Friday, November 6, 2009

Snake Handlers and Throat Singers

Wow! I didn't know that!

How many times I have come across whole areas of human endeavour - involving dozens, hundreds, or hundreds of thousands of people -  that I knew almost nothing about or hadn't even known existed.

New (to us) knowledge about the world doesn't have to be life-changing or profound. It has only to remind us that some great number of people around the world are involved in things important to them and that we knew nothing about it.

I came across Tuvan throat singing completely by accident when searching a library catalogue for "language poetry." One result was for a movie called Genghis Blues  (1999)-

I knew nothing about Tuva, Tuvans, or throat singing - or Paul Pena for that matter. Imagine, a whole country, a people, a way of life, all unknown to me.

Another example is religious snake-handling. In the southern United States there are sects that actually handle poisonous snakes as part of their regular worship services. I had no idea that such a thing existed until I taught an essay in an anthology by Dennis Covington, an excerpt from his book Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake Handling and Redemption in Southern Appalachia.

It's pretty humbling to find traditions, rituals, whole ways of living that are here in this world right now and were completely unknown to me. Whenever I'm feeling very right or full of myself, I remember just how enormous my ignorance is.

(Head-Smacking Photo)


Ciss B said...

I find myself learning something new almost daily if I stay open. I love the way it expands my thinking and makes me view the world from a totally different direction.

Oh, and though I've read about snake handlers...I cannot bear to watch them.

ChrisJ said...

Yes, good way to put it - stay open.

Pearl said...

yes, it's always amazing when there's this complete complex world lived in invisible parallel. I discover some novelist that others have been following for 40 years, or another famous musician who influenced generations, who I've not the faintest idea of. And then by consciousness raised of that contact, the person pops up everywhere.

ChrisJ said...


Exactly - synchronicity.