It was the summer of 1995. I arrived in Cuernavaca, known as the Valley of Eternal Spring, outside of Mexico City in the afternoon. I found a cheap hotel not far from the center. Then I went out for a walk, had supper and settled into my hotel to relax. I went to sleep early.
The next day I woke up at 5 in the morning and went down to the Central Plaza to do my morning exercises before the town filled with people walking around. By 7 I had finished my practice.
A little ways away, on a bench, a young man with an impeccably ironed white shirt and dark pants was reading a book. As I ended my practice he got up and came toward me. “Do you speak English?” he asked. I answered him in Spanish and we struck up a conversation. He was studying English and looking for someone to practice with.
We agreed to meet up in the central market for lunch every day to practice English and talk. He came from a remote, traditional, Náhuatl village where the older folks still spoke Náhuatl, the language of the Aztecs and many other Mexica and Anahuaca peoples from Mexico all the way up to Colorado. He was a Native youth, doing his best to educate himself in, adopt and blend into modern Mexican culture, to be less “Indian.”
He was surprised that I valued his ancestral culture. He wanted to know about my Native friends. I encouraged him to value where and who he came from and not just run away from his roots. We had many good conversations and meals together.
After about a week, he asked me if I wanted to go to a remote Náhuatl town where his uncle lived. They were having a fiesta on the town’s saint’s day. He explained that it was a very traditional town, “one hundred percent Indian.” I was honored by the invitation and accepted . Early Saturday afternoon we rode a bus several hours through the beautiful countryside to his uncle’s village.
We ended up in a small town of adobe and thatch homes surrounded by green mountains and corn fields, a central plaza, a market and a big white church. The uncle lived on the fringes of the town in a simple adobe home with his wife. Out in the yard several simple tables of plywood on sawhorses were filled with friendly Mexica (pronounced “May-she-ka,” the people that the word “Mexico” comes from) people eating traditional foods with homemade corn tortillas, savory beans, meat, drinking beer and mezcal and talking in Náhuatl and Spanish. I introduced myself, received a warm welcome from everyone, and then we ate, had some drinks. I started talking with the uncle, a fascinating character in his seventies.
The uncle had returned to live here, in his hometown, after a life of living in many different places. He showed me pictures of himself on a shrimp boat in Guaymas, on the Sea of Cortez in northern Mexico, that he bought after many years of working on other people’s boats. Then he moved to Texas and started a fleet of shrimpers on the coast of Texas and Louisiana. He showed me pictures of him and his wife in front of their large, luxury home in Galveston, Texas, nice cars, Cadillacs and the like. He even bought a pink Cadillac for his wife who was listening in and laughed with smiling eyes when he told the story. Family pictures with his children growing up over the years, pictures of Disney world. He showed me pictures of his travels to Spain. He was a very, VERY full-on Elder, brimming with daring, humility, intelligence and wisdom, the kind of people I adore. Then he told me,
“You see, I had my success in the white man’s world. I learned a lot by doing all that. One day my wife and I were sitting at our kitchen table in our big, Texas mansion, surrounded by all that stuff. We decided to get rid of all of it and come home to “el metate y el petate.”
The “metate” is a large grinding stone for corn. The “petate” is a reed mat that is laid out on the dirt floor, with layers of blankets laid on top to sleep.
Then he took me into his simple adobe home to show me where his petate was rolled up, on a dirt floor. He took me into the kitchen house and showed me his
wife’s metate grinding stone. He looked at me with a warm smile. “We are Indians. We are Mexica. We do what we set our will to do.”
“We came home to the metate and the petate to grow our corn and beans and chiles. THIS is the life we love, the Mexica way of living.” He told me that the tortillas we were eating were made with corn he had grown and that his wife had prepared on her metate.
He showed me big sacks full of corn and beans in a storeroom with huge strings of many kinds of drying chiles and ran the grains from his beautiful, strong brown hands into my hands and back into the gunny sacks; big, dark, grains of yellow-red corn, the color of sun and fire. He ran gorgeous, multi-colored beans through my hands and back into their gunny sack. He invited me to touch his Life, his World, his Ancestry, his Inspiration, his Invitation. He said, “this is what we are eating,” nudging with his head at the food on the table. He smiled at me like the sun and said, “somos hombres de maiz,” “we are people of corn.”
