Tags: philosophy

The Quandry of Gods

It's tough when you get into magic just like it is tough when you get into science. They have a different perspective than the moral one we are taught. How can I put this...

Humans are a species of animal, and thus are subject to the same things: birth, death, eating, pooping, fighting, mating, all of it. It comes with the body. Ecology teaches us every habitat has a carrying capacity for every species. We have been able to expand carry capacity for our species by outcompeting (destroying) other competing species (bears, wolves, sabertooths, weeds) and by manipulating species that benefit us, at first through protection from other predators, taming them, doctoring them, breeding them for preferable traits (more meat and wool), culling those with less desirable traits, and by social organizations and hierarchies that benefit us and our own social group at the expense of competing human groups (Rome expanding by defeating the Celts and Euroamericans expanding by defeating Indian tribes, etc.)

On top of that, we expand carrying capacity for our species by improving medical technology so that people recover from injuries and infections that in the old days would have killed us, including babies live that would have died (and mothers who would have died in childbirth) and our moral side sides with this as a good thing, but people live and reproduce and carry on genes that are defective to the point where one can see in the future more and more people could not give birth without medical assistance, or organs that are outside the body at birth will become more common as natural selection has been subverted. There was always tension between the human brain getting bigger and the size of a mother's pelvis that had to pass that large skulled baby, and biology resulted in a baby's skull that could compress (hinge) at birth for easier passage and a larger pelvis in the female than the male. Still, some women died and so natural selection killed the women and babies who did not have the head that could pass the pelvic opening. Then indigenous people came up with herbal medicines that relaxed the mother and techniques to ease the baby out and lives were saved, both baby and mother. Then the Cesarean technique is invented and the baby doesn't even have to go through the pelvic opening anymore. Lives are saved, mother and baby. Nature is once more "defeated." Now it is to the point that because of liability and insurance and all the rest, hospitals routinely use Cesarean birth. All fine and good as long as technology is still supported. However, women with smaller pelvises now can give birth successfully, more and more, and babies carry on small-pelvis genes more and more. And one can see where it is all "heading" (pardon the pun). If our technology and social systems fail (as all civilizations eventually do), and the further in the future that this happens, when one can no longer safely perform a Cesarean, many more mothers and babies will die during childbirth, at a higher rate than normal, because our technology took the place of natural selection.

Right or wrong, moral or immoral or amoral, this is how nature works.

We have had an agricultural revolution, not just through plant selection and genetics, but through very cheap and abundant oil, used for the pesticides, herbicides, manufacture of large machines, the fuel for those large machines, the transport of crops, the processing of those crops into food, the transport of that food to stores, the powering of those stores, and so on. And the oil must be CHEAP and ABUNDANT to sustain this system. If it is abundant but not cheap, that's a problem. If it is cheap but not abundant, it is a problem. Nuclear energy, coal, gas, hydropower, windpower, all can produce electricity, including for vehicles, but those things cannot substitute as the source of plastics, of physical medicines, of lubricants for machines, of oil-based chemicals for fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. You can't make a pesticide out of electricity.

The further you kick the can down the road, the bigger the problems become.
Is it more immoral for a mother and baby to die in childbirth now...or ten thousand mothers and babies a thousand years from now?
Is it more immoral for a man to starve now....or ten thousand men to starve a thousand years from now?
We have bumbled into playing the roles of gods and nature itself, in our small acts and technologies.

About 15-20 years ago, I had a computer game called "SimEarth." In one of the variations in this game, you had to bring mankind into civilization and then see how long you could keep it going before civilization collapsed, due to disease, hunger, war, or other disaster. There were different categories you could allocate "energy" to, including medicine, technology, philosophy, food, and so on. If you allocated most of your limited energy to food, then population swelled and eventually war resulted or disease. If you allocated medicine to fight the disease, then the population swelled further, and you ran out of energy for food and for medicine, and then war or disease overcame the rest anyways. So what was the point of philosophy? It didn't "do" anything. I tried every combination I could think of, but I was never able to get civilization to last more than a couple of hundred or a thousand years. Populations increased as people lived longer and better lives, but there was a limit and after that, a crash.

