Sputnik Observatory is a New York not-for-profit educational organization dedicated to the study of contemporary culture. They fulfill this mission by documenting, archiving, and disseminating ideas that are shaping modern thought by interviewing leading thinkers in the arts, sciences and technology from around the world.
- ideas are not selfish.
- ideas are not viruses.
- ideas survive because they fit in with the rest of life
The site contains jaw dropping videos of the most amazing thinkers, or ‘extraordinary minds shaping modern thought’ like the transcript below from Wade Davis who is the National Geographic Society’s Explorer-in-Residence,and honorary member of the hundred-year old Explorers Club. He’s an ethnographer, writer, photographer and filmmaker, observing worldwide indigenous cultures and the traditional uses and beliefs associated with psychoactive plants, celebrated in his best-selling book “The Serpent and the Rainbow” about the zombies of Haiti.
In the Amazon, I’ve been with hunters who could smell animal urine at forty paces and tell you what species left it behind. You look at the Polynesian seafarers who could, just by reading the ocean like a series of rivers which is how they saw the currents, by looking at the rhythm of the waves, they could sense the presence of a distant atoll far beyond the horizon. You talk about how, even the taxonomy of the Amazonian shaman, when they begin to characterize and systematize creation, particularly with some of their sacred plants. For example, one of the most important Amazonian plants is something called Ayahuasca, which is a Liana and, to the botanical eye, there’s one main species that’s used. But that species is actually, by at least one tribe that I know, the Sienna Sequoia(?), they recognize 17 different types of it. Now, to our scientific taxonomic eye, they’re all referable based on morphological traits to the same species. Indistinguishable. They consistently distinguish them and from great distances in the forest. And you ask them what is the foundation of their taxonomy? And they’ll say to you, “Well, you take each one on the night of the full moon and it sings to you in a different key.” Well, obviously, that’s not an idea that is going to get you through Harvard with a PhD, but it’s a hell of a lot more interesting than counting stamens. But, more importantly, you start thinking of what does that intuition really says to you? How do they find these plants in the forest, for example? And they say to you, “Well, the plants talk to us.” And we, of course, with our Descartian rational mind say, “Well, that’s nonsense.” And it’s only nonsense because it doesn’t fit into our paradigm. But when you begin to consider the possibility that different societies belief systems can make almost for different individuals, but also make for different levels of perception.
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