I loved his spirit. He was an adventurer, a man who had challenged himself to live a life totally foreign to the way he grew up and had done so successfully, before coming home and embracing this ancestral goodness, his essence. He was a strong man, and he was kind. I had a feeling of complicity with him. I liked him. He was a wise, powerful and beautiful elder, a true elder who would be remembered by his people for a long, long time.
Pretty soon the sun was setting. We had some more drinks and tacos, and then my young friend said, “Let’s go to the zócalo, the central plaza. So we strolled through the center of town, had a few beers, admired the lovely, shy, young, gorgeous Indian women smiling and looking out with big, dark eyes from behind shawls that covered their hair and that they held in front of their faces when we looked at them, talking and giggling quietly as they walked around with soft, quiet elegance. We chatted with some of the men hanging around while the sound system played loud Mexican music. We talked, ate roasted ears of corn with mayonnaise and hot chili powder on them.
After a while my friend told me that it was almost midnight and that it would be good to go back to where his uncle lived. He explained that the saint’s day was also a day when scores are settled in the village, often with bullets. From midnight on, things could get crazy in the center.
We went back to the uncle’s house. Everyone was still out under the stars, chatting at the tables in the yard. Some people had left and others had shown up. I joined in the conversations, relaxed, a little bit tired. After a while, a man in his thirties, one of the uncle’s nephews came over and pulled up a chair next to me. We were about the same age. He introduced himself and smiled at me. “It is good that you came here to be with us. Are you having a good time here in our town?” he asked me.
“Yes, very much so. It is good to be here with you. Thank you.” I answered.
“You have spent quite a bit of time around Indian people,” he said to me.
The comment surprised me. It was not a question.
“A little bit,” I said.
“No, no, no, I’ve been watching you. You have spent quite a bit of time around people like us. You LISTEN. You don’t act like most European or Mexican people do. You’ve had Indian friends. They taught you some of our ways, I can see it. You are a traveler. You have lived in many different places with many different peoples. Your Spanish is perfect. You pay attention.”
I smiled at him. He was a curious character. His directness was not typical of how most indigenous people I knwo relate. But his attention to detail, from first-hand observation, was.
“I know that it is so.” he said and smiled at me, “That’s why I came to talk with you.”
I smiled. He nodded back at me in a friendly way. He sat quietly next to me. We looked out quietly into the night, the warm chatter of the gathered family and friends.
“I want to ask you a question,” he said quietly.
I nodded at him.
“What do you think of Indian people?”
Here I was, a fluorescent white man, surrounded by Indian people and being asked what I thought of Indian people. I felt awkward and yet okay, at the same time because my experiences with Indian People made answering the question easy. These were People of Honor, People of Life Herself.
I have spent amazing times with a number of indigenous friends from all over the Americas. I feel something so profound and rich for my Native friends that “grateful” and “love” don’t even touch what I feel for my friends and relatives who are Original People to the Americas. It goes way deeper than that: they taught me what it means to be human, not by imitating them or anyone else, but by paying attention and going to the living essence of things. Somehow this fellow knew that. I not only had very good times with indigenous friends, they have been very generous with me in every way. Their way of being with me has changed my life, has immensely expanded the deliciousness and awe I have with regards to what it means to be human.
My first sense of being truly, deeply welcome with anyone was with several Cheyenne friends I knew in Oregon, and many other Indian friends I knew in Oregon, South Dakota, up in the Yukon and down in Mexico. I told him that I had many Indian friends who had been very good to me and showed me human possibilities that would have been impossible for me to even imagine before meeting them. I shared my experiences with him, since he was curious.
“Beautiful! See! I knew you travel among our kind of People! So here’s my question:” and he waited to see if I was okay with him asking. I nodded affirmatively.
“Do you think Indians are good people?”
