Liedloff, Jean. The Continuum Concept. Da Capo Press, 1977.


(13)  The Yequana people [of the Orinoco River region of southern Venezuela] have no word for “work” in their vocabulary…there were words for each activity, but no generic term.

    - Stone Age Economics, Don't Sleep There are Snakes, Wandering God

(17)  I was reminded of my surprise at the Tauripans on the first expedition when, loaded down with about 75 pounds each on their backs and carefully crossing a "bridge" consisting of a single narrow log felledacross the stream, one of them would think of a joke and in stop in mid-log, turn around, tell the story to the men piling up behind him, and then proceed across well he and his friends all laughed in their peculiarly musical way. It never occurred to me that they were not suffering as we did under the circumstances, so their merriment gave a strange, almost lunatic impression.  (It was in fact very like their habit of telling a joke in the middle of the night when everyone was asleep.  Though some were snoring loudly, all would awaken instantly, laugh, and in seconds resume sleep, snoring and all. They did not feel that being awake was more unpleasant than being asleep, and they awoke fully alert, as when a distant pack of wild boar was heard by all the Indians simultaneously, though they had been asleep, while I, awake and listening to the sounds of the surrounding jungle, have noticed nothing.)  Like most travelers, I had watched their unfamiliar behavior without comprehending it and never attempted to bridge the gap between their expression of human nature and ours.

(21)  For some 2 million years, despite being the same species of animal as ourselves, man was a success. He had evolved from apehood to manhood as a hunter-gatherer with an efficient lifestyle which had it continued, might have seen him through many 1 million year anniversary. As it is, most ecologists agree, his chances of surviving even in another century are diminished with each day’s activities.
        But during the brief few thousand years since he strayed from the way of life to which evolution adapted him, he has not only wreaked havoc upon the natural order of the entire planet, he has also managed to bring into disrepute the highly evolved good sense that guided his behavior throughout all those eons. Much of it has been undermined only recently as the last coverts of our instinctive competence are rooted out and subjected to the uncomprehending gaze of science.  Ever more frequently our innate sense of what is best for us is short-circuited by suspicion well the intellect, which has never known much about our real needs, decides what to do.
        It is not, for example, the province of the reasoning faculty to decide have a baby up to be treated.  We have had exquisitely precise instincts, expert in every detail of childcare, since long before we became anything resembling homo sapiens. But we have conspired to baffle this long-standing knowledge so utterly that we now employee researchers full-time to puzzle out how we should behave toward children, one another, and ourselves. It is no secret that the experts have not “discovered” how to live satisfactorily, But the more they fail, the more they attempt to bring the problems under the sole influence of reason and disallow what reason cannot understand or control.

(22)  But I believe it is possible to start as we are, lost and handicapped, and still find a way back... The conscious part of the mind, like a good ”technical advisor” in someone else's war, when it sees the error of its ways, ought to work to put itself out of business, not move deeper into alien territory. There are, of course, plenty of jobs for our ability to reason without its usurping the work which has for many million years been managed by the infinitely more refined and knowledgeable areas of the mind called instinct. If they too we're conscious, they would deluge our head out of commission in an instant, if for no other reason than that the conscious mind, by its nature, can only consider one thing at a time, while the unconscious can make any number of observations, calculations, syntheses, and executions simultaneously and correctly.

(24)  The stabilizing principle was at work in each form in each part of each form, taking its data from its inheritance of experience, From its context of every kind, and equipping its descendents in ever more complex ways to deal more efficiently with those experiences. Therefore, the design of each individual was a reflection of the experience it expected to encounter. The experience it could tolerate was defined by the circumstances to which its antecedents had adapted.
    
