Snuff It #4
Black Elk Speaks, John G. Neihardt. After having a great vision at
an early age, Black Elk became a medicine man. He spent the rest of his life
trying to realize his dream for the Lakota--and for all people--of the tree
of life blooming at the center of the sacred hoop. His dream ended in the
butchering at Wounded Knee. Years later, with tears running down his face,
Black Elk tells the Great Spirit that the tree never bloomed, and is withered:
"A pitiful old man, you see me here, and I have fallen away and done
nothing... It may be that some little root of the sacred tree still lives.
Nourish it then, that it may leaf and bloom and fill with singing birds."
To see how things could be, but be powerless to make them so, surely nothing
is harder. Does the preservation of Black Elk's vision in a popular book
lessen his defeat? The author thought so, but I'm unsure. Even if the tree
still lives, how can I nourish it when I can barely nourish myself? Or are
these two are the same, because the tree is in each of us? I also have a
vision, and feel unable to realize it. Will I end up like Black Elk?
O-Zone, Paul Theroux. Industrial society concentrates its power
in cities, but only by ceding control over outlying areas, as Hakim Bey and
others have observed. Already the elite submit to surveillance, and willingly
trade freedom of movement for increased security. Today's "knowledge
workers" telecommute, and rarely leave their gated communities, complete
with shopping malls, recreation facilities, and private police. How much
longer will it be before cities become walled cities? Are we returning to a
feudal world? Theroux's answer is yes, and his bone-chilling novel searches
for life outside the walls. "I'm an Owner...get out of my way and let
On Behalf of Wolf and the First Peoples, Joseph Marshall III.
Unlike hundreds of tribes that became stacks of paper, names on a list, or
nothing at all, the Lakota are alive, with a surprising amount of their
heritage intact. Marshall moves easily in the white man's world, but he
also listens to his ancestors, and their voices permeate his essays. They
stress the importance of knowing one's place, and living within the limits
of the shared physical world. Every species has a part to play in the dance
of life, and possesses unique strengths that enable it to survive. The first
peoples "did not see their ability to reason or understand as anything
that made them superior; instead, it was simply their key to survival."
Like Vonnegut, Marshall distinguishes the Europeans not by their technology,
but by their arrogance. Their merciless campaign to exterminate the
wolf--and the remaining first peoples--in the late 1800s is one of many
The Only Planet of Choice: Essential Briefings from Deep Space, Phyllis V.
Schlemmer and Mary Bennett. After three hundred pages of channelled
interviews with the Being who speaks for the Council of Nine (also known as
Tom), the mind boggles. The good news is that total destruction won't be
permitted, but other than that, it's up to us, as usual. Eyebrow-raising
topics include universal civilizations, Atlantis, and Hebrew aliens. Despite
urgent warnings to get "unstuck," overall the message is positive:
"You all have come to Earth to beautify it, to purify it, to love it and
be in joy with it. Know this: in your time, through your and others' dedication,
through the quality of your being on Planet Earth, you may bring it to the
fulfillment of its creation. That is for us a great joy and we thank you."
The Being who visited me was considerably less cheerful. How do you say
"don't count your chickens"?
The Wanting Seed, Anthony Burgess. In this outrageous Malthusian
comedy from the author of A Clockwork Orange, overpopulation is so bad
that the government promotes homosexuality. Their slogan: "It's Sapiens
to be Homo." The humor is very British, of course, and it overwhelms in
places, but civilization is demolished, and three out of four pillars are
covered, in short order. Fans of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World
(written thirty years earlier) will notice many interesting similarities and
differences. Thank you, William, for making me read this.
Where White Men Fear To Tread, Russell Means with Marvin J. Wolf.
Means--another Lakota--achieved lasting fame as one of the most outspoken
leaders of the American Indian Movement (AIM), for which he and many others
suffered almost unimaginable violence. His autobiography is white-hot with
anger, and it left me exhausted, racked by alternating spasms of self-hate
and self-pity from which I'm still recovering. I can't overcome all of my
social conditioning in one lifetime; it's too much to ask. I was born and
raised in a city, and indoctrinated into the intellectual elite. As a child,
my knowledge of the world came from books. I thought food came from behind
the mirrors in the supermarket: I didn't know any better. I learned to read
and write and control machines, and the damage is done. My skills are only
useful to industrial society, and it tempts me, with distractions and a
comfortable existence. I drink its poison, and my spirit is sick. I have
no tradition, and I can't be a Lakota, no matter how much I purify myself.
I'm an outsider, a mental European. Sometimes I want to live in a right way,
but I'm weak, and Microsoft is big. I weep for myself, I'm so ashamed.
There's an internally recognized beauty of motion and balance on any man-healthy
planet...You see in this beauty a dynamic stabilizing effect essential to
all life. Its aim is simple: to maintain and produce coordinated patterns
of greater and greater diversity. Life improves the closed system's capacity
to sustain life. Life--all life--is in the service of life. Necessary nutrients
are made available to life by life in greater and greater richness as the
diversity of life increases. The entire landscape comes alive, filled with
relationships and relationships within relationships.
-Pardot Kynes, First Planetologist of Arrakis
More Recommended Reading...
index #4 ·