Nature and Civilization

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Ilya Shambat

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Sep 16, 2021, 6:46:34 PMSep 16
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My first employer in California was an English-owned company called Constellar. Most other workers were English or Irish. I noticed among the English a fairly stuck-up attitude. One day I did a head stance while at a client site. After that I got called Mr. Head Stand.

I had some interesting experiences while working in Indiana. Most other people there were from India, and one day we decided to go to Chicago. We included me and five men from India, one of them overweight. When I told about this to a friend, he said, “Four Hindus, a Russian and a Buddha.” We went to the Sears Tower, then we went to an Indian neighborhood. Then we drove around in the car, and the driver asked in Indian accent at intersections, “Excoose me, is there a noodie bar?”

The complaint that I kept hearing again and again was that people were working so hard that they had no time to spend with their loved ones. There were some comments in conservative media at the time that people at the time were indisciplined or just doing what they wanted to do. In fact 1990s was a very hard-working time, and it was wrong that people be portrayed in such a light. Political correctness was wrong. Much of what came out of the New Age was wrong. Many trends in psychiatry were wrong. But economically, 1990s were awesome, and many people worked very hard at the time.

Eventually Constellar decided to get rid of me saying that I was not mature enough to work for them. I then got hired at Oracle. It was here that I have the biggest regret of my life. They were very nice to me. They had an excellent management structure that involved people at every level in the decision-making process. I however lost my ability to concentrate. I would come into the office, try to do some work, be unable to focus upon it, then go on the Net. Eventually of course I got fired. That was on my conscience for many years. In the end I apologized to my former bosses, and my former manager and I are now good friends.

At the time there was much going on in society. There was a survivalist movement that claimed that the civilization was going to collapse and that the solution was to build bunkers in the woods. There was the hideous feeding frenzy that was the Monica Lewinski affair. Several economies in Southeast Asia went under. I had no idea what was going to happen, and I believed that whatever happened there was a part for me to do.

I read Ward Churchill. Doing so made me hate the Western civilization as well as my place in it, which was at the time quite comfortable. I also read Ayn Rand. Most people take interest in her work primarily for its defense of capitalism; however I found more interesting what she wrote about the process that an innovative type would go through in order to put into place his innovation and also what she wrote about man-woman relationships. Ward Churchill affirmed nature; Ayn Rand affirmed the civilization. Eventually I decided that both were right. People need both nature and civilization, and both worlds need to be in the best shape that they can be. Fulfil people's material requirements in a way that is less destructive to nature - that is more brain-intensive than resource-intensive and that does more good to the civilization than it does harm to nature.

Then there was the mind-blowing experience that was Burningman. People were walking around naked in public, with nothing on their bodies but paint. People brought all sorts of sculptures and decorations. Everyone was very friendly to one another. There were maybe 20,000 of us, living in total anarchy, with only violence and commerce forbidden; and everyone got along well.

I took the situation of Burningman and saw it as a fulfilment of what I intuited about nature and civilization. At Burningman people were in their natural state, while also having the benefit of technology. There was physical freedom and there also was intellectual freedom. People could be natural and comfortable at the same time. It was the best of nature combined with the best of civilization.

I painted the bodies of several people at their request. Then I made friends with two young ladies from University of Colorado who painted their bodies with stars. They also befriended a young man from Texas. The fellow from Texas – as well as a number of others – were going around saying that people aren't ready for this much freedom. I told them that the way one becomes ready for something is trying it out in small doses; and that the more people learn how to handle freedom the better they become at it. Some people said that that was profound.

I had a nice physique at the time, and people were taking pictures of me. I was also told that I had a very expressive face and that I was beautiful. But more interesting than me were a number of other people I met. One was a lady who had been raised by Seventh Day Adventists, who since then got into Ayn Rand. Another was a lady who had been raised by Jehovah's Witnesses, who had to abandon her family completely. She was talking about how beautiful freedom was and why don't people have it more. There was a brilliant DJ who made commentary such as, “And if you want to know what happened to that Jewish Reggae DJ, he went to the desert to find his spiritual destiny.”

I walked away from Burningman completely obsessed. Here was a world that was paradise. I wrote at length about the insights I'd had while there. I saw it as a way to create a better way of life. A way of life that was free, safe and happy. A way that combined the best of nature and civilization.

Now I've heard any number of former hippies calling younger people who have copied the hippie styles posers. I however was not a poser at all. I decided to combine hippie and yuppie, with the first nurturing creativity and naturality and the second supporting the civilization. The environmentalist sees life as nature, and the economically minded sees life as the civilization. I cared about both worlds, and I believe that this is the truly rational stance.

Life consists of both nature and civilization. Which means that both worlds need to be in the best shape that they can be.

Ilya Shambat
https://sites.google.com/site/ilyashambatbiography
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