Ancestors


As a fossil...

Ida Gerardt

Actually, I didn’t bother to think twice. When someone asked me about the actual meaning of an ancestral statue, I conveniently compared it with a family photo album.

I did not realize that in doing so I simply reduced sixty million years of evolution to a scraggy pedigree, to a piece of macramé with a miserable few genetic lines.

Actually, it's God's fault. Or rather, it is because I was raised with an image of God who created man from above – in his own image. This surprises the bulk of the world population as much as an unnecessarily complicated magic trick: you mean in your case there were no distant ancestors at the beginning…?

The concept of ancestors is indispensable for getting to know African and Asian histories, languages ​​and cultures. But what do these multifarious images and symbols actually mean, who or what exactly is commemorated?

I started close to home with my own forbears, but soon got lost in the Book of Man and ultimately tried reading backwards in a way, towards its first chapter.


Hiroshi Hamaya

Photo: Hiroshi Hamaya, Japan, 1940

‘But let us not make this into some elitist understanding. Any person who pays attention, who wants to hear, who is passionate and not just casual about it and who really says I must find the source of life will listen. He will listen– not to me, he will just listen…. it’s in the air.’



1

Rock is a little less perishable than the rest on earth and has therefore, since time immemorial, been associated with survival, continuity, if not eternity.

Voorouderbeeldjes

Some cultures represent ancestors with a sacred stone, monument or tomb. Others pile up an island of rocks and name it the abode of ancestral spirits, as in some Japanese gardens.

Baulé, Côte d'Ivoire 3

Among the many works of art from all corners of the world you come across the most beautiful ancestral images – such as man-woman sculptures, masks, totem poles, and so on.

Papua -statue






Baulé, Côte d’Ivoire


Some understanding of ancestor worship is essential to getting acquainted with for example the African or Asian histories, languages and cultures - in other words half the world's population or more.







papua new guinea

skyburrial Am. Natives

A burial platform, Apsaroke – Edward Curtis 1908

The accompanying rituals have been studied and described: from bones gathering at a sky burial to the scrubbing of tombs during the Ching Ming Festival, from the drunken dances of masked mediums to the requiem masses during all souls day to help the ancestral souls in purgatory move up to heaven.

Caroline islands - versie 2

caroline islands micronesia

But what does the concept of ancestors actually imply? Who or what is remembered, revered, if not worshipped?


Totem voorouders

SGang Gwaay, native american

Ancestors is often superficially defined in dictionaries: forefathers, tribal elders or ‘ancestor is any person from whom one is descended’ (wikipedia) and often associated with consanguinity if not inbreeding.

The concept of ancestors, however, concerns the many generations that preceded great-great-grandparents.

Lineage of generations

That is beyond the 513th generation, whatever that one is named according to the family tree relation diagram, but by then you have ended up in myths, fairy tales or intelligent design - and is one man’s ancestor another man's ghost.

Pedigree Charles II

A single individual alive today would, counting back over 30 generations, arrive in the High Middle Ages, and have roughly a billion ancestors – more than the total world population at the time. - wikipedia


foto kunstwerk stamboom

(unknown)

When someone inquired after the meaning of an ancestor sculpture, I conveniently drew a comparison with an old family photo album.

You have not known most of them, but with some good will and understanding there are always some lines to be drawn or recognized. As with the weaver family in this old photograph from around 1900, my great-grandparents.


Lankreijer - Hafakker plm 1900

The family Willem Lankreijer - Classina Hafakker, around 1910. My grandfather stands second from left.


Otto oude foto

Emotionally, however, their solemn glances do not bring them any closer. And free from obstructing associations you even decide to have one of the small, battered photos restored and enlarged for how nice on the wall somewhere – which you are less likely to do with your direct parents.

From their hard-earned money they had a solemn and dignified family portrait made - as the wealthy classes who for centuries immortalized themselves in oil paint – as well as to mask a battered set of teeth, possibly.

