Ending my Day...

I have been studying C.S. Lewis in my free time lately... I will admit that there hasn't been much free time :) I have loved to study him for decades and loved to read him when I was younger. But recently, I have been using him to study myself, my situation and my faith. Over the last few weeks I have found that many of the the large stack of books are starting to gather dust and only one rises quickly to my hand and I find myself thumbing through it and staring at the same paragraph. I think it is one of the most thought provoking set of sentences I have ever read.

“And grief still feels like fear. Perhaps, more strictly, like suspense. Or like waiting; just hanging about waiting for something to happen. It gives life a permanently provisional feeling. It doesn't seem worth starting anything. I can't settle down. I yawn, I fidget, I smoke too much. Up till this I always had too much time. Now there is nothing but time. Almost pure time, empty successiveness...”

I really feel this way. I am starting to realize that some of what I saw as fear was actually grief and most of what I saw as anger was actually despair and sorrow. Figuring out how to describe what I feel has been quite difficult and when I read this statement from Lewis, I actually took a quick breath and a voice in my head said 'That's it- That's really it.' I have found the words to describe how I feel which also helps me to understand and deal with it.

I have lost my joy, my heart, and potentially all that I possess. But I still have my life and my feelings and I will continue to move forward in faith and thru a divorce process that I never expected, never wanted and have to live with the choices that have been picked for me. I feel the constant movement of time and I am horribly busy with five classes and starting a new job and yet I feel that I have nothing but emptiness and time mixed together. And I should not feel this, but I feel alone and I feel the urge to withdraw from all around me. Funny enough, I feel embarrassed over my failure because I do not consider a marriage to fail through the faults of only one person and I have not been perfect. So in all my grief and tiredness and sorrow, I am sitting here wondering if I feel like withdrawing because I feel so much pain... or if I feel like withdrawing because I am embarrassed. I can be quite silly sometimes. :)

Well, here goes nothing...!


Some Thoughts Today...

On some days, the clear fact that I make mistakes feels horrible. It seems like I can't improve, that I cannot change. Sometimes I think I am getting better at something and then I realize that maybe I am not. How can you see change if it is small? Can change exist if you see it, but those closest to you do not?

I will be the first to admit that I do not like blame- even when I am at fault. I guess I do not feel that blame solves much and trying to work past the problem or mistake is best. I also think that blame hurts and not in a positive way; it doesn't make people feel sorry or repentant... but rather angry and defensive. I feel like I get a lot of blame in my life. Some of this blame comes from myself as I berate myself for my foolishness, etc... Wasn't it President Uchtdorf who joked that 'some people cannot get along with themselves?' :) But a lot of blame comes from others and it is starting to wear me down. I will make mistakes no matter how I try not to- and today I did make a pretty good one. I acknowledge it and want to try and put it right. But how can I if I am not given the information to do so... and all I hear is anger and blame and sarcastic thank you's? Do we all not fall short of perfection... and depend on the Atonement? My response in the past would probably have been to cry, do my best to make it right and move on. If I am not able to attempt to make it right, I feel stymied and I am moving into a new pattern of cry, withdraw, hide, and don't talk to anyone. The idea of trust and risk are even more painful and the vigor with which I would launch myself into he world is gone and I have no idea how to get it back... and even if I should.

Can I end this post with an apology? I know I am not perfect and I cannot be in this life. I know that there are so many things that are weaknesses for me and are very difficult. I apologize for anything that I have done in the past that has harmed you or caused you (the reader) to feel pain. If there is any way that I can make it right or attempt to do so, please let me know. Please do not let something I have done to you cause you to feel negatively towards myself or other aspects of your life. I will really try to do the same for you.



My Greatest Crucible

Everyone of us has trials in our lives and some of these times can be called 'crucibles'. In many ways, our lives are a 'series of crucibles'. I think I am going through my greatest crucible right now. I am going to go ahead and post this but I will slightly edit it for a tiny bit of privacy. I thought that analyzing my greatest crucible (at least my greatest to this date) would be productive and I think it has been although very painful. So here is goes...

