Trying to understand why

Bird Droppings June 13, 2010
Trying to understand why

It has been an interesting summer with everyone sort of going in differing directions almost all the time. I will spend a good deal of time at school. It gives me time to think and ponder when the hallways are quiet. Today we will be moving our tortoises out doors at least for the day time. Coincidence is a word I use daily and as I went to pick up my pizza a day or so ago one of the girls working knew my youngest and asked about him which lead to a discussion on tattoos and his arm which is a depiction of the cover image on Eric Clapton’s Layla album. My son a fan of Clapton considers that song to be the greatest song ever recorded. As I mention what the image was my son had on his arm, on the radio at the pizza shop is Clapton playing Layla.
Several months back I went with my oldest son to pick up a few shell dwelling African lake cichlids from someone he had found online who was get of his fish hobby and dispersing his tank. Coincidences as I thought back to picking up the fish we made our way to a house in very nice neighborhood. Parked in the driveway a company pickup truck with signage indicating Controlled Blasting Incorporated, a demolition company it would seem. We knocked on the door and introduced ourselves and immediately my son and the fellow he had talked with got into scientific jargon and African cichlids with a touch of tarantulas the fellows other hobby. As we were leaving I noticed his wife had on a Georgia Tech shirt and several pieces of Tech memorabilia were around the room. We actually got talking about working with disturbed kids and then I found out both she and her husband graduated from Tech as did my middle son. Then she mentions how at their wedding they got driven from the church in the Ramblin Wreck. Well my son was the driver last year and what are the odds my oldest son finds a fish hobbyist who just by chance had been involved with the Ramblin Wreck. Considering only about twenty or so weddings are done each year by the Wreck Club. It was an interesting day to say the least and as always I try and understand why.

“Among the Indians there have been no written laws. Customs handed down from generation to generation have been the only laws to guide them. Every one might act different from what was considered right did he choose to do so, but such acts would bring upon him the censure of the Nation…. This fear of the Nation’s censure acted as a mighty band, binding all in one social, honorable compact.” George Copway, (Kah-ge-ga-bowh) Ojibwa Chief 1818-1863

In the news during the previous presidential we had the issue of signing statements come up numerous times. This is where if the President does not like a law he issues a signing statement to counter what has been passed as law. If you contest a law then there are appeals and such and the Supreme Court rulings and we have more laws. The previous president had signed more than literally all the previous presidents combined. Looking back at my quote to a time and people where written law was insignificant. George Copway was one of the first Native American writers. He became a Methodist Missionary and worked in Minnesota for a number of years with his wife. He later moved to New York where he wrote and published numerous historical and narrative works.

“Man is the one from whom this world is made.” George Copway

Copway was an advocate for a separate Native American nation and wrote often about that, his words fell on deaf ears for the most part and while enjoying a brief period of glory around the publishing of his first book an autobiography he died only a few years later in obscurity.

“In truth, the ultimate point of rest and happiness for them is to let our settlements and theirs meet and blend together, to intermix, and become one people.” Thomas Jefferson

The assimilation of cultures and peoples was Jefferson’s view borrowing a quote from Copway’s book. His Ojibwa name means standing firm and through his life he attempted to draw from his past and build with the modern in mind. Frustrated in later life he returned to his traditional beliefs and to salvage the culture of the Ojibwa, the first nation according to their beliefs.

“What was once impossible–or rather thought to be–is made possible through my experience. I have made many close observations of men, and things around me; but, I regret to say, that I do not think I have made as good use of my opportunities as I might have done. It will be seen that I know but little–yet O how precious that little!–I would rather lose my right hand than be deprived of it.” George Copway

Even within what some could conceive as defeat he stood firm and resolute in his beliefs and desires to better the situation of the Native Americans primarily his own Ojibwa tribe.

“I view my life like the mariner on the wide ocean, without a compass, in the dark night, as he watches the heavens for the north star, which his eye having discovered, he makes his way amidst surging seas, and tossed by angry billows into the very jaws of death, till he arrives safely anchored at port. I have been tossed with hope and fear in this life; no star-light shone on my way, until the men of God pointed me to a Star in the East, as it rose with all its splendor and glory. It was the Star of Bethlehem. I could now say in the language of the poet–
Once on the raging seas I rode,
The storm was loud, the night was dark;
The ocean yawned, and rudely blowed
The wind that tossed my foundering bark.”
Yes, I hope to sing some day in the realms of bliss–
It was my guide, my light my all!
It bade my dark foreboding cease;
And through the storm and danger’s thrall,
It led me to the port of peace.”
George Copway

I started this morning trying to find where my youngest son was after waking up to take the dog out. I had forgotten he had gone t Macon to visit friend’s old age strikes again. I was listening as I do every morning to the crickets and tree frogs of my back yard I sat a bit longer than I do many days just wondering trying to understand why. Why is it our world as it is and does? Sitting there I realized a car was missing and proceeded to call my son. Fortunately he was awake and I then recalled he was staying in Macon last night. But as a parent you get worried.
As I opened my document this morning and began to think a favorite website came to mind and I looked for a starting point for my morning wanderings. It was in the writings of George Copway, Standing Firm I found some solace. I wonder as I sit here thinking and writing how many of us could stand firm? A friend once wrote all of her people she admired in history were killed off. They were all great thinkers and believers all were killed for what they believed in. As I look at the tribes across America they too died for beliefs, few Native Americans even today want the assimilation of Jefferson’s thoughts.
I recall a book by Kent Nerburn as he writes the words of a Sioux elder in “Neither Wolf nor Dog”, explaining how we white folk could never understand the Native American since we choose not to. We want everything in black and white, our laws included. Borrowing from my biology text I am using in class a law is a scientific theory that has been repeatedly tested. Our national and state laws are little more constantly tested and questioned eventually excepted, as law.
If you try and explain infinity to most they try to define and categorize and box and provide understandable and testable parameters. I recall watching an interview with Dr. John Nash, 1994 Nobel Prize winner in economics and former math professor at MIT and Princeton. Ron Howard, director of the film “A beautiful Mind”, a film about Dr. Nash’s battle with schizophrenia, starring Russell Crowe in the out takes on the DVD interviews or more specifically lets Dr. Nash explain what he was working on. Nash was currently doing research on the theory of relativity and showed Ron literally boxes of pages of notes and formulations. Nash made a comment he was inventing characters since he ran out of traditional math characters. So few of will ever be able to or can ever intellectualize in the capacity of Dr. Nash.

“Thus further time passed. Then gradually I began to intellectually reject some of the delusionally influenced lines of thinking which had been characteristic of my orientation. This began, most recognizably, with the rejection of politically-oriented thinking as essentially a hopeless waste of intellectual effort.” Dr. John Nash, autobiography,

Few of us can understand why, we get absorbed in politically charged and fueled endeavors and we write laws to protect and direct those contrived ideas.

“Man is the one from whom this world is made.” George Copway

Looking back at Copway’s thought man drives and directs and manipulates this world. The Ojibwa sought to live within and understand their world we modern folk on the other hand do not want to understand we simply want to use hence we have politics. Nash rejected politics as a waste of time yet it is politics that is the driving force of our society and until we understand that we may not be able to escape it. Please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.

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