No doubt they realized the uniqueness of the momentum: for the first time in the history of this poor line of weavers, they would still have a face after their passing away – the ancestors ‘immortalized’.

Their frozen gazes, their Sunday best, the posh studio background – all fused and faded in sepia – presently shows a past that in some way or other led to my birth.


where-do-we-come-from-what-are-we-where-are-we-going-1897

D’ où Venons Nous / Que Sommes Nous / Où Allons Nous – Paul Gaugin 1897


At a time when photo albums do not even end up at the flea market anymore but are deleted with a single keystroke, the framed sepia photograph on the wall shows your lineage - be it as identity or as curiosity.


foto album china 2

Small Chinese photo album, purchased at a Beijing market in the nineties.


Hence the comparison between family photo album and ancestral sculpture: both depict region and pedigree, culture and history.

A rather naive comparison, indeed.


stamboom


totem voorouders - versie 2

A more striking symbol of propagation than a family tree is hard to think of: from different directions, possibly continents apart, human genes merge to soon fan out again, not before leaving behind an entity of genetic material: a human being.

History may also be projected: the roots embody the continuous physical line, the branches show the psychological developments that echo through later generations – as well as about three-quarters of world literature.

Stamboom + mensen








Ancestor worship I did not interpret as calling upon family spirits to influence the fate of the offspring, but rather as reverence.

stamboom 2

Reverence for the thousands of preceding generations who – with their procreative urge – realized that here and now my nuts pulsate in earthly mud to follow their example; 

not to reason why, but to do and die.

An easy-going interpretation, just as romantic as it is confusing.


Gentlemen 1

The fourth commandment honour thy father and thy mother my father liked to joke into first thy father than thy mother.

He will not have realized how pointedly he summarized ancestor worship: the anointing of the male line with the main objective to keep the collected possessions together for their old age and their offspring – in that order.

Mao Zedong porselein



Ancestral parent worship is virtually worldwide synonymous with ancestral father worship. Despite the term God the Father patrilineal descent is far from a religion.

Clear example is how in China during Mao Zedong’s reign religions were denounced and persecuted as opium for the people, whereas widespread ancestor worship did not come into the picture at all – besides that the infantile Red Brigades gladly destroyed everything they did not understand anyway.


Rode Brigade

Small Chinese photo ablum, purchased at a Beijing market, nineties.


Van Dale (Dutch dictionary): Family tree 7. persons who sprang from a single progenitor, syn gender: the twelve tribes of Israel.

Mexico couple

Wikipedia: A genealogy is a compilation of all the persons from the same family, based on the oldest known ancestor in the male line (generation I), named progenitor.


Earthenware, Mexico.

Maybe my father realized after all. Traditionally, the eldest son was named after the paternal grandfather – only the male line mattered.

This established the pattern Johannes Wilhelmus Johannes Wilhelmus – for a few centuries the most common names in the Low Countries.

During World War II, an irreparable family conflict erupted when my father’s eldest brother broke with this tradition – no doubt to provoke and dethrone ‘that grumpy Old Man.’

 

Jan Lankreijer

‘When Bep and Wim’s first was born, they called him Jo,’ according to my mother, years later. ‘Such a hassle Father made about it​​. He never even looked at that one from Willem.

"The boy should have been called Jàn!"

He spent half the war sitting on the stool by the stove, wailing about it. Angry he was, angry he remained… his first grandchild, for heaven’s sake.’


Tapijtfabriek 1


The rupture was possibly indicative of the era. The father-to-son weavers craft – from the small domestic loom to the maddening and eardrum shattering machines of the carpet factories in Hilversum – was suddenly a thing of the past.

‘As soon as the lunch whistle from the factory sounded, Mother put the pans on the table. So the food could cool down and he could quickly return to work.

Piece wages, mind you. When the factory once experienced a period of over-production, one of these bosses on the factory floor rejected his finished carpet without batting an eyelid. This implied that you had to take it home on payment.