    - So Human An Animal

(25)  It is essential to keep a constant watch for opportunities to reinstate our innate ability to choose what is suitable. The clumsy intellect with which we must now try to recognize it can then occupy itself with tasks it is better able to do.
        The expectations with which we confront life are inextricably involved with tendencies (for example, to suckle, to avoid physical harm, to crawl, to creep, to imitate).  Is what we expect in the way of treatment and circumstance becomes available, sets of tendencies in a us interact, again as the experience of our ancestors has prepared them to do. When the expected does not take place, corrective or compensatory tendencies make an effort to restore stability.
         The human continuum can also be defined as the sequence of experience which corresponds to the expectations and tendencies of the human species in an environment consistent with that in which those expectations and tendencies were formed…
         The continuum of an individual is whole, yet forms part of the continuum of his family, which in turn is part of his clan’s, community’s, and species’ continua, just as the continuum of the human species forms part of that of all life. Each continuum has its own expectations and tendencies, which spring from long, formative precedent…
         In each life form, the tendency to evolve is not random, but it furthers its own interests. It is directed at greater stability - that is, at a greater diversity, complexity, and therefore adaptability.
        This is not at all what we call “progress.”  In fact, resistance to change, no way in conflict with the tendency to evolve, is an indispensable force in keeping any system stable.
        What interrupted our own innate resistance to change if you thousand years ago we can only guess. The important thing is to understand the significance of evolution versus (unevolved) change.  They are at diametrical cross purposes, for what evolving creates in the way of diversification, evermore precisely adapted to our requirements, change destroys by introducing behavior or circumstances which do not take into account the entire range of factors concerned in serving our best interests. All change can do is to replace a piece of well integrated behavior with one that is not.  It replaces what is complex and adapted with what is simpler and less adapted.  As a consequence, change places a strain on the equilibrium of all the intricately related factors inside and outside the system.  Evolution, then, gives stability; change brings vulnerability.

    - rebuttal to the claim that this “10,000 year explosion” is a “natural” part of evolution.

(27)  The more a culture relies upon the intellect, the more restraints on the individual are necessary to maintain it.

(27)  The role of a culture in human life is as legitimate as that of language. Both begin with the expectation and the tendency to find their content in the environment.

(31)  Only a few gurus and octogenarians are able to appreciate the relationships of moments or lifetimes to eternity (by fully realizing the irrelevance of the arbitrary concept of time).

    - linear time, invented at least in part by the notion of the Christian second coming, is not known among primitives, just as cyclical time, in harmony with the changing and “eternal recurrence” of the seasons, is a foreign concept in nature deficient civilization.
    - Beyond Culture

(36)  Babies have, indeed, become a sort of the enemy to be vanquished by the mother. Crying must be ignored so as to show the baby who is boss, in the basic premise in the relationship is that every effort should be made to force the baby to conform to the mother's wishes. Displeasure, disapproval, for some other sign of a withdrawal of love is shown when the baby's behavior causes “work,” “wastes” time, or is otherwise deemed inconvenient. The notion is that catering to the desires of the baby will “spoil” him and going countered to them will serve to tame, or socialize, him. In reality, the opposite effect is obtained in either case.

(40)  The expectation of taking part in a culture is a product of our revolution in the mores that are seized upon by that expectations are, when assimilated, as integral a component of our personalities as the inborn ways of other species.

    - evolution = inherited expectations

(41)  Children raised by wolves are reported to have extraordinary night vision.  The Yequana can select the form have a small bird in the shadows of a wall of jungle where one of us can only see leaves, even after they have pointed to the place. They can see a fish amid the foaming waters of rapids, again invisible to the most concentrated attempts of our eyes.

(43)  To make of the intellect a competent servant instead of an incompetent master must be a major goal of continuing philosophy.

(45)  Even a customary degree of anxiety tends to be maintained, for the sudden loss of “anything to worry about” can cause a far more profound and infinitely more acute form of anxiety. For someone whose natural habitat is the brink of disaster, a giant step into security is as intolerable as the realization of all he most fears.

     - born into anxiety/abuse will make that state most comfortable in later years

(49)  The worlds of infants in-arms in stone age and in civilized cultures are as different as night and day.  From birth, continuum infants are taken everywhere. Before the umbilicus comes off, the infant’s life is already full of action. He is asleep for most of the time, but even as he sleeps he's becoming accustomed to the voices of his people, to the sounds of their activities, to the bumpings, jostlings, and moves without warning, to stops without warning, to lifts and pressures on various parts of his body as his caretaker shifts him about to accommodate her work or her comfort, and to the rhythms of day and night, the changes of texture and temperature on his skin, in the safe, right feel of being held to a living body.  His urgent need to be there would only be noticeable to him if he were removed from his place.

