Tuesday, January 12, 2016

January 12, 2016: head hunting

It's the beginning of the Spring semester at Rice.  This means that I copy lots of books and make pdf's of them for the faculty's classes.  Last week I copied a few dozen chapters for Cymene.  It's a boring part of my job.  Sometimes I take a break at the copier and read some of the pages.

I read a chapter on the customs of a remote tribe in the Philippines.  The anthropologist questioned one of the tribal elders about head hunting.  The man said that when you are grieving, you hunt heads.  Of course! If a family member dies, you hunt someone down and chop off their head.  You toss the head into the jungle.  Poof, your grief has been dealt with!  He couldn't explain it.  It was so obvious to him. (See bottom of this post to read the excerpt from the book, Culture and Truth by Renato Rosaldo.)

When Marcos was making reforms in the Philippines he made it illegal to head hunt.  The tribe was at a loss to deal with the anger they felt when they were grieving.  They joined some missionary church to appease this grief.  Their purpose for joining was not to pray for the future safety  of their loved ones.  They took the "life after death" premise with the promise of heavenly rewards as a means to ease their grief and the anger that accompanies a loss.

Just think - when Jim had his accident,  I could have just hunted down somebody and chopped off his head.  The grief would have been gone.  I can't even imagine killing someone.  Plus, I am unable to fool myself into believing religious propaganda.  I wish I could.  Life would be so much easier.

A few months later, after Jim stabbed me in the back by proposing to a woman while married to me, I would have needed to chop off another head.  It felt to me as if he had died twice.

Instead I grieved.  I went to a psychologist for talk therapy and took antidepressants.

It's becoming more obvious to me why Jim acted as he did.  I guess I'm lucky that he wasn't able to chop off my head after he returned home from his months in the hospital.  He found another way to deal with his grief - find a scapegoat (me) and decide to "fall" in love with someone else.  It worked for him.

After his first post-accident love, Claudia, left him, he fell into love with a series of strippers.  After they left him, he found his old girlfriend through facebook, proposed and quickly married her.  An emotionally immature solution, to be sure, but it seems to be working for him.  His new wife appears to be happy, too.

I wished my grief could have ended so easily.  I don't feel angry at him.  He actually did me a favor.  I have a good life now - I worked at it.  I'm sure if I had to keep lifting him and his heavy wheelchair, my back would be in worse shape.  I have arthritis of the spine as a result of the loss of my left knee at an early age (and from growing older).  Plus, I don't have to go through my retirement funds by supporting him any more.

Life has gone on.  Sometimes I can't believe what happened to me in the past five years.  I used to wish for the good old days before November 2010.

I learned the hard way that marriage is not security against facing old age alone.

Now I am happy being unmarried.  It's a good feeling to be independent and in charge of my own life.  I wanted to go to Germany so I went.  I went on a cruise.  No need to get a husband to agree with me.  I wanted a small white poodle and I went out and got my little dog, Sweetsie.  I decorate my house however I want.  Right now it's with pink poodles and dolls.  My computer and desk are in the family room where I can also see the TV.  I keep sewing tools and some fabric near my recliner-with no one to criticize me.

I have a great companion to share life with.  I met my sweet Bert by contacting him through an online dating site.  We go to dinner together, attend plays, movies, etc.  We enjoy each other's company.
It's a good life.

An excerpt from the book, Culture and Truth by Rosaldo Renato:

  Introduction: Grief and a Head hunter's Rage  (p1-2)

If you ask an older Ilongot man of northern Luzon, Philippines, why he cuts off human heads, his answer is brief , and one on which no anthropologist can readily elaborate: He says that rage, born of grief, impels him to kill his fellow human beings. He claims that he needs a place "to carry his anger." The act of severing and tossing away the victim's head enables him, he says, to vent and, he hopes, throw away the anger of his bereavement. Although the an­thropologist' s job is to make other cultures intelligible, more questions fail to reveal any further explanation of this man's pithy statement. To him, grief, rage, and headhunting go together in a self-evident manner. Either you understand or you don't.
from p 4:
The force of the dilemma faced by the Ilongots eluded me at the time. Even when I correctly recorded their statements about grieving and the need to throw away their anger, I simply did not grasp the weight of their words. In  1974, for example, while Michelle Rosaldo and I were living among the Ilongots, a six-month-old baby died, probably of pneu­monia. That afternoon we visited the father and found him terribly stricken. "He was sobbing and staring through glazed and bloodshot eyes at the cotton blanket covering his baby."' The man suffered intensely, for this was the seventh child he had lost.
Just a few years before, three of his chil­dren had died , one after the other, in a  matter of days. At the time, the situation was murky as people present talked both about evangelical Christianity (the  possible  renunciation of taking heads) and their grudges against lowlanders (the contemplation of headhunting forays into the surrounding valleys).
Through subsequent days  and  weeks,  the  man's  grief moved him in a way I had not anticipated. Shortly after the baby's death, the father converted to evangelical  Christian­ity. Altogether too quick on the inference, I immediately con­cluded that the man believed that the new religion could somehow prevent further deaths in his family. When I spoke my mind  to an Ilongot  friend, he snapped at me, saying that "I had missed the point: what the man in fact sought in the new  religion  was not  the denial of our inevitable  deaths but a means of coping with his grief. With the advent of martial law, headhunting was out of the question as a means of vent­ ing his wrath and thereby lessening his grief. Were he to re­main in his Ilongot way of life, the pain of his sorrow would simply be too much to  bear."'