Well, he certainly came to regret it, Father did fiercely speak his mind. For they had already magnificent Westminster lying on the floor of that small labourer’s house on the Spoorstraat.’


Jan Lankreijer handtekening

The old, impotent grumbler familias didn't grasp yet another dawn in a torn world where everyone shouted at him anyway. Shortly after the liberation he died. Each of his sons believed to have a fair idea about the nature of mankind at the end of WWII and went his own way without looking back.


old photo






2.

L. Hearn


‘The welfare of the present generation depends on the welfare of the foregoing,’ Lafcadio Hearn opined, thereby referring to something similarly slamming as the prewar Dutch song if you’re born for a dime you’ll never become a quarter. 

Hearn’s theorem may, however, be interpreted quite differently.

Cemetry, Japan, 2015.

Japanse begraapplaats 4


Once I heard an elderly timber merchant narrate about his earlier travels to Finland and Russia. Standing in a freezing cold landscape he inspected ‘parts of forests’ while next to him the local tree-nurseryman watched along with tears in the eyes.

Of course, in such bitterly cold regions a little blood thinner may be the only thing to keep a man slightly warm, but nevertheless: the trees had been planted by his late father… just as he was planting forest for his son to fell long after his passing away.


Japanese begraafplaats 3

Cemetry, Japan, 2015.

Hearn: ’Under the influence of this idea, and of the cult based upon it, were developed the early organization of the family, the laws regarding property and succession, the whole structure, in short, of ancient society, whether in the Western or the Eastern world.’

The Greek-Irish writer Hearn lived and married in late nineteenth century Japan, a country that Oscar Wilde considered ‘purely an invention’ at the time.

 As one of the first Hearn described the ‘cultus’ to which – according to him – millennia-long ancestor worship inevitably led.


Japanse begraapplaats 5

Young women selecting preprinted prayers, Komaki, Japan, 2015.


The often very young woman, traded by dowry or not, was subordinate to all members of the family of her husband. By marrying before his ancestors – a sacred stone, statue, place or temple – she was subjected to the rules and culture of his family.

 

chinese house compound

Traditional family yard, terracotta, China.


Hearn: ‘It is noteworthy that imperial marriages are always officially announced to the ancestors, and that the marriage of the heir-apparent, or other male offspring of the Imperial house, is performed before the imperial temple of the ancestors (…)

Voorouder tempel

By the wedding-rite the bride is adopted into the family religion. She is adopted not only by the living but by the dead; she must thereafter revere the ancestors of her husband as her own ancestors. (…)


voorouder tempel interieur

Interior ancestral temple, China.

With the cult of her own family she has nothing more to do; and the funeral ceremonies performed upon her departure from the parental roof – the solemn sweeping of the house-rooms, the lighting of a death-fire before the gate – are significant of this religious separation.’


People painting China

 Townscape, wall painting, Japan.

In quite a few Asian cultures the link with the parental family of the bride was mercilessly cut. She grew up with this prospect: each family member, herself included, assumed that she would leave home sooner rather than later. She never really participated in the daily family affairs and had little input – for her loyalty would soon lie elsewhere. By now an archaic tradition..?

The Kathmandu Post: 5 juli July 5, 2015: The draft constitution has curtailed women’s right to inherit ancestral property (…) by simply wiping out the provision that clearly states that both ‘sons and daughters shall have equal right to ancestral property.’

Possibly this is what is meant by tradition as an affront to the present.

-Meera Dhungana

Lawyer Meera Dhungana ‘The lawmakers have mopped the word patriarchy but it is clear that only a patriarchal mindset would backtrack to deny women their right to inherit ancestral property. The draft statute is also silent about how single women will get access to their parental property. Women in our country are poor. They have very little access to property and this will only worsen their plight.’  Posted on: 2015-07-05

Even our portly national dictionary Van Dale has only one qualification for ‘patriarchal mentality’: ‘old fashioned.’


teej 2 - versie 2

    Newari peasant women during festival with baskets full of  homemade incense , Nepal.