(54)  The fact that babies actively encourage people to treat them to excitement is indication that they expect and require action upon which to develop. Hey mother sitting still will condition a baby to think of life as dull and slow and there'll be a restlessness in him and frequent promptings from him to encourage more stimulation. He will bounce up and down to show what he wants, or wave his arms to initiate a faster pace in her actions. Similarly, if she insists upon treating him as though he were fragile, she will suggest to him that he is. But if she handles him in a rough and offhand way, he will think of himself as strong, adaptable, and at home in a vast variety of circumstances. Feeling fragile is not only unpleasant but it interferes with the efficiency of the developing child and later of the adult.

(55)  When he does cry for some reason during a moment when a group of adults is in conversation, his mother hisses softly in his ear too distract him.  If this fails, she takes him away until he is quiet. She does not set her will against the infant’s, she exiles herself with him without showing any sign of judgment on his behavior or displeasure at being inconvenienced.

(55)  The notion that nature has evolved one species to suffer from indigestion every time it drinks its mother’s milk has, amazingly, not been questioned by civilized experts.

(67)  A capuchin monkey I brought back from my first expedition made a practice of eating as much of her banana (peeled and delivered to her by me) as she cared for at that sitting, and then, with a great air of doing nothing in particular, wrapped the remainder in a paper napkin, looking about as though unaware of what her hands were doing. She would then circle the area posing as a casual stroller, suddenly discover the mysterious package, and with a show of mounting excitement rip the covering from the treasure inside… she would then rewrap the worried banana in the torn bits of paper and begin her performance and new… I thought I was “saving her the trouble.”  But I did not then understand the continuum.  She followed her strongest impulse first and ate the food. Is that impulse diminished with satiety, the next strongest came to the fore. She wished to hunt.

(71)  The missing experiences of the in-arms phase, the consequent gap where his feelings of confidence ought to be, and his ineffable state of alienation will condition and influence all that he becomes, as he grows up around the rim of the abyss where his sense of self has been stunted.  

(76)  In children who have some lines of development going to ahead, while others hang back waiting for completion, the effect is to divide their motives: they are never able to want anything without also wanting to be the center of attention, never able to devote their minds singly when part of them still craves the mindless euphoria of an infant in the arms of someone who solves all problems.

(79)  If he is constantly watched and steered into moving where his mother thinks he ought to go, stopped and run after when self-motivated, he soon learns to stop being responsible for himself as she shows him what she expects.
        One of the deepest impulses in the very social human animal is to do what he perceives is expected of him.

(80)  Among the Yequana the attitude of the mother or caretaker of a baby is relaxed, usually attentive to some other occupation than baby-minding, but receptive at all times from the crawling or creeping adventurer. She does not stop her cooking for other work unless sure full attention is required.  She does not throw her arms open to the little seeker for reassurance, but then her calm, busy way, allows him the freedom of her person, or an arm support and ride on her hip if she is moving about.
       She does not initiate the contacts nor contribute to them except in a passive way..
       He neither demands nor receives her full attention, for he has no store of longings, no ancient hungers, to gnaw at his devotion to the here and now.

(83)  Before they can talk, boys are provided with Little bows and arrows that give valuable practice, as the arrows are straight and accurately reflect their skills.

(83)  A pre-talking child is perfectly able to make his needs clear, and there is no point in offering anything he does not require; the object of a child's activities, after all, is the development of self-reliance.  To give you either more or less assistance than he needs tend to defeat that purpose.

(84)  The assumption of innate sociality is at direct odds with the fairly universal civilized belief that a child's impulses need to be curbed in order to make him social.

(85)  A child with a full complement of in-arms experience Will have no need to beg attention in excess of his physical requirements, for he will not, like the children one has known in civilized circumstances, need reassurance to a affirm either his existence or his lovableness.

(90)  Perhaps as essential as the assumption of innate sociology in children and adults is a respect for each individual as his own proprietor. The notion of the ownership of other persons is absent among the Yequana.  The idea that this is “my child” or “your child” does not exist. Deciding what another person should do, no matter what his age, is outside the Yequana vocabulary of behaviors.  There is a great interest in what everyone does, but no impulse to influence - let alone coherece - anyone…The Yequana do not feel that a child's inferior physical strength and dependence upon them imply that they should treat him or her with less respect than an adult.

