online: 26 august 2002
modified: 31 august 2002

22 august 2002 gathering blackberries

19:32: ...sitting beneath dark and light skies... I stopped - feeling too uneasy to go on, as if experiencing a crisis... (is there something wrong with me? of course not - it's the culture)...

...and now I remember how Chris Crickmay* likened the decentral culture I imagine in the internet and everyone to the hunter-gatherer culture described by Hugh Brody... and how both differ from the farmer/mechanisation culture (in which neither the hunter-gatherers nor I fit... I guess I've lived all my life in conflict with the culture and now it's bringing me into crisis, or crises...?)

At this rather profound but indigestible thought I got up and continued walking... but then, seeing some blackberries, I stopped to pick them - there were many large and juicy ones and I filled my empty water bottle with them... and then I sat again, realising that picking blackberries (one of my chief pleasures all my life) is indeed relevant to all this.

gathering blackberries

Perhaps this is the only hunter-gatherer activity yet possible in this non-eden, this post-industrial pre-culture of the city forest, the experimental citynet, this half-destroyed earth, this new world that's rescuing and recreating itself in our words and our minds and our technologies as we stumble about in a blindness and a deafness to what is happening...

Does he really mean that thinks the reader, one of few, as he carves his initials in the bench where this is happening - while the writer looks about and remembers the place where he's just picked ripe blackberries (there were no signs that anyone had been picking before him) in a little wilderness of uncut grass and tall wild plants around the blackberry bushes.

To me, he writes, this is as significant as the sky or the whole scene, or even the culture as it grows and it dies without any separate intelligence. For outside Eden we don't need it - for we have left those narrowing illusions

As the evening grows dark the writer says goodbye to the one who is carving his name and continues to walk - towards the bookshop where he knows Hugh Brody's book is waiting for him...

...and as he walks on, much pleased with this little experience, he waves to someone he knows and walks away in the dusk along an avenue of lime trees to the sounds of an owl which flies above him as he goes. He is reminded of something Marshall McLuhan wrote** of Minerva's owl - which moved on and away as a new era began...

* After reviewing 'the internet and everyone' Chris Crickmay wrote today as follows:
I am currently reading Hugh Brody's book , The Other Side of Eden, hunters, farmers and the shaping of the world, Douglas and McIntyre, 2000... I was very struck by the similarity between your descriptions of living with new electric technologies and Hugh's descriptions of hunter-gatherer communities - e.g. their improvisational, non-hierarchical nature. Also the contrast between this and agricultural communities which in their characteristics seem to have anticipated many of the features of a mechanised way of life. In particular, I think Hugh's account of language differences would interest you as well as the bits on the Garden of Eden as an agriculturalist's myth, quite different to the creation myths of hunter-gatherers.

**minerva's owl: searching the web, and visiting the British Library, I eventually find that Marshall McLuhan (in his book The Gutenberg Galaxy) was quoting Harold Innis' presidential address the Royal Society of Canada in 1947, who was himself quoting Hegel... The address appears in Harold Innis' book The Bias of Communication, University of Toronto Press, Toronto 1951, page 5.

Harold Innis wrote:

Minerva's owl begins its flight only in the gathering dusk ...

and later:

...Hegel wrote in reference to the crystalization of culture achieved in major classical writings in the period that saw the decline and fall of Grecian civilization. ... the flight began not only for the dusk of Grecian civilization but also for the civilization of the West

And later he alludes to Minerva's's owl and last flourishes of dying cultures... but vaguely.

As I read these and similar books (contrasting oral and written cultures) I experience frequent excitements as I encounter such resonating and connective remarks and insights... but they are interpretations of interpretations - I long for something of Minerva herself, or of her actual owl and the actual last flourishes ... how would we recognise the last flourishes of the culture we comprise or inhabit, if indeed it is ending?

According to a classical dictionary Minerva was the daughter of Zeus and the goddess of wisdom, war and crafts. I can't find much about her owl.

digital diary dates


© 2002 john chris jones

You may transmit this text to anyone for any non-commercial purpose if you include the copyright line and this notice and if you respect the copyright of quotations.

If you wish to reproduce any of this text commercially please send a copyright permission request to jcj at