The battle of the sexes can be witnessed at almost every interpersonal intersection. The predominantly male officials of Nepal made world news ​​– nota bene at the same time as the deletion of the proposed women’s rights  – by granting an even more vulnerable group unprecedented civil rights all of a sudden. Divide and rule?

Komaki festival

During phallus festivalKomaki, Japan, 2015.


After arriving at Tribuvan Airport last January, I had to tick on an immigration card: 0 male 0 female  0 other.

Does  0 other mean unlike the other two, I wondered during the long wait in line, or is it a repositary for anything atypical? Adjective or noun? What would the counter clerk do if I tick  0 other? Probably the same as if I’d tick  0 female: raise a pair of bushy eyebrows, what more could he do... right?


kumaki 2

During phallus festivalKomaki, Japan, 2015.

As someone phrased it in a local newspaper: ‘Why should an immigration officer check in my panties whether I can go in or out the country?’

On top of that: last August Nepal was the first country in the world that issued a matching passport.

- OTHER passport

Socially it is a noteworthy development, politically, however, mere frills. The recent proposal for a new Civil Code in Nepal ‘totally passes LGBTI by, not mentioning it anywhere’.




 ‘We made history today but our leaders didn’t want to be a part of it.’ – Monica Shahi.

 Posted on: 2015-08-11

In full the international gender-abc reads as: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersexual. Admittedly, I had to look up intersexual: born with physical characteristics of both sexes. Only the A of asexual still seems to be missing – or that battle is yet to be settled.


Colonialism

Besides the fact that division usually leads to new conflicts, in a patriarchal country – where women have few rights –this third possibility may be considered as a purge of the men's club.

0 other is about excluding the other, usually accompanied by submission or worse.





And all this in a culture where elderly men can still walk hand in hand or young men playfully grab each other’s crotches – strictly in public, of course, not to suggest anything untoward.


Nepal politici 4


Meera Dhungana

We have a male-dominated society. The household head is always a man because that is what the law says. Therefore, women have to seek their rights from the men. And the fact that women go to live in a man’s house after marriage is also a manifestation of patriarchy. …it is his rule that prevails. Posted on: 2015-07-27

Perhaps this silly passport has a silver lining after all. Nepalese travelers abroad will be presenting a document that neither official nor computer can acknowledge or process. Possibly it could become a zigzag step towards a worldwide change in official documents and legislation from man/woman to person – which could promote equivalence.

For the genealogist it will be a bit more difficult to map a family tree, but whether that will mean a greater loss than solving a sudoku or a crossword puzzle…


Mexico mother and child

Mother and child, terracotta, Mexico



3.


An orthodox pater familias could - and often still can - marry or repel family members, determine their profession or calling, send them into the army or have them killed right away – all in the name of the prosperous survival of the family.

A proven tactic to enforce unity is to hold all family members accountable for the each other’s actions. Only if really necessary, the householder intervenes.

Even if His Old Graybeard nonetheless would blunder, the whole family is still answerable – his pension scheme might be in harm’s way...


- Hearn

Lafcadio Hearn: From servant to master – up through all degrees of the household hierarchy – the law of duty was the same: obedience absolute to custom and tradition. The ancestral cult permitted no individual freedom: nobody could love according to his or her pleasure; everyone had to live according to rule. The individual did not even have legal existence; the family was the unit of society. Even its patriarch existed in law as representative only, responsible both to the living and the dead.'

Hearn spoke of family despotism. Possibly because being an outsider in Japan he was never taken seriously as a pater familias – even though he assumed the name Koizumi Yakumo, adopted buddhism, and became a professor at Waseda University.


Donald Richie Japan

Half a century later, the journalist Donald Richie who lived most of his life in Japan, would remark in an interview: ‘I think if I didn’t feel like a foreigner, I wouldn't be here. If I were Japanese, I wouldn’t stay here ten minutes.’

