CURRENT MOON

Thursday, June 04, 2009

The Real Interest Of Old Indians


In this moral universe, all activities, events, and entities are related, and so it doesn't matter what kind of existence an entity enjoys -- whether it is human or otter or star or rock -- because the responsibility is always there for it to participate in the continuing creation of reality. Life is not a predatory jungle, "red in tooth and claw," as Westerners like to pretend, but is better understood as a symphony of mutual respect in which in each player has a specific part to play. We must be in our proper place and we must play our role at the proper moment. So far as humans are concerned, because we came last, we are the "younger [sisters]" of the other life-forms, and therefore have to learn everything from these other creatures. The real interest of old Indians would then be not to discover the abstract structure of physical reality, but rather to find the proper road to walk down which, for the duration of a person's life, that person is supposed to walk.

~Vine Deloria, quoted in What We Leave Behind by Derrick Jensen and Aric McBay

Picture here.

4 comments:

Thomas said...

I quite like this passage.

The specific quote, "Nature red in tooth and claw" from Tennyson's In Memoriam A.H.H., when put in context, seems more a statement about balance and flux than about violence and struggle.

The Full quote is:
Who trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation's final law*
Tho' Nature, red in tooth and claw
With raving, shriek'd against his creed


Stephen Jay Gould wrote a lengthy essay about this passage that I highly suggest reading. I believe it's in his book Bully For Brontosaurus

*Emphasis Mine

nanoboy said...

I have to object to the assertion that "we came last." All life is constantly evolving. Our ancestors were around when other the ancestors of other fauna and flora were around, all the way back until we all share a common microbial ancestor. Some taxa (groups of organisms) have been around longer, but this is all a human construction intended to simplify life.

Indeed, the world does require cooperation. Various symbiotic relationships give great credence to that idea. However, nature is also brutal. Creatures on this planet do terrible things to each other all the time, sometimes without much reason but more often to survive. In most organisms, a great number of individuals are produced by one mother and only two or so can be expected per mother. All of this is due to predation, disease, parasites, and abiotic devastation. It is both terrible and beautiful, wondrous and frightening, and it is they way that nature is.

But, yes, we must find ways to be more in tune with the natural world. For too many people, it's all about civilization's conquest to subdue nature, and that is disturbing. I like the wild places, and I know that we need to protect them. I know also that we need to be personally in touch with wildlife around us. It's probably a path that all reach differently, my own mostly through scientific inquiry, but it's one that more and more people need to find.

Anne said...

The Old Indians called the vulture "peace eagle." Tells you all you need to know about their wisdom.

Anonymous said...

Life is not a predatory jungle, "red in tooth and claw," as Westerners like to pretend, but is better understood as a symphony of mutual respect in which in each player has a specific part to play.

Exactly.
What's more, as Lesley mentions, real peace eagles don't feed on the living. :)

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