The Captivity of History

Most of us in the Paleo community have come to view civilization as separating us from the environment we were made for, but, in his opus, Coming home to the Pliestocene, Paul Shepard takes it a step further. He indicts history itself as a denativizing force. I’ve barely started reading the book, but it’s been fascinating so far.

A repeated question of our time is, “How do we become native to this place?” History cannot answer this question, for history itself is the great denativizing process, the great deracinator. Historical time is invested in change, novelty, and escape from the renewing stability and continuity of the great natural cycles that ground us to place and the greater community of life on earth. As Norman O. Brown writes: “Man, the disconnected animal, unconsciously seeking the life proper to his species, is man in history: repression and the repetition-compulsion generate historical time. Repression transforms the timeless instinctual compulsion to repeat into the forward-moving dialectic of neurosis which is history.”

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