Countless online and printed articles have wrestled with what has become the most troubling question of our age: What is happening to us?
The cascade of electrons and ink aimed at this question underscores our growing realization that many of the sources of order we once relied on, from governments to churches, are coming apart. Individuals are coming apart, too. Despite our material opulence and abundance of sexual choices, we’re depressed. People are increasingly alienated from each other, divorcing at record rates, and respond by insulating themselves in electronic diversions and pills. Many commentators have attempted explanations, but I think no one has attacked the question more directly and honestly than anthropologist Helen Fisher in this interview with Krista Tippett:
Ms. Tippett: Right. We don’t have those extended circles of people who know them.
Ms. Fisher: … Serial pair-bonding is probably basic to the human animal, series of partnerships. But what is really unusual, for me, is the loss of local community. We have extended communities — we have our internet friends; we’ve got our work friends; we’ve got our people who we exercise with; we’ve got people who we go to a poetry conference with — whatever it is. But we don’t have local community.
Precisely. The interview focuses on sex and marriage, but as Dr. Fisher stresses repeatedly, marriage, with its core ingredients of fidelity, trust, and mutual commitment, is the basic building block of a healthy community. The reciprocal trust in a successful marriage enables the expansion of loving ties to others. The unrooted individual, on the other hand, has not developed the social intelligence that enables and sustains viable connections to the greater community or to the culture that arises from such a community.
Such unrootedness is a profound loss for both society and the individual.
One of the themes I continue to explore in my fiction is the often ignored truth that no man is an island – even in outer space. “Cathedra,” my latest story, opens with astrogeologist Ben Kaplan returning to Saturn’s moon Enceladus, a site he surveyed years before, to find out what killed two miners. He discovers a menacing but intelligent race of aquatic creatures that threatens the entire mining colony. Kaplan learns that the creatures, despite their frightening power, have built something profoundly beautiful – a living, sustaining community, something he has never known, and now realizes he must have.
In her interview with Krista Tippett, Dr. Fisher argues we’re in the fix we’re in because we’ve ignored the reality of who we are:
Biology and culture and religion — they all go hand-in-hand. They’re all parts of a huge, big system called humanity.
And I don’t feel that they threaten each other. I feel that they enhance one another and that a truly religious person, if they have any imagination, can benefit from understanding that the love of God is in all of us, in some form; that it’s biologically based — it’s not going away; and that it’s part of humanity. So I don’t see a big dichotomy that other people might see. I see a tremendous union between the intellectual, the spiritual, and the biological. I think they work together as a team.
We are not mere consumers with boundless appetites, nor are we autonomous monads. We are complex social beings with an urgent need to bond, interact with others, and discover who we truly are. Yes, we’ve lost our way, but knowing we’re lost is the first step toward rediscovering our true path.
Dr. Fisher ends her interview with a suggestion on how to find our way home, one that I happily endorse: “I love poetry because it captures the passion of people around the world. It gives me a great sense of unity with all of humanity that ever was and ever will be.”
Read Cathedra, by M. C. Tuggle in the April issue of Metamorphosis magazine online.
About the author
M.C. Tuggle is a native North Carolinian whose ancestors arrived in the South in 1647. Raised on a tobacco farm near High Point, North Carolina, he enjoyed a childhood of outdoor living, including rambling through the countryside hunting, fishing, and searching for arrowheads. In college, he took a double major in history and English, and completed his M.A. in English at Wake Forest University on a Wake Forest fellowship.
After a career in insurance company underwriting, management, and office automation projects, he is now a writer and recovering technogeek, spending much of his non-writing time learning (and re-learning) wilderness skills.
M.C. Tuggle’s fantasy, science fiction, and literary short stories have been featured in several publications. Novel Fox published his novella Aztec Midnight in December, 2014. His latest book, The Genie Hunt, was published in May, 2017 by Solstice Publishing. He blogs at mctuggle.com.
Read an interview with M. C. Tuggle at The Book Blogger
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Buddy Vuncannon, an attorney in High Point, North Carolina, and his friend Coot Pickard are heading out of town for a fishing weekend when they’re surrounded by a SWAT team. Three eyewitnesses have identified Coot as the gun man in the latest of a string of robberies. To defend Coot, Buddy must stand up to a bullying district attorney, uncover the identity of the real robbers, and battle a powerful genie who serves the robbers. Buddy’s investigation implicates an old friend, reigniting long-forgotten friction between Buddy and Coot. Old and new loyalties clash, leading Buddy and Coot to a desperate chase that forces them to seek the help of a madman they both fear.
When drug cartels begin vandalizing ancient Aztec sites throughout Mexico in search of the sacred obsidian knife of Aztec emperor Ahuitzotl, the Mexican government reaches out to the U.S. State Department for assistance. Dr. Jon Barrett, an archaeologist and pre-Columbian weapons expert, then journeys to Cuernavaca with his wife Susanna at the request of Eric Winwood, a high-ranking State Department official, to find and rescue the knife before the cartels can claim it. Locating the knife proves more challenging and dangerous than Dr. Barrett anticipated, and he and Susanna soon find themselves at the center of the cartels’ search. For Dr. Barrett and his wife to survive, he will be forced to apply his knowledge of ancient weapons in the face of an ancient power he never imagined.
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