The question surprised me. He was unusual. This was no country Indian. He had picked up, to be quite frank, a lot of the white man’s ways; like an insistent, intense, pointed way of asking questions. There was something simultaneously off-putting about his question, yet he was very likable and I felt good with him. He was intense and insistent. I felt good intentions from him, but the question was odd and pointed.
“The Indians I know are good people,” I told him, “and I’ve met a lot of Indians who were very good to me even though they had no reason to be good to a white guy and I was a stranger. So, yes, I think Indians are good people.”
“Okay, so you think Indians are good people.” he reflected back to me.
“Hmmm…,” he mused. He relaxed back in his chair, smiled at me and took in the night with me, quietly, once again, pensive. The people sitting at the table, nearby, also looked off into the night, their arms crossed over their ponchos and blankets, listening, musing with knowing smiles. I didn’t know exactly where he was going, but he was going somewhere. I knew this way of teaching from other Mixe and Mixteca friends down in Mexico. He was honoring me with a gift of Wisdom, an Invitation not only to knowing him, but to knowing his People, his Ancestry, a welcome into the Humanity of his Homeland. After a few minutes of taking in the night in silence and his unusual question, he said:
“I have to tell you something: With all of the experiences you have had with your Indian friends you still don’t understand Indian people.”
I looked at him. I was certain that this was very true. I knew that I was not only clueless about Indian people but also about my own people. As a matter of fact, MANY times with Indian friends I not only came in touch with my cluelessness but also ended up getting some important clues. This turned out to be one of those times, but I didn’t know that yet.
I nodded at him quietly and listened, receptively. He saw that I was open and listening. He leaned in toward me and in an intense yet low-volume voice, almost a whisper, as if telling me something very important – and he was – he said to me:
“We Indians are not good. White people are good.”
I never expected to hear that. I was taken aback. He paused, let that sink in and let me stew in my confusion for a moment. I wondered why he said this. Everyone around the table was listening in as he spoke to me in Spanish. His uncle and a table full of elders smiled attentively, knowingly, as if affirming what this man was saying, that they were not good, yet they smiled at me with amused and kind knowing, as if quietly affirming “Yes, it’s true. But it goes much deeper than you’ve considered.”
I didn’t understand. I could tell that this nephew was well-liked and respected by his Elders, by the way everyone was paying attention and listening in yet not looking at us directly. He had paid his dues with these Elders, with the Journey, with Life. His elders listened in as he spoke, tucked into their blankets and ponchos, smiling, as if giving him their seal of approval. He had learned, and he spoke true. There was a beautiful, magical, calm intensity in the air.
There’s a powerful intensity with many of the indigenous peoples in Mexico. I have met many generous, wise, self-led and fierce people there, warriors, people with the courage required to love truly, and all the way. The love of someone who is true, whose word is 100% and who is both loving and fierce, has much more value for me than the “love” of those whose love won’t do anything uncomfortable for their so-called “love” and “loved ones.”
Many times I have had five minute conversations with such people that I still chew on, many times, and chew on again and again, through the decades, as the Journey unpeels the nuances and living textures of a tale which, once heard, remains to be walked, slept, lived, and fed back to the ground with our grateful bones. Such Tales reveal dimensions far beyond the Telling, or the Teller. They point to Living Realities that unfold in Consequences invisible to those who merely content themselves with the immediacy of their uprooted and unrooted “impressions.”
Many times these conversations reframe my view of the world in a way that is so simple and direct that I am challenged to see reality straight on, without bullshitting myself with all kinds of hypothetical definitions and ideas of “life”. Time and time again Indian friends have called me to observe life more closely, patiently, attentively, and see the inter-relationships, like natural people do, and not to adopt some belief or idea about life.
So here I was, surrounded by friendly, smiling, somewhat tipsy Náhuatl people who had welcomed me to their home, and one pretty intense, friendly and well-traveled thirty-some year old Indian man who was telling me, after his people resisted over 500 years of genocide and every kind of dehumanization, that Indians were not good, but that the white man was good.
What was I supposed to make of that?!
I didn’t say anything. With experience I’ve learned to just listen when I don’t know what to say. I listened.