In short: the difference between an inhabitant and an observer.




L. Hearn kids

Outsider Hearn deliberately raised his four children as individuals – without wondering how they were to harmonize this western notion with the entrenched groupthink of the surrounding society.






Hearn’s children

Once dissatisfaction arises within a family with an ancestor cultus, father can rely on the support of uncles, neighbours, the village council, the patriarchy.

Sometimes a village even cherishes centuries-old agreements with a neighbouring village to support one another in these matters – such as the pela-hood in the Moluccas. To keep the loyalty of the descendants clear, intermarriage is dangerous, sinful, against the adat, in short prohibited.

Ancestor worship with all its rights, obligations and rituals is not primarily about the existing but about the ideal family.

foto album 2

According to William Lakos, the millennia-old Chinese worldview – and by extension that of Japan, Vietnam, Korea and other Indochinese countries – ‘has extended the ancestor-descendent metaphor by way of the father-son metaphor to include the larger community and politics.’


Chinese Ancestor Worship - W. Lakos

‘This cultural strategy values hierarchy,’ Lakos writes.  Knowledge and experience over youthful rash, history over the delusion of the day. ‘Measured over the last three millennia, it showed the world one of the most successful and stable social systems.’


Nasca, Peru.


Remarkable how also Lakos repeats this 19th century western cliché without reservation. Ben Chu (2013): ‘as if for millennia Chinese society did not experience internal divisions, wars and changes of power.’ The German historian L. von Ranke spoke of 'the people of eternal standstill.’ The poet J.H. von Herder pictured China as ‘an embalmed mummy, wrapped in silk and painted with hieroglyphics’ - in itself quite a nice ancestor image.

Nasca, Peru

Ben Chu

In 1841, The Times wrote: ‘Something approaching absolute terror should be done before the sheer arrogance and deep-rooted self-confidence will be broken.’ Cultural standstill as a justification for imperialism. Novelists like Charles Dickens took care of matching images of The Chinese as the Others.

According to Jerry Dennerline (1989) the patterns of Chinese and Western history differ as poetry from drama. ‘The one develops in a metre from rhyme to rhyme, always by the same rules; the other develops in stages, from act to act, always with a different plot. The one expands to fill a space when it is ordered and disintegrates when it is not. The other progresses from conflict to conflict toward some inevitable conclusion.

Those who today praise China 's presumed homogeneity, Ben Chu describes as the useful idiots of a distant, oppressive regime.

 In short: the assumption that an ancestral culture and system would generate better stability is romantic nonsense.


Filial piety

The Chinese character for filial piety has originally been derived from an old man who is supported by a child. Average Dutch dictionaries translate filial piety as ‘childish obedience’, the better ones refer to Confucianism: reverence for parents and ancestors.


Chinese couple

Chinese family, thirties, Singapore.


Voeten 2

Angkor Wat, Burma / Myanmar

The concept that the world was created by a God from above is alien to all ancestral cultures from Africa to Asia 

’Because they were mainly concerned with sacrifices to ancestors rather than divine spirits, Chinese culture was one which concerned itself more with its people than with great gods; it was humanist more than idealist.

The fundamental purpose of ancestor rituals was the incorporation and continuation of the family and its extension to kin and to state.’ – Lakos


wierookvat

A censer like this one is the symbol of ancient China, according to some experts dating from the time of the very first ancestor cults.


The actual, essential aim of any society is, of course, the care and responsibility for each other. Ancestor worship is therefore not separate from respect for the elderly. From a pragmatic viewpoint, it keeps family and community together.


mayaangelou

Or as Maya Angelou starts her poem The Black Family Pledge with the lines: 'Because we have forgotten our ancestors, our children no longer give us honor…’


kathmandu post picture

Ancestor worship is the ideal form for this, Lakos asserts, without considering whether this form ever deteriorates into patriarchal tyranny.

Those who sit close to power - and therefore know the mistakes and the vanities – out of loyalty nearly always remain silent.

