June 1st, 2012

Daily Tao - 20

Don't spend too much time
thinking about stupid shit.
Why should you care
if people agree or disagree with you?
Why should you care
if others find you attractive or not?
Why should you care
about things that worry others?
Call bullshit on all that.

Let other people
get worked up
and try to enjoy themselves.
I'm not going to give myself away.
A baby doesn't know how to smile,
but it's still happy.

Let other people
get excited about stuff.
I'm not going to hang on to anything.
I'm not going to fill my mind with ideas.
I'm not going to get stuck in a rut,
tied down to any one place.

Other people are clever;
I guess I must be stupid.
Other people have goals;
I guess I must be aimless.
Like the wind. Or the waves.

I'm not like other people.
I'm getting right with Tao.

The Beatrice Tao.

Daily Tao - 20

his version seems to have a petulant, "sour grapes" attitude which i dislike and find uncharacteristic of Taoist wisdom.  Compare to the Gia-Fu Feng/Jane English version of Chapter 20 at the link above, which i call "my Tao of Autism."  It acknowledges and accepts my difference without being, in my opinion, antagonistic toward neurotypical people.

Creation Story (Western Abernaki)

“Long ago, when Tabaldak finished making the world, that Great Being still had some of the dust of Creation on his hands. So, just as one does after finishing planting, Tabaldak began to brush the earth from his hands. That dirt, the dust that came from the making of all, all that came to be as Tabaldak, the Owner/Creator thought of it and made it, that dust sprinkled like rain onto the earth. There, where it fell, the earth began to move. It moved as if with breath. The shape of a head, and then a torso formed in the loose red earth. The shapes of arms and hands, of waist and hips formed. Then that shape sat up. It opened its mouth. It spoke words of greeting. These were the first words heard on the new earth, but the language was the language of the earth which had shaped itself into a being. Tabaldak understood those words.
Tell me your name, the Owner/Creator said.
I am Odzihozo, the being said. I am the One Who Gathers Himself.
You are wonderful, Tabaldak said.
Nda, said Odzihozo. It is you who are wonderful. You sprinkled the earth with the dust of creation.
Then Odzihozo looked about, wide-eyed, and Tabaldak also looked in that same way. All of creation was around them......”
          Recorded by Joseph Bruchac, in I become part of it: Sacred Dimensions in Native American Life,   
          ( edited by D.M. Dooling and Paul Jordan-Smith, Parabola Books, 1989)

I love this story.  God (The Owner/Creator) is unclear about its role in the creation of the human being (Odzihozo),  so the human names himself and explains to God God's role in his creation.  Later, the human being finishes creating himself while simultaneously changing the surface of the world (or at least upstate New York and Vermont) while God looks on like a worried but hopeful parent.

See the rest of the story at 


Cahuilla Origin Story

Since the death of the creator-god, Mukat, is an essential part of the tale, the myth sets the tradition of how the death of any person will be handled; and in doing this, the story creates a sacred place for itself in Cahuilla social tradition. In this tradition, the dead person is cremated and mourned, immediately, but all those who died within a year's time are honored at the end of the year in the Cahuilla's annual celebration-for-the-dead, nukil. At this celebration (lasting one week) the whole creation story is re-told through a cycle of songs, performed in a sacred way so that the lessons of their creation and their relationship with the dead creator-god are renewed. (Bean, 1972; ch. 8)

The celebration of this ritual requires the "big house," as a gathering place for villagers, and the "sacred bundle," containing the ritual materials necessary for this ceremony, as well as a great deal of ritualized charity. It became increasingly difficult for the Cahuilla to maintain these things and, hence, to experience this ceremonial renewal of their heritage. Indeed, it is now extinct, the last celebration having occured in the 1930s. What this means, of course, is that there has been no renewal of the Cahuilla cultural identity since that time --- roughly four generations.