But reading the directions, philosophy included the ability to accept mortality as a condition of existence. So I brought the energy for philosophy way up, and brought it way down for food, for technology and for medicine. People died more frequently now, but at a sustained regular low rate, rather than the cycles of crashes and booms. Philosophy brought acceptance and stability within a society, and also decreased wars between societies (wars became like disease.. smaller, regular events with fewer and frequent deaths). Doing it this way, more energy to philosophy and less to food, medicine and technology, I was able to get my civilization to last 10,000 years, which was the limit of the game itself.

That's a big step, and as a species, I don't see that happening now or in a hundred years. Maybe not a thousand years. Ten thousand years? Who knows?

Which is better? Which is more immoral? To see people you love die around you more frequently, or to have millions more die in a big event? What a choice.

Genesis 2:16. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
...Genesis 3:4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: 5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

There is no turning back.

Don't Give Up

I think we can begin working our way back to a more mystical experiencing of the world around us. For example, through whatever religion or belief system you have, or through nature and the wonders around us every day. For example, I see the world around me as alive, all of it: people, animals, plants, the land, the sky, the water, all of it possessing a spirit and the breath of life.

That's how I was raised and that's how I experience the world, and how I interact with it. This is not always easy, considering the bustling world we all live in today, which certainly does not see the land and sky and water as alive, and mainly sees animals and plants as resources to be used as we wish to, and in fact, often sees even people as expendable things to be used and discarded.

I was raised both as a Catholic and in my Native American traditions, and although science is an integral part of my understanding of the material world, it is also innate within me to see things in a mystic way of everything being alive and having the rights to exist as they are. As I am an artist, that is also part of what I am, seeing beyond the appearances of things.

It has been a lifelong quest of mine to synthesize these often contradictory points of view I have been raised with and exposed to, in a way that makes sense for me, and which honors the truths found in each. It has been quite a "wrasslin' match" at times though, that's for sure! There are people in my life who don't like what science has to say, about human evolution for example ("I didn't come from no monkey!") and who see spirits in their own lives, and there are other people in my life who think belief in a living animistic world with spirits is nuts. Yet we all in the end have to find our own road, what makes sense to us.

So don't give up the search for balance in your life, between existing in the world of jobs and school and all that, and the more ancient worlds of spirit, nature, and family/ancestors.

Guerilla Forest Gardening

"All of these pieces of land represent and exemplify humans innate ability to
conquer, divide, categorize, map, and privatize the Earth. The more radical
implications of guerrilla gardening is that it calls into question the land use
of today's modern world. With the rise of modern industrial society, and the
accumulation of mass amounts of riches by the ruling class, land that
historically had been held and treated as a commons, has effectively been
divorced from the people who benefited and cared for the land the most. When
common, everyday people lose access to land, they become enslaved and dependent
upon the industrial machine that is destroying human culture and the land base
that supports all of us. Not that long ago (at least in the historical long
view) when the planet had a smaller population and people had a greater hand in
the production of their food – the commons – whether that be forest, pasture,
prairie, or wetlands, contributed greatly to the food in their diets and
personal autonomy in their lives."
http://autonomyacres.wordpress.com/2013/03/30/guerrilla-forest-gardens/

Cultural (Mis)appropriation

The problem of cultural misappropriation, well, there's a lot to learn about, through the example of the sweatlodge deaths in Colorado. I'm an enrolled member of the Iowa tribe. I have seen over and over certain situations.

For example, if you are having a sweat, say, a nonnative person wants to participate. So you might say ok, if you are friends or at least know them. So they go, try to follow what is told to them, what to do. It's a good thing. A blessing. But then the next thing you know, this person is running a sweat themselves, without having been given the training, the right and responsibility, because it comes with both. It's like a pipe, not everyone in an Indian community is a pipecarrier, but every white guy or woman who is interested, thinks by definition, they have the capacity and the RIGHT to do it. Indians don't think that. Not every native person is a shaman, so why does every white person think they can be one? A shaman mainly serves the community.

