11 October 2009

Seeing things

Today we use less and we use more of our mental capacity than [did preliterate peoples]: and it is not exactly the same kind of mental capacity as it was either. For example we use considerably less of our sensory perceptions. When I was writing the first version of Mythologiques, I was confronted with a problem that which to me was extremely mysterious. It seems that there was a particular tribe which was able to see the planet Venus in full daylight, something which to me would be utterly impossible and incredible. I put the question to professional astronomers: they told me, of course, that we don't but, neverthelesss, when we know the amount of light emitted by the planet Venus in full daylight, it was not absolutely inconceivable that some people could. Later on I looked into old treatises on navigation belonging to our own civilization and it seems that sailors of old were perfectly able to see the planet in full daylight. Probably we could still see it if we had a trained eye.
-- from Myth and Meaning by Claude Lévi-Strauss.

Related post: The big sky.

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