“Indians are not good. The white man is good,” he said again, quietly, as if to let it sink in, as if to remind me to hold what he was saying before trying to dismantle it and assault it with a mind trained to label and file away any wisdom into a mental, dust-gathering, dead and impotent definition and categorization scheme. He was giving me time to hold and see nuances, not only of what he was saying but also of my own incapacity to find the edge by which to grasp its truth.
He was giving me something. I wanted to hear his truth and to hear it whole. I sat upright, got centered and found a little bit of what my Cheyenne friends call “humbility” inside of me. I made room, inside, for him to speak, for his words to land, and be Received, and live unaltered by my impressions. I still didn’t know where he was headed. He was headed somewhere and was Offering me a Gift that only True Attention could Receive. He knew exactly what he was saying to me and that it challenged my view. This was not a moment to debate, it was a moment to listen.
I looked at him. He smiled at me, seeing my confusion. He let me stew in the awkwardness and surprise of what he had just said for a while longer, quietly. He gave me time to find the thread of his words and to discover my challenge in finding where to grasp it.
He stood up, went over to the table to pour me a shot of mezcal, which he offered me graciously. He poured himself one and lifted his glass up to me. “Vamos a brindar con mezcalito.” “Let us toast with mezcalito.” We struck our glasses, raised them to the folks at the table who smiled and nodded and motioned with their hands for us to drink, we raised our glasses to each other, Offered the first sips to the Ground, then drank.
He was preparing the Way for me to receive his gift. He was opening up a Road for it inside of me. The mezcal entered my chest like fire and made a little more room. This man was honoring me, as a man and a friend, enough to challenge me to think in that Indian way I had experienced over the years: not just thinking pretty thoughts but facing reality, ALL of reality, with attention to detail, twists and turns, unsuspected nuances along with that particular smell and a rustle in the leaves behind that big tree thirty paces off the trail I thought I was walking in my mind, but could only walk in reality. He was the one emerging from behind that big tree in reality. I felt good with these people. These were true adults and elders, people who good enough to keep their edges keen and their Hearts open. They were giving me something from them, from their way of Aliveness. I felt a gift in this moment this man was sharing with me.
He sat in his chair next to me again, leaned in toward me intimately, smiling with complicity, with friendship, quietly, yet intensely and said to me:
“You are surprised that I say this, I know. I am 100% serious. My words are true. Indians are not good, white people are good.”
“We do not have this value of ‘being good.’ The reason you think that Indians are good is because we have been good with you. This is the Indian way: we are good with the good. The difference between you and us is that we understand that to remain free you must also be wicked with the wicked, you must respond to wickedness decisively. That is our responsibility. If you allow the wicked to overrun you they will destroy and enslave you and your children for thousands of years. We know that history. We know the results of that, right here in this place. (He gestured, with an open palm facing downward, toward the ground.) Europeans also have that history, but you ignore it. You pretend that it has no bearing on how you live today and that you can escape your own history, but you can’t…and you haven’t… What you have managed to do is live in complete ignorance of your own people’s experience and to pretend that what you ignore doesn’t exist.”
“Nobody WANTS to be wicked, except the wicked. But when you have wicked people in your midst, YOU have a responsibility to deal with them. Not beg, not protest, not complain; TO DEAL WITH WICKEDNESS, DECISIVELY. THAT is the responsibility of all adults and especially men. If you don’t take up your responsibility, then the wicked will deal with YOU and they will deal with you DECISIVELY. This is Nature’s Law. You think that Indians are good because Indians have been good to you. But we have only been good to you because YOU are good. But to be good is not enough!”
“We don’t have this value of ‘being good’ like you white people. Our responsibility is to be good with the good, to be good with life and wicked with those whose wickedness destroys life and human dignity. We are Mexica people, from Colorado where you have lived, all the way down to El Salvador. You heard of the Aztecs. They are only one of MANY Mexica peoples. Many people, in our long history, have tried to capture us, to enslave us, and did. Every person and every people, just like every other form of life, gets put to the test to see what we are made of. Every single one of us has a responsibility to know what kind of people we are, what kind of people we are dealing with, even among our own people and our own peoples. Every form of life that becomes adult has a responsibility to pay attention and to respond to reality with reality.”
