Bird Droppings January 4, 2023
Examining the threads of life
“Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.” Chief Seattle, 1854
It has been a few years since I read a National Geographic article where the lead-in photo was a superimposed image of goats hanging from spiderwebs. Genetic engineering was in the process of producing the proteins from spider silk webbing in goat milk. Spider web silk is one of the strongest naturally occurring fibers; the biggest problem is not much of it. On some mornings, as I go out to sit and think many issues are pressing, it may be a busy day ahead, a paper due later electronically, or papers to grade. I generally start my morning listening through the darkness. I could hear birds rustling through the bushes, trying to find the feeders and whatever other great creatures haunt our backyard. A car alarm broke the semi-silence and was quickly silenced; more than likely, someone rolled over and, as I do, often accidentally hit the remote panic button.
Cold weather will return to the area, and our warm temperatures during the day will be gone; my aching body can feel the weather change. I seem every morning to check for sunrise to the east every day. Today I am alone and the center of my world on most mornings. When temperatures allow, silken strands find their way from grass stems to weed stems, covering hundreds of feet on some mornings. It is an interconnecting web of life. Perhaps that is what drew me to this statement from Chief Seattle. So often go about life as the center of the universe, only seeing that all revolves around us. In medieval times this was the cause for much debate because, to them, man is the center of all that is. I find it amazing that civilized people have a difficult time with this. In most indigenous cultures, more primitive people see themselves as merely cogs a thread in a great machine or web of life. It is a modern man who sees themselves as the center of all.
“This we know; the earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected” Chief Seattle, 1854
There is much controversy as to the actual words spoken by Chief Seattle. Some say the translation written by a friend was not indeed what was said, and since recording devices were in their infancy and only transcribed translations are available, we are left with the words as they are. It is said many were moved to tears as he spoke these words. So many times, as I sat outside my room observing students and teachers pass by, I saw many view life from the center, not as a part of all that is.
“That destiny is a mystery to us, for we do not understand when the buffalo are all slaughtered, the wild horses are tamed, the secret corners of the forest heavy with the scent of many men, and the view of the ripe hills blotted by talking wires. Where is the thicket? Gone. Where is the eagle? Gone. The end of living and the beginning of survival.” Chief Seattle, 1854, these lines are attributed to early 20th C. historian and ethnographic writer A. C. Ballard added after many years
I was intrigued as different versions of Chief Seattle’s speech seemed to be recorded. One version has even been suggested as having been written for Hollywood and a movie. I read the end of the address, which is the line above, and perhaps Mr. Ballard did add these lines many years later, but the last line interested me. “The end of living and beginning of surviving.” How far have we come in civilization from living off the land to trying and surviving on it? Not long ago, a family could live and do well on a small farm, raising what they needed, and how quickly things changed. I recall a scene from a recent movie, “The Missing.” A farm family in the west was raising horses and cattle. At a fair, the oldest daughter goes to town to see all the new-fangled gadgets to make life easier. Perhaps it is here we changed from living to wanting. When we stopped making what we needed and started buying things to make life easier?
Soon we needed things to do with the time freed up, and leisure became a significant part of our day. Interesting how we now need to make more income to enjoy our leisure and surviving becomes more than just food and clothing but being able to afford a “good” time. The film was about a clash between old and new in old faith and new science, and the underlying clash of change from living to surviving and freedom to dependency.
“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” Mother Teresa
It is hard to feel that what we do is of significance, perhaps never noted in meetings or from friends, but someone carefully notes each step, each whisper, and each smile, and it is meaningful to that person as they go through life. How many thousands of times did Mother Theresa feel like that drop in the ocean as she held the hand of a leper in the back streets of Calcutta? How much easier and safer is it for some of us to live our lives as we do not pay attention from one point to another?
“Oneness is all-inclusive. Nothing nor no one is exempt; that is the way it always has been; that is the way it is, and that is the way it always will be.” Chief Seattle
We are all connected, intertwined, and each a piece of the web, a thread, a drop, and yet all meaningful pieces to this great puzzle of life. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and heart and always give thanks namaste.
My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,
(We are all related)