Interview with Michael Langevin (10/02/2008)

Have you been to Africa? I’ve just returned … let me share with you …

I have traveled from Istanbul, Turkey through much of Eastern and Western Europe, I have visited all fifty states, all the Canadian provinces and most countries in the Caribbean and Latin America. I had never been to Africa, but just recently I have returned from visiting some extreme areas of Africa. I spent most of my time in Sierra Leone and Uganda. Africa was a great deal like Latin America but for many reasons it even seemed more intense …maybe because I have returned to Latin America so often since college; but the people! there was a warmth and a genuine caring. The children whenever I put my hand down I had twenty smiling loving children holding my hand, and whenever I took out the video camera I had a large group of wonderful beautiful children dancing, singing and playing for the camera. Many of the people lacked school education but had an earthy common sense wisdom and an eloquence that was unique to my experiences. Not far from the cities the old tribal ways are alive and well. Most people live in mud adobe houses or mud and dung grass huts. Original beautiful colorful native is worn. Each region has tribal loyalties and tribal chiefs and elders. I never felt in danger or even concerned. The cities had no chain stores of any kind. Freetown Sierra Leone is still recovering from the war six years ago and has electricity only on occasions. Kampala, Uganda is more of your typical third world capital city overflowing with extremes. The five star hotels would work in Paris or Las Vegas and the slums work no where for nobody. Many of the people we met seem to suffer from post traumatic stress or victimhood mentality. Was it imperialism or the media? Whatever many are waiting for someone to help them and suffer from knowledge or motivation to start on their own? That sounds condescending and I do not mean it that way. The mentors 14 college graduates volunteering to help the poor people of Uganda were inspiring. They had begun successful creative programs to uplift, inspire, feed, educate and improve the less fortunate people of Uganda.

There is no denying Africa is intense! The jungle and plant life was so green and radiant. Where ever the water was not polluted the fish were more than plentiful and big and colorful. The insects were everywhere. The birds were loud and colorful and amazing. Vultures stood as tall as me. I fell in Love with Africa; if my finances worked I would joyously live there. It has haunted my dreams and most waking moments since my return. The poverty, lack of sanitation, lack of adequate schools or education, disease, sickness, lack of employment all are screaming for attention and improvements. We in the first world regardless of our economic meltdown have a responsibility to help. We can do better! We must do better! It may take months to sort it all out. My dreams overflow with new African friends and staccato images I witnessed. Coming home to U.S. culture is grating. I could not believe I was in Africa for two weeks and now I cannot believe I am home. The warmth of the people and the sweet unconditional love of the children haunt me as the lingering memories drift through my mind. The fact that not 100 miles out of the Capitals of both countries I visited people live in grass huts and follow tribal traditions is still beyond my imagination. The taste of Palm wine and the sound of African Songs linger in the taste buds of my mind. We saw no big game. We were completely dedicated to the research and documentation of the suffering in Africa. The contrast and similarities between Latin American and African spirituality is a subject I plan to explore in depth in the near future. Inca and Amazon shamanic beliefs focus on re-linking humanity with itself and with nature. Their living tradition believes that the divine resides in everything-the trees, land, and seas. Ancient Incas and Amazon shamans provided formulas for spiritual development through the renewal of nature-oriented rituals and practices derived from the pre-Christian spirituality that helped create and rule the Incan Empire and preserve the Amazon jungle for centuries. Africa’s ancient spiritual teachings seem to compliment and overlap greatly with what I have learned in Latin America. Then there are questions of the magic of dance, song, music, and art. How do Africa and Latin America compare in these areas? What are the responsibilities of the well off of the world towards the less fortunate of Latin America and Africa? How can we best help? What do computers, the internet and cell phones do to the spread of ancient magic and spiritual knowledge? Is there something that could be called Techno-shamanism evolving? Will technology bring Shamanism / ancient magic and spirituality into every ones living room and consciousness? Is the present economic collapse the end of US capitalism? Will people of the world wake up and co-create an economic system which is centered on a healthy existences for all people, an end of greed, peaceful co-existence with nature and a new understanding and use of magic, shamanism and spirituality.

By Michael Peter Langevin

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