Friday, September 16, 2011


To briefly review: A thousand years ago in this remote, unspecial, spot, an otherwise ordinary group of Indians were somehow infused with the talent,  desire and determination to build mega structures like the one pictured here--containing 500 plus rooms, numerous Kivas and ceremonial plazas. 12 of these grand houses were constructed in the immediate vicinity and another 15 in the outlying areas.  Nowhere else in America has similar super building occurred. The obvious question is: WHAT GOT INTO THESE PEOPLE.  WHY, WHY, WHY WOULD THEY DO THIS.  

Here's what remains of the structure pictured above.  I have asked my "good genius" (my deepest intuition) to consider the question and get back to me. (I often pose important questions to a committee of three in my head:  My subconscious, My database and my conscious reason) Here's its report:

1. An ordinary clan of ancient Indians, following water or fleeing hostilities or seeking greener pastures, made their way to this canyon and this spot.

2. An anomaly of this spot is a super-abundance of perfectly sized building stones----1,2and 3 inch layers of sandstone---perfectly flat on two sides. Kids playing could pile up impressive stacks---and soon discovered that mud between the layers would harden and stabilize stacks---making even more impressive structures.  Adults quickly grasped the possibility of easy-to-build walls for houses----and further, the bonus of houses sharing a wall -- or two--or even three----AND the bonus of houses on top of houses---thus sharing a roof.  BINGO --pueblo style building is underway.

3. Density dwelling works  social magic on the tribe---intensifying idea exchange--culture elaboration--and speeds creation and spread of cultural memes. (mental bits of culture--songs, tales etc)
(see Palo Solari's work with Arcology)

4. With food and water problems solved (for the moment) people turned their attention to the fun pursuits of building with these terrific stones.  Human ego, being what it is, bigger and ever more impressive houses were constructed.

5. Excellence in construction began to be noticed and appreciated----triggering a FEEDBACK SPIRAL of excellence. (i.e. beautiful work---when publicly appreciated---evokes even more excellence---and appreciation--and excellence.......)

6. The occasional visitor---noting the quality and size of construction here---spread the word---and more visitors came to see---creating another FEEDBACK SPIRAL of fame--tourism--more fame etc.
Eventually the community spiraled its way to SPECTACLE.

7. Spectacle evokes a numinous effect. (Awe)---like seeing Solomon's Temple, or the pyramids or Hoover Dam.  Spectacle too, feeding on awe and fame generates ever greater spectacle.

8. Architectural authority arose to shape the growing spectacle into some order.

9. Meanwhile, nearby clans are building spectacles of their own.

10. Divine guidance: Throughout the entire process people seek guidance from the Shaman.  He too spirals toward ever more elaborate theology and ritual. Visitors and locals enjoy a bigger and bigger "show".

11. Commerce quickly raises its head---and another feedback loop spirals upward.

12. The various feedback loops enfold and further enhance each other.  In short Chaco canyon becomes a terrific place to visit for a good time.  Branson Missouri's rise to super-tourist spot is very similar.  We RVers can see how spiraling has made Quartzsite, Az our "Mecca".

13. Tyranny or no tyranny?  Well yes and no.  Slavery? No!---- Social coercion--Yes! Theology always jerks people around---by fear and hope--so they spend energies working for the church. In Chaco, no doubt a theology arose with a governing priesthood and masses worked "voluntarily" for the deity.

14. Why did it end?---It was a social empire and It ran its course---usually 300 years is about max for them---bad weather probably precipated a downward feedback spiral and its charm died quicker than it rose.

15. What have we learned here?  That lightening can strike in unlikely places---that empires--of all kinds--political--social--religious--commercial are giant feedback loops that rise--ascend--and decline.
That tiny causes can have huge effects.  An abundance of flat--perfectly sized building stones---started a local building craze that swelled to a spectacle--to a monument---to a 300 year "happening".

That feedback loops--once recognized--are seen to be all around and in us---and can serve for good or ill.  Social Manias--like statue building on Easter Island----Tulip mania in holland---pyramid mania in Egypt and House mania in the US ----rarely serve humanity well---though they produce impressive stuff.

That humans like to get excited and lose themselves in something bigger than themselves.  It is near ecstasy to allign your energy and intent with many others---and  is extremely powerful. The dilemma of mavericks and extremely independent personalities is that unless they join some sort of human surge---they miss out on all the fun. 

At the psychological level--chaco suggest that tiny steps in the direction of your dreams can start an upward spiral of great satisfaction and who knows what else.  My friend Boonie persuaded me to try blogging-----and ---now I have a game to play that connects me with the world.


heyduke50 said...

A plausible theory I suppose... what do you suppose Americans are getting out of their spiral with their infatuation with with the lives of movie stars, reality TV and other nonsensical news???

Anonymous said...

Interesting theory.

I saw a video about the mysteries of Chaco (and I've been there 2 or 3 times myself) which suggest that the buildings were more a place of "power" for gatherings, but NOT dwelling places...because archeologists haven't found remains of the piles of trash of various sorts that would have been generated from many people living in a place for hundreds of years...piles of bones from animals they'd eaten, cobs from corn, etc.

In other words, nobody ever actually lived there (or very few people) but tribes would gather there on special occasions.

Anonymous said...

Good reading. Thanks

Boonie said...

There's so much in this post that it makes it hard for a commenter to respond. Perhaps you can break it into bite-sized pieces in the future, so that more commenters can get a handle on it.

Anonymous said...

Well, you got some of it right. Lighting struck, a place was chosen, good rock was there.
I tried to talk about this in one of your earlier blogs but I can tell it didn't take.
This was a hierarchical society, there was nothing ordinary about the top tier who combined religion, economics, and tyranny - no separation of politics and knowledge - to rule the rubes.
The top came up from Mexico and knew some intellectual stuff.
They lived in the Kivas, and stored loot in the surrounding buildings. They were rich. These places were called "pleasure palaces".
The ordinary people got tired of being on the bottom, doing all the work, suspecting the hierarchy was unnecessary and maybe bogus took off for the Rio Grande to live in the Pueblos on their own.
This was a democratic revolt.
This is how they survived, and the
Chaco tyranny did not.
Sounds modern to me. RVers can resonate throwing off the shackles.

Jim said...

BUSHMAN: "The ordinary people got tired of being on the bottom, doing all the work, suspecting the hierarchy was unnecessary and maybe bogus took off for the Rio Grande to live in the Pueblos on their own."
Sounds VERY contemporary to me, too. There aren't very many ways to beat the system but, certainly, buying or building your own highly mobile home is one of them. The portable dwellers have another -- squatting year 'round on public lands -- but as much as I enjoy solitude, that might be a bit much. I'm no less humbled by someone who can dig into a south-facing slope and winter over with nothing more than layers of clear plastic to capture the sun . . . burning no wood to keep from compromising their location.

Ty said...

Randy, You might enjoy the book "1491". Or maybe you've read it already. It talks about how the native Americans (in both North America and South America) were much much more organized and populated than what our school books would have us know.
Its probably been a year since I've read your blog. I have some catching up to do. Looking forward to it, you're a great writer.