So we got to talking at one point about how there are really two distinct schools of thought on the subject of primitive origins – let’s call school number one the ‘we’re savage beasts under a thin veneer of civilization which barely keeps us from calling each other names and murdering each other’ school, with adherents like William Golding, Joseph Conrad, et cetera, or the ‘once we were innocent and happy and one-with-the-world and we have been corrupted so that now we call each other names and murder each other’ school, with adherents like, well, the Bible, and Rousseau, and Terence Malick or whatever his name is, and so on. These two schools are the start of of the conversation, anyway. People will also say things like ‘civilization is a terrible system for keeping us from murdering each other for each other’s sandwiches, but it’s the only system we’ve got’ (Freud, as I read him) or ‘the process of civilizing our animal natures just isn’t done, and there’s a whole new dimension of consciousness around the corner’ (Rama the Ancient Egyptian Pharoah-Wizard reincarnated as Linda Kowalchuk (buy his book!)) or ‘we were just as confused and frightened then as we are now’ (my own view). However: these two schools of thought are emotionally very vivid when they are represented in art, as in, say, The Lord of the Flies or, well, Avatar. And many posts on this page take positions on the issue as well – I think of, for instance, Urvater’s description of the edenic happiness he had during jungle training, versus his own desire to have shocking & visceral & bloody things happening onstage. Do we want cave-people killing and eating each other, so that when we come out of the theatre we feel like we’re murderous things at bottom, and when push comes to shove we’ll be in the cannibalistic motorcycle gang when the apocalypse comes? Or maybe we want to show cave-people loving each other and cooperating and stuff, so that when we come out we feel a warm conviviality, a sense that all of us in the theatre would join together in the event of nuclear winter and form a utopic commune that preserved the values of good will and democracy for future generations who will re-emerge when the radiation dies down?
After our trial-by-ice, I personally felt very warmly towards my comrades, and did indeed feel like a tribe would have been a very happy place to be, despite paleolithic physical hardships. We didn’t fight over the last piece of chicken. Maybe that was because we were all really full of chicken already, and there was still the havarti to have for a snack later on. Maybe if there wasn’t enough chicken we would have resorted to cannibalism. And maybe my warm sense of conviviality would have made me slow to realize the others were secretly sharpening their teeth in the corner. But! I do, as I get older, like the idea of trying to make people feel good more than to make them feel bad/confused/epaté-ed. And I think people in the audience like to feel good more than they like to feel bad. I like what our friend David Rhymer told us once (I think it was something Ray Bradbury said to him): ‘it’s not a story unless the good guys win.’