“We know our history. Our history – not the history you read in books but our experience that we pass on from parents to children, to our people whom we love and respect enough to teach them the hard lessons, not just the soft ones – our experience teaches us that if you do not deal with the wicked, the wicked will deal with you. What they will do with the children and those children’s children, of those who avoid their responsibility, is unspeakable.
You can avoid your responsibility, but you cannot avoid the consequences. Our corn grows out of the bones of our people who paid the price for those lessons. When we eat our tortillas here, we eat this history, ALL of it. The price that our people paid for these lessons is now the corn we eat. Our mothers and fathers teach us about the Life, OUR Life, our People’s Life, that now becomes the corn that feeds us. When we say, ‘we are people of corn,’ this is who we are, ALL of it. The corn we eat grows out of the price our ancestors paid for the lessons we pass on to our people.
Real history is not just something that’s told, it’s something you eat, something that’s fed back to you by your own ancestry, like this corn we are made out of that grows out of our people, it’s a place you walk in and touch the stones marked by your ancestors to know who you came from and where and what you are.”
“White people, on the other hand, are ‘GOOD.’ You are good with the good and good with the wicked.”
“Because you are good with the wicked you are led by the most wicked among you. You lost your history, YOUR history, the experience of your OWN people and NOT something that came out of some book. You don’t know why you are in our lands and no longer in the lands of your ancestors. You don’t know why you speak languages that your own ancestors didn’t speak just a few generations back. You can’t speak your own people’s tongue. You don’t even know the names of your own People. You have forgotten the price YOUR ancestors paid and the lessons they learned, even in THESE lands! Somehow the lessons of your own people are lost to you.
You people from Europe don’t even know your history HERE since you came from Europe. We have watched you for five hundred years. We have watched what kind of men lead you and what they do to you. Your memory is short. You have lost the lessons your own people paid for in blood, right here in the Americas. You have no memory. That makes you easy game for wicked people. You have forgotten that to be free and to truly love your children, you have a responsibility, YOU, personally, to deal with wickedness and not to wait for someone else to do it for you.”
“If you do not deal with wickedness, then you will become slaves of the wicked and slaves to wickedness. But wickedness is a term in your language and a world view that doesn’t spend too much time viewing the world. We don’t really see it that way. We prefer to see it. We notice that there are ways to thrive in being human and there are ways that frustrate us. When we are frustrated then we proceed to frustrate everything else that’s living all around us, starting with our children. Frustrated people teach their children that it is normal to live in frustration. There are infinite ways and combinations of thriving with or frustrating our nature. Many peoples have spent millennia stuck in just one way of being.”
“If you act like slaves then you will live like slaves and you will raise your children to be slaves. You may think this is hard, but this is Nature’s Law. I know the history of my people and I have studied the history of the people who came here. It is our responsibility to know where we are and who is here in our lands.”
“People from Europe were coming here a long time before Columbus. Wise people. We learned many things from them. They were sacred and very special to us. When Cortez came to Mexico we had been waiting for our Brothers from the North to come back for a very, very long time. We thought that they had forgotten us but something happened to the descendants of our old, wise friends.”
“Cortez came with people who had nothing in common with the European ancestors from before. He came with people who had been degraded. Your people lost everything. Read your history. Everything that was done to the Indians was done to your peoples FIRST. You people allowed yourselves to be overrun by the most wicked and vile among you. THAT is the culture that you brought here and live in right now, a culture that is good with the good and good with the wicked. It is up to you to seek out and comprehend the reality that words can only point to. You can also choose to ignore it. But you cannot avoid the consequences of the choices you sow into reality today. I have shown you the tracks. Follow them. See where they come from and where they lead.”
He paused and sat with me. I knew the truth and the reality his words pointed to. We sat together. I chewed on the truth of what he was telling me. Some of the old people sat with eyes closed, nodding, taking it in.
“I am not saying that your people are always good because I have traveled, worked with, lived with and observed your people, CLOSELY. I spent many years in el norte (the North, the U.S.). I didn’t just go there to make money. I went there to understand what is happening to us here in Mexico, and to visit other Indian nations up there. Our culture is being changed from outside. We are being flooded with values that don’t belong to us, not just as Indians, but as Mexicans. Turn on the television and you will see what kind of sickness and stupidity is being spread here, just like up there; the destruction of all basic human values and relationships.”