Trying to write freely about this event is one of the hardest things I think I have ever done - I really think I am in the crucible now. I have been relatively homeless for over a year, (edited out) I feel awful. I feel like a failure, a horrible person and an ogre. I feel alone, scared and desperate. I haven't called on very many resources and haven't felt like I have had many. I have tested the friendship of the one person I have had left. In some ways I have made myself a martyr. When some leaders from my church discovered the situation, they have worked to get me to accept resources and have offered comfort, resources and open doors that were closed many years ago by others in the church. The issues are not resolved. I will be safer this winter and less likely to freeze to death. I have food and I am working towards getting a job I need very much. I work everyday to think about my blessings, what I am hopeful for, and to remind myself that I can be a force of positive energy in my life and if I work hard enough maybe for others as well. I am not sure how my world views are currently being shaped. I know that I have spent the last year trying to really look internally on my own (I have no insurance) and try to see who I am and what I want and what I can be. I know that being in the service of others is one of the few things that really helps me to feel joy and awe in my life. I know that my family and a few others are the only people that I feel joy around with few exceptions. I think that I really need to see what I am thinking a few months and years from now to really understand how my greatest crucible has caused change in my and my outlook and views on the world and the people around me.

Looking at mentors in my life, I am not sure that I have had any true mentors if I look at it in the physical sense... that is, I do not think I have had people who have been in my life and attempted to guide me and I trusted them. If the definition of a mentor can be vague enough to open the field a bit and look at a mentor as a trusted guide or counselor and I am able to include people who have shaped my thoughts from indirect means-meaning their actual physical presence wasn't necessary and our interactions together were few to non existent... then I can think of a few :) If I stick with physical people that I have actually had interactions with then I think the first person I can think of would be Joy Demain. As a teacher, we rarely had experiences that were personal in the sense that other people were always around... and the people tended to be peers so I was less likely to be my 'real' self. In fact in those days, I think I either wanted to please so much that I had a quite desperate quality about me and I also had an energy level that was unable to be matched by most of the people around me and so I was basically in some ways out of control in my enthusiasm, exuberance and 'joy'- if I was out of my household and around any one that I liked then I felt a sense of joy that I see now as not joy but an attempt to get as much of me and other positive emotions filled before returning home. I looked up to Ms. Demain and I feel uncomfortable even writing her first name down here – she was always the teacher and I would never have dared to call or think of her by her first name. She lived in a way and an openness that I admired and wanted.... and still do not understand how to be. I few things that she said to a group of us stuck with me and did influence in in some ways. I didn't try to go on and become an actress because she didn't feel I was good enough. She thought that people who get married before the age of 25 years old were more likely to get divorce so I didn't consider it a possibility to get married before then and I married at 27 instead. The other person I can think of I married and I am attempting to stay married too. The mentors that have shaped my thoughts from their writings have really made the most change in me have actually been mentors I have collected over the last two years- they are Thich Nhat Hahn, James Faust, and C.S. Lewis. I have really studied over the works of Thich Nhat Hahn to work on my problems with anger, James Faust to understand other people and to develop confidence and tolerance, and over the last few months I have discovered the mature C.S. Lewis and I am using his works to shape my thoughts on religion and grief... although I think that he isn't able to shape my thoughts on religion too much as I tend to agree with him and not actually 'change' anything. :)

Looking at my past and opportunities for leadership, I am not sure that I have ever developed significant 'leadership' skills. I think that I have spent as much energy as possible avoiding leadership activities. I think part of that is my misunderstanding of the difference between a 'leader' and a 'supervisor/boss'. I am changing my viewpoints on those definitions currently. :) The only think that I am pretty sure that I have learned is the small lessons that together have brought me to this point. I think that past experiences haven't really been crucibles because I haven't struggled through them or tried to learn anything positive... I have simply tried to survive to get to a new point (and hoped that point was good.) Most of the small lessons seem to have worked in a negative way- to close me off not for growth. Learning to re-frame these experiences is something that I am trying to figure out how to do. Trying to figure out how to change my perception of my past is something that I have been having difficulty with. Many experiences from my past are holding me back- or more correctly I am allowing them to hold me back.

