A couple of my teachers used to urge me to take the long view, say 100,000 years or even 3 million years. They knew I could be a worrier, and thought shamans needed perspective. They also believed that was the time span that was meaningful. By the end of 3 million years most species will have gone extinct, replaced by others. In about 100,000 the effects of our use of fossil fuels will have passed, and the Earth will likely be covered in ice once again.
Of course, for me, and I imagine I am speaking for most humans, 100,000 years is an incomprehensible amount of time. An old friend, who just happened to have been fired from the presidency of a Fortune 500 company, said his Board could not imagine beyond the next quarter. Sometimes it seems to me we are too often stuck, unable to imagine a good future or own up to the past.
We humans also seem unable to live in the present, often failing to notice the immediate implications of our actions. I sometimes think we are hard wired to ignore our own peril. It’s as though we want to eat the entire harvest at one sitting., and winter is just a few weeks away.
Yet the present is all we have to work with. Healing happens in the Moment. Now is the time of change. Even when there is reason to journey into the past to consult with a long dead family member in the Dreaming, reparation must be accomplished now, in this moment. This moment is, to quote Thich Nhat Hanh, “precious”. It is the only time we have.
Still, we worry about the future, fearing for our lives, children, and wellbeing. Often, our leaders encourage us to avoid the difficult choices that demand our courage and sacrifice, yet possibly create the conditions for our happiness, and that of our children’s children. Other times, our leaders ask us to sacrifice so they may become wealthy, wrapping war and social divisiveness in the cloth of great causes.
There are few leaders who will tell the truth about what is needed, who will suffer or live in poverty so the people may prosper. Maybe one of those people was Russel Means, who walked on a couple of days ago. Just A Rez Chick thinks so:
Yesterday my mom said the first thing she heard when she woke up was Russell died. Then I told her about the craigslist ad I wrote about at http://www.lastrealindians.com. She was extremely saddened at both. Her first thought was “Now who is going to stand up for us?” The last time I saw Russell Means was three years ago or so, in front of my house on the rez. He bought a quilled bracelet from me with two interlocking hearts and he was quizzing one of my friends on how many movies of his he saw. I told him they only had six in the tribal jail, so he saw six, and we all laughed. Russell said “Huh, that’s not funny. I’ll have to make sure they get all 21 out there for you guys.”
It never occurred to me, here was this modern day warrior recognized throughout the world for being a warrior for his people, joking with us. It never occurred to me because he was humble and treated everyone alike. And it never occurred to me he was so famous for being a warrior because of the way Russell stood up for the people until change came about, he made it seem like that is just how it was. He made it seem like this was the path in life we follow. He made being a warrior seem like the Lakota way of life. Because it was and is….
Russel Means wasn’t perfect. I guess none of us are. Maybe he did things he thought were necessary, that were in fact just plain wrong. We may never know. We do know he stood up on behalf of his people at a time when the world seemed a particularly desperate place. He had a vision of things getting better.
That vision of a way forward with healing and dignity for the People is a good vision. It’s not about getting rich. Rather it’s about a world where people have their needs met. It’s a world big enough for the warm bloodeds, the fliers, the Green ones, and the swimmers to have lives surrounded by Beauty. In that vision we are building a world of justice, and love and appreciation for one another and Mother Earth.
In that New World we probably will have to make do with a lot less. Maybe that’s a good thing. We’ve been taught for too long to try to get more than the other guy. Maybe we would have to cooperate rather than compete. Maybe that would be a good thing, too, leaving time for us to dance more, to make ceremony and be sacred together. Sounds good to me.