..ok, so let's go back to that first guy who went to a sweat. Now that guest suddenly decides he has the knowledge to run a sweat. To make things worse, he starts charging people MONEY to go to it. (Isn't that what this culture is all about anyways? Money and the SELF?) That's the next stage. That lack of being humble. That greed. Now this guy calls himself some Indian/native sounding name, and he (or SHE) is running workshops to TRAIN OTHERS. A guy who had no training, now he purports to train others and charge hundreds of dollars, maybe linked workshops that add up to thousands of dollars. Sounding like cultural misappropriation yet? But wait, that's not the final stage.

The final stage is when this guy, maybe he calls himself Red Buffalo Thunder or something, he starts collecting his followers like some kind of guru, has workshops, has written a couple of books, has a 501(c)(3), etc. And THEN he starts criticizing the very same Indians who out of kindness, invited him in the first place. He starts saying how they really don't understand the truth, or that they misunderstand things, they don't do it the right way, that they have no right to say anything about him because he has his rights, dontcha know? That the INDIANS are the ignorant, bad ones because they tell him he should be doing that, that he is doing cultural misappropriation.

Now, do you understand? No, I figure some might and some still won't. They will still justify their rights, to do what they want, make the money they want, and write the books they want. And then people wonder why Indians don't want to talk to them anymore... Except of course for those Indians who have become shysters themselves, raking in the bucks themselves from ignorant nonIndians so eager to get some real Indian spirituality. Sad.

The intent in the guy's heart from Colorado (I was corrected, the event was in Sedona...figures!) was about money obviously. Having said that, the other part is that when you do those things, you assume a spiritual role of responsibility in that person's life...not being a big shot or a boss or a guru, but someone who is responsible for them. And whatever blowback occurs. It amazes me when people get mad about a priest or minister "having authority" and the same people go running to someone else who bosses them around spiritually.

But the main thing is, hey, if you are doing any of that stuff in private, for yourself, only, and you are experimenting with your own spiritual path, that's on you. Fine. That's between you and the spirits, you and the Creator. The problem comes when you (anyone, not talking about "you") assume any role of responsibility for others, or representing yourself as a spiritual leader.

I am not a spiritual leader. But I am also not a spiritual follower. As my uncle Herman Bearcomesout once told me, it's all out there, in the land, where it came from, look there. As the Hawaiians say, "Nana I Ke Kumu" (Look to the Source).

What to Do as You Find Yourself at the End of the World

My own thoughts, about apocalyptic thinking and what one can do about the mess we are in, are very much in line with the recent essay here:

"Dark Ecology: Searching for truth in a post-green world." By Paul Kingsnorth.
Published in the January/February 2013 issue of Orion magazine
http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/7277/

Kingsnorth essentially has come to the following ideas, which I excerpt here:

"And so I ask myself: what, at this moment in history, would not be a waste of my time? And I arrive at five tentative answers:

One: Withdrawing. If you do this, a lot of people will call you a “defeatist” or a “doomer,” or claim you are “burnt out.” They will tell you that you have an obligation to work for climate justice or world peace or the end of bad things everywhere, and that “fighting” is always better than “quitting.” Ignore them, and take part in a very ancient practical and spiritual tradition: withdrawing from the fray. Withdraw not with cynicism, but with a questing mind. Withdraw so that you can allow yourself to sit back quietly and feel, intuit, work out what is right for you and what nature might need from you. Withdraw because refusing to help the machine advance—refusing to tighten the ratchet further—is a deeply moral position. Withdraw because action is not always more effective than inaction. Withdraw to examine your worldview: the cosmology, the paradigm, the assumptions, the direction of travel. All real change starts with withdrawal.