In conclusion, I am on the path to moving from 'I' to 'We', but I haven't made it yet. I think that the huge experiences of the last few years hitting me one right after another and all of them being big, painful and life changing events have brought me to this point. I would like to learn how to finish this transformation and how to truly re-frame my experiences so that they are not baggage and are positive and uplifting instead. Hopefully, I will learn some more techniques in this class to help with this journey. I do not feel like the hero in my journey... but I do feel like I am a lone traveler on my journey. I would like to feel like a pilgrim in a group on a great pilgrimage. That vision sounds nicer to me. :)


Environmental History: Viewpoints on Native Americans, Europeans and the New World in 1490 part 2

This post is the second part of a series of snapshots and viewpoints between the Native Americans and the coming Europeans in 1491. Please feel free to add your thoughts, concerns and views on these topics in the comment section below! :)

One way to study the history of New England is the most common way which is to study the perspective from the explorers and the reigning government point of view. Another perspective is to look at the history from the standpoint from a colonial settler. Living in the 'new' world was hard. Most colonial settlers had no commercial talents – the majority of people came to this world to flee religious persecution, to find land and wealth, or to even try and escape punishment or the gallows for misdeeds such as murder and have a fresh 'start'. Much money and wealth could be made by cutting down trees and shipping the by-products and the collection and shipment of fish and other natural resources. However, many settlers had to learn that money can not be 'eaten' and cannot be used to purchase food where none was grown. The major commodity for making money was through trees and wood products- masts, casks, tools, lumber for construction, barrels, etc... This created the incentive of selling all the available resources leaving none for yourself, your family or your community. From the settlers point of view, the land was a God given right, a place of hardship and work, but a place of potential- a new world of wonders and great fertility.

Another way to study the history of New England is to study it from the perspective of the beaver. In the world that the beaver inhabited before the arrival of the Europeans, the beaver was a king. It manipulated the physical environment more than any other animal in the continent... besides us. :) Through the efforts of the beaver, many trees were felled or drowned, soil erosion was controlled as the water table rose, new homes are created for animals and fish, and new meadows would develop over time. Beavers had been on this continent for millions of years, and live building dens and traveling over land and water. They are difficult for their predators to catch and the life they set up for themselves and their progeny was quite successful. The arrival of the Europeans found an animal quite spread out and in control of its land. Unfortunately for the beaver, the fact that their fur imitated a type of hat manufacturing already in existence in Europe created the incentive to kill the beaver after if was discovered by the new settlers. In humans, the beaver found the ultimate apex predator who could chase them out of the water to kill them, had a great incentive to do so, and would do so at will. Do to the economic inequality between the Europeans, the trade desires between the Indians and Europeans, and the profit margin of upwards of 2000% on the fur, beavers suffered horribly. It is believed that only the laws that sprung up in time saved the beaver from extinction at the time that they were hovering over the precipice. The beavers lost their land, safety and even the possibility to survive without the intervention of the same species who had brought them to near annihilation. The difference between these two histories in some ways is plain. It can certainly be said that the beaver's history in some ways mirrors the history of the Native Americans- both groups had made themselves comfortable and relatively at peace and in harmony with the land... the coming of the European not only spelled the near annihilation of both groups but also their loss of land, food, harmony and peace.

The relationship between Blacks and Indians in the colonial South is a bit complicated. Both Blacks and Indians could and had been enslaved by the white Europeans, but the rules of bondage that were held in the laws were interpreted more harshly for blacks. Many Indian tribes accepted runaway slaves into their tribes and intermarriage was acceptable in most of these cases. However, many Indian tribes would turn in runaway slaves and would get benefits and rewards for doing so. In some cases such as the Seminole tribe, Indians would also own blacks as slaves and at the end of the civil war, some tribes had to actually be forced to free their slaves. Europeans would in some cases cause problems between both of these groups by suggesting to members that the other group was working against them; i.e. Indians would be told that Blacks were working against them, etc.... Some sources suggest that working to cause and develop racism in Indian tribes against African Americans was part of the European government public policy. Europeans tried to stop the flow of runaway slaves to Indian tribes and even signed treaties with some tribes with the agreement that these tribes would return runaway slaves- most who signed did not return the runaway slaves. The reality that Indian tribes welcomed runaway blacks into their folds for the most part caused President Andrew Jackson to fight and push the Indians out of the land we now call Florida as so many blacks were escaping from Georgia and living with Indians there. Some of the ways that these groups tried to deal with their conditions was to hold tight to their cultures (although some groups allowed forms of assimilation), some grew foods from their native lands and others tried to find other ways to find peace with their situation. Some ran away, assimilated, or found justification in exploiting others like their European counterparts.

