Feeling—and What Kind—Should a Man Have?
the Life of Fusiwe, Head Man of the Yanomami People
By Arnold Perey
When a man is asking how much feeling he wants to have--and what kind of feeling--he
wants an answer that will hold up and that he can count on. The answers we generally go
by don't hold up.
A man feels on the one hand that he doesn't want to have
any feelings, the less the better: they're too damn complicated. I wanted
to be like a rock or iron. My feelings were too up and down. I would feel
all was well with a friend and myself, then get angry at him and insult
or glower at him, and then feel so sorry I felt like crawling. I would
think I loved a woman, go full steam ahead, and find out my feeling wasn't
reciprocated at all or that I myself had cooled. I once wrote to a friend
from college, in an optimistic mood, that I had made a great discovery,
that life is worth it after all! and felt a few days later I was
up to my neck in pessimism and the boredom I had come to feel I was going
to live with forever. I tried to make sense of it, I even diagrammed my
dilemmas, but nothing worked.
On the other hand, I also felt
"nothing ever happens to me" and I tried many things to find excitement,
but nothing lasted. When I heard Eli Siegel's poem, "Must I wait All My
Life, or The Misery Song" I felt what every man who hears it feels: This
is me! It begins with these lines:
Must I wait all my
life for a certain thing to happen?
Aesthetic Realism has made it clear
that what a man wants is to have as much feeling, and as accurate feeling
as possible. We don't want our emotions to be sloppy and excessive but
we don't want them to be inadequate and dull either. In an Aesthetic
Realism lesson Mr. Siegel explained,
Must I spend all my days just
in dozin', just in nappin'?
Isn't there to be a fire? Won't
some color come?
Am I blind, have I no luck,
am I just plain dumb?
Must I wait all my life for
a certain person's comin'?
Will I die, my life gone, and
still a love tune hummin'?
When a baby is born
the purpose of that baby is, One: to make a relation between himself and
the whole world, and the other thing is to make a relation between his
capacity for despising things and his capacity for liking. That is, his
pro and anti feelings, which everyone has. [27 December 1970: p. 39]
I saw no relation between my liking
things and my despising.
I was to learn in Aesthetic
Realism classes with Eli Siegel that the difference between what a thing
deserves and what we give it is contempt for that thing. I learned what
contempt was: a "disposition in every person to think he will be for himself
by making less of the outside world." And I had it. But contempt is not
what the human mind, in its fullness, is after. And as an anthropologist I was to see
this is true wherever one may be, in any culture--as proved by the abundant
literature describing world cultures in every college library.
Tonight I will be looking at
one of the most important accounts of a man's life that I have ever seen
in the literature of anthropology--the life of Fusiwe, a tushaua
or head man of the "The fierce people" or Yanomami tribes of the Amazonian
rainforest. It was written by one of his wives, whose Indian name was Napagnuma.
Her name at birth was Helena Valero. Napagnuma means white woman in Yanoáma
and is the name given her after she was captured by the Yanoáma--another
name for the Yanomami peoples--when she was a young girl. Her family were
traders deep in the rainforest of Venezuela at the time of her capture.
She came to "belong" to Fusiwe, because he was strong enough to prevent
other men from taking her from him. She became a mature woman in his band
of about 100 people. 20 years after her capture, when Fusiwe had been shot
with poisoned arrows and was going to die, he told her to leave the forest
and find her people again. When she left, she met the Italian anthropologist
Ettore Biocca who took down her story in the book Yanoáma--from
which I am quoting tonight.
Ms. Valero writes with beautifully
accurate memory of the ways of her adoptive tribe and gives a picture of
Fusiwe--the feelings he had, their ebb and flow, and what they were about--that
every man can learn from.
That is why I love anthropology
so much, the subject I teach and which Aesthetic Realism has had me care
for more than ever. The principles of Aesthetic Realism enable you to see,
in the studies of tribal cultures, what men and women the world over really
want--and that includes you.