Miles and Miles of Flat Sameness

66  bar steady 29.92 0mph N dew-point 58  Summer night

Waning Crescent of the Flower Moon

The drive into the MIA this afternoon was the first time I’d driven any distance since the long trip to Alabama.

Sheila gave a walking lecture on the African check out tours.  She showed pieces in Egypt, then the Nok figure, the Ife Shrine head, the Benin head.  She spoke briefly about the linguist’s staff, the kente cloth, the elephant tusk and the leopard. It was a usual well-informed presentation.  Sheila knows the African collection in some depth.  She tried to provide so-called Pan African ideas, but I didn’t find any of them unique to Africa.

Africa, like Asia and North America, is a land mass, not a cultural designation.  It has, like Asia and North America, a bewildering variety of indigenous peoples, colonial adventures, global corporate interests and all this mixed now in the stew of politics referred to as developing nations.  Seeking for identifiers by continent,  across Africa, for example, is like seeking for unity across Asia or North America.  It is a category mistake.  Continents do not have cultures, people do.  To maintain that somehow Algiers and Tunisia share a common cultural underlayment with, say, the Zulu or the Ashante or the Tutu or the Masai attempts to shoe horn disparate peoples in a too tight continental shoe.

Kate and I watched There Will Be Blood tonight.  This is a powerful movie with mythic overtones.  The push for oil, the mania required to build an oil company or a church, the violence of men competing for power and money and the interlocutor of the barren land combine in a peak at the roots of contemporary American society.

Much of the filming was done near Marfa, Texas.  Marfa is the location of Donald Judd’s open air show places.  It is a unique town, a place a reporter for the Ft. Stockton newspaper told me is “Taos fifty years ago.”  She didn’t see this as a good thing.

The land in the movie is bleak.  Until my trip to Imperial, Texas a few years ago to see our land I hadn’t understood why people would say West Texas and shake their head.  It is mesquite, sand and rattle snakes.  In a few places, for a time, there was oil and natural gas.  There is a stark beauty to it, a beauty similar to the high plains, miles and miles of flat sameness, broken at the horizon by low mountains and foot hills.

More garden work tomorrow.  Get the red car, too.  The heads were delayed at the machine shop.

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