Written by Hansha Teki
Category: September 2015
“Heaven and earth are the inn for the ten thousand things, light and shadow are wayfarers of a hundred generations. And so this floating life is like a dream.” (Li Bo)
Tens of thousands of generations have come and gone. In ancient darkness on cave walls we may see silhouettes of the hands that survive the people who left them. These red ochre markings are the "I AM" of people who left behind no names, no words.
The earliest known form of writing appears in Mesopotamia a mere 5,000 years ago. People empowered themselves to record what was important to them and even to whisper their names across time to us.
What ancient wisdom, what poetry could no longer be contained orally but demanded that it be etched into time? What words came to be carved into a clay tablet in Mesopotamia in 3,200 B.C.?
"29,086 measures barley 37 months Kushim"
Rulers, conquerors, poets and prophets slip away into history, while farmers, herders, artisans, and traders record what they own and what they are owed.
Is the written word, first and foremost, a technology for etching permanence into ownership, the movement from a time of the tribally-defined 'us' to the time of the materially-defined 'me'?
Writing grew out of the need to record ownership and debt. Enforceable contracts became possible; the opportunity to exact interest on lending becomes irresistible.
It is humankind's insistence on keeping track of ownership of barley, sheep, money, land, and property that determines the real history of the world as it has come to us.
down the Mokau River
dreams too bear no names