This is a long story so I will only sketch portions of it in very brief fashion here. A good version of it can be found in Kroeber and Hooper's Studies in Cahuilla Culture (1979). The Cahuilla story, typical of the Southern California region and unlike the rest of California, envisioned creation of the earth out of an abstract Darkness. This Darkness was interrupted only occasionally by energy in the form of lightning, and somehow as a consequence of this lightning creation began as the growth of two embryonic sacks. Even at the beginning, though, creation is fragile and the sacks miscarry twice, coming to term only in the third opportunity. At this point, the sacks bear the twin creators of the Cahuilla people, first Mukat and then Tamaioit. There are two of them and this suggests a fundamental duality in the world. Nothing will be perfect in this world; conflict and compromise will determine reality. This duality is mirrored in many ways --- young and old, foolish and wise, imprudent and cautious, male and female, bad and good. Many aspects of this duality are illustrated through the subsequent interactions of Mukat and Tamaioit.

Mukat and Tamaioit begin by trying to drive Darkness back and make way for Light, and they do this by creating some strange creatures, like an eery black-and-white lizard, who attempt to swallow or push back the Darkness. When this has largely failed, they decide to have a smoke, and both bring tobacco, pipe materials, and fire out of their hearts. This scene is very important in setting forth the sacred nature of tobacco, fire, and smoking; but it is also very important in demonstrating the creative energy that lives in Mukat and Tamaioit. This energy is alive in their hearts and is in such a pure form that they have merely to draw things out of their hearts at will. Human spiritual energy will be seen as centered in the heart, but human energy will never compete with that of the creators in strength. The story looks back to a "classic" time when creative energy and spiritual power are still very active.

Continuing to bicker about who is older and better, Mukat and Tamaioit, nevertheless, go about making earth and sky and people. These are the First People who will eventually become animals, demigods, and spirits. All of the materials for these creations come from inside Mukat and Tamaioit. When it comes to making human people, Mukat proceeds slowly and with great care and thoughtfulness, but Tamaioit proceeds very rapidly, making snap decisions. Tamaioit's people are double-sided and have strange limbs as well as webbed feet. Mukat ultimately illustrates his wisdom and superiority by constructing people "the way they ought to be" (that is, the way they actually are) by taking time and being careful. As they finish, they begin to argue the merits of their creations and Tamaioit, finally humiliated, takes his retinue into and below the earth, causing a cataclysmic upheaval which Mukat is just able to stabilize. From this time onward, Mukat is alone with his creations and the few of Tamaioit's who remained (Coyote and Duck, among them).

Mukat and the First People live in a Big House, which sets the stage for the Cahuilla tradition of having the chief inhabit a large ceremonial house. While there are many events related to this period, one of the most interesting and important centers around Moon Maiden, Menily, a fine young woman who teaches the people most of their traditional knowledge and institutions, married relations and duties, games, and herbal cures. She also teaches men and women their separate responsibilities in marriage and parenting. Moon Maiden is a model of loving and, in reality, is the creator of society as we know it. But Mukat offends her by "desiring her as his wife," offending against the incest taboo, so she is forced to go away. She is gone for three days (the length of time that the moon is not seen) and then she re-appears in the western sky as the New Moon, beginning her monthly cycle. Thus, the natural cycle of the moon is rationalized and, at the same time, connected with women's menstrual cycle.

The climax of the Cahuilla's story follows in the death of Mukat. Not only had Mukat alienated Moon Maiden by offending against incest taboos, but he had been responsible for giving rattlesnake sharp poisonous fangs and for giving the people bows and arrows with which they had killed and wounded each other. The people decide that Mukat must be destroyed and they contrive to poison him. It is a traumatic event in the creation of the world because, with the death of Mukat, the people are cut off from the classic period of direct seminal power and must achieve change and survival through their own powers and institutions.

As Mukat slowly succumbs, over a course of days, Coyote stays constantly with him; and at the last, Mukat is fearful that Coyote will gain his powers by eating his body. So, under Mukat's instructions, the people keep Coyote away as they prepare Mukat's cremation fire. Not to be foiled, however, Coyote sees the smoke, races back, and jumps over the people's heads just in time to grab Mukat's heart. So spiritual power is transferred from the creator-god to Coyote after all.