Two: Preserving nonhuman life. The revisionists will continue to tell us that wildness is dead, nature is for people, and Progress is God, and they will continue to be wrong. There is still much remaining of the earth’s wild diversity, but it may not remain for much longer. The human empire is the greatest threat to what remains of life on earth, and you are part of it. What can you do—really do, at a practical level—about this? Maybe you can buy up some land and rewild it; maybe you can let your garden run free; maybe you can work for a conservation group or set one up yourself; maybe you can put your body in the way of a bulldozer; maybe you can use your skills to prevent the destruction of yet another wild place. How can you create or protect a space for nonhuman nature to breathe easier; how can you give something that isn’t us a chance to survive our appetites?

Three: Getting your hands dirty. Root yourself in something: some practical work, some place, some way of doing. Pick up your scythe or your equivalent and get out there and do physical work in clean air surrounded by things you cannot control. Get away from your laptop and throw away your smartphone, if you have one. Ground yourself in things and places, learn or practice human-scale convivial skills. Only by doing that, rather than just talking about it, do you learn what is real and what’s not, and what makes sense and what is so much hot air.

Four: Insisting that nature has a value beyond utility. And telling everyone. Remember that you are one life-form among many and understand that everything has intrinsic value. If you want to call this “ecocentrism” or “deep ecology,” do it. If you want to call it something else, do that. If you want to look to tribal societies for your inspiration, do it. If that seems too gooey, just look up into the sky. Sit on the grass, touch a tree trunk, walk into the hills, dig in the garden, look at what you find in the soil, marvel at what the hell this thing called life could possibly be. Value it for what it is, try to understand what it is, and have nothing but pity or contempt for people who tell you that its only value is in what they can extract from it.

Five: Building refuges. The coming decades are likely to challenge much of what we think we know about what progress is, and about who we are in relation to the rest of nature. Advanced technologies will challenge our sense of what it means to be human at the same time as the tide of extinction rolls on. The ongoing collapse of social and economic infrastructures, and of the web of life itself, will kill off much of what we value. In this context, ask yourself: what power do you have to preserve what is of value—creatures, skills, things, places? Can you work, with others or alone, to create places or networks that act as refuges from the unfolding storm? Can you think, or act, like the librarian of a monastery through the Dark Ages, guarding the old books as empires rise and fall outside?

It will be apparent by now that in these last five paragraphs I have been talking to myself. These are the things that make sense to me right now when I think about what is coming and what I can do, still, with some joy and determination. If you don’t feel despair, in times like these, you are not fully alive. But there has to be something beyond despair too; or rather, something that accompanies it, like a companion on the road. This is my approach, right now. It is, I suppose, the development of a personal philosophy for a dark time: a dark ecology. None of it is going to save the world—but then there is no saving the world, and the ones who say there is are the ones you need to save it from."

I liked what he said. It resonates for me.

So what is the companion of despair? For me it is a very old kind of hope. It's not the kind of hope most people think of anymore when you say the word "hope." It is not a hope that thinks people will change, or techno-optimism, etc. It is the kind of hope a starving wolf has, or an ancient human hunter who hasn't eaten in a week. You keep moving, looking for food, because there might be a caribou over the next ridge. Because the only other alternative is to lie down and die where you are. But hunters, the wolf and the man, don't do that, they keep moving until they cannot move, because there might be that caribou just out of sight, over the next ridge..or the next.

Contemplation

Watching the stars, thinking about how short life is for each of us, how everyone goes through things much harder and how they endure. There were and will be people 10,000 years in the past and 10,000 years in the future were doing the same and will be doing the same, looking at the stars. Reminded of the idea of meditating upwards to the stars and also downwards into the ground beneath your feet. Upwards, to the stars, the patterns seen in the past and the possibilities of traveling there in the future. Downwards, into deep time, past cultures, the earth before human life appeared. How we are suspended between earth and sky so briefly, yet at this moment, in contact with eternity, all time and all places. In those moments of contemplation, we are at the hub of the wheel of everything and everywhen. Everything matters and at the same time, nothing does. Except this moment and recognizing your place in it all, as a single snowflake in a blizzard, each snowflake apparently the same as another, yet each unlike any other.

