are when it arises.

Goat: Thanks for that - now I know where it came from. Good film!