The mindset of the populations of Siberian origin (part 3)

Part of the series Perceiving complexity

The mindset of the populations of Siberian origin (part 2)

In the general parts of the series Perceiving complexity, I wrote about the human mental structures that develop from the simplistic patternization of the raw reality. And I also mentioned that there is another area of the human psyche where the experience of relating the mental structures to the raw reality is gathered across generations. I call this area deep fluid wisdom, as it is not structured in the manner of the mental spider web “on the side of the Moon facing the Earth”. It has its own structuring (just to remind of Jung’s archetypes), but it is done in a different manner and the modern psychology is just beginning to grasp what is going on there. A structuring that faces the raw reality, hence it is much more fluid than the official spider web in the people’s minds.

When I am thinking how to put in words how I perceive this deep fluid wisdom, the imagery that comes to my mind is that of a swamp. The abundance of water enables the plants to grow abundantly and prodigiously and to have a healthy green. The same abundance of water also enables quick decay when the plants and animals die. What results from this decay enriches the mud at a fast pace, turning it very fertile, supporting even further the abundance of life there. You can smell there exhilarating scents of life with a mind-blowing richness of fragrances. But in this richness you notice also nuances of decay and death. And you sense that this quick decay is essential for the richness of life there.

It is a place where the human experiences in dealing with the raw reality are not stuck in the spider web of mental structures, they are processed in a fluid way, their spider web type of structure decays, the distilled experience is accumulated in a fluid wisdom, which manifests itself at every moment in human expressivity (you can see even children a few years old with moments of such a polished expressivity honed along so many generations, it is not the distillation of their own life experience). In this fluid wisdom there are aspects that seem to be honed in a very long time and appear in every human culture (in the vein of Jung’s archetypes) and further on there are aspects and idiosyncrasies specific to cultures and individuals. Much of these different aspects and idiosyncrasies may not necessarily be novelties, but particular takes on archetypal notions.

In order to make this fluid side of the human mind relevant in the social structure based on simplistic patterning, there have to appear psychological bridges between this deep fluid wisdom and aspects of the social structure. At a basic level, such bridges appear by themselves anyway, since the official sense of self is not that unitary as people tend to feel about themselves. As I said previously, this part of the mind that may look unstructured, “chaotic” has its own structure which was developed by taking seriously the raw reality, hence it is different from the structure of the simplistic human patternization based on the control of the situation. As a human, it depends on how open you are to pay attention to who you really are.

Further beyond this basic constant supply of input from the deep wisdom in the official thinking process, it depends on each individual how they deal with this inner relation, how they develop and cultivate it. From the cultivation of this relation appear the cultural products of the humanity, like religion, mythology, literature, music, visual arts etc. There is a way in which this fluid area of the human mindset expresses itself directly, namely through religious practices like ecstatic possession and shamanism. In these practices unexpected threads of personality come to surface and express themselves. The interaction of these inner characters with the “meaningful world” usually unfolds around unbalances between the “meaningful world” and the deep fluid wisdom.

For example, in the “meaningful world”, people with significant power in controlling social structures can keep in disadvantage people with less power, which hurts the deep psychological side of the latter. This deep psychological side comes to the surface to express the grievances of the powerless. What is impressive in such moments is that, even though these inner characters express themselves in words (a means of communication that normally give the impression that we are living in a meaningful world), they have an expressivity that make those present feel the shocking unknown outside of the “meaningful world”. The point of view of these inner characters is taking in consideration the raw reality, since it stems from that deep fluid wisdom I described previously, this is the psychological environment in which the subconscious area of the human psyche developed along many, many generations.

As I mentioned in the previous part of this series, the ecstatic possession consists in occasional outbursts of the deep psyche, while the umbrella-term of shamanism covers cultural practices in which people get professional about the direct expression of this subconscious area of the human mindset. And there is a continuum between these two, and also between each of them and the religious practices the Western world is familiar with. For example, how would the Vodou be classified? It has the direct expression of the human subconscious (with some different nuances from the Siberian ones), it has also systemic beliefs, but I would need to study it more in depth to understand how it works there the inner balance between these two sides.

The Siberian shamanism (especially if the respective Siberian culture becomes increasingly complex) develops structures resembling those of the religious practices the Western world is familiar with, i.e. a belief in a cultural system of values, with gods, systematized role of religion in society, shamans involved in politics etc. However, the systemic part remains secondary to the direct experience part. The awareness of the unknown coming from the perception of the raw reality relentlessly creeps in the systemic part, and keeps the latter in a secondary position. The religious practices the Western world is familiar with have too a variety of direct experiences, grouped under the umbrella-term of mysticism. But they do not offer this decisive awareness of the unknown as in the Siberian cultures, they always remain secondary to the systemic part of the respective religions.

