Tighten The Blindfold

by Mitakuye Oyasin

It was about 20 years ago that it happened. I was trying to live in the world created for us by the white European transplants. This is the world where success is worshipped, the work ethic is so addictive that it is often unethical, and you are told you can make your own future by planning today for tomorrow's eventualities and then working your plan.

Worry about the future is the inevitable by-product of this recipe for living. One evening, the uncertainty surrounding certain decisions to be made sort of overwhelmed me. I couldn't see clearly what to do or what was going to happen, and the anxiety worked on me to the point that I went for a walk.

The night was clear and cold and stars filled the sky. As I walked I started to pray: "Help me, Great Mystery. I can't see. It is as though I have a blindfold on."

Whether the voice I heard was from outside or inside my head I could not say, but what I heard I heard clearly and firmly: "Tighten it up!" I stopped in my tracks and started to argue, "You don't understand. I said it was as though I have a blindfold on and can't see ahead. I need to have it removed!"

There was nothing but silence and the night air and a billion blinking stars. Then it dawned on me. I needed to tighten the blindfold, quit peeking and trust the Great Spirit with the problems of the future. I needed to live today and get out of tomorrow.

In other words, I needed to return to the spiritual understanding of life that has always been so much a part of Native culture.

Soon after the Europeans "discovered" Turtle Island, conflicting values and cultural differences made conflict inevitable between the Natives and the newcomers. The points of conflict have been subject matter for everyone from anthropologists to movie producers, but seldom have they hit upon one particular difference in world view which has always been a chasm, culturally speaking, between the mind of the white man and the mind of the red man.

Simply put, it is this: the European thinks in terms of a straight line and the Native thinks in terms of a circle. The Native lives in a tipi, which forms a circle, and village tipis are placed in a circle. The sun, which travels in a "clockwise" fashion, is a circle, as is the moon, and the four sacred directions are part of a circle. The seasons form a cycle and the full life of a human being is lived in a cycle.

These are only a few examples, but you get the idea. Now listen to Black Elk, an Oglala Sioux, describe the sun-wise travel of a person's life: "Is not the south the source of life, and does not the flowering stick truly come from there? And does not man advance from there toward the setting sun of his life? Then does he not approach the colder north where the white hairs are? And does he not then arrive, if he lives, at the source of light and understanding, which is the east? Then does he not return to where he began, to his second childhood, there to give back his life to all life, and his flesh to the earth whence it came? The more you think about this, the more meaning you will see in it."

To the European mind, death is "the end of the line." To the Native mind, it is part of the cycle of life. To the Native mind, we are now in the middle of the winter cycle. To the European mind, we are in the first month of the new year, and this year must show progress and growth over last year.

It is assumed by the white European transplant that progress is not only good and desirable but is a "given" of the human make-up. Contrast this belief with the words of Crazy Horse: "We did not ask you white men to come here. We do not want your civilization­­ we would live as our fathers did and their fathers before them." Once again we see the cycle.

The price of having a linear view of life, courtesy of the European mind, is fear. Focusing on the "what ifs?" of tomorrow is an engraved invitation to fear of every kind. A recent study tells us that two-thirds of Americans are worried about money and are having trouble paying their bills. How many more are fearful of their jobs, or their health, or about dying?

Even Jesus said, "Consider the birds...," and those words strike me as I watch the neighborhood birds gathered at our feeder. When food was plentiful, they did not fret away their days worrying about a supply of food when snow is on the ground. They just come by and eat, taking for granted that the Great Spirit will always provide for their needs.

There are not many European type minds that will agree with this, but as I have lived I have seen it time and again. When I view life as a cycle, the Great Spirit provides for all my needs and there is nothing to fear.

Tighten the blindfold.

This article posted to Zephyr online January 24, 1997
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