If anybody deserves the title of priest in ancestor worship, Marcel Granet thinks, it is the paterfamilias - and after him his son.


Mexico chief

Subsequently it seems to me an obvious question whether the idea of a permanent presence of the ancestry in the present is above all to make the housefather larger than life– not unlike the swollen chest or expanded feathers of a male animal.









Terracotta, Mexico

The clustering in tribes– with their own ancestors, rituals and paraphernalia in their own ancestral temples – inevitably entails tribalism: the battle against other tribes. The chosen against the heathens, the elites against the plebs, the incrowd against the thers.


Sherpa funeral

Commemoration ritual, a year after passing away, Sherpa, eighties, Nepal.


‘After the death of his parents, the son is not dismissed from his parental duties, only the form changes.’ - W. Lakos.

A dozen years back I accompanied a friend in Nepal – together with his family – to perform the required rituals within a year after the death of his father. Since the eldest son was failing to do so, my friend took it upon himself.

‘I hope my father will rest in peace.’


hindu temple


For this, he was to perform an elaborate ritual in the four corners of the valley. Until quite recently each of the pilgrimages - invariably to a high ridge at the edge of the valley - added up to three days: one going, one ritual and one back. Today, with the help of a car or public transport, each of the four visits is accomplished before evening falls.


On the wall of the small Hindu temple - next to the Buddhist stupa - amidst portraits of the deceased, the occasional small mirror has been nailed. It is intended to make sure the red tikha dot lands right in the middle of the forehead. While watching the ancestral collage, however, the small mirrors are very effective as a memento mori.


During the endless praying and offering of water, small flowers and rice, I had set out to explore the surroundings. As soon as he noticed my absence, his wife told me later on, he suspended the ritual and called a search for me. ’The surrounding hills are full of Maoist guerrillas!’

The living were dearer to him that the dead.


- You think your son will do all of this for you later on?

‘I’ll have to wait and see’ – his answer literally stuck with me.


priest + kid 2


With aging, both testosterone and estrogen decrease, the genders fraternize and sisternize  – certainly within the ancestral eternity. The concept of ancestors essentially has nothing to do with sex – not even with descendants.

Excuse me… childless ancestors…?


priest teej festival 2





4.


Despite of prevailing poverty my caring parents begot six children. Despite of prevailing prosperity, I have none. But whatever a family experiences on a small number of domestic square metres, I kind of experience on a public square kilometre – the laughs and tears surely are the same.

With astonishment I observe the enthusiasm of peers for their grandchildren, their sweetie pies, their cutiepatooties, their oochidoochidoodaaaaaas…

 - Tempted to have another go at raising them…?

Even when the screaming, bald creature incontestably looks like a stuffed marshmallow or a dry frozen grape, I on the spot and at once attest that we are looking at the mostdearestsweetestbabybeauty in the world – there in that crib, in that manger, straw bed, that pile of leaves…


opa kind nepal


With tact and luck the mother in law in particular may be babysitting her bloodline once a week, the offspring of her child’s (50 %) children (25 %)… According to wikipedian calculations each parent has about two thousand ancestors within ten generations.


Confucius 2

In the opinion of ‘spiritual leaders’ as previously Confucius or the present pope # 266, the undersigned is a greedy egocentrist, who views ‘children as a source of worry, a burden, a risk. A society that thinks like that is one of depression.’

PAUS 226

None of the terms used – ego, burden, risk, depression – apparently needs further clarification… as long as it supports the Roman agenda.


This is called propaganda, but in the seventies Wim Kan phrased it in a funnier way when he suggested to pope # 262:

‘If you do not practice the sport, don’t interfere with the rules.’

At the time, the comedian did not know that the games some of the clergy played themselves required rules of law.

