Friday, April 22, 2005

indigenous genius

The problem with not posting for a couple of days is that a backlog of insistent ideas develops...ah well...I'll get to them all eventually...or not...

Two more wonderful offerings from Chris Corrigan at Parking Lot. The first is from a seminar he attended given by Dr. Martin Brokenleg. There are a lot of powerful ideas in these notes. Here is an excerpt that is resonating powerfully for me right now:

"People need four experiences to create strong spirit and these have been corrupted in Western mainstream society:
  • Know you are significant. You can’t communicate this in words, only in experiences. In western culture we substitute individualism for significance.
  • Know that we are competent. We substitute winning for competence.
  • Know we are personally powerful. We substitute domination for power.
  • Know our own goodness. We substitute affluence for goodness.

In First Nations cultures we capture these with Belonging, Mastery, Independence and Generosity."

Significance...well, if you've ever read any Roland Barthes you know how deep this word goes...originally from the Latin significantia "meaning, force, energy". As opposed to individual, again from the Latin, in- "not" + dividuus "divisible The question immediately arises in my mind...Not divisible by what? Or from what? This is an untenable proposition from any angle. No matter how you dice me...I am utterly divisible...I am frequently of at least two minds...I meditate...believe ought to hear the outrageous racket that goes on in here... My individual atoms and their constituent gluons, muons, leptons and quarks are flowing in and out all the time...even my skeleton replaces itself frequently on a quantum level...A society based on in-divisible beings...hard, solid, single...kind of like billiard balls...oh. I see. Now I understand all the bruises...

Significance...meaning and energy. That sounds like something I can live for. Meaning is established in connection...with others, with world. Meaning is only possible when others matter--it grows from interdependence. And flows from an inner spaciousness--a spaciousness that grows from a still centre--a centre that connects heart, soul and action. No-mind, to use the Zen phrase.

Competence from the Latin competere-to coincide, agree. The Old English form is dohtig -- doughty, which disappears from usage around the 17th century. Just before the Industrial Revolution...interesting hmmm? Ultimately the Old English root means, "to be of use". Which interestingly is my business model and motto... So that gives us, to be of use, to coincide, to agree...sounds like choosing competence is to choose to live a congruent life of benefit to others. Winning is such a fragile and temporary state in comparison...hard to define and producing a path marked by pain, unease, anxiety, dissatisfaction, fear, and isolation...oh. I see.

Power with or power over. That's the choice. Make it. I can't do this justice here. For a great treatment of it see Starhawk's "Truth or Dare".

Goodness or Affluence. Originally affluence meant flowing--as in plentiful flow...the gifts of fortune. Now it has become inextricably entwined with effluence...the garbage and waste of rampant consumer culture. Interestingly, the first use of affluence to mean "wealth" was in 1603. Hmmm. Goodness, as in worth, as in fitness, usefulness. To know in your soul that you are of worth is priceless. To know that the world is in some way better by your thoughts and actions is a path to happiness and fulfillment. To live in harmless loving connection or heart-and-soul-clogging greed...Our choice...

The second gem from Chris...

"Here is a powerful idea from Australian Aboriginal playwright Jack Davis about how to reconnect kids with nature:

It's quite simple...give us love of country whether white or black. Give every kid at school something to protect of our flora and fauna. "OK,you look after the beetles...the quokka, the ladybugs...that's your totem."

I love this idea. It has immense appeal on so many levels. I immediately started thinking...what animals would our family choose...One of my sons is named Rowan, so we could adopt the Rowan tree. Another son has Peregrin in his name, so we could adopt the Peregrine Falcon. But what about the rest of us...I know that when I ask I will get any number of suggestions...mostly dinosaurs if I'm not way off the mark. I thought at first that could pose a problem...Dinosaurs are already extinct and beyond our capacity to help or injure them...Then I thought again and maybe dinosaurs would be good to add to the mix. They could represent the spirit of the ancestors...lessons from history and pre-history. My personal favourite would be dragons. I know...I can't save them...but they can represent imagination, energy and strength, qualities we need to nurture too. I could adopt dragonflies...they've been around for about 300 million years...gotta be some lessons there!

I want to express my gratitude to Chris for making these ideas available to a wider audience. You take amazing notes!

I also want to express my gratitude to another benefactor. Over ten years ago, Celeste George, an indigenous woman, took time out of her own struggle to teach a group of us white folk about power and privilege and how we could unlearn racism. Her lessons went deep and I will be forever grateful to her for her generousity of spirit, courage and patience.

I have been amazed and humbled over and over again by the spirit of indigenous people. It brings to mind the quote by Martin Luther King Jr.

"To our most bitter opponents we say: ‘We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We shall meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will, and we shall continue to love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws, because noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.

Throw us in jail, and we shall still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and we shall still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our community at the midnight hour and beat us and leave us half dead, and we shall still love you.

But be ye assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. One day we shall win freedom, but not only for ourselves. We shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory.’"

Peace to you all,


1 comment:

Chris said...


See you tomorrow.