bobby1933 (bobby1933) wrote,

Following the paths of others

A couple years back, the Rainbow Family had a minor verbal dispute with the Nez Perce, near whose reservation they had held their encampment.  The general idea was the the Rainbow Family were welcome, but that that they should not mistake themselves for First Peoples nor adopt the spiritual practices of First Peoples while remaining ignorant of  the cultural context in which these practices were lived out. My reaction to this episode was mixed.  On the one hand, I admire the First Peoples and their way of life.  I regret that we Europeans have tried to destroy them and turn their cultures into museum displays; and now that we have taken everything from them except the cultural practices that make them who they are, we want to take those as our own as well..  Cheers to the Nez Perce for standing up and claiming their culture and their identity  and reminding the rest of us that we have, perhaps, traveled too far in the wrong direction to ever return to the ways of real human beings.

On the other hand,  I have nothing against New Age spirituality; and I recognize in its eclecticism an effort to find spiritual paths through the vast wasteland of materialism.  I too am eclectic.  I find many, but not all, of the practices of many cultures. to be beautiful, true, and valuable.  Yet, I am not fully a part of any culture, least of all my own.  I believe I can "take what I like and leave the rest."  But is this just a way of reaping the benefits of a culture without paying the costs that others have had to pay to enjoy those benefits?

Many years ago, I was at a conference where one of the same Nez Perce elders who later criticized the Rainbow Family gave a presentation.  After his talk, he was approached by a young Apache man who expressed an interest in learning the Songs and Prayers of the Nez Perce.  the elder was welcoming but cautioned the young man that these were not his songs, that the Apache had their own songs and their own prayers and their own culture.  These were the things the young man should learn for the good of his soul.

"Grow where you are planted" is an aphorism that I have always liked and generally believed in, but have been unable to follow.  Too many of my own traditions, both secular and sacred, seem hollow and even wrong.  They don't, and probably  never will, work for me.  Unless I follow the paths of others not of my kind, I may have no path at all.

I know that I must respect the traditions from which I choose to draw my own strength, comfort, and spiritual growth..I know that shortcuts (i.e.,reading Sufi poetry without an appreciation of Islam) is dangerous ignorance as well as being disrespectful  So is biting off bits and pieces of my own Christian culture and spewing out what I find distasteful.  Perhaps I should not use terms like "vision quest" or "pilgrimage" as these are owned by traditions not my own.  Perhaps I should just say that I am planning an external journey toward an interior goal.
Tags: contemplation, first peoples, generic meditation issues, nature mysticism
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