The yearning for grandchildren is as incomprehensible to the undersigned egocentrist as starting a second nest. But this layman remains silent, though once again he has to dust off pats on the shoulders for his lack.


populationgrowthhistory2 - versie 2

Even though world overpopulation is problem numero uno – after all it intensifies any other problem – propagation still remains numero uno, man…

It is rather bizarre that since the invention of the contraceptive pill in 1960, the world population has increased from 3 to 7 billion, even though this primarily has to do with food, medicines and the like.


Chinese ancestor paintings 2

According to Confucius, who had a decisive influence on a couple of billion people if you add up the generations after him, not-begetting children, forsaking posterity, was an outright crime because this wiped out the ancestors as well.


Chinese foto + paspartout

More old Chinese photo’s: hier.

'Remember me'

This idea is summarized in the thesis: you exist as long as someone in the world still remembers you.


Better off in that case will be the ancestor who manages to nestle himself in the collective memory, as founder, hero, saint, martyr, bodhisattva, whatever – or whenever a street is named after you.

Cemetry Zorgvliet, Amsterdam.

'eeuwige gedachtenis'








communistic youth statue

The more recent Chinese one-child policy was only a restriction of the traditional duty – childless couples did not get a medal from the communists either.








geit schaap

We may assume that our ancestors, no matter how curious they were by nature, more or less did what we still do: rely on ‘what everybody else does.’

So in a tribal society where 'everyone knows' that you have to sacrifice a goat to get a boy, you sacrifice a goat. Daniel Dennett


Grandchildren


Chinese statue

Almost universally people still welcome a girl as a small miracle and a boy as godsend. It is a distinction in which the term ancestor is synonymous with forefather – even when its banality is clearly reflected in crooked sex ratios, for example, by means of sexocide.

Sex-selective abortion affects the human sex ratio—the relative number of males to females in a given age group.

The natural human sex ratio at birth was estimated, in a 2002 study, to be close to 106 boys to 100 girls. Human sex ratio at birth that is significantly different from 106 is often assumed to be correlated to the prevalence and scale of sex-selective abortion. This assumption is controversial, and a subject of continuing scientific studies. – wikipedia


tamang women 2




5.


Grandchildren


kids

Nepal

stan

‘You live with them, you feed them, you fight with them, you raise them,” gudesire Stan said the other day - as we were talking about adoption and he declared us 'very adequate' whereas I have doubts about myself, after all, wisdom comes with age - ‘and before you know it, they educate you, they leave the house, multiply or not, but all along you love them damn dearly. Actually, I couldn’t care less anymore whether they are actually mine or not.’

kids nepal

Nepal


kahlil gibran

And those words did give me the picture. It seemed a modern, if somewhat loose translation of a text from The Prophet (1923) by Kahlil Gibran:

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You are the bows from which your children

as living arrows are sent forth.


kids school

School in Nepal

However, can the image also be mirrored, as would befit a good comparison: your parents are not your parents… And accordingly, does the bow not stand for the span of several million ancestors that at last met in two descendants and brought forth your heart and soul?

Actually, I didn’t bother to think twice. By comparing ancestral images with a family photo album, I reduced some sixty million years of evolution to a scrawny family tree, a piece of macramé with a miserable few genetic lines.

The concept of ancestors involves infinitely more than such a temporary piece of family karma – as if a circus full of clowns, acrobats and wild animals came to town.

My manger popped up in an already existing consciousness that will continue undisturbed when my coffin will be carried out – whatever gave me the idea that it was all about me..?


Naga

Ancestral images, Nagaland.

Masker Mexico

Scientists, Wendell Berry suggested, pretend that their findings will eventually expose all ancient knowledge and experience as primitive and naive – modern man ought to deeply pity his ancestors.

‘The addition still unresolved appropriates a mystery as future knowledge. It seizes life and future in the name of eager commentators and avid exploitants. Once a mystery is to be solved, it is called mystery no longer, just a problem.


Quotes are to underline a soapbox argument –otherwise they have been selected foolishly and you might as well continue your stroll – but sometimes they can really caress the eardrums:

Chief Seattle

‘We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.’ – attributed to Chief Seattle but possibly a Duwamish saying.

