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CHAT: "the future," sci-fi, Quecha (Le Guin)

From:J Y S Czhang <czhang23@...>
Date:Saturday, June 29, 2002, 7:53
    I just had to share this... I thought this has a lot of relevance:
        to conlanging in terms of semantics,
        to conculturing in terms of metaphors and cultural interpretation,
        to our own lives and creativity in terms of being able to "see things
differently and anew", etc.
    So I quote Ursula Le Guin...

    "We know where the future is. It's in front of us. Right? It lies before
us - a great future lies before us - we stride forward confidently into it,
every commencement, every election year. And we know where the past is.
Behind us, right? So that we have to turn around to see it, and that
interrupts our progress ever forward into the future, so we don't really much
like to do it.
    "It seems that the Quechua-speaking peoples of the Andes see all this
rather differently. They figure that because the past is what you know, you
can see it - it's in front of you, under your nose. This is a mode of
perception rather than action, of awareness rather than progress. Since
they're quite as logical as we are, they say that the future lies behind -
behind your back, over your shoulder. The future is what you _can't_ see,
unless you turn around and kind of snatch a glimpse. And then sometimes you
wish you hadn't, because you've glimpsed what's sneaking up on you from
behind. . . . So, as we drag the Andean peoples into our world of progress,
pollution, soap operas, and satellites, they are coming backwards - looking
over their shoulders to find out where they're going.
    "I find this an intelligent and appropriate attitude. At least it reminds
us that our talk about 'going forward into the future' is a metaphor, a piece
of mythic thinking taken literally, perhaps even a bluff, based on our macho
fear of ever being inactive, receptive, open, quiet, still. Our unquiet
clocks make us think that we make time, that we control it. We plug in the
timer and make time happen. But in fact the future comes, or is there,
whether we rush forward to meet it in supersonic jets with nuclear warheads,
or sit on a peak and watch the llamas graze. Morning comes whether you set
the alarm or not.
    The future is not mere space. This is where I part company with a whole
variety of science fiction, the imperialistic kind, as seen in all the Space
Wars and Star Wars novels and films and the whole branch of [science-fiction]
that reduces technology to hi-tech. In such fictions, space and the future
are synonymous: they are a place we are going to get to, invade, colonize,
exploit, and suburbanize.
    If we do 'get to' space, it's not unlikely that that's how we'll behave
there. It is possible that we will 'conquer' space. But it is not possible
that we will 'conquer' the future, because there is no way we can get there.
The future is the part of the spacetime continuum from which - in the body
and in ordinary states of consciousness - we are excluded. We can't even see
it. Except for little glimpses over the shoulder.
    When we look at what we can't see, what we do see is the stuff inside our
heads. Our thoughts and our dreams, the good ones and the bad ones. ... Not
'the future.' It's when we confuse our dreams and ideas with the non-dream
world that we're in trouble, when we think the future is place we own. Then
we succumb to wishful thinking and escapism....
    "As a science-fiction writer I personally prefer to stand still for long
periods, like the Quechua, and look at what is, in fact, in front of me: the
earth; my fellow beings on it; and the stars."
                    --- Ursula K. Le Guin, "Science Fiction and the Future",
                    _Dancing at the Edge of the World_

Hanuman Zhang

"Excess is excrement. Excrement retained in the body is poison." - Ursula K.
Le Guin

"O wise humanity, terribly wise humanity! Of thee I sing. How inscrutable is
the civilization where men toil and work and worry their hair gray to get a
living and forget to play!" - Lin Yutang, _The Importance of Living_

"The phrase 'the cost of living' is a not-so-subtle threat that life itself
can be For Sale to the highest bidder ... that living without dreams is
'realistic' and that dying in the gutter may be 'cheap'." - Yuri Mayakovskii


Muke Tever <alrivera@...>