Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Ecology of Repentance III

As education and religion become oriented more and more towards utility and technology, there is a proportional devaluation of those people who have a different vision, who step, however falteringly, to the same rhythms trod by the Lakota. These non-aboriginal people are doubly disadvantaged. Unlike the Lakota, they have no people, no tribal group or unbroken tradition with whom they share this vision of reality and to whom they can turn for support. There is no fish camp, no sweat lodge, no one to perform for them the ceremony of the healing of tears. Without these, they feel isolated, uneasy, full of self-doubt; they are despised by industrialized society as dreamers, inadequates, failures.

And they experience the tragic consequences of aboriginal people, existing under similar conditions: unemployment, or, at best, rote office or factory work. Confinement and fragmentation of time and space literally kills them. Without luck and cunning—and such people are notoriously lacking in street smarts—many end up in the same cycle of wrecked and foreshortened lives. Such people used to find refuge in monasteries or the hermit life. But monasteries have been forced to compromise with the relentless economic juggernaught and have always been subject to “spiritual” utilitarianism, while authentic solitude has become difficult, if not impossible, to find.

To return to ourselves to receive the gift of ourselves—all of ourselves, body and soul, inner and outer—to repent of our destruction of the gift of Creation, we need to remember that all humanity, not just the groups we designate as “Native American” or “aboriginal,” evolved as an integral part of a planetary ecosystem. In spite of the claims of some aboriginal people who say that Euro-Americans cannot possibly understand these things, somewhere within the most jaded urban dweller are the dormant sensibilities with which human beings are equipped to survive, to flourish in the wilderness. It is these sensibilities that we must reawaken through repentance if we are to be able not only to survive but to flourish in the coming time of austerity—and it is coming—realizing at the deepest level that living more simply is not a cause for rage at deprivation, but can be an opportunity to recover joy.

'Creation' Magazine, September 1992


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