Where The Wild Things Really Are
October 22, 2012 5:15 AM   Subscribe

Maurice Sendak's (probable) inspiration. Campbell's blog is the antidote for anyone bored with religion: Barbarella and Xenu, evolution from the simple to... the simple, how God evolved (possibly backwards), and more.

(Scroll half way down for the Sendak reference.)
posted by EnterTheStory (11 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I've seen that video many, many times at the Royal BC Museum in Victoria (it was shown on a loop with at least one other black and white recording of a dance on a boat of some type.) It's funny how clearly I remember the video loop, but never noticed the similarity to where the wild things are.
posted by shrabster at 6:02 AM on October 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

There is indeed nothing "simplistic" about animism, as he says, and it is anyway something that is entirely absent from the self-descriptions of supposedly "animistic" cultures. It is a concept that appears at the meeting of cultures, between those who divide the world into ensouled humans and the soulless things, plants and animals, and those who make no such distinction in the first place. "Animism" is a concept used by those who treat their own culture as depicting the "natural" order of things and treat divergences from this as something "culturally specific" - which is today often called "eurocentric" or "imperialist" mode of thinking. This is pretty ironic because underneath it lies the entirely religious belief that humans alone, those pinnacles of creation, are endowed with Godlike souls. Goes well together with the evolution post.

Also, the tortured arguments in the comments to the evolution post, trying to clinging on to a notion of human necessity, are a pretty telling read. Gould was correct: the true lesson of evolution is something that many, many people simply refuse to accept. Even Freud's declaration that we are irrational and not in full control over ourselves seems to go down easier than the fact that humans are just a fluke and that there is nothing in evolution that would necessitate our appearance.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 6:06 AM on October 22, 2012

Here a link to a website explaining the origin of the Curtis film. There's a still of the boat dance at the top.
posted by shrabster at 6:10 AM on October 22, 2012

"Animism" is a concept used by those who treat their own culture as depicting the "natural" order of things and treat divergences from this as something "culturally specific" - which is today often called "eurocentric" or "imperialist" mode of thinking.

This is something I've been thinking about in regards to current political conflict - more than a few articles have popped up, ascribing various movements or events as either deviating from or returning to the 'natural order' of the world. It's interesting to me that humans will justify our actions through an appeal to nature, as if we ourselves were not a part of nature, or ascribing as 'natural' systems and modes that are products of specific confluences of technology, power and culture.

Good post!
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:36 AM on October 22, 2012

As Steven Shapin and Simon Scaffer put it (though in an entirely different context of the history of the experimental method):

"A solution might reside in the distinction between "member's accounts" and "stranger's accounts." Being a member of the culture one seeks to understand has enormous advantages. Indeed, it is difficult to see how one could understand a culture to which one was a complete stranger. Nevertheless, unreflective membership also carries with it serious disadvantages to the search for understanding, and the chief of these might be called "the self-evident method.“ In this method the presuppositions of our own culture's routine practices are not regarded as problematic and in need of explanation. Ordinarily, our culture's beliefs and practices are referred to the unambiguous facts of nature or to universal and impersonal criteria of how people just do things (or do them when behaving "rationally"). A lay member of our culture, if asked why he calls an ostrich a bird, will probably tell his inquisitor that ostriches just are birds, or he will point to unproblematic criteria of the Linnaean system of classification by which ostriches are so categorized. By contrast, this lay member will think of a range of explanations to bring to bear upon a culture that excludes ostriches from the class of birds."
posted by Pyrogenesis at 6:50 AM on October 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Karen Armstrong's Short History of Myth is actually quite a thought-provoking take on the "how god/religion evolved" issue. It wasn't as such a move from simple to complex (as many in here have already spotted), she argues, so much as it adapted to mankind's own move from being "of a piece" with the natural world to being apart from it.

Also, she posits a theory that puts lie to the "early man invented myth to take the place of science" perception - the way man related to myth as she describes it, it sounds more like myth was a precursor to psychotherapy. The lessons man drew from myth weren't about "the goddess Persephone goes to the underworld once a year and that's why there's winter," it's more like "the goddess Persephone goes to the underworld once a year and comes back, and similarly we all need to go through phases of dying and rebirth".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:29 AM on October 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd say that's still too compartmentalized, EmpressCallipygos. There is an overarching framework where religion isn't really a thing in a society, it is part of everything in the society. Myth is dance, music, science, philosophy, psychotherapy, history, visual arts, craft, politics - every part of the society is shot through with its tendrils.
posted by idiopath at 8:06 AM on October 22, 2012

Well, yeah. "Psychotherapy" is only one of many things religion does in some societies; I was more challenging the notion that "religion used to replace science" because it kind of didn't.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:10 AM on October 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just like shrabster, I recognized that film the second it started playing (I love Northwest Indian art), but had never made the Sendak connection. And thanks for pointing out the blog; it's been added to my regular visit list.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:02 AM on October 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sendak published Where the Wild Things Are in 1963; according to this page, the Head Hunters (1914) movie was "quickly overlooked and barely preserved until 1973." Is there more evidence connecting the two that I missed?
posted by roger ackroyd at 1:04 PM on October 22, 2012

There's also a link in the one comment on Campbell's blog to more art that looks like it could have inspired Sendak. I'm only repeating it here because it's fabulous.
posted by sneebler at 1:23 PM on October 23, 2012

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