“Sometimes your people are wicked, too, but not like Indians. Indians are wicked with the wicked, but ‘modern’ people are not wicked like us. Pay attention to how your people relate and see if what I’m saying isn’t so.”
“Modern people are most wicked with those who are the best among them, starting with their own children. Listen to how mothers and fathers talk to their children. Just listen. Don’t condemn, don’t justify or explain, just listen. Then listen to how those same people talk to a politician who murders, steals and lies in their name and defrauds them. They go to the wicked to beg for favors and the wicked shower them with promises that are lies. Listen to the tone of voice they use. Then listen to how they talk to their children or their spouses, to those they pretend to love. Go among your people, in all the different places and circumstances of your life and listen. Don’t judge, pay attention to the tones of voice your people use. Then you will discover your people’s ways AND you will discover how our ways are different.”
“We Indians are not good. This is not our way. We are good with the good and wicked with the wicked. THIS is our way. But modern people are good with everybody, especially the most wicked among them. When they dare to be wicked they are wicked with the good and with the innocent, with the people they pretend to love and anyone who depends on them.”
“We are not wicked with the ones we love. We are kind to them. Our children are chiefs, they are our ancestors. They rise up out of the bellies of our women fed by the bones of our ancestors that grow out of our corn that feeds us from the price our ancestors paid to stay Alive, with dignity. We know our children. We know who they are and who and what they are made of. We respect them. We welcome them as people with dignity. We recognize them and we recognize the best of ourselves in them. We treat them with respect and allow them to grow in their intelligence and capacity and kindness.”
“We don’t make them submit. We don’t bark commands at them as if they were dogs or slaves. We show them how to rise up and grow in their capacity and intelligence, like corn, naturally. Our children grow up in the kindness of our people. We don’t tell them what the truth is. We show them the truth by living it, so they can notice it and discover their own capacity to know and live truthfully. Our children grow up in goodness, REAL goodness. But they also understand wickedness, harm. We have snakes in our cornfields and packs of wild dogs. Sometimes puma come down from the hills to eat our animals. Coyotes and eagles come to rob our chickens and turkeys. Our children grow up in the mystery of a complete, living REALITY. They learn responsibility. They learn that part of the Gift of Living is that we get put to the Test, to see if we are of those who Honor Living or of those who debase Life.”
“When they come of age then we teach our Children that they can’t just spend their whole lives hiding in the skirts of our women’s goodness. When they become adult it is their turn to pick up the burden of THEIR responsibility with respect to goodness and wickedness. They have to become adults. It is now up to them to make the places where our children can grow up in dignity and to feed another generation.”
“We Mexica have a saying:
“Walk with the Hooves of the Deer and with the Paws of the Jaguar.”
“THIS is how we walk, as adults. We walk with the hooves of the deer and the paws of the jaguar, in the complete reality we inhabit, ALL of it, not just what we like. How do Deer and Jaguar walk? That’s a question to answer with attention.”
“We have tender ancestors who have come to be our children.
They need our capable attention to reality. They come from a greatness that makes a tremendous invitation to us and comes with the price of responsibility. We take up our responsibility to receive our children and to invite them to this greatness that is natural to being human. This is why we raise our children in kindness and capability. As adults we have a responsibility to protect the possibility of our children growing up with dignity.”
“Your people, however, are on your way to losing everything. You have done nothing about the wicked who mock your goodness over and over again, and have mocked you for thousands of years. You think you can escape your history by ignoring it. You ignore what you have become to survive it. Soon the wicked who ride roughshod over you will realize that there is nothing and no one to stop them from taking everything. Don’t believe me, LOOK!” and he put two fingers under each eye. “I know you travel to learn, in the traditional way. It is not enough to travel in some fantasy. You need to travel in reality. I am talking to you, so that you and those people whom you love can find your way. As a traveler, you have a responsibility to help people comprehend what is happening to them.”
