Do We Think of Life As “To” Or “With”?

Heard Tiokasin Ghosthorse,  on First Voices, a Cheyenne River Lakota (Sioux) on WBAI, radio, says that his tribal language can go for hours without a verb. A verb represents separation, I need/want/do this to you. Separation has the element of time, first this then that, my need followed by your resolution. Linear time divides perception into  elements by which we lose awareness of and sensitivity to the whole. Linear thinking is a force of separation, us from that which encompasses and essentially is us.

The nature of most native thinking is based on association. I experience what happens to  the water, soil, sun, air, crops, to you, to everything as happening to me. Same with animals: dogs, cats, birds, everything breathing crawling thing, same with all that grows. We share without limit. Where do you stop and I begin? The experience of a shared reality is not linear. Experience is not separated into yesterday and tomorrow. The extraordinary interaction of energy with its implicit spirit goes infinitely on.

Modern thinking cuts life into parts. It dissects and disassociates parts from the whole. It can eat or destroy anything presented by its thinking as a “thing.” It can take away property owned for centuries by natives after killed by troops or misrepresented by corrupt politicians. It does not experience the native’s sense of home. Modern thinking is concerned with winning and with having. It does not see how this narrowing of thought is responsible for what threatens his or his children’s life. Such a person is upset by our ever-growing mounds of garbage so moves to an area which sends its garbage elsewhere. This person is upset by nuclear radiation coming our way by sea and air from Fukushima. What to do about that? Pretend it is not happening. Take tranquillizers to remain calm. This person does not ask, how have I caused this catastrophe including by my inaction and what can I do about it. A “me” centered society does not see itself as creator of the things which threaten. Due to being uninvolved with life,  the person feels confused and helpless.

We do not see the interdependence, co/evolution and sharing of all the elements of life big and small. Linear thinking allows a sense of ownership, a “me” distinct from that which gives us the “right” to do what we think we need to do or simply desire. It allows the uninvolved via corporate investment to cause chronic breakdown and large-scale poisoning.

To live a linear life guarantees abuse. Separation causes the “thing-ing” of objects in the world and eventually as of the self. To live by association is entirely something else. It supports the place in which we live and the ability to survive.



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