The Tempest and Ecclesiastes

Watched the PBS documentary on Shakespeare last night, where they discussed "The Tempest" and the following from Prospero:

"Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air;
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve;
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep." (IV.i.148–158)

I liked what was said, that all we do and all we are is like writing on the sand before the next wave comes in and erases it. Yet, "write" we must, because it is not that it ends, but that it ever was at all. We must act and do what is in us to do. And know it will all be erased. Or as in Ecclesiastes 9:7-9:

"7 Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do. 8 Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head. 9 Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. 10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going."

Tools for Better Critical Thinking

One very useful tool to put into your toolbox of critical thinking skills, is the concept of logical fallacies and cognitive biases. I am just refreshing and perfecting this knowledge in myself, from what I learned in my twenties but which memory has faded somewhat, so we are much in the same boat, so take heart, we will learn this together :-)

NOTE: These are only to help you become aware of these things; they are not going to be on any tests, but as you begin to read, understand and apply them, they will help you in this class, in all classes in fact, and in life in general, including your life right now.

List of Logical Fallacies: "A fallacy is incorrect argument in logic and rhetoric resulting in a lack of validity, or more generally, a lack of soundness. Fallacies are either formal fallacies or informal fallacies."

List of Common Misconceptions: "This list pertains to current, widely held, erroneous ideas and beliefs about notable topics which have been reported by reliable sources. Each has been discussed in published literature, as has its topic area and the facts concerning it. Note that the statements which follow are corrections based on known facts; the misconceptions themselves are referred to rather than stated."

List of Cognitive Biases (Biases in Judgement, Decision-making, Memory Errors, Social Biases): "These are systematic deviations from a standard of rationality or good judgment."

Talking to the Owls and Butterflies (1)

DSCN4170

Let’s sit down here, all of us, on the open prairie, where we can’t see a highway or a fence. Let's have no blankets to sit on, but feel the ground with our bodies, the earth, the yielding shrubs. Let’s have the grass for a mattress, experiencing its sharpness and its softness. Let us become like stones, plants, and trees. Let us be animals, think and feel like animals.

Listen to the air. You can hear it, feel it, smell it, taste it. Woniya wakan-- the holy air- which renews all by its breath. Woniya, woniya wakan-- spirit, life, breath, renewal-- it means all that. Woniya-- we sit together, don't touch, but something is there; we feel it between us, as a presence. A good way to start thinking about nature, talk about it. Rather talk to it, talk to the rivers, to the lakes, to the winds as to our relatives.

You have made it hard for us to experience nature in the good way by being part of it. Even here we are conscious that somewhere out in those hills there are missile silos and radar stations. White men always pick the few unspoiled, beautiful, awesome spots for the sites of these abominations. You have raped and violated these lands, always saying, "Gimme, gimme, gimme," and never giving anything back. You have taken 200,000 acres of our Pine Ridge reservation and made them into a bombing range. This land is so beautiful and strange that now some of you want to make it into a natural park. The only use you have made of this land since you took it from us was to blow it up. You have not only despoiled the earth, the rocks, the minerals, all of which you call "dead" but which are very much alive; you have even changed the animals, which are part of us, part of the Great Spirit, changed them in a horrible way, so no one can recognize them. There is power in a buffalo-- spiritual , magic power-- but there is no power in an Angus, in a Hereford.

There is power in an antelope, but not in a goat or in a sheep, which holds still while you butcher it, which will eat your newspaper if you let it. There was great power in a wolf, even in a coyote. You have made him into a freak-- a toy poodle, a Pekingese, a lap dog. You can’t do much with a cat, which is like an Indian, unchangeable. So you fix it, alter it, declaw it, even cut its vocal cords so you can experiment on it in a laboratory without being disturbed by its cries.

