Knowing Personally

Posted in: history,Science and Nature by bill-o on September 11, 2009

According to the podcast The Missing Link, Episode 6, when European farmers began to settle southern Africa about 200 years ago, they noticed that the native inhabitants of that region had a completely different way of keeping track of their cattle.

When it came to cows, the Europeans were masters of headcounts. If a count came short by the expected number, then these farmers knew that cows were missing. The native African farmers, on the other hand, had a completely different way of keeping track of their cattle. As far as counting was concerned, the Europeans quickly discovered that most of the African herdsman could not count beyond the number ten.

Instead of counting, the native farmers took the time to know each of their animals personally. For example, the African herdsmen would carve, over the course of a long time, the horns of cattle into distinct shapes and curves. Special care was then paid to the various spots, colors, and patterns of each animal. The native Africans would raise each of these animals from birth and knew which ones would be near certain others in the overall herd. The rich pasturelands of southern Africa allowed the native Africans to live with their cattle rather than having to send them off to distant grazing areas. Another memory aid: Names were assigned to each of the animals that matched their personalities and habits.

The culture of the African tribes also supported the personal care of their cattle. For instance, the Xhosa tribe’s creation story tells of their ancestors emerging from a cave with their cattle. Additionally, cattle were held in high regard and only killed on very special occasions.


So we see here in the difference between these two methods of keeping track of cattle a way of knowing versus knowing personally. And it is knowing personally that is the true spiritual path.

Neil Howe, co-author of the books The Fourth Turning and Generations, recently sat down for an interview to talk about the fourth turning. You can hear this interview here:

District 9

Posted in: Popular Culture by bill-o on September 04, 2009

Since I was just writing about the movie “The Time Traveler’s Wife”, … here is an interesting take on the movie “District 9”:

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