Living beyond who we think we are in both impermanence and eternal renewal 

Two of my favorite Native Americans I have researched and followed are the lives and thoughts of Red Cloud of the Oglala Sioux and Chief Joseph of the Nez Pierce.

To the left is a vision that Black Elk saw that foretold the future of his people. He was a Sioux Holy Man whose family had been spiritual guides for generations. He was at both Wounded Knee and the Little Big Horn battle. The image appears in the book, Black Elk Speaks.

Their connection and love of nature and the land as the holy spirit that permeates nature and the history of their people… and who we should be emulating and thinking about as a country. Ah Thanksgiving… 

This time of year as we gather to give thanks… but to what and to who are we giving thanks to? Just who are we as people and to who and what are we connected to? It often begins by our seeing beyond ego and a distorted sense of self-importance to the detriment of others. I think of my ancestors on my mother’s side who migrated from Scotland and England in the early 1700’s to Virginia and Carolina and are said to have married into the local Indians and later went to Texas. They had much to be thankful for opportunities found in America looking for a better life. 

Sometimes when I write it is as though the words write themselves. Many times, as I write the words just come. I often ask myself “where did that come from.” Could it be nothing more than an overactive imagination, or something more with writing only stopping to catch my breath over and over again. 

Who are the models that shape our behavior? Who and what do we look for? It begins by looking beyond what we think we already know to what guides our thoughts and actions. Looking to our institutional memory to that which sparks our behavior. To begin to emulate what we have always known and simply forgotten. Who is it that speaks to and for us across the ethos and our inherent nature and does it matter? What is it that inspires us to think and act beyond who we think we are in the present to who we will be in the future and do we care. With a willingness to tap into the past telling us who we have always been. 

I like what Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh says about training ourselves to handle our sadness or anger, and to listen with compassion and to use loving speech. If you can learn how to transform your anger, sadness, and despair, and if you can learn how to use loving speech and deep listening, you can become a real hero capable of bringing happiness to many people. – To this I would add, how do we do this? It is when we commit ourselves to not settling for the status quo and to lifelong learning. 

So much of Eastern Philosophy, the confluence of Buddhism and Taoism combined with the virtue conveyed by Confucius, has for thousands of years served to have us see and model our behavior beyond what we think we know. There is a collective wisdom that permeates this thinking.

The year is 1000AD. The picture depicts Lao Tzu, Buddha, and Confucius tasting a vat of vinegar. Not that they were happy at first with the mix but knowing that together they were a strong remedy for the Chinese people.

History teaches us that when western thinkers tapped into this – people like Tolstoy, Emerson, and Watt – that there was a conveyance of joy, love, and virtue that was like that found in Indigenous people everywhere the world over. What was to become called transcendentalism.  

Like that of Red Cloud and Chief Joseph. Doing that which enhances and supports our inherent nature from within so that the words and thoughts come streaming forth from us are meant to define our path. 

I especially like studying the writing of Joseph Campbell, his study of the history of Indigenous peoples the world over, and his thoughts that we are to find and follow our bliss.

That we are not alone in this quest to see beyond the moment as we look to where our instincts carry and take us. That there are guides everywhere in nature propelling us to our highest endeavor. It is like asking who are we listening to and where are we going? Most importantly, what are they telling us? Thinking back to the beginning… where are the words that define our lives we are writing taking us? 



By 1dandecarlo

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