Thursday, November 3, 2016

Beating of the Earth's Heart

Spoiler Alert: I have no answer, but this is what I've seen and the conclusions I have reached.

Back in the 1980s there was a Native American standoff near the 4 Corners at Black Mesa against the Peabody Mining Company. The concern was that a Dine Tribal Council group were getting kickbacks from mining companies, and the very traditionalist folks were feeling their ancestral values were being violated. I got involved a bit out of my concern for the otherwise many generations long persecution of indigenous peoples. I hosted a few folks who were traveling form LA there and bought a T shirt. 

I also had lunch with a high school neighbor who was at Penn State when I was there; he studied mining. I went to an annual dinner event with him where several of the professors were on oxygen; one I believe was in a wheel chair. Supposedly there was a mine under the engineering building. I don't know that, but during the lunch, he kept referring to his wife, who was sitting next to him/across from me as, "her"/"she". I decided to address my comments and look at "her" (I forget her name now, but I did know at the time.) His employer in Colorado was one of the mining companies that was digging deeply into sacred native land.

I couldn't understand why the native folks were content to beat a drum when they could otherwise go and sue the mining company and their corrupt tribal group. What good is beating a drum. 

What I realized a number of years later was that the drumbeat kept their spirits informed that they were still there, that they weren't eaten up by the greed of the colonists. 

About 10 years later a friend and I traveled to West Yellowstone in deep winter to be with the Buffalo Field Campaign to monitor the movement of the last wild buffalo herd in the USA. These animal were being slaughtered with the blessings of the Montana Dept. of Livestock under the influence of local ranchers. The later claimed that the buffalo carried a disease. Not true. Some of the folks in that freezing cabin were Native Americans, but most were not. It was not clear then that we might have to put ourselves between a buffalo and a bullet. We went out on cross country skis before sun up, looking for large shadows in the early snowfall or fog. Didn't see much, but realized that many of the folks there were not in any condition to be in the elements of deep snow, etc.

Now we have Standing Rock stand-off regarding the DAPL. Courage my friends. I may not be related now, but we have 7 generations of the past and future to work that out. Your concerns touch me deeply. Your traditions caring for this land of y/ours are important to share. Your understanding of how we can live together with the sun and moon, with the water and air, with the land and all that must co-exist. 

We need to learn from you. May we be worthy.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Chakdu = Liberation

Sometimes a word comes along that just sums up everything in a simple, compact way.

 This week the notion of chakdu came to me booming as "Liberation".

There are many thing that can be said for the Korean shaman tradition of standing high overhead of the crowd barefooted atop the twin rails of two razor sharp chakdu, rice straw cutting blades.

It defied belief that a person wouldn't severely slice through skin when I first heard of it and even saw photographs.

It defied belief the first time I saw a shaman whip one across her bare-skinned arm and inserted along the lip line into the mouth. It defied belief the first and only time I saw and heard them being sharpened. It defied belief when my finger was close enough to feel the sharpness attract my own skin.

Liberation from one's comfort zone while still being a resident of that bunker is exhilarating!

The moment of liberation for me came when I realized that it happened then and on subsequent occasions, both watching in the "audience" and then even as a confidant of the people who "performed" it in ritual. It happened without needing me to "believe" that it happened, for I did and continue to believe that it can't be done without severe injury, much less, death.

I mentioned what I had seen to an intelligent, sophisticated Korean man once and he just shook his head. "I don't believe," he remarked about the act. "That's just it," I replied. "It does not require you to believe it.

The shaman climbs the tower atop which her assistants have place the twin rails of the assembly of two chakdu with the sharp edges facing upwards like two hands in prayer. She carefully steps one foot after another, steadies herself with tall bamboo poles festooned with ribbons of five colors that echo the colors and fringes of her spirit costume, and then begins to pronounce the gifts from the god she embodies.

She, too, is liberated from the mundane plane and need only to receive  the blessings to deliver forth.

Then she gets down, returning to the every-day, and to the blessings needed to get through the every-day.