Thursday, October 04, 2007
In honor of A(lfred) Irving Hallowell
Died 10 Oct 1974 (born 28 Dec 1892) American cultural anthropologist who was an authority on the Northern Ojibwa Indians. He used tests of perception, and particularly favoured the Rorschach ink blot test to assess individual Ojibwa personalities. Hallowell collected a series of 266 Rorschach records from various Ojibwa communities, and although he never prepared an over-all summary of the results in the form of a sketch of typical Ojibwa personality structures, he used the data in a number of papers. All of Hallowell's field work was undertaken among American Indians. He published many studies of the tribes and made important contributions to culture- and- personality theory. His book Culture and Experience appeared in 1955.« The Ojibwa of Berens River, Manitoba: Ethnography into History, by A. Irving Hallowell, et al.
October 10th is DOR day! What is DOR day you might ask?
A day of respect, or DOR DAY!
OK... so here is either a holiday for Bioregional Animists, a cognitive challenge, or a weekly or even daily practice... I guess it depends on you!
But here is the idea...
Find time to, just for the heck of it, think like an animist all day. Take the whole day to do it too...
by this I mean RELATE to every thing around you as a person ( an other than human person, NOT an anthropomorphised person, for you newbs to new animism) see how relating to every thing around you as a person changes your perception and your actions. Ask your self questions, ask other than human persons questions. Be mindful and respectful in your relations, but do this all day, and just see what happens.
It can be easy for us to take on the animist practice in theory and it can be easy to have relationships with powerful beings in nature like bears and cougars etc... but to extend animist thought and behavior into everything that we do for a day will be a hard rewiring for many of us not raised in a traditional animist home, and might even be hard for those of us who were!
This is a Day Of Respect to other-than-human-persons and of cultivating respectful relationships. It forces us to reevaluate of indoctrinated assumptions and behaviors and form new healthier ones...deepening our roots to our life place through the cultivation of new ways of thinking and acting in our life place... its a time of transformation and change, honor and respect... communication, acknowledgment, and celebration!
Especially CELEBRATION!!! Focus this on this day in ways we can cultivate new celebratory relationships with natural cycles and other-than-human-persons ( who might be a natural cycle as well... hmmm....), maybe ask the land how it celebrates its birthday, or the coming of winter, or how it honors its dead? DOR day is a day of communion and discovering how we might celebrate and honor our lives as animists.
Have a Happy DOR DAY!
Thanks Irving for opening a Door...
This was inspired by a conversation on tribes revolving around the topic of people paying for sweat lodge ceremonies. My thanks to those who are thinking on such lines...
" The box is full of salmon, and a man sits atop of this box. Long ago man hired armed guards to keep any one from eating his fish. The many people who sit next to the empty river starve to death. But they do not die of starvation. They die of belief. Everyone believes that the man atop the box owns the fish. The soldiers believe it, and they will kill to protect the illusion. The others believe it enough and they are willing to starve. But the truth is that there is a box, there is an emptied river, there is a man sitting atop the box, there are guns, and there are starving people."
Low synergy cultures or "aggressive cultures reward actions that emphasize personal gain, even when and especially when that gain harms others in the community."
"Non-aggressive cultures eliminate the polarity between selfishness and altruism by making the two identical: In a 'good' culture, the man atop the box from the parable above would have been scorned, despised, exiled, or other wise prevented from damaging the community. To behave in such a selfish and destructive manner would be considered insane. Even had he conceived such a preposterous idea as hording all of the fish, he would have been absolutely disallowed because the box was held at the expense of the majority, as well as at the expense of future generations. For him to be a rich and influential member of a 'good' ( high synergy culture) culture, he would have had to give away as many or all of the fish. the act of giving would have made him rich in esteem. But he never would have been allowed to strip the river. There would have been no fear with the regard to the 'gift' of fish, for social arrangements would have made him secure in his knowledge that if his next fishing trip failed his more successful neighbors would feed him just as this time he had fed them." Derrick Jensen A Language Older than Words...