There are a few differences between an organic and an inorganic economy. An organic economy consists of natural resources such as wind, water, animal and human labor. Inorganic economy consists of iron ore, charcoal, etc... In many instances the resources that make up an organic economy as more easily expanded and grown that those that govern the inorganic economy. Human labor is renewable through rest, importation of servant, slaves and explorers. Wind and water are abundant and while less controllable than human labor, they can be created, collected, and harnessed to squeeze all the resources out of them. Animals can be bread, imported and even trained fairly easily. However, sources such as iron ore are not quickly duplicated. Iron takes a long time for nature to develop and charcoal can be made, but it takes a lot of 'waste' or resource usage to create a small amount of charcoal. So an inorganic economy is a riskier proposition- you risk the loss of the economy when resources run out, if you do not have a strong organic economy you risk starvation, etc... The Europeans focused so much in some cases on the creation for wealth through inorganic economies that they had to buy or steal food from the Indians to survive and some laws were passed in placed requiring the growth of grain if you participation in an economy that did not actual create food. Learning about this phenomenon was really interesting because I was a little shocked that people would 'forget' or be unwilling to waste their time growing food... but would want to eat it later. In many ways we have that same economy today where people are so separate from the growing and making of their food... and farmers can be quite poor. In many ways we still 'despise' this labor even as we eat from it.

The importance of Christopher Columbus's report to Queen Isabella cannot be understated. His report of a new land filled with the potential converts to the Christian religion, gold and other riches, but most importantly.... land for the taking after conquering was staggering and exciting. While this news was important to the Queen and to Spain, the rest of Europe was desperate as well and it was only a matter of weeks before the letter that Christopher Columbus had written to the Queen had been translated, copied and traveled throughout all of Europe by other travelers and pilgrims, traders,and armies. Soon other countries were arming ships to head to the new land with people who had nothing to lose and land and a life and riches to gain in the new world. Soon Spain and the rest of Europe were on their way to conquer the Americans. Spain first, and when England had fought and beaten the Spanish army, the English came and started their own settlements. Other countries such as France and the Dutch soon followed.

Until the arrival of the Spanish, horses were not an animal known to the Americas since the ice age. However, the Spanish brought them in abundance to the Americas to aid in their conquest of the native populations and it is thanks to the horse that Pizarro and the Spanish conquered the local populations in such a small period of time (the European's disease so also be thanked, but I digress :). As some horses escaped and became wild, a new breed of horse was developed that we now call the mustang. This breed became extremely numerous and they populated the land across the continent- the horses do not just stay in the 'conquered' lands. These large groups of wild horses changed the way that the Native Americans lived in a dramatic way. Horses gave the native populations new ways to do almost everything. They could fight, hunt and travel on horses and this 'blessing' transformed their lives. Some tribes become more nomadic as moving farther distances is easier and possible and horses became a new part of the Indian's culture and lifestyle. It seems almost rare to hear about the culture of Indians and not hear about the horse. The horse becomes a symbol of the Indian's culture and life to the Europeans and their future progeny... even though the history of Native Americans is thousands of years long and the history with the horse is only a few centuries.

Pigs were brought from Europe with the explorers and they were a blessing to these non-native people. Pigs are prolific, small, not too picky about food, easy to care for and look after themselves. Some pigs were let loose into the 'wilderness' on purpose- with markings on their ears to show ownership- and then were hunted as needed by their European owners. This way their owners didn't have to care for them and just collected their property when needed. As the Americas are conquered by the Spaniards the pigs help the conquerors by attacking and eating the native's crops of corn- they competed with Indians for the Indian's food. Native Americans do not fence their fields and so wild pigs were able to eat the small shoats and growing crops of the natives. (Between pigs and the entitlement felt by the Europeans that they could take the native's seed corn whenever they wanted to, the native groups must have felt quite trapped and desperate which explains some of their aggression towards the incomers. In a few generations there are tens of thousands of the wild pigs which become more aggressive and develop tusks... and become a serious and daily problem for the Native Americans.

The Europeans reacted to the seemingly endless supply of trees and fish with joy and greed. Europe was desperate for both wood and fish and the 'new world' seemed to be overabundant and unending in these resources. The land is describes as having rivers with more fish than water and trees that are so numerous that a squirrel can go from the north of the country to the south without ever touching the ground. The newcomers see it as their 'duty' to tame the forests and civilize the land for God. So the forests are cut down for building and 'needs' for not only this new land, but the lands of Spain and Europe as well. Fish is harvested as if there will always be an overabundance and it took only 200 years to over-fish the Americas. Wood is taken so quickly that some areas in the Americas are literally denuded of trees – and this 'new world' begins to look like the land that they left. For the settlers, someone who owned land would be able to sell the fish for money or other goods creating wealth- and since the land wasn't owned, the land's resources cost nothing. I think it is safe to say that both wood and fish were harvested with only greed and need in mind and not conservation or with the thought that the resources might potentially be limited. Both of these resources with be overused and run low... and were probably a factor in the fight for independence from the European powers... it would allow those that lived in the Americas to keep more of the resources to themselves and not have the largest share (or what was left) travel across the seas.

