Saturday, September 18, 2010

Inhabiting Paradise - 12


The Lakota knew that man's heart, away from nature, becomes hard; he knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon led to lack of respect for humans, too.
-Luther Standing Bear




Chickasaw poet, novelist, and essayist Linda Hogan writes:

Emptiness and estrangement are deep wounds, strongly felt in the present time, as if we are living in an incomplete creation. We have been split from what we could nurture, what could fill us. And we have been wounded by a dominating culture that has feared and hated the natural world, has not listened to the voice of the land, has not believed in the inner worlds of human dreaming and intuition, all things that have guided indigenous people since time stood up in the east and walked this world into existence. It is a world of maintained connection between self and land.

The best hunters of the far north still find the location of their prey by dreaming. In Maps and Dreams by anthropologist Hugh Brody, one informant says, "Maybe you don't think this power is possible. Few people understand. The old-timers who were strong dreamers knew many things that are not easy to understand....The fact that dream-hunting works has been proved many times." Maps of the land are revealed in dreams, and the direction of deer.

...many of us in this time have lost the inner substance of our lives and have forgotten to give praise and remember the sacredness of all life. But in spite of this forgetting, there is still a part of everyone that is deep and intimate with the world. We remember it by feel. We experience it as a murmur in the night, a longing and restlessness we can't name, a yearning that tugs at us. For it is only recently, in earth time, that the severing of the connections between people and land have taken place. Something in our human blood is still searching for it, still listening, still remembering. Nicaraguan poet-priest Ernesto Cardenal wrote, "We have always wanted something beyond what we wanted." I have loved those words, how they speak to the longing place inside us that seeks to be whole and connected with the earth....


In the traditional belief systems of native people, the terrestrial call is the voice of God, or of gods, the creative power that lives on earth,inside earth, in turtle, stone, and tree. Knowledge comes from, and is shaped by, observations and knowledge of the natural worlds and natural cycles....

From the European perspective, land and nature have been changed to fit human concepts, ideas, and abstractions.

The Western belief that God lives apart from earth is one that has takenus toward collective destruction. It is a belief narrow enough to forget the value of matter, the very thing that soul inhabits. It has created a people who are future-sighted only in a limited way, not in terms of taking care of the land for the future generations.

Reflecting on the destruction of the Americas, I can only think that the European invaders were threatened by the vast store of tribal knowledge,and by the land itself, so beautiful and unknown to them in its richness. Though they described it as "heaven" and "paradise," they set about destroying it. For the people described as gentle and generous,the genocide that began in the fifteenth century has been an ongoing process....

If endings are foreshadowed by their beginnings, or are in some way the same thing, it is important that we circle around and come back to look at our human myths and stories, not only the creation accounts but stories of the end. Unlike the cyclic nature of time for the Maya, the Western tradition of beliefs within a straight line of history leads to an apocalyptic end. And stories of the end, like those of the beginning, tell something about the people who created them. These are prophecies believed to be God-inspired.

In her article, "Extinction," Lynda Sexson writes:

We are so accustomed to myths (sacred stories) of extinction, that we are not as practical at imagining the greater gap - continuation....

Would the earth or our existence on it be in such peril if we did not harbor a profound desire for extinction? "They lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick," resonates Isaiah.

The crisis of Western culture is ecological. The source of that crisis is in Western culture's own version of reality; the myth of the urge to eradicate: earth and images of earth, body and song.

Without deep reflection, we have taken on the story of endings, assumed the story of extinction, and have believed that it is the certain outcome of our presence here. This belief has brought us to a point of no return, to the near realization of that belief. And from this position, fear, bereavement, and denial keep us in the state of estrangement from our natural connection with the land.

Maybe we need new stories, new terms and conditions that are relevant to the love of the land, a new narrative that would imagine another way, to learn the infinite mystery and movement at work in the world. And it would mean we become the corn people who are givers of praise and nurturers of creation, lovers of life. There must be nothing that gives us permission to let some lives pass from sight and disappear forever,no acceptance of an end, and we must remember that all places are places of creation.

-excerpts from "Creations" by Linda Hogan

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