Folklore as philosophy

16 06 2010

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La ciencia de la investigación folklórica estudia los hechos culturales que se dan en comunidades lo menos contaminadas posible con la cultura contemporánea, con el progreso, tal como ocurre en las ciudades. Hay que meterse por caminos laterales, llegar a pueblos, patear horas y horas. Son lugares donde apenas hay escuelas primarias, o ni siquiera eso, donde se guarda un hondo sentido tradicional con los ancestros. Las danzas mapuches, por ejemplo, son rogativas a los dioses, costumbres que vienen de los antepasados, relacionadas con la explicación de fenómenos. Cada paso de la danza representa algo de su mundo interior y exterior. El folklore es filosofía, es tomar una actitud seria frente a diferentes hechos de la vida.

The science of folkloric investigation studies the cultural facts present in communities that are the least contaminated by contemporary culture, or with progress, as is the case in cities. You have to go off the beaten path, find villages, walk for hours and hours. They are places that barely have an elementary school, or not even that, where they maintain the deep traditional sense of their ancestors. Mapuche dances, for example, are prayers to the gods, customs that come down to them from their predecessors, related with the explanation of natural phenomena. Every step of the dance represents something of their interior and exterior worlds. Folklore is philosophy: it is to take a serious attitude before different events in life.

-Felix Coluccio, the great Argentine folklorist, found here

Coluccio later in the interview speaks of the decline of folkloric communities. It is hard to figure out how much longer folklore will survive in the Western world. Personally, I have wanted to buy a recorder and begin recording all of the stories of my parents’ and grandparents’ generations. Growing up, my mother would tell us stories, but the natural inclination of children is to ignore these stories, since the main characteristic of youth is to have itchy ears.

Having proceeded slowly into adulthood, I no longer have much enthusiasm for official theology, official history, politics, philosophy, or anything else deemed high culture in the intellectual sense. I have my favorites, to be sure. But what is missing from these is a solid and rich ground of being: a common mythology that we can all sink our teeth into and plant our feet on. Folklore is not just philosophy, but first philosophy. It isn’t just the subject of social science, but of metaphysics. In an intellectual sense, I am fast concluding that it is the only way out.