RE: [xmca] torturers, Moyers, and Uncle George

From: Cunningham, Donald James (
Date: Mon Apr 24 2006 - 15:15:34 PDT

Is science a ritual?

Don Cunningham aka Uncle Don ;-)
Indiana University

-----Original Message-----
From: []
On Behalf Of Peter Smagorinsky
Sent: Monday, April 24, 2006 4:23 PM
Subject: [xmca] torturers, Moyers, and Uncle George

I don't have any of the recent posts handy on the extent to which we
construct our own settings, but I've found the discussion problematic
because it assumes that we know what our setting is and so can act
knowledgeably in relation to it. But is this always the case? I offer
following story, excerpted from a talk recently given by Bill Moyers,
suggests that we don't. p
It's fascinating what is revealed to you. Joseph Campbell told me a
(also recently recounted by Davidson Loehr) about the Australian tribe
used the bullroarer to keep people in awe of the gods. The bullroarer is
long flat board with notches, or slits, at one end, and a rope at the
other. When you swing it around your head, the action produces a musical

humming. The sound struck the primitive tribes as other-worldly, causing

them to tremble in fear that the gods were angry. So the elders would go

into the forest and come back with word of what it would take to placate

the gods. And the people would oblige.
Now when a young boy in the tribe was ready to become a man, a ritual
place. Wearing masks, the elders would kidnap him and take him into the
woods, tie him down, and with a flint knife slice the underside of his
penis. It was painful, but the medicine man said this is how you became
a man.
It meant shedding one's innocence. At the end of the ritual one of the
masked men dipped the bullroarer in the boy's blood and thrust it in his

face, simultaneously removing his mask so the boy could see it's not a
at all - it's just one of the old guys. And the medicine man would
"We make the noises."
Ah, yes - it's not the gods after all. It's just the old guys - Uncle
George, Uncle Dick, Uncle Don. The "noise" in the woods is the work of
old guys playing gods, wanting you to live in fear and trembling so that

you will look to them to protect you against the wrath to come. It takes

courage to put their truth-claims to the test of reality, to call their

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