ANOTHER ARIA ABOUT BEING HUMAN
When attendance at Blackfeet ceremonies in the Sixties made me physically and emotionally aware of the Opening of a Bundle ritual as living and moving in the People in a way the demanded equity with all other religious systems, I set out to find the most basic element there was. It was something UNDER all the things one does or believes. I think it is best described by those who say humans are multiplicities of possibility between a creature and its environment that allow patterns of understandings to form. It is about place. It is a dialogue between where you are and who you are.
Place is the environment that shapes the creature. It is both attachment and exploration which demands to know directions (both compass and relationship). Now that so many of us move around so far and have so little attachment, we have problems with identity.
The hunger for attachment/identity and the truth that land is wealth, something to own that can be converted into food, which is the most basic source of one-celled animals beginning to evolve into creatures because of where they are and what there is to eat. This is electrochemical connection on an atomic and molecular level. Hunger/attachment/identity are felt phenomena that are very real. Not mystical or hypothetical or unique to humans or even to species of creatures.
DNA is a particular formation of elements capable of creating what we call life. Each pair of 4 molecule clusters in a long string is capable of maintaining enormous amounts of “information” but so exquisitely minute that small changes in genes can cause major results. Bits of disruptive strings are what we call viruses.
One version of this is me myself, all crocheted together into an old woman with ten cats in a house I own and therefore can paint, saw — within the parameters of the community and laws of construction — heat and organize according to own notions, most of which result in an enormous (for an old lady) collection of books which is being displaced (electronically) by writing. I once had to describe to a school administrator, the difference between television and the internet. In the first, one sits down and passively accepts whatever is presented.
When at a computer connected to the world, one must behave like that one-celled animal that seeks for food. What we had not appreciated is the need to escape from predators. Our senses, which drive our lives as we relate to our environments by attaching or resisting, create our lives through time. We neglect to remember that all around us are other beings, some with DNA and some without But it was a happy thought that one can swap bits of DNA with one’s lovers or with one’s dog. Less happy is the possibility that the most recent COVID variation was possible because the COVID entity was able to acquire a swath of genes from the common cold.
One of my reluctances is that I don’t like change. This seems to be widely shared. But to stop changing is to stop living.
The human solution is to invent a system something like the physical system that can be transmitted among people. We call this culture and nice people like Templeton call the more unchanging parts (the skeleton) “religion.” Because it does not change, other things are built around it. Like a sheet of sinus germs that begins as individual cells and develops through connections into biological sheets that are very hard to remove, sheets of ideas make connections that are hard to break. They will fight attempts at removal or even control.
Land is the origin of human being and thinking. Nations are based on land and the assignment of ownership. They make boundaries suddenly significant and fight against the organic boundaries of beaches and mountains which are always changing, nearly alive.
Land is also the most basic wealth because it is the source of food. When land is an attachment as well as a wealth, humans tend to protect it. When land is reduced to the symbolize of counting — as an offshoot of writing — it becomes fungible: it can be stolen, misrepresented, a manifestation of greed, and the source of war from the Corsican brothers to Putin. The connection to the actual land stops mattering. No one cares for it. Destroying it as experimentation for war, or choking it for a few small conveniences of packaging means destroying wealth, removing part of what ultimately sustains us.
It’s suicide. The attachments to life are already thinning.
Here I sit at my old mini-computer, occasionally shouting a these disreputable, irrepressible cats, ten versions of Albert Schweitzer declaring as he sat in a river jungle boat, moving along, “This is all life, life that wants to live!” And overhead where jungle branches nearly met, the monkeys swung and chattered. Under the water aquatics glided as shadows that are both killed and killers. And higher than the trees were birds of great ingenuity and splendor, screaming their opinions. The bugs — they were everywhere but not so noisy.
So here I sit on the cold, silent prairie, under a growing moon, with an unknown future in the piles of paper all around me.