The animals that were brought over from Europe such as the horse and pig changed the landscape of the American continent in many ways and the arrival of women and their animals also create great change. Women bring the way of life that they are used to in Europe which included plants such as wheat, barley, fig trees, olives, bananas, other fruit trees, etc … and animals such as goats, chickens, sheep, cows, etc…. Through these passengers that travel to the America's, other 'tagalongs' such as weeds like dandelions and European insects (including bees) arrive and start to populate the environment. With all of these changes, the Americas and it's land literally fall under an environmental revolution as the land becomes a mirror image of the European lands that these people have left behind. The land is invaded by all of these animals and new plants and the land is changed through the trampling and domination of the new animal population- in the end, the settlers do not have to tame the land- they practice environmental imperialism and conquer the land itself and bend it to their will and cause death, destruction and sometimes extinction to the native flora and fauna. One quote states- “livestock and grains changed this world into a true New England.” The land is forever changed and looks nothing like it did before the Europeans arrived.

The new discoveries of resources in the American's brings a demand for luxury goods that are purely American products. Fur and other 'hide' products become in high demand and some animals (such as beavers) are hunted almost to extinction... (But I bet everyone in England and some of the other European countries look very fashionable in their fur coats and beaver hats. :) The land is cleared for gardens and orchards/plantations and the demand for fruit from the 'New World' is high. Sugar and tobacco (the luxury goods with highest demand) were also desired luxury items which are shipped in large amounts to Europe. To satisfy the large demand of these products in Europe, huge plantations or large mono-cultures would stretch over enormous swaths of man and African are captured and forced to work these huge areas for the profit of the Europeans. These African slaves were needed as the native population could not really be enslaved – too many of them had been killed or died out from disease. The downside of growing sugar and tobacco is that they really can not be eaten (for nourishment and health) and these plants tend to rape the soil of all it nutrients. So growing these products in many ways required the process of slavery and the loss of forests as more land had to be cleared to grow these crops when current fields were no longer fertile. The upside is that sugar tastes really good... sorry, couldn't help that comment. :)

The discovery of the potato takes a few centuries to really take hold in Europe, but when it does it becomes a necessary and needful food item for the poor as a healthful and nutritious product. Potatoes are introduced to Spain and from there to Europe and it is embraced in Ireland. Ireland is constantly short of food for its population due to bad land, wars, exc... The potato is easy to grow and has less difficulty in war time of being burned and destroyed and it becomes the crop of choice for this country. The population in Ireland will more than double due to the potato and other town in Europe with explode due to impact of this easy to grow tuber. The fact that potatoes also have a goodly amount of nutrients including vitamin C (which helps prevent scurvy) made them an indispensable food for a moving and financially strapped population.

The impact that the diseases that were brought from Europe had on the native populations was nothing short of devastating. Conservative death estimates suggest that around 50% of these native populations died, but it appears that the estimates that suggest death numbers are over 90% mortality may be a lot more accurate. Historians are still trying to discover all the diseases that were spread and to grasp an clear and accurate mortality number, but we are sure that one of the diseases that caused such devastation was smallpox and because the virus was so strong and traveled easily,
many populations of native tribes fell to the disease and death without ever meeting any of the Europeans who originally brought the disease to their lands. Another disease that is know to have causes large scale death and destruction to the Native Americans was influenza. Neither of these diseases was known in the Americas before the arrival of the Europeans so no animal or person was immune from these diseases and had little to no defense. As the Native Americans fall sick, perish and their civilizations fail, the Europeans give thanks to God and see the death/destruction of the natives as a blessing and a mandate from God; that the land is theirs to tame and occupy, that the natives were sinners, etc... and not worthy of the land, and that the land is a gift from God for them. These thoughts and prejudices allow Europeans to see themselves as the true owners of the land and to see themselves as better and more worthy than the native populations. These viewpoints allow the exploitation of the land and the European settlers to be justified in their minds as right and appropriate... and not greedy and unrighteous. It allows them to look at the natives as label them savages and other forms of animals - not actually human beings like unto themselves (and God's image)