And my impression is that this decisive awareness of the unknown among the Siberian populations has something to do with the feminine side of the human psyche going mainstream. Some sort of a practical realization that the feminine point of view can mean serious business (out of its usual blind spot in the classical human mindset). It was a practical realization with no-turning-back consequences, you can’t un-know this. It was not a conceptual direct realization ready to be put in words in the way I write here, my understanding of the situation relies a lot on the mental tools offered by the modernity, plus a variety of other angles to see things in other cultures.

I don’t know what determined this change, maybe it was the harsh environment, the Siberian environment can be so overwhelmingly difficult that at times you feel that, no matter what you do, the control of the situation slips through your fingers. See the girl in the 14th photo from this collage about the Nenet people, I find the image emblematic for the life conditions there. She is carrying a pack of branches for firewood, dressed in thick clothing to resist the deep cold, with red cheeks to prevent frostbites, with that expression of relentless struggle through the daily hardships that are the normal life there. The endless landscape around with no signs of anthropization.

For women it can feel like no matter how hard the men struggle they may not still be able to cope at times and keep the situation under control. Usually the women in the classical human mindset stimulate, incite, tease the men to make them do their best to be on their toes and keep the situation under control. But in such an environment it sinks in that no matter how hard the men might struggle, the odds can be too overwhelming. This does not give peace of mind to the women, they have to be on their toes too. They have to think about the situation. And it also happens to be a rather simplified environment, the harsh climate makes life hard for everyone else that can pose a threat, be they humans or other animals, everybody is affected and this simplifies to some extent the complexity of thinking from the point of view of the raw reality.

Maybe this made possible for the classical feminine point of view to snap out of its usual passive state and develop new perspectives and new synapses in their minds, which enabled some extent of active thinking from the point of view of the raw reality beyond the usual “billiards table” framework of human gender relations. The women from ethnic groups of Siberian origin apply the feminine experience (accumulated along who knows how many hundreds of thousands of years) to assess contexts with more awareness than usual and with more self-confidence that they can make a positive difference in life organization. All of this without betraying the allegiance to the raw reality, they do not get stuck in the “view from the Moon”. The increased awareness and self-confidence appears by realizing the value of the raw reality perspective.

The nuance of “relentless struggle” on the face of the girl from the previous photo is not the classical human one, focused on paying attention to defined dangers, like other humans, other animals, natural disasters. The classical human struggle is to be on your toes, dribble through these obvious dangers and with some luck you can survive long enough. In the Siberian environment this kind of struggle is not reassuring for women, they realize that the odds can be too overwhelming at times. The classical human struggle is like playing a game of chess, where the pieces have their established capabilities, people have some idea thorough experiences of many generations what to expect from each category of threat. The nuance of “relentless struggle” at this girl is like playing go, where the pieces have no established capabilities and the opening of the game is notoriously difficult for classical rational thinking. It has a complexity like thinking from the point of view of the raw reality, I read somewhere that there are more possibilities for a game of go to unfold than there are atoms in the entire Universe. This kind of thinking can make a huge difference in surviving in Siberia.

It is not necessary that the women have specific ideas ready to be applied, many times they continue to inspire the men in the classical ways, only that this kind of increased awareness and active perception is something that the men can get too some idea of and they can apply too by themselves game of go strategies in organization. The increased awareness and active perception of the Siberian women was something that they could comprehend as men, it opened for them the awareness of the raw reality. They largely continue to think in the classical manner of a “meaningful world”, but they have to find a balance in their mind with the “game of go” strategy, which uses the raw reality point of view.

I notice that at the populations of Siberian origin, when they have to tackle some interaction between the “meaningful world” and the raw reality in which unexpected aspects of the raw reality spring in their minds (as a result of this increased awareness), both men and women have something similar to the feeling of mental disconnection of the girl from the photo, this sensation that they cannot really be in a direct control of the situation as the classical humans do, they turn into “game of go” mode, in which you do not look around for defined, patternized dangers and contexts, first you have to understand what kind of context is from the point of view of the raw reality.