(108)  Laughter is impressively frequent in the young men often whoop joyously in chorus at the end of a good story, piece of news, or joke. This party atmosphere is the everyday norm… one of the most striking differences between the Yequana and any other children I’ve seen is that the former neither fight nor argue among themselves. There is no competitiveness, and leadership is established on the initiative of the followers. In the years I spent with them, I never saw a child to argue with another, Much less fight… although I have seen many a party at which every Yequana man, woman, and child, was drunk, I have never seen even the beginnings of an altercation, which makes one think they really are as they look - in harmony with one another and happily at home in their own skins.

(109)  The search for in-arms experience, takes on a great many forms. Loss of the essential condition of well-being that should have a grown out of one’s time in arms leads to searches in substitutions for it. Happiness ceases to be a normal condition of being alive, and becomes a goal…In-arms deprivation expresses itself perhaps most commonly as an underlying feeling of unease in the here and now. One feels off-center, as though something is missing; there is a vague sense of loss, of wanting something one cannot define. The wanting often attaches itself to an object or event in the middle distance; put into words, it would be “I’d be alright if only…” followed by some proposed change, like having a new suit, a new car, a promotion or raise in salary, a different job, a chance to go away either for a vacation or permanently.

(114)  The notion that fulfillment, the feeling of rightness, comes through competing and winning is an extension of what Freud called “sibling rivalry.”  It seemed to him that all of us had to cope with jealousy and hatred of our brothers and sisters, who threatened our exclusive access to our mothers.  But Freud had no undeprived people in his acquaintance. If he had had the opportunity to know the Yequana he would've found then the idea of competing and winning, As an end in itself, It's quite unknown to them. It cannot therefore be considered an integral part of the human personality. What a baby has had all he needs of experience in his mother's arms in parts with her of his own free will, it makes him able to tolerate with no difficulty the advent of the new baby in the place he has voluntarily left. There is no ground for rivalry when nothing he still requires has been usurped… the Yequana have no competitive games, Those are games. There is wrestling, But there is no championship, the constant practice of archery is always aimed at achieving excellence but never in competition with other boys, Nor is hunting a competitive matter among men. Their emotional life does not require it so their culture is not provide it…
    The same could be said of the pursuit of a novelty. It is so much a part of the present phase in our culture that are natural resistance to change has been distorted. It almost appears that it has been turned into a compulsion to change with the frequency so regular as to approach monotony or changelessness.
     The idea has from that very recently the newest way must be the best. Advertising has taken charge of fostering the novelty race. There is no rest, no respite. Nothing is ever allowed to be good enough, nothing ever satisfactory. Our underlying discontent is channeled into the desire for the latest things.
    
    - the anxiety of progress

(115)  Among the [new] things high on the list are those that save labor…When success as a passive baby has not been experienced, there is a penchant for button-pushing, for labor-saving, as an assurance that everything is being done for, and nothing expected, of the subject.  The act of pushing a button is akin to giving a signal to one’s caretaker, but can be done with confidence that one’s wish will be granted.  The impulse to work, necessarily a strong one in a healthy continuum, is stunted; it cannot develop properly in the barre soil of unreadiness to take care of oneself.  Work becomes what it is to most of us: a resented necessity.  And the labor-saving gadget gleams with a promise os lost comfort.  In the meantime, a solution to the discrepancy between the adult desire to utilize one’s abilities and the infantile desire to be useless is often found in something aptly called recreation.  

(137)  Man can survive in appallingly anti-continuum conditions, but his well-being, his joy, his fulfillment as a whole human being, can be lost.  

(137)  We are living lives for which our evolution did not equip us, and we are also handicapped, in our attempts to cope, by faculties crippled by personal deprivation.

(139)  The constant promise of a “better tomorrow” (without which our lives would seem so intolerable that we can scarcely imagine it) is of no interest to the members of an evolved, stable, proud, and happy society.

(141)  The human animal cannot really live with thousands or millions of others.

