Friday, June 20, 2008

To Seek New Worlds

by Cathy Anderson Corn

Recently, an MSNBC news article riveted my attention, for it told of Amazon Indians in Brazil who were "uncontacted." Photos showed two men painted bright red in loincloths looking up at the aircraft, ready to shoot arrows at it. Which makes you wonder, did they think the plane was a UFO? Did they imagine aliens had come to take them away? Better yet, did they perceive the object in the sky as a big bird? ("I could feed the whole village for a year if I bag this one. Shoot hard and far, boys.")

This tribe is endangered by illegal logging in the area, which reminds me of the prime directive on the old Star Trek series--to not interfere with other societies. Get this, too--there are one hundred uncontacted tribes in the world. How do they do it? How do they stay isolated in their microcosms, mercifully unaware of antiperspirants, liposuction, computers, big screen tv's, suspension bridges, and convenience stores? Medical care is the part I'd want to share with them, but maybe they have shamans or herb healers. Maybe they chew on leaves from plants when the arthritis kicks in. (Maybe they don't get arthritis.)

The notion that we're somehow better or more civilized has plagued men and missionaries for centuries. Could they be complete as is, living close to nature? Margaret Mead studied tribes and found some where the adults were loving and took care of each and every child as their own. A part of me harbors the urge to contact the uncontacted, to learn from them rather than to teach.

This brings me to a writer's perspective on all this, where I find myself part of the uncontacted tribe of publishing. I'm here in my world, aware agents, editors, publishing houses, and readers exist. Instead of a bow and arrows and loincloth, I've a pen and yellow legal pads, and a computer in my bedroom where I hang out in a T-shirt and sweats writing novels. I don't peer skyward, but into the mailbox. It's out there, something bigger and grander, and I wait to be contacted. (No, I haven't sent anything out lately, but still...)


(You contacted writers are welcome to tell your stories of how contact affected your tribe. You uncontacted are encouraged to share your tales of isolation from the publishing community.)


Tory said...

Regarding summer solstice, I walked along the Casselman River Trail yesterday. It was beautiful! I did a ritual for myself around letting go. I guess that's appropriate for any season.

There's something so inherently overstimulating about the industrialized world. I can't help but think those "undiscovered" tribes must be a lot calmer than us.

I can't believe how gorgeous the weather has been this week. I felt really lucky that this was the Thursday I was able to get out into nature.

Annette said...

I'm just sitting here pondering what it must be like to not care a whit about what the gas prices are doing.

I was contacted a couple years ago by an agent. It was really cool and exciting and stirred up dreams of a future spent doing book signings and franitcally meeting deadlines. However, I am now back in my cave (AKA my office) waiting for another call from my agent with news of further contact from a publisher. So it's like the plane landed, but took off again and now I'm waiting for its return. In the meantime I write and write.


Dana King said...

Great point, them thinking it might be a bird. Reminds me of an old Far Side cartoon: two spiders have built an enormous web, and are watching the goofy-looking Far Side kid walk toward it. One spider says to the other: "Pull this off and we'll eat like kings."

There's one thing I wonder about. How do they know there are 100 uncontacted tribes left in the world if no one has contacted them? There's a "If a tribe lives in the woods and no one contacts them" joke in there someone, for someone funnier than me.

Gina said...

About those uncontacted tribes -- while I understand why some people want to leave them uncontacted, to me that seems as if they are being treated as less than human, like some kind of exotic animal to be kept in a nature preserve rather than real people with a right to make their own decisions about whether or not to fully participate in modern life.

That said, I'm also waving at those publisher planes and sending up flares to agents.

Cathy said...

I'm so glad you got to the trail. Sounds like a great day. Get caught in any vortexes?

Whether contacted or not, to keep on writing is the answer. I'm sure you'll be recontacted soon.

I'm still rewriting and tweaking before I can send out, but it won't be long now.

That's an important point, the choice of the tribe people. Best of luck with your submissions.

Welcome to the blog. So maybe they're really not uncontacted tribes, just Boy Scouts earning their Primitive Camping badges. You never know.