With Mukat's death, the people are left to create life on their own. He instructs them in how to use plant and mineral resources and how to cremate their dead. He gives the people the spiritual contents of the Sacred Bundle which remains in the Big House and is used in their annual nukil celebration. And, finally, they go on a very long sojourn throughout all of Southern California, looking for the best place to live. When they arrive at that place, the present homeland of the Cahuilla, they have become the human people of today and the First People, as such, have all withdrawn into the animal and spirit worlds. The song cycle that relates the creation myth was followed by another song cycle which depicts the wandering-of-the-people. This accounts for the spreading of the myth throughout neighboring areas and also provides an opportunity to create a picture of the whole natural world around them in far greater detail than allowed by the central tale. While transmission of these songs from one generation to another has faltered, many of them are now sung by the contemporary group, the Cahuilla Bird Singers.

Folklorist's retelling.

Chapter 1: Indian Origin Stories

Yurok Origin Stories

The Yurok Origin Stories

"....As a final example, I want to consider stories of the Yurok people. But these stories differ somewhat from the stories we have just reviewed in that they do not deal with the creation of the earth or of life itself. Like other origin stories, however, they do deal with a time prior to human habitation and with the important events among spiritual beings that must be known in order for humans, now, to effectively order their world. Rather than speculating on how the earth was formed and how the animals and humans were created, the Yurok simply looked backward into the past and saw the world as being essentially as it is today, physically the same world only inhabited by a race of immortal First People who achieved the proper balance of all things and found the way to stabilize the natural world order.

"The First People, the wo'gey, were different from the Yuroks themselves, however, and their departure is coincident with the coming of human beings and confusion of the world order. In the Yurok mind this event is never viewed as being too far distant in time; the Yuroks, in other words, saw themselves as recently acquiring the position and responsibility of maintaining the world order, adjusting relationships of humans in the natural balance. Hence, it is through these stories and to the First People that the Yurok must always return in order to renew the world in its healthy and balanced form. These creation stories stand at the roots of the World Renewal rituals. (Keeling, 1992; ch. 3)

"An important village in Yurok prehistory was Kenek which is where World Maker fashioned the sky, like a giant fishing net which he threw up into the heavens. Quite near to Kenek was a sky ladder which could be climbed to reach "sky country." But most important to the Yurok was the notion that the sky canopy met the ocean well within the boundaries of the total universe so that another world lay beyond the horizon, where sky and ocean met. In Yurok thought, the ocean's swells were timed so that there was a periodic opening, or "sky hole," at this junction of sky and ocean, which one could pass through in order to come into that other world. Far across the ocean in this other world was where several great spirits lived in plank houses like those of the Yurok. The first among these was Wohpekemeu who possessed the amazing power of being able to will things into reality by impress of his own imagination. Wohpekemeu was impatient, rapacious, and highly sexual; in Yurok mythology he came to live in the ocean beyond the sky hole because he made love with a female skate, Nospeu, who tricked him by clasping him tightly and swimming him out of the world.

"The far distant home of Wohpekemeu was also home to Nepewo, headman of the salmon, and Pelintsiek, or Great Dentalium. But all of the immortal First People and monsters had originally lived within the Yurok territories, and this included The Thunders, Sun, Moon, Porpoise, and Earthquake. There was also a bearded dwarf named Megwomits who provided acorns and vegetables. But aside from Wohpekemeu, the most powerful and monstrous creature was Pulekukwerek who was covered with horns and spines and smoked tobacco incessantly. Quite the opposite of Wohpekemeu's high level of sexuality, Pulekukwerek seems to have had nothing to do with females. (Keeling, 1992; 41-47)

