chief washakie, shoshoni, 1880
Watched WIND RIVER today, a story of a white boy in 1850s Utah who ran away from home, the life on the farm herding sheep, and went to live among the Shoshones. He lived among them a couple years and returned to the farm. Then he became the original pony express rider. A true story. Perhaps the aspect of the movie, besides white boy lives with Indians, my childhood escape fantasy, is the Indians always say things that come from wisdom, like, 'The mind understands, but the heart cannot speak.' That was spoken 2 or 3 times. I saw it twice, so I'm thinking in more multiples than are in one viewing. All through my life I've read about various Indian cultures, the Indian wars, and have always pulled for the Indians knowing they lose in the end. In childhood, I felt I was at war with whiteness. All the sayings of Indians, like, 'White man speaks with forked tongue,' I lived with in my mind as educated representations of the arrogance of my race, which nobody I knew who was white had any idea these sayings from 'savages' defined.
The boy was played by young actor (then, 1998) Blake Heron and the old chief Washakie played by Russell Means. I especially liked that the Indians were played by Indians instead of white guys in wigs like in the 50s movies I grew up seeing. I know movies create expectations of a people I know nothing about, such that when I, say, become acquainted with an Indian, it turns out they're just people. And I'm a great deal bored by the term Native American. They were not Americans. They were Turtle Islanders. America didn't happen until the white tsunami took the land. They are not Indians either, because Columbus did not discover India. He found Puerto Rico or one of the islands around there, where he created inadvertent genocide spreading diseases the natives had no immunity to, like later all over the continent Turtle Island.
One way of looking at it, I feel grief and sorrow for the Turtle Island people, for their culture, for their wisdom, strength, spirituality, understandings of the ways of the living, their readiness to face death. In our culture we think like told in the song by Peter Tosh, Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die. Fear of death characterizes white people like absence of fear characterizes the Turtle Islanders. Surely, it was not absolute with them, like it is not absolute among us. The Turtle Islanders have lived on this continent for thousands of years and about all the traces we find are arrow heads, mounds, and pottery shards. Europeans from Western Civ come in and trash the place coast to coast within a hundred years, and the momentum of trashing one continent led to the trashing of the others for their mineral resources.
See the movie INDEPENDENCE DAY. It's Hollywood pop made for 4th grade intelligence American pop culture plays to, but it has a very great deal to say. The space ships from another place are making a wasteland of earth mining it for every mineral on its surface and below. All humans are threatened, civilization is threatened and there appears to be no defense. Until an old drunk crop-duster pilot in his old bi-plane flies into the only vulnerable spot on the space ship and destroys it, saving humanity and the earth from further ravages. The Ghost Dance toward the end of the Indian wars was an attempt to save the Turtle Islanders from the invaders, but it didn't work.
By now, so many cultures all over the earth have disappeared, died out even to memory and artifacts, civilizations galore gone forever in their graves archaeologists may or may not find, ever. Perhaps it's the impermanence of everything on earth that causes the feeling of sorrow I feel over the passing of the Turtle Island ways of life. Perhaps it comes from compassion for the destruction of those people who essentially are just like us. They like sex. They like to play. They like to fight. They like good food. They love and care about each other like we do, perhaps moreso in some cases and less in others. They have every kind of character among them, like we do.
On the other hand, there is the raising of collective consciousness, which is ongoing throughout all humanity on the earth, from beginnings 50,000 or so years ago. For our individual development, we need to experience all the different kinds of people, all the varieties of living. It's about developing the soul's understanding. Our cosmologies, like round earth, gravity, evolution, relativity, are giant steps in collective human understanding. Kids today laugh at the thought of somebody believing the earth is flat. Religion stands in the way of each one until the obvious begins to take over and religion has to accept. It's taken about 500 years since discovery, scientifically, for everybody on earth to understand the earth is not a table at God's bedside, but a marble flying through space among uncountable other flying marbles. Old beliefs, old customs, old traditions have to fall away with the emergence of new cosmologies as we collectively climb the ladder of consciousness.
The old belief that God was just the other side of the clouds got the axe when we had airplanes and found that the other side of the clouds is more sky, atmosphere. We have the Hubble telescope now to photograph galaxies and planets so far away our telescopes on the ground can't see them through atmosphere. And still, they haven't found God out there. Maybe he's now beyond the universe. The hilarity is that 2000 years ago Jesus told us the Kingdom of Heaven is within. 2000 years of believers in Jesus and we're still looking for God the other side of the clouds, praying to God the other side of the clouds, even though he's receded to the other side of the universe, and beyond. Why is that even a concern? He was saying it's not in the night sky that's called the Heavens, it's within. All that universe, everything beyond the clouds, everything this side of the clouds is within. We have 2000 years of religion saying it's some unknown place out there. Jesus, the one who knows the ways of heaven and earth says it's within. Pretty good authority in my way of seeing.
Let's look at the earth as a playground for the soul, school for the soul, advancing knowledge, advancing understanding. Early in my time with Meher Baba I had a very difficult time accepting love as something valuable to me. Until the moment I saw in one of his discourse that understanding is the same as love. I found my door. To connect with the love within, I needed a ladder. Understanding was something I could do. I chose to take the path of understanding toward love, because it was within reach. Now I can look at the advance of collective understanding, which takes a lot of centuries and cosmologies, as the step by step walk toward love within, the kingdom of heaven within. Love is the kingdom of heaven. I can't say I live there, but have had glimpses, moments of understanding that equals compassion that equals love. This is where we're going collectively, by way of understanding to the Kingdom of Heaven. Civilizations come and go, but they are only vehicles, schools. What's real continues to grow, it grows through civilizations and beyond. This way I don't mourn the Turtle Islanders or my own impermanence.