MNN Column for January 2010

Some thoughts for the New Year:
--Yesterday, the last day of 2009, went out early in the canoe into Maunalua Bay into waters agitated by the full blue moon. We paddled out toward Portlock, through tricky water swells, with the adroit skills of the steersman Monte Costa. This is what I miss when I back in New Mexico and Oklahoma: being water and canoe, moving through the human field with my water mind.
--Geological time is much like Indian time. In such a wide-angle view of time, colonization has already happened. It was a failed experiment. It was a blip in real time, a tough lesson in the human storyline for everyone involved.
--We humans are small marks in time. It’s the ancestral field that makes a discernable design. Just ask the artists, the visionaries, and others who travel out into the memory field. Ask those who have maintained a tradition of taking care, and paying attention.
--It is difficult to proceed with dignity and grace when you have lost yourself and your children to a prevailing story that doesn’t include you. We are almost never visible in the story. We are almost never on television, in the movies, heard on the radio, seen on the Internet, or visible anywhere, except as powwow dancers, warriors on horseback, shy Indian princesses, or constructed of other images emerging from a past constructed by Hollywood or anthropologists.
--The worst part is that we often believe these images.
--The newest Hollywood attempt, Avatar, despite the 3-D effects and millions of dollars worth of techie shine is the same shameless “wannabe” story as the blockbuster, “Dances With Wolves”. The non-native protagonist literally inhabits an indigenous body as a spy on their naturalistic society, and becomes more native than the natives, winning the girl, all bravery contests, and then returns to lead them out of a holocaustic fire of colonial destruction.
--And while I’m on the subject of Hollywood, kudos to the new series on the Travel Channel, Meet the Natives: USA. Five men from a remote island of Tanna in the Pacific, who still live in a traditional manner are taken off the island to the U.S.. They ask many questions, such as: “Why are we so obsessed with money and possessions? Why do we treat our pets better than some of our fellow citizens? What does "family" mean to us? What do we do with our elderly? How come we make all our important decisions in bars? And what's the point of ironing a shirt?” Only half of what they say is translated. I can only imagine what they are saying to each other in their tribal language as they go to their first cocktail party in New York to “meet the WASP’s” What has really struck me as I’ve watched the series, is the humor and dignity of the travelers. Despite all the glitter and glam, they see the truth of the matter. They are happy to return home with their stories. I wonder if people still living so close to the heart of the earth can believe much of what was witnessed in the lifestyle of the U.S.?
--And New Year’s Eve watched the first ever of its kind native comedy show, Going Native: The American Indian Comedy Slam, a Showtime special featuring Charlie Hill, the Oneida comedian as MC and featured artist, and five other native comedians Larry Omaha, Howie Miller, J. R. Redwater, Marc Yaffee, Jim Ruel and Vaughn Eaglebear. As Hill pointed out in the introduction, laughter is truly a medicine and part of healing. They did an incredible job. Which leads me to my final thought:
--I look forward to the time when we each take our rightful place in the story. We must each assume our place, and believe in ourselves. Every sunrise marks a new year. Every breath is a decision to go forward. Might as well go forward with bravery, laughter, joy, grief, whatever it is, let it be exactly what it is, and most of all, be yourself.


MNN Column for December 2009 THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT

What it my imagination or did the Christmas season start earlier this year? I saw Christmas lights going up two weeks before Thanksgiving in Miami, Florida, and in the local Albuquerque stores Christmas came right after Halloween. I read this as fearful economics.
Basically economics is an exchange system. It describes the ebb and flow of what is materially valuable within individuals, families, clans and nations. Before the world cash markets we bartered. The money system grew from silver and gold mines, the lands and the labor of indigenous peoples of the Americas. It is a system that has sustained few yet required the labor of many. In our indigenous cultures it is morally unlawful to acquire wealth beyond need, and reprehensible to ignore the care of the needy.
A system created from trickery, sustained from the need of a few to control and own world markets is motivated by fear of not having or being enough. There will never be enough for the greedy. That kind of hunger is never satisfied. That hunger destroyed and dispossessed us from our original lands.
There is no separation between economics, social, political, or spiritual systems. Each is interconnected. The high rate of diabetes we are experiencing is directly related to crash and rally of the economic system. Each system within the whole either supports life, or it degenerates. For life to be sustained, whether it is a bio system like Earth, or a cultural system (each culture is an energetic system), there must be balanced flow in and out. To heal means addressing the source of the problem, to bring what is broken back into balance. It means changing the story.
We must return to the original teachings, which stress respect, dignity, creativity and forgiveness. In these teachings the power of the individual is a crucial denominator to the power of the whole. We must start at the root of meaning. What makes meaning that will sustain us? Does the acquisition and control of material goods by a few individuals serve all of us? How do we take care of what we have? And most of all, at the heart of the question is how we value who we are and who we are becoming.
We have to go back to the beginning of the story and remember why we are here and what we are truly about, as spirit beings that inhabit the earthly body. What do we need for true growth and fulfillment? How do we meet challenges? Do we take care of our resources? Are we generous? Do we take care of those who cannot care for themselves? Are we thinking and acting, with our descendents in mind?
We have to want the shift. We must acknowledge water and all of our resources as sentient beings and treat them as such. We must consider that our reason to be here is to serve each other, to be there in joy and sorrow. There is no room for laws that compel us to throw away our grandchildren, so there is more money for others. And perhaps most of all, we must take care of our collective imagination, to re-vision a system that will sustain and take care of all of us. We must create fresh stories and images that promote regenerative metaphor and meaning and give value to what matters. Artists, visionaries and those coming up feed the people with fresh images.
When you see the earth from the perspective of the guiding stars you know without question that we are one being, that what anyone thinks, speaks or acts grows the potential of the next generations. We then understand that no one can own the earth or what grows upon or within the earth, that there is enough for everyone. This is the true Christmas spirit. Imagine.