Time to Live

by Mitakuye Oyasin

Here is an epitaph for the tombstone of the 2lst Century: I had no time to live.

Incredible, isn't it? Faster cars haven't done it. The microwave joins a whole host of time-saving devices in the house, and all of them together haven't done it. (Notice that I said ''house'' instead of ''home'' since the word ''home'' denotes to me something that rarely exists today, a gathering of the family in harmony and love, eating together, sharing chores, or just basking in the presence of one another. It's called living.)

There is no time. Faster computers haven't done it. Needless to say, watching television or playing on the internet certainly haven't done it. If anything, those devices, together with the cell phone, have only added to the big push to change the home into a boarding house. Any togetherness is a delusion, each individual hooked up to anything but the family members who are present.

The returns are coming in on our civilized, high-tech, micro-age, zip-zip, activity-driven, state of the art, win-win society as it stumbles into the 21st Century. And the more I hear and see, the more my soul aches for the ''primitive,'' ''uncivilized'' world of my ancestors. Everywhere I look, people are too busy, too angry, too stressed, too worried to notice that today comes and goes, and turns into months and years forever gone. Existence today is like watching a movie on fast forward. If the question ever comes up, it is asked with sorrow -- What happened?

And what are the choices put before America's children today? They can become cogs in the great capitalistic wheels of production, many of them hitched to a machine or riveted to a computer screen. Or they could choose life. I don't mean a life without work. Indians worked as a part of life, not as a substitute for it. What l am talking about is balance, a concept fast becoming obsolete in a society obsessed with over-everything -- over-eating, over-sexing, over-working, over-spending, over-computering, over-doctoring, over-gadgeting, and everywhere you go, someone has always arranged for ''activities.'' No wonder drug use is rampant.

And when it's all over, your life will be summarized by somebody in a brief column in the newspaper. Stellar achievements might take up a sentence or two, but nobody will bother to describe the agony of tine you spent regretting that there was never time to really live.

When was the last time you walked outside, took a deep breath, and felt your breast swell with gratitude for this day of life? No distractions. None of the ''I have to's...'' that crowd your peace. None of the ''should's'' that bring regret and dampen your joy in the present moment.

The farther humans get from nature, the less human they become. The Great Spirit formed us from the dust of the earth, and it is to the earth that we return, ''ashes to ashes, dust to dust....'' The civilized world of concrete, steel, pavement, plastic and incessant noise keeps pushing humanity away from nature's womb, but there is always a longing for something more, something that is missing. It beckons to us like Moby Dick calling to Ahab. Who has not been refreshed by a walk in the woods, or lost track of time tending to a garden, or been awed by the stillness of a lake at dawn?

It is at just such moments that the still, small, voice of God, the Great Mystery, can speak to us and strengthen our very souls. It is at such moments that our hearts can whisper to him, ''Thank you for this moment of joy.''

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online September 27, 2000

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