"The Yurok geography, prepared by Waterman in 1920, showed many locations identified by Yurok informants as specific physical manifestations of both the wo'gey's and various monsters' habitation. These had practical, as well as mythic significance; for instance, an especially important salmon fishing area on the Klamath was also recognized as Wohpekemeu's favorite fishing spot. (Waterman, 1920; 227-272)

"Yurok stories utilized this incredible cast of prehistoric characters to assert models of behavior, to suggest how staple foods came to be given to their people, and to account for diverse attributes of their natural environment. Of greatest importance, however, these stories described how various monsters, natural features, and First People had come to terms with their mutual coexistence and how they had discovered the secrets of balancing the world order. The era was viewed as "classic time," that is, as the heroic time when everything was in the right order. Indian life was viewed as a recent corruption of this time; thus, the stories and the hierarchies they portrayed were indicative of how the Yurok people must strive to correct their corrupting influence and right the world.

"One of the most important food resources to the Yurok was the seasonal spawning migration of salmon; but the Yurok's sense of corruption and diminished power, kept them on guard to adjust the balances essential to the salmon's maintenance. The chief ritual connected with this was the First Salmon Rite and several stories about salmon were associated with this as its legitimation. The power of the salmon and the sensitivity relating to taking the salmon were deeply respected. The ritualist had usually sweated many times in preparation and had probably avoided any sexual relations. After eating the first salmon of the season, he would probably eat no more salmon until much later in the year. He would approach the netted salmon in the water and talk to it, questioning it over its willingness to be taken and to be eaten in different ways. The salmon, in return, would answer by floating in certain patterns. All the spirits of the great river would watch as the ritualist carefully lifted the first salmon from the net, using a specially crafted hazel-bark twine, strung through the fish's gills. On land, he would carefully lay the salmon on its belly and split it down the backbone with a sharp stone blade. The meat was roasted by a fire and eaten entirely. If all etiquette had been properly performed by the ritualist, not only would the people have received permission to fish for salmon through the season, now upon them, but the spirits of the river and Nepewo, himself, would provide an ample harvest. Nepewo's (salmon) nature as a mythic character is essential because his immortal reality guards the salmon's annual return. Nepewo speaks in stories, saying, "I shall not be taken. I shall travel as far as the river extends. I shall leave my scales on nets and they will turn into salmon, but I myself shall go by and not be killed." (Keeling, 1992; 51-3; also see Kroeber, 1976; esp. 218-23)...."

   --Tad Beckman (Anthropologist)

Chapter 1: Indian Origin Stories

his chapter, from which the previous Cahuilla story was also drawn is a good, brief introduction to Native American creation stories.

The reason that the Yurok do not, according to Dr. Beckman, have an adequate creation story is the same reason that modern science has not come up with one.  The Yurok know that creation is not very well understood.  The universe is basically energy.  Before the creation of the world, all was darkness interrupted by occasional flashes of lightening.  Occasionally energy would create tiny "embryos" of matter, but these usually fell apart before they could become "viable."  Even now creation is fragile, and human's must work very hard to keep a sustainable balance.  Energy enters the human fetus as unique spirit at about ten weeks and expresses itself as "law."  The law is basic and very general.  For example a child should learn at his or her own pace,  to try to rush a child's education (or try to slow it down) is to "rob" it of power to learn on its own.  Stealing is against the "law"--not the law of the tribe, i think, but the law of the universe.  But why that law exists we do not know.  This comes from Thomas Buckley's (another anthropologist) article, "Doing Your Thinking" in the Fall 1979 issue of Parabola.

Wooops, MAJOR ERROR HERE..  I had confused part of the Cahuilla story with the Yurok story.  Yes, the Yurok universe is precarious, but there is less specificity about its exact nature.  It must be kept in balance by the correct (lawful, successful) behavior of the Yurok.  The Old People, a superior species, departed "not long ago" leaving the world in the negligent hands of the Yurok who soon corrupted it.  It is their responsibility to maintain this delicate balance by "lawful" behavior and sacred ritual.