How Do We Know What We (think we) Know?

Tim McSweeney posited this question on one of his Facebook Pages, prompted by the discussion posted by Lauret Savoy, professor of geology and environmental science at Mount Holyoke College. Lauren cited this at A Stone’s Throw on the Terrain.org site, in a post entitled Walking Thoughts on a Frozen Pond. Tim reposted this entry on his blog. It’s one inquiry in a list of several which Lauret says she asks her students “to pause and consider… as we explore the environmental history of this country.” I find this self-questioning foundational.

In line with his post, I offered my place-based comment to Tim:

“There is no need to question the land, the place where one finds oneself. The answers are all freely available – Creation is always speaking and being. Rather, aways question oneself. Am I listening? Can I see? Am I present? Who else is here? Am I fulfilling my responsibilities as a part of the Great Mystery or have I (again) separated myself ?”

Lauret offers: “In order to remember, one must also forget.” This is to be human and to be aware that we don’t know all the stories.

 

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In the Center of Everything

Tiokasin Ghosthorse was setting the scene for a story at a gathering which I joined this past winter. He recounted a little nondescript location far away, a place which is usually characterized as being “in the middle of nowhere.” But he turned that dismissal in upon itself, and stated that it was “in the center of everything.” It was an illuminating moment, demonstrating the power of words. It has taken root and stayed with me. Language, worldview, perspective, experience – these things matter, everything matters.

Rather than making a zero-sum equation, a calculation of worth, and finding it of little or no value – objectifying, a characteristic of an English-speaking worldview, noun-based and categorical – this place was seen as a core participant in the narration of what was occurring. It was in relationship. It is a very different way of experiencing a moment as part of a whole. It is “being in” rather than “looking at.” The difference between a point on a line / a separation of otherness, and an infinite web of connection in an expanding universe.

Living in the Ancient-Present (with thanks)

By Carmen Hathaway, Abenaki artist – As Above, So Below

I received an email yesterday, through the Five College Native American listserv, sent out by Professor Lisa Brooks  (Chair of the Five College Native American and Indigenous Studies Program). Included was an invitation to celebrate the work of the graduating seniors in the program. The dissertation work of Malinda Labriola was to be featured: “Living in the Ancient-Present: An exploration and application of Native American creations narratives and oral traditions.”

Living in the Ancient-Present. It stopped me in my tracks and it caught in my throat. It drifted up silently from a familiar place and looked me in the eye. It said nothing, in volumes, over and over again.

This is the place I find myself. This is the place that found me. I had no choice. It was not mine to choose. It was mine to listen…

I am drawn to John Trudell’s posthumous gift Time Dreams:

Straight talk
With ancestor memories
Free without judgment
Answers to questions
And feelings
Dream time
Is part of our pulse
Memories in the shapes
Of life
We are a part of that
The breath part

Our memories
Come from the earth
And return to the earth
In the reunion
Our pulse comes from the sky
And returns to the sky.

*****

It is all here. We are a part of it, we are what was and will be. It is a great responsibility, it is an honor and a gift. We are given some understanding, we are told a story. We try to listen closely, and put it in a safe place, to ponder and to safekeep. We learn, we know what is the right thing to do – it has always been this way –  we remember. It is good to celebrate the breath, the wind, the spirit. It is all here. We are here. Together, in the Ancient-Present.

N’mikwaldam. Pamgisgak.