The music video İstanbul Ağlıyor of the Turkish singer Gülay would be a good example of what is going on in the minds of the people of Siberian origin when they are lost in thoughts, like the Nenet girl from that photo. This introverted state of mind is like an inner place disconnected from the “meaningful world”, no doors, no windows, just a telephone there for the moment when your external perceptions on autopilot announce you that you have to pay attention to something in the real world. The things may look disparately scattered in a meaningless landscape permeated by fog. In fact they have a order of their own, they arrange themselves according to the deep fluid wisdom perspective. The order is different from the “meaningful world” because this part of the mind developed by taking in consideration the raw reality. The strategy of the game of go is much better suited than that of the game of chess to think inside this fluid area of the mind. The undefined male there is the animus, the opposite gender side in the subconscious.

The music video Benim Yarim of the Turkish singer Songül Karlı would be a good example of what is going on in the mind of someone who perceived a new unexpected perspective from the raw reality (in the case of that Nenet girl, only if she sensed something unusual from this go game perspective). Your mind is going blank, like the empty inner space in this video, the game of go strategy requires you to plunge in the raw reality perspective and rethink the situation. The stairs that go into walls are like the impulses to think like in a game of chess by following patterns. However, such impulses stop in the walls, you still have to plunge into the game of go thinking (which is not so mentally convenient as the game of chess in such a context). When you have the new understanding of the situation which includes the new perspective, you restore the access to the richness of the fluid side of your mind, like in Gülay’s video. The undefined man there, again, is the opposite gender side in the subconscious (the men in such states of mind have an undefined feminine side manifesting itself).

Many times those from the populations of Siberian origin have moments when they are blocked for a while, staring into space, very oblivious of what is around them. This video of a long-term Australian resident in Japan describes well such practical happenings of what he calls a lack of situational awareness among Japanese. Simple facts like stepping out of an elevator, stopping a car at an intersection (that you may have used already many times in the past) may spring in your mind unexpected raw reality points of view without psychological bridges to make them understandable from the point of view of the “meaningful world”, and this turns your mind for a while in a blank state of a start of a go game. Paradoxically, what appears as lack of situational awareness in such contexts can make a huge difference for survival in the Siberian environment.

I was born and grew up in Romania, here the Romanians’ perceptions about this kind of mindset are encapsulated in the expression a fi turc (“to be Turk”). Its meaning has two nuances. One is about the feeling of mental disconnection from the surrounding environment such a person gives to the people who have no idea about the logic of the Siberian approach. For example, a Romanian caught a cold, his hearing and other senses are significantly dimmed and I remark him saying azi mă simt mai turc ca de obicei (“today I am feeling more Turkish than usually”). The other nuance of “being Turkish” for Romanians is to have a stubborn way to pursue your goals without seemingly taking in consideration the social environment and what the other people are saying. The former nuance is when you just see such a person who gives this feeling of disconnection. The latter nuance is when you see such a person in action. Originally, at the time when the meaning of this expression took shape, the Romanian viewers would have expected a game of chess strategy, but they were clueless about the logic of the game of go strategy employed by the Turks. This stubborn way to pursue goals also has specific Altaic nuances, as a branch among the Siberian populations, with the ebru type of thinking that I will detail further below.

It depends on each particular culture of Siberian origin how they balance this relation between the “meaningful world”, the inner place where you think fluidly and the unexpected points of view that pop up in your mind. Many cultures tend to be more on the reserved, introverted side (hopefully this explanation can reduce misunderstandings like the suspicious treatment of the two Amerindian brothers in a US campus only because they were too quiet).

Many cultures continue to have an ethos as though they continue to live in the harsh Siberian environment, even when the area they live now in is not so difficult. A music video like Berivan of the Turkish singer Sibel Can is not a pessimistic one, it is a canvass for Turkish women and men to unfold their fears that they may be overwhelmed by extreme circumstances and to be on their toes. The song may be of Kurdish origin (or maybe only the name of the female character?), but I find very Turkish the expressivity of the musical interpretation and the mindset visible in the elaboration of the video. Sometimes the Republican ethos in Turkey has the tendency to cast on the Kurds some Turkish cultural aspects that do not make much sense from the Western prism this ethos developed in.

Obviously, it is not at all a bad thing to be prepared and to struggle hard when you face difficulties. Only that, in some cultures, people can have this feeling of being out of their element if they are not trodding through difficulties, they don’t really know how to just live a normal life. The Korean film Sopyonje can be a good introduction to this ethos, a musician father who blinds his daughter in order to obtain from her the authentic musical expression of struggle through overwhelming hardships.

The mindset of the populations of Siberian origin (part 4)