A partridge, a grouse, a quail, a pheasant, you have made them into chickens, creatures that can't fly, that wear a kind of sunglasses so they won't peck each other's eyes out, "birds" with a "pecking order." There are farms where they breed chickens for breast meat. Those birds are kept in low cages, forced to be hunched over all the time, which makes the breast muscles very big. Soothing sounds, Muzak, are piped into these chickens hutches. One loud noise and the chickens go haywire, killing themselves by flying against the mesh of their cages. Having to spend all their lives stooped over makes an unnatural, crazy, no-good bird. It also makes unnatural, no-good human beings.

That’s where you fooled yourselves. You have not only altered, declawed and malformed your winged and four-legged cousins; you have done it to yourselves. You have changed men into chairmen of boards, into office workers, into time-clock punchers. You have changed women into housewives, truly fearful creatures. I was once invited into the home of such a one.

"Watch the ashes, don't smoke, you stain the curtains. Watch the goldfish bowl, don't breathe on the parakeet, don't lean your head against the wallpaper; your hair may be greasy. Don't spill liquor on that table: it has a delicate finish. You should have wiped your boots; the floor was just varnished. Don't, don't, don't..." That is crazy. We weren't made to endure this. You live in prisons which you have built for yourselves, calling them "homes", offices, factories. We have a new joke on the reservation:
"What is cultural deprivation?" Answer: "Being an upper-middle-class white kid living in a split-level suburban home with a color TV."

Sometimes I think that even our pitiful tar-paper shacks are better than your luxury homes. Walking a hundred feet to the outhouse on a clear wintry night, through mud or snow. That's one small link with nature. Or in the summer, in the back country, leaving the door of the privy open, taking your time, listening to the humming of the insects, the sun warming your bones through the thin planks of wood; you don't even have that pleasure anymore.

Americans want to have everything sanitized. No smells! Not even the good, natural man and woman smell. Take away the smell from under the armpits, from your skin. Rub it out, and then spray or dab some nonhuman odor on yourself, stuff you can spend a lot of money on, ten dollars an ounce, so you know this has to smell good. "B.O.," bad breath, "Intimate Female Odor Spray"-- I see it all on TV. Soon you'll breed without any body openings.

I think white people are so afraid of the world they created that they don’t want to see, feel, smell or hear it. The feeling of rain and snow on your face, being numbed by an icy wind and thawing out before a smoking fire, coming out of a hot sweat bath and plunging into a cold stream, these things make you feel alive, but you don’t want them anymore. Living in boxes which shut out the heat of the summer and the chill of winter, living inside a body that no longer has a scent, hearing the noise from the hi-fi instead of listening to the sounds of nature, watching some actor on TV having a make-believe experience when you no longer experience anything for yourself, eating food without taste- that's your way. It's no good.

The food you eat, you treat it like your bodies, take out all the natural part, the taste, the smell, the roughness, then put the artificial color, the artificial in. Raw liver, raw kidney- that's what we old-fashioned full-bloods like to get our teeth into. In the old days we used to eat the guts out of the buffalo, making a contest of it, two fellows getting hold of a long piece of intestines from opposite ends, starting chewing toward the middle, seeing who can get there first; that's eating. Those buffalo guts, full of half-fermented, half digested grass and herbs, you didn't need any pills and vitamins when you swallowed those. Use the bitterness of gall for flavoring, not refined salt or sugar. Wasna-- meat, kidney fat and berries all pounded together- a lump of that sweet wasna kept a man going for a whole day. That was food, that had the power. Not the stuff you give us today: powdered milk, dehydrated eggs, pasteurized butter, chickens that are all drumsticks or all breast; there's no bird left there.

You don't want the bird. You don't have the courage to kill honestly-- cut off the chickens head, pluck it and gut it-- no, you don't want this anymore. So it all comes in a neat plastic bag, all cut up, ready to eat, with no taste and no guilt. Your mink and seal coats, you don't want to know about the blood and pain that went into making them. Your idea of war- sit in an airplane, way above the clouds, press a button, drop the bombs, and never look below the clouds-- that's the odorless, guiltless, sanitized way.

