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Posts Tagged ‘Muskogee’

I am a full-fledged agnostic, have been for most if not all of my life. I may even be called “atheist” in practice, but I do wish I could be more spiritual, and have the inner peace earned through a spiritual life. That is the theory of it, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, theory and reality often conflict. The current crop of religions and spiritual movements proves this out. At best, they’re social clubs no more “spiritual” than a college fraternity, a place to be with your neighbors and try to get laid. Some are no more than line items on a personal resume, like a gaggle of IT certifications. Some are inertial organizations where folks belong simply because they’ve always belonged, like their fathers before them. Some are escapist fantasies, allowing the cowardly to retreat into blissfully ignorant “happy places”, occasionally assisted by various mind-altering substances. At the very worst, religions and movements are controlling forces, wielded by the wicked for their own benefit or profit, to the detriment of the adherents. Somewhere along the line, I think Mankind has lost the true meaning of spirituality.

In my view, the true meaning of spirituality is the understanding we’re all self-aware cogs in a greater machine known as The Universe, and if we understand, obey and serve the laws of The Universe, then we’ll have a decent existence. Fight the laws of The Universe and you’ll be a miserable SOB. Like it or not, we’re part of something greater than ourselves. Everything is connected, and the failure of one equals the failure of all. Spirituality is only valid when it ties one to the practical universe, the real world of life, nature, human interrelationships, etc. It’s only valid when it helps all of us survive and thrive. That’s why I enjoyed “The Wind is My Mother: The Life and Teachings of a Native American Shaman” by Bear Heart.

Bear Heart is a member of the Muskogee Nation , a father, a husband, a psychologist, a writer, and, above all, a shaman. He was selected to be a medicine man by other shamans of his tribe, men who saw he had the responsibility, courage, and compassion to be a medicine man. The story of how that came to pass is one of the prime tales in his memoir, “The Wind is My Mother”. But “Wind” is not wholly a memoir. Yes, there are plenty of autobiographical stories in the book, written in that simple, but powerful, spoken-word narrative style indicative of Native American writings. More potently, “Wind” is a collection of anecdotes illustrating basic tribal beliefs. Bear Heart explains concepts such as the significance of each of the four compass points, each of the four seasons, and of the sun, and the moon, and the earth, and the sky. This is all very fascinating, and I’m sure many readers will become enthralled by this. But it’s not really what’s important about the book.

Bear Heart doesn’t just talk about the Wind Spirits. The book is also peppered with philosophies on life and living. Again through anecdotes, Bear Heart talks about happiness, and pain, and loss, and joy, and redemption, and death. He talks about the harm of an unbalanced life, the trouble caused by arrogance, the damage caused by materialism, and the pain brought about by drug and alcohol abuse. He tells all these tales, straight from his life and experiences as a Muskogee medicine man, in this tremendously humble, non-accusatory, parable manner. “The Wind is My Mother” is a good, uplifting read, and I recommend it as a respite from heavier fare (like the tomes on history I usually read).

I think Native American beliefs, as described by Bear Heart, were closer to the truth than any other religion out there. I’m not talking about the beliefs in the Wind Spirits or any of that (and I know all about the recent, scary “sweat lodge” incidents), but theirs was a belief structured around the concept that Nature is actually the Great Spirit, that we’re all interrelated, and that we all need to obey and serve natural laws in order to live well. Theirs was a belief rooted in the fact that you defy Nature at your own peril, and it’s far better (and easier) to let her guide your path down the road of life. Pay attention to the world around you, both the natural world and the voices of the people around you. Listen, act accordingly, respect others, and be the best cog in that universal machine you can be.

Of course, in a society dictated by the philosophy of “me me me me me me me!”, that’s not that easy.

http://www.bearheart.info/index.html

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