The poetic words sound like a contradistinction but merely maintain that we belong to the earth and not vice versa. From archaeological excavations this notion seems to be inherent to the earliest ancestral rituals, according to Lakos. This realization, consciousness, is as determined by place and time as looking at the stars.


Be happy, be the moment, be yourself, just do it… right?

be here now 3 - versie 2


Mexico group circle

Forcing through quasi individualization – commercially or otherwise – shouts down the fact that we are essentially social beings. Even to answer the question who am I? you need others.




terracotta, mexico

angkor wat vloer

Angkor Wat, Cambodja

creamatie 2

‘The word individual means indivisible. If you are indivisible, are you not fragmented?




Cremation, Nepal

Crematie

We are the result of seven million years collective experience, memory, conditioning, and such.

Inwardly, under the skin, psychologically, you are humanity and not an individual.

The individual does not exist. You can not speak of 'my brain', your brain is the brain of humanity.'

J. Krishnamurti


Dancing skeletons

Temple door, Tibet


Are we good ancestors?’ was the title of a lecture about our responsibility for the future.

We only become ancestor when we are no longer remembered as a person – a half-century or so after the event. The implicit assumption in the title of this lecture – that humans will still be around – typifies humankind.

grap


Max Delbruck

After ten thousand years, tribalism, arising from patriarchy, is more violent than ever. And yet the belief, hope or illusion is still being sold that tomorrow things will be better.  As if humanity can sit on the sofa in front of the telly and await further evolution – ‘whereas mutation is required.’

JONAS STALK 2


Remarkable how scientists say they know less than 1% of the universe and yet disregard all knowledge and culture of mankind ‘from before the Enlightenment’ as the ideas of a fish in a dark pond.

‘The exact way in which the most astonishing instincts work in animals has actually not been adequately explained to date by biologists.

Migratory birds and fish that move unerringly to ancestral places where they have never been before, termite colonies which, separated by obstacles, build bridges to each other that join perfectly, pets that exactly sense the homecoming of their bosses at widely varying times – nobody knows how they do it, besides claims of telepathic or magical abilities.’

 – Patricia de Martelaere


URN CAMBODJA kast


Looking back at the development of science during his lifetime (1905-2002), DNA researcher Erwin Chargaff wrote:

 'The wonderful, inconceivably intricate tapestry being taken apart strand by strand; each thread is a vein pulled out, turned up, and analyzed; and at the end even the memory of the design is lost and can no longer be recalled.’


urnen CAMBODJA

At the bottom various types of urns, Cambodja.



JJK 2

‘The scientific mind is precise and clear in its investigation. It is not a compassionate mind, for it has not understood itself.’

‘The religious mind - the intense search for truth – is revolutionary and contains the scientific mind. Not the other way around. The scientific mind is based on time, knowledge, it is rooted in success and achievement.

When you realize that the Book of Mankind is an endless movement and has no beginning and no end, you realize that you are the book.

This does not mean that you have become eternal, but that life as this movement has no beginning and no end. It is then that you realize the universe, the whole thing.

But can one live with eyes and ears that hold the totality of the past, the yesterday and the million years, the second before and the primordial? That is mutation, that is revolution.'

 – J. Krishnamurti 1961


Poort aan rivier Burma - versie 2

Burma / Myanmar


This is what ancestor images symbolize, I think, this is what the concept of ancestors is all about.


Baulé, Côte d'Ivoire achterzijde W


Baulé, Côte d'Ivoire


JJK

‘But let us not make this into some elitist understanding.  Any person who pays attention, who wants to hear, who is passionate and not just casual about it and who really says ‘I must find the source of life’ will listen. He will listen – not to me, he will just listen…. it’s in the air.’  - 

– J. Krishnamurti 1961


SLOT



All photographs and texts © Kashba, Ais Loupatty & Ton Lankreijer. Webdesign: William Loupatty.