Our sixth sense
Gunshots in Indonesia last week were not the only threat to warrant caution on the part of tsunami relief workers. An arrow was fired at a relief helicopter on a remote Indonesian island that signaled a very different kind of warning.The arrow was fired by a lone, naked man who stood on the beach of Sentinel island and, in his own way, defied the inherent evils of the 21st century. By distancing himself and his tribesman from that chopper and, by association from the Age of Technology, that man and his people made an unusual declaration of independence.The man on the beach is a member of the Sentinelese tribe, a group of anthropologically retroactive people who have willfully and militantly cloistered themselves in order to preserve their traditional, Paleolithic ways of life. Among those ways of life is the receptivity of a sixth sense.According to an article about these tribal people, “Anthropologists believe that ancient knowledge of the movement of wind, sea and birds may have saved the five indigenous tribes on the Indian archipelago from the tsunami that hit the Asian coastline Dec. 26.”A local environmentalist familiar with these reticent people was quoted as saying, “They can smell the wind. They gauge the depth of the sea with the sound of their oars. They have a sixth sense which we don’t possess.”It is the same sense that wild animals possess, the same sense that accounted for the survival of elephants, tigers, reptiles, sea birds and other creatures that found their way inland before the tsunami struck.John Muir spoke of a sixth sense, an intuitive understanding that alerted him to events affecting people close to him. Muir, a devout man of nature, had premonitions when each of his parents was close to death, and he was right both times. A thousand miles from home, he once had a sense that his daughter was deathly ill, and he was right again.Many people describe experiences of intuitive knowing, of feeling the sixth sense that primitive peoples and animals possess innately. But the more we “civilized” people are distracted by the static noise of the industrial world, the less that sense is heard or correctly interpreted.Somewhere deep in man’s nature is the ability to comprehend things of the natural world that often seem incomprehensible. As we move further and further away from our natural heritage, however, our inherent connection to the cosmic grapevine is diminished.Human beings have become so driven by the myopia of anthropocentrism that we summarily disavow our connection to nature, even when that connection could provide information essential to our survival.By blocking our message centers with extraneous noise and spamming out our natural receptors with meaningless input, we cut ourselves off from deeper knowledge broadcast throughout the universe.The animals and primitive people that fled the tsunami knew something the victims didn’t. They sensed a warning, and they fled. Relief agencies know all too well how important early warnings are to avoiding similar disasters. Rather than making those warnings technologically based, we need to open ourselves to the pulses of earth forces.The lone Sentinelese tribesman standing naked on the beach of Sentinel Island shot his arrow at the helicopter in a statement of self-defense. He knew, intuitively, that contact with that relief crew could damage his chances for survival. He knew that whatever help they had to offer was not worth the taint of contact.That man’s arrow, shot in an act of defiance, should be regarded as a profound warning to a disconnected people who, despite our science, reason and technology, are ill-equipped to survive in a world where nature is the dispassionate arbiter of life and death.Paul Andersen has a sense that mankind has a lot to learn from nature. His column appears on Mondays.
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Sean Beckwith is taking advantage of his column space this week to inform the public of the Best in Jest.