(142)  [upon arriving from long travel] They seated themselves not far away under a great round roof without a word to or from anyone, and they did not look at, or speak to, one another.  The residents came and went at various distances in the course of their normal business, but none gave so much as a glance to the visitors.  For about an hour and a half the two men sat motionless and silent; then a woman came quietly and placed some food on the ground before them and walked away.  The men did not reach immediately for the food, but after a moment ate some in silence.  The the bowls were taken quietly away and more time elapsed.
    Eventually, a man approached in a leisurely way and stood leaning against one of the roof poles behind the visitors.  After several moments he spoke, very softly, a few syllables.  Easily two minutes passed before the elder visitor answered, also briefly.  Again the silence closed over them.  When they spoke again it was as though each utterance was referred back to the reigning silence out of which it had come.  The personal peace and dignity of each man suffered no imposition.  As the exchange became more lively, others came, stood awhile, then joined in.  They all seemed to have a sense of the serenity of each man, which had to be preserved.  No one interrupted anyone else; emotional pressure was absent from any voice.  Every man remained balanced on his own center…The silences had not been a sign of the breakdown of communication but a time for each man to be at peace with himself and to be assured that the others were the same.
    When the men of the village went on long trips to trade with other indians, they were received, on their return, with the same procedure by the families and clansmen; left to sit in silence long enough to recapture the feel of village life, then casually approached without pressure or demonstrations of emotion.

(146)  A culture which requires people to live in a way for which the evolution has not prepare them, which does not fulfill their innate expectations and therefore pushes their adaptability beyond its limits, is bound to damage their personalities.
          One way of pushing the human personality too far is by depriving it of its minimum requirement for a variety of stimuli. The resulting loss of well-being takes the form called boredom. The continuum sense, by producing this unpleasant feeling, motivates the person to change what he's doing. We in civilization do not customarily feel we have a “right” not to be bored and so we spend years doing monotonous work in factories and offices, or alone all day doing uninteresting chores.

     - Fromm, Marcuse

(147)  It is perhaps and expression of their fulfilled personalities that they [the Yequana] feel so little need to make judgments upon one another and can so easily except individual differences.  It is observable among us as well that the more frustrated, the more alienated people are, the more they feel they must judge and distinguish between others as acceptable or unacceptable either on a personal basis or in groups, as in religious, political, racial, sex, or even age, conflict.
          Self-hate, resulting from not having been given the sense of one's own rightness in infancy, is a major basis for a irrational hatred.

(148)  A great part of our tragedy is that we have lost the sense of our “rights” as members of the human species. Not only do we accept boredom with resignation, but in innumerable other infringements upon what is left of our continuum after of of the ravages of infancy and childhood. We say, for example, “it is cruel to keep so large an animal in an apartment in town,” but we are speaking of dogs, never of people, who are even larger and more sensitive to their surroundings. We permit ourselves to be bombarded with noise from machinery, traffic, and other peoples radios, and expect to be treated rudely by strangers.  We are learning to expect to be despised by our children and to be irritated by our parents.  We accept living with gnawing insecurities not only about our own ability at work and socially, but very often about our marriages. We take it for granted that life is hard and feel lucky to have whatever happiness we get. We do not look upon happiness as a birthright, nor do we expect to be more than peace for contentment. Real joy, the state in which the Yequana spend much of their lives, is exceedingly rare among us.
    
    - The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

(149)  At a certain point in midlife we begin to tell ourselves that we have missed, for one reason or another, the chance to enjoy complete well being and must live with the consequences in a state of permanent compromise.

    - because the better life is always in the future in The Anxiety of Progress, but we’ll put up with this for now, only under the conditions of the promise of the second coming [of Christ, or of making more money, whichever].

(157)  At this moment in history, with our customs as they are, sleeping with one’s baby seems a wildly radical thing to advocate. And so, of course, does carrying him around, or having him held by someone, at every moment, asleep or awake. But in the light of the continuum and its millions of years, it is only our tiny history which appears radical in its departures from the long established norms of human and prehuman experience.

(158)  A very widely held view is that giving a baby or child too much attention Will prevent him from becoming independent and that carrying him about full time will weaken his self-reliance.  We have already seen that self-reliance itself comes from a completed in arms phase, but it is one in which the infant is always present but rarely the center of attention. He is simply there, in the midst of his caretaker’s life, constantly experiencing things, safely being held. When he leaves his mother’s knee and begins to crawl, creep, and walk about in the world beyond her body, he does so without interference (“protection”).  His mother's role then is to be available when he comes to or calls for her. It is not for her to direct his activities, nor protect him from dangers from which he would be fully capable of protecting himself if given the chance. This is perhaps the most difficult part of switching to continuum ways.  Each mother will have to trust her baby’s capability for self-preservation as far as she is able.
    The overprotected, weakened child is the one whose initiative has been constantly usurped by an over-eager mother [or father].