Ownership is illusion... and we have been very selfishly working with this colonial and imperial concept of ownership for a long time. Ownership needs to be questioned and alternative systems of living need to be either reclaimed or reinvented to go along side this current economic system. As an animist I cannot own a person, that is akin to slavery, thralldom. As an animist I cannot USE or manipulate someone, buy or sell someone, own someone... or possess someone. I can take care off help, nurture, protect, carry... share with... but can I barter someone or trade someone? Is it my place to give someone to another? Is is my place to be the steward of another person? As Dave Foreman founder of Earth First points out, "The defense of the Earth is not Lord Man protecting something less than himself. Rather, it is a humble joining with Earth, becoming the rain forest, the desert, the mountain, the wilderness, in defense of itself." Is it my place to take someone, or kill someone? How do these relationships get worked out as animists? As an animist I have to look at these relationship dynamics with Other-than-human-persons and interact with great care and awareness, not basing my life ways on assumptions.
The parable of the box is great, but it is some what incomplete, because Jensen is speaking from an Animist world view but is still not really including Animist thought fully into it... this requires a totally different way of thinking and relating. This is difficult, to think in ways that we were not born into, but an Animist way of thinking and relating has to happen, and it can happen over time with persistence and scrutiny. We cannot just pray to the earth mother one day and then sell a part of her or one of her children, a family member to a human person the next. This doesn't mean that we have to put a total stop to our current way of life. But it does require that we start to change the way we look at and interact with the living world. This is the challenge of the integration of this work in Animism and shamanry into our daily lives this is the REAL healing that needs to be done, the real fight that spiritual warriors have to fight, and where our visions and the earth is guiding us I believe...
"No single person knows everything that's needed to deal with problems we face as a society, such as health care or climate change, but collectively we know far more than we've been able to tap so far."
Such thoughts underline an important truth about collective intelligence: Crowds tend to be wise only if individual members act responsibly and make their own decisions. A group won't be smart if its members imitate one another, slavishly follow fads, or wait for someone to tell them what to do. When a group is being intelligent, whether it's made up of ants or attorneys, it relies on its members to do their own part. For those of us who sometimes wonder if it's really worth recycling that extra bottle to lighten our impact on the planet, the bottom line is that our actions matter, even if we don't see how.
Think about a honeybee as she walks around inside the hive. If a cold wind hits the hive, she'll shiver to generate heat and, in the process, help to warm the nearby brood. She has no idea that hundreds of workers in other parts of the hive are doing the same thing at the same time to the benefit of the next generation.
"A honeybee never sees the big picture any more than you or I do," says Thomas Seeley, the bee expert. "None of us knows what society as a whole needs, but we look around and say, oh, they need someone to volunteer at school, or mow the church lawn, or help in a political campaign."
If you're looking for a role model in a world of complexity, you could do worse than to imitate a bee."
I feel that this is a wonderful way of thinking... as Animist we learn from Other-than-human-persons all of the time... It gives me hope that groups are starting to listen to the Bee people. I also think that this sort of organization would be a good thing to intigrate into Bioregional Animist Community Developement. By being recpetive and responsive to your surrondings and to others and by encourageing others to do the same with a base intention of humble service to the whole... you can't go wrong!
Sunday, September 30, 2007
An animist manifesto
All that exists lives
All that lives is worthy of respect
You don’t have to like what you respect
Not liking someone is no reason for not respecting them
Respecting someone is no reason for not eating them
Reasons are best worked out in relationship – especially if you are looking for reasons to eat someone – or if you are looking for reasons not to be eaten
If you agree that all that exists is alive and worthy of respect, it is best to talk about ‘persons’ or ‘people’ rather than ‘beings’ or ‘spirits’, let alone ‘biomechanisms’, ‘resources’, ‘possessions’, and ‘things’
The world is full of persons (people if you prefer), but few of them are human
The world is full of other-than-human persons
The world is full of other-than-oak persons
The world is full of other-than-hedgehog persons
The world is full of other-than-salmon persons
The world is full of other-than-kingfisher persons
The world is full of other-than-rock persons…
‘Other-than’ has at least three references:
it reminds us that we are persons in relationship with others,
it reminds us that many of our closest kin are human, while the closest kin of oaks are oaks, so we talk most easily with humans while rocks talk most easily with other rocks…
it reminds us to speak first of what we know best (those closest to us)
Make that four references:
it reminds us to celebrate difference as an opportunity to expand our relationships rather than seeing it as a cause of conflict or conquest
All life is relational and we should not collapse our intimate alterities into identities
Others and otherness keep us open to change, open to becoming, never finally fixed in being
Alterities resist entropy and encourage creativity through rationality, sociality (or, as William Blake said, ‘enmity is true friendship’)
Animism is neither monist nor dualist, it is only just beginning when you get beyond counting one, two… At its best it is thoroughly, gloriously, unashamedly, rampantly pluralist
Respect means being cautious and constructive
It is cautiously approaching others — and our own wishes,
It is constructing relationships, constructing opportunities to talk, to relate, to listen, to spend time in the face-to-face presence and company of others
It is taking care of, caring for, caring about, being careful about…
It can be shown by leaving alone and by giving gifts
believers in ‘human rights’, for example, demonstrate their belief in rights not only by supporting legislation to protect individuals from states, companies and majorities, but by not insisting on hogging the whole road or pavement, not insisting on another human getting out of the way on a busy street…
You don’t have to hug every tree to show them respect but you might have to let trees grow where they will—you might have to move your telephone lines or greenhouse
You might have to build that road away from that rock or that tree
Hugging trees that you don’t know may be rude – try introducing yourself first
Just because the world and the cosmos is full of life does not make it a nice and easy place to live. Lots of persons are quite unfriendly to others. Many see us as a good dinner. They might respect us as they eat us. Or they may need education. Like us, they might learn best in relationship with others who show respect even to those they don’t like, and especially to those they like the taste of.
Although evolution has no aim, life is not pointless. The purpose of life is to be good people — and good humans or good rocks or good badgers. What we have to find out is what ‘good’ means where we are, when we are, with whom we are, and so on. It is certainly wrapped up with the word ‘respect’ and all the acts that implies.
Since all that exists lives—and since all that lives is, in some senses, to some degree, conscious, communicative and relational—and since many of the persons with whom we humans share this planet have a far better idea of what’s going on than we do—we can now stop all the silliness about being the pinnacle of creation, the highest achievement of evolution, the self-consciousness of the world or cosmos… We’re just part of the whole living community and we’ve got a lot to learn. Our job isn’t to save the planet, or speak for the animals, or evolve towards higher states. Many other-than-human people are already happily self-aware, thank you very much, and if we paid attention we might learn a few things ourselves. By the way, we’re probably not alone in mistaking ourselves for the most important people in the world: hedgehogs probably think they are (but they’re spiky flea-ridden beasts so why believe them?!).
Um, when I said that ‘all that exists lives’, I’m not sure about plastic bags.
But I am certain that we should not treat objects as mere resources, somehow available or even given to us, or humanity, to use as we will or wish.
The same goes for words like ‘substances’, especially those that exist within plant and fungal persons. There are substances, but they aren’t ours until they are given, gifted to us. And then we’d better find out why we’ve been given whatever gifts we get. And we’d better ask how those gifts might be best used (whether its for pleasure, power, wisdom or whatever). This is especially true if the plant or mushroom person who offers us the gift substance has to lose their life in the process.
Maybe sometimes the mushrooms just want to help us join in the big conversation that’s going on all around us. But not all rocks, fish, plants, fungi, birds, animals or humans want to talk with us:
Sometimes they want to be quiet
Sometimes they want to be rude
Sometimes they have other concerns
Sometimes they don’t understand
Sometimes we don’t speak the language
Sometimes we don’t know the appropriate gift
The precise and proper way to show respect depends where you are, who you are, who you are respecting and what they expect. Gifts, like swords and words, have more than one side. Alcohol is a gift in one place, a poison somewhere else. Handshakes are friendly in one place, shows of strength elsewhere. Kissing is respectful to some people, an assault on others. Respectful etiquette is hard work but its reward is fuller participation in a large and exciting community of life.
Sometimes we need shamans to do the talking for us
Sometimes we need shamans to do the talking to us
Animism is just over the bridge that closes the Cartesian gap by knowing how to answer the question, What is your favourite colour? Perhaps it is the bridge. Perhaps there is no gap and animists are people who refuse to collude with the illusion
Animism is often discovered by sitting beneath trees, on hills, in rivers, with hedgehogs, beside fires… Animism is better communicated in trickster tales, soulful songs, powerful poems, rousing rituals, and/or elemental etiquette than in manifestos.
[Originally published By Strange Attractor Journal Journal number three . We would like to thank Graham for giving us the permission to publish this for the first time on line!]