Monday, December 24, 2018

what if...

What if scholars are missing something? Since they look at the world largely through words and visual images, they, I think, miss a lot. During Pissaro's conquest of Peru, his small band of mounted and armed soldiers confronted Atahualpa's army of thousands. The Spaniards accompanied by Catholic priests, informed Atahualpa that their holy Bible was a "talking book." When Atahualpa held the book and fanned his fingers through its pages, it said nothing to his touch, and he threw the bible down in disgust. That provided justification for Pissaro's soldiers to attack. Men mounted on horseback and armed with more advanced weaponry killed thousands of Inca warriors without the loss of a single one of Pissaro's men.  Thus began the purposeful annihilation of the Incan culture including the destruction of their Quipu.

Using knotted strings, called quipu, the Incan people kept records of their culture, including stories and transactions. At this point in time, due to the purposeful destruction of the Incan culture, little is known about how to actually read Quipu. As a bystander, I'm intrigued whether or knot the hands may have the key, and whether or not what is recorded about Atahualpa's encounter with the conquerors might be instructive of a thing that's lost. Could it not be true that trained hands might read Quipu, even in the dark, by pulling slender knotted threads through one's fingers? Atahualpa saw no value in the sacred book offered by the priests because it said nothing of truth to his hands and touch.

Of course, this is conjecture and it will take scholars to determine the truth if any are interested.

A graphic novel by Nick Sousanis came to my attention. It is called "Unflattening" about which is said, "The primacy of words over images has deep roots in Western culture. But what if the two are inextricably linked, equal partners in meaning-making? Written and drawn entirely as comics, Unflattening is an experiment in visual thinking." I will go a step further and suggest that even visual images on a page are also flat. It truly takes touch to bring human experience to life.

And so, what if we were to make a leap of faith, and accept what our hands know to be true. Our hands are not dumb slaves to the eyes and mind. They are the proof that emerges as essential to an understanding of reality and our place within it.

Make, fix and create. yes, please.


  1. That's intriguing thinking, Doug, thank you.

  2. It would be interesting to examine remaining Quipu to see if they had been handled in such a manner, fingers moving down through to feel vibratory pulses from the knotted threads. There might be evidence in the way threads are worn, or chemical or biological remains, telling that they have been handled in this manner by a variety of individuals, suggesting that they were not only looked at, but purposefully handled as well.

    Academics are often tied to language with a bit of the visual thrown in. A more hand-centric view would open a few windows and doors bringing more light to the study of human culture.