When we killed a buffalo, we knew what we were doing. We apologized to his spirit, tried to make him understand why we did it, honoring with a prayer the bones of those who gave their flesh to keep us alive, praying for their return, praying for the life of our brothers, the buffalo nation, as well as for our own people. You wouldn't understand this and that's why we had the Washita Massacre, the Sand Creek Massacre, the dead women and babies at Wounded Knee. That's why we have Song My and My Lai now.

To us life, all life, is sacred. The state of South Dakota has pest-control officers. They go up in a plane and shoot coyotes from the air. They keep track of their kills, put them all down in their little books. The stockmen and sheep owners pay them, Coyotes eat mostly rodents, field mice and such. Only once in a while will they go after a stray lamb. They are our natural garbage men cleaning up the rotten and stinking things. They make good pets if you give them a chance. But their living could lose some man a few cents, and so the coyotes are killed from the air. They were here before the sheep, but they are in the way; you can't make a profit out of them, more and more animals are dying out. The animals which the Great Spirit put here, they must go. The man-made animals are allowed to stay-- at least until they are shipped out to be butchered. That terrible arrogance of the white man, making himself something more than God, more than nature, saying, "I will let this animal live, because it makes money"; saying "This animal must go, it brings no income, the space it occupies can be used in a better way. The only good coyote is a dead coyote." They are treating coyotes almost as badly as they used to treat Indians.

You are spreading death, buying and selling death. With all you deodorants, you smell of it, but you are afraid of its reality; you don't want to face up to it You have sanitized death, put it under the rug, robbed it of its honor. But we Indians think a lot about death. I do. Today would be a perfect day to die-- not too hot, not too cool. A day to leave something of yourself behind, to let it linger. A day for a lucky man to come to the end of his rail. A happy man with many friends. Other days are not so good. They are for selfish, lonesome men, having a hard time leaving this earth. But for whites every day would be considered a bad one, I guess.

Eighty years ago our people danced the Ghost Dance, singing and dancing until they dropped from exhaustion, swooning, fainting, seeing visions. They danced in this way to bring back the dead, to bring back the buffalo. A prophet had told them that through the power of the Ghost Dance the earth would roll up like a carpet, with all the white man's works-- the fences and the mining tones with their whorehouses, the factories and the farms with their stinking , unnatural animals, the railroads and the telegraph poles, the whole works. And underneath this rolled-up white man's world we would find again the flowering prairies, unspoiled, with its herds of buffalo and antelope, its clouds of birds, belonging to everyone, enjoyed by all.

I guess it was not time for this to happen, but it is coming back, I feel it warming my bones. Not the old Ghost Dance, not the rolling-up-- but a new-old spirit, not only among Indians but among whites and blacks, too, especially among young people. It is like raindrops making a tiny brook, many brooks making a stream, many streams making one big river bursting all dams. Us making this book, talking like this-- these are some of the raindrops.

Listen, I saw this in my mind not long ago: In my vision the electric light will stop sometime. It is used too much for TV and going to the moon. The day is coming when nature will stop the electricity. Police without flashlights, beer getting hot in the refrigerators, planes dropping from the sky, even the President can't call up somebody on the phone. A young man will come, or men, who'll know how to shut off all electricity. It will be painful, like giving birth. Rapings in the dark, winos breaking into liquor stores, a lot of destruction. People are being too smart, too clever, the machine stops and they are helpless, because they have forgotten how to make do without the machine. There is a Light Man coming, bringing a new light. It will happen before the century is over. The man who has the power will do good things too- stop all atomic power, stop wars, just by shutting the white electro-power off. I hope to see this, but then I'm also afraid. What will be will be.

(From Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions: The Life of a Sioux Medicine Man, by John (Fire) Lame Deer and Richard Erdoes)