Here is the full transcript of filmmaker and photographer Phil Borges’ TEDx presentation on Psychosis or Spiritual Awakening at TEDxUMKC conference.
Listen to the MP3 Audio: Psychosis or Spiritual Awakening by Phil Borges at TEDxUMKC conference
Good evening. One of the things I love about visiting indigenous cultures is it lets me step back in time and see how we all lived centuries ago. And in doing that, I’ve noticed so many things — things that we’ve gained, and things that we’ve lost.
And one of the things I’ve really noticed is the fact that our relationships are much different. And first of all, our relationships to the land. In indigenous cultures, there is no grocery store, in tribal cultures, especially, no utility districts, no water districts, no fast food restaurants. Nothing stands between them and their survival other than their own ingenuity and their own knowledge of the earth. And they have a very intimate knowledge of the Earth. And it’s always astonished me.
This one Hawaiian woman who was at the beach, and I met her. And she saw this crab flipping out of the sand, out of the hole. And she said, “Look, the sand is going to the North. There’ll be coming a storm tomorrow.” And sure enough, there comes the storm, shows up tomorrow. So, their knowledge — they’re more or less the PhDs of their place on the planet.
The other relationship that I’ve noticed that is so tight is their relationships to each other. Again, they don’t have the institutions. They don’t have social security. They don’t have an IRA or 401(k) Plan. They don’t have elder-care facilities. They completely depend on each other for their survival. And that produces a real tightness.
I’ve noticed women at a well in Africa, for instance, they’re sitting around, joking and talking, they are nursing their babies. And the woman that needs to go get the water will take her baby and pass it to another woman, she’ll start nursing it. That woman will see her goat run off and she’ll pass the baby to a third woman and she’ll start nursing it. So those kids are kind of even raised communally. They live in extended families, and that brings a real tightness.
The other relationship that I want to talk about tonight is their relationship to spirit. And it’s a very strong one. So, this is Malick, and her great granddaughter, Jasmina. And they spend all their time together. 14 hours a day working in the garden. And I’ve seen this in Africa, Asia, South America, and I ask, “Why are these two people so different, together all the time? There is this big age difference.” And they said, “No, no. You don’t understand. Jasmina is just about coming out of the spirit-world, and Malick is just about to go back into the spirit-world.” So they really do have the most in common. And they literally pray to the spirits of the forests, the mountains, the rivers; they put spirits in everything. Their ancestors’ spirits are so important to them.
So, in the beginning I sort of looked at this as superstition, uneducated, naive-thinking. And over the last 30 years I’ve slowly changed. And I want to talk you a little bit about how that change came about.
So, about 25 years ago, I was doing a project in Tibet on their human-rights issue there, and I had the opportunity to go and meet the Medium, the channels, the Oracle of Tibet, the Dalai-Lama’s oracle. And it took place in this little monastery. And there were about 16 monks in there, they led Medium in, sat him down, put this big hat on his head, and a very heavy hat, his face turned kind of red, the monks started chanting and beating their drums. And he kind of went into this trance, and he started talking in a real high-pitch voice. And the monks started writing down everything he was saying, and then, after about 5 minutes of that, he fainted, and they literally had to carry him out of the room. And I just watched this, and I was just wondering: is this a performance? Did he have a heart attack?