Monday, July 20, 2015

Wisdom of the Elders

I have been pretty busy at work with not a lot of extra energy at the end of the day to write.  I am enjoying the new challenges but it is more tiring.  It is also forcing me to face some old demons. 

I am working my way through Richard Wagamese's book "One Story. One Song"  I am a big fan of his writing.  I feel like these are an opportunity to access the wisdom of an elder in easy to read bites.  I am trying to read one essay a day and think on it as I work through the day.  I feel so blessed that our elders are willing to put their stories down for us to access even at a distance.

Yesterday's essay is entitled "What We Share" and he speaks about wisdom shared by Ojibwa Elder "Jack Kakakaway.  The author writes that he was talking with the Elder about his feelings of displacement in the Canadian Mosaic as he came to better understand his indigenous roots.  The Elder told him "There are no pure cultures anymore."  The Elder said that as first nations people we let go of things like snowshoes and toboggans to get snowmobiles and trucks.  We let go of our languages to speak English.  "It was the same for everyone everywhere, he said.  The world asks us to sacrifice something in order to be included."

That paragraph spoke a lot to me.  I have written about this question several times here.  How do you find the balance of being you and being part of society?  What are you willing to give up to belong?  For some people it is not even a question if there are things we can't give up (disability, poverty, race etcetera).  In some things I could not be "normal" if I tried so where do I find the balance to that?  In extra education?  In enough money to get away with eccentricities?  Who do we leave out of society because they can't make that balance?  What about those people spending all their energy just getting by, who don't have time for the niceties?  Where do we leave them?  What does that do to the collective?

The essay goes on, " What we need to look for in this world, Jack Kakakaway told me, are the things we share.  There are as many things that make us the same as there are those that make us different.  The difficulty is seeing them.  The things that join us are as basic as breathing, as small as a tear.  We all began as people huddled in a band around a fire in the nights.  We all longed for the comfort of a voice in the darkness.  We've all sacrificed part of our identity to become a part of the whole.  What we've lost is what binds us, what makes us the same."

I need to stop thinking about the I in this question and look to the us.  Where do we find those shared moments and focus on those.  I need to stop doing my own personal math and start looking at the whole and where there are changes I can support to make that whole more inclusive.

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