“Walk with your eyes open and SEE the REALITY of what I have spoken to you. Something is happening to YOUR people. It is happening because of your confusion about goodness, wickedness, responsibility and what you call ‘love.’ In THIS garden of Life, that kind of confusion will not last for very long. Do not believe me, pay attention to the Natural World. The traveler carries a burden for his People. Now I have heaped up a little more upon your load. Maybe some of your people can find their way again. You will not be able to turn the tide. It is too late for that. But maybe some of you can find a trail through what’s coming. ”
“This garden belongs to the deer AND to the jaguar. To walk as a human BEING we need to walk like Deer and like Jaguars. How do Deer and Jaguar Walk? Open your eyes. Pay attention. Be responsible. We Indians are NOT good. We are good with the good and wicked with the wicked. That is why we are still here. This is my gift to YOU. Thank you for coming to be with us.”
With that he looked me in the eye, quietly checking to see if I “caught” what he had given to me. I had. I looked at him with gratitude. What he had said was profound and heavy and generous.
“Camina con pata de venado y pata de jaguar, amigo.” “Walk with the feet of the deer and the feet of the jaguar, my friend” he said to me.
He shook my hand gently, stood up and left the gathering. I never saw him again.
For many years, many times, his words, like the corn that fed him, yellow-red and full of fire and sun, have fed me and oriented me in this garden of life I walk in.
“Walk with the hooves of the deer and paws of the jaguar.”
“We are good with the good and wicked with the wicked. That is why we are still here.”
“You have a responsibility.”
All over the world people send out people to travel, to live, to work, learn, unlearn and apprentice with other peoples, so that the seeds of human possibilities and wisdom can be renewed and cross-fertilized and delight in new connections.These are the Journeymen and women, like these Mexica people who had lived and learned in different places with different people. They form an essential part of the fabric of a People equipped to stay free.
Their tales are not simple “stories” nor are they a recipe or formula for you to adopt. The stories call attention to the realities we live in. To pay attention is to begin exploring the depths and connections of what we are in, individually, in our families, our communities, our ancestries and those we live among. We have arrived in the place we are, not just as individuals, but as ancestral hopes, aspirations, habits, perspectives, tones of voice, body postures, beliefs and consequences. There is much more than our “personal story” in each one of us, individually. Even our “personal” story is far more impersonal than most of us dare imagine, much less truly track out.
It is not enough to hear the words of the story. We are walking in the world that the words point to. As we pay attention we discover the rich and surprising textures of and connections in our experience.
The value of learning and unlearning with people who have other values and life ways is not to adopt or reject their way of doing things, but to discover our values, our ways of living, to broaden the vocabulary of our human possibilities and abilities to be human with dignity and with the Aliveness that inhabits and surrounds us.
In the modern mentality we have been conditioned to reduce everything to “the point,” as in “what’s the point in this story?” Ancient cultures survive by looking beyond “the point” to the circles and the cycles that connect us in relatedness and consequence. Tales are told, not to convey “a point,” but to point. What is beyond the point of the finger pointing is not a point, but a round world to journey in, to discover what has been pointed to, what it is related to, what it emerges from, and the ecology it participates in, a very potent and misunderstood word that comes from the Greek oikos: “household” + logos: “thought, the word which calls the attention to, attention.” In the old wisdom logos is not just a word in our heads or mouths. Everything is speaking-in-being. Everything has a logos of its own as well as an oikos, a dwelling place, a place of Being, of its own: it is Speaking in Being.
Everything Says What It Is by Being What It is.
We are in something. What is this? Who is here with us? Where is their house? How do they sustain themselves? What does that have to do with your household? What are you learning? What are you unlearning? Where are you coming from? Who did you come from? How did you get here? Where are you going? How are you going?
Something is happening to OUR people. It is happening because of our confusion about goodness, wickedness, responsibility and love.
Walk like the deer and like the jaguar!
Gather Seeds, Of Wisdom (Way-Finding) That We May Make Our Way To Living the Life We Love And Loving the Life We Are With Those Whom We Live to Love And With Whom We Love to Live.
Make It Be So!
It’s Up to YOU!