Environmental History: Viewpoints on Native Americans, Europeans and the New World in 1490 part 1

This post is a series of snapshots and viewpoints between the Native Americans and the coming Europeans in 1491. Please feel free to add your thoughts, concerns and views on these topics in the comment section below! :)

There are several differences between the cultures of the Native Americans and their European counterparts when it came to gift giving and trade. For the Pueblo Indians there is a clear reciprocal protocol that must be followed with gift giving. In short – a gift should be accepted with the giving of another gift making both givers the equal and not indebted to each other. If only one side had a gift to offer, then the person who accepted the gift still had a non-tangible gift to give- which was unending obedience and respect. This knowledge and acceptance of the gift giving relationship between parties was no limited to only human beings in the sense that the Indians believed that God had given them many gifts that they could not reciprocate and so they 'owed' obedience and respect to God always. Gifts were offered to animal spirits to help with the hunt and to continue the important role of gift giving and reciprocity. In the European culture, gift giving does not have the same connotations. It is considered that a gift doesn't need to be reciprocated in many instances. Therefore, it was inevitable that conflict would arise between the two communities based on this one cultural difference alone. In many cases, Europeans thought the gifts were simply 'tribute' and was the conquerors due, not a gift to be acknowledged and returned. Trade was similarly disproportionate between the two groups. Europeans would trade quick cheap materials, tools or products to the Indian for the very expensive fur. And the tools of the 'western men' made more sense to use when taken into conjunction with the success and strength of Christianity and the European marketplace.

There are a few ecological roles that animal spirits, rain chiefs and shamans play in Native American society. In the case of the Pueblo Indians, they believed that people and the natural word were connected and that all objects and animals had a spirit. So before using or killing natural resources the spirit must been appeased and respected or the spirits could work against the people. They believed that animals have emotions just as we do and they are capable of fighting back if their resources are overused and not respected. Micmac tribes believed that the world was filled with magic and power and is a world filled with magic or spiritual beings – not objects. So, for the majority of native Indians, these spirits helped focus and control their use of natural resources by giving animals a respect and reverence due them because of the fellow relationship with the tribal members and nature. Animals may have been a 'separate nation, but they were considered a nation to be carefully used, respected, and rituals followed to keep the relationship between the nations of animals and people open and healthy. For the Micmac communities, hunting was even called a 'holy occupation' and was mainly performed for need alone... In fact, the belief that over-consumption could cause retaliation in the animal world by either invalidating the hunter's way to hunt causing inability to get food or the similarly terrible calamity of the living animals/members of the over-consumed 'nation' leaving the vicinity of the tribe and their hunting grounds. The arrival and active influence of the Franciscan and Jesuit missionaries to convert and change the spiritual beliefs of the Native Americans proved quite effective. These Europeans appears to control animals with a power that the leaders of native groups could not match. The 'corn mother', a sacred fertility goddess, was transmogrified by the missionaries in the Virgin Mary and other gods were pushed aside. Conversions were acquired by trickery (when I pray for you and you feel better, you will convert), ridicule of the native religion, better food production, and physical protection if needed. Even the disease that was brought by the Europeans caused spiritual harm as the ways of medicine for the tribe were unable to help these new illnesses and the 'whites' seemed to be almost immune to the problem, leading credence to the Europeans Christianity. Those native societies that fell hardest under the influence of the European cultures found woman’s right severely curtailed, many of their feminine cultural gods and ceremonies removed as demonic or sinful, and only the more masculine Gods continued to be worshiped or acknowledged after the erosion of the native culture by the Europeans- even the Christian names given to the male children helped subvert the rights of women. And by subverting the spiritual base of the relationship between man and animals, the relationship between them was more open towards more exploitation with fear of retaliation.

Native American society had quite a few gender differences that existed in their cultures before the arrival of the Europeans. The Pueblo Indians had a culture that allowed for both independence as well as interdependence of their genders, giving men and women relatively equal status in the group. Jobs were gender based as women spent much of their days preparing food, community work as well as the traditional tasks of clothing preparation, childcare, cleaning, etc... Men worked in the corn plots owned by women usually a family member, collected necessities such as firewood, performed the hunt, and were responsible for the community's relationship with the Gods. In these societies, land was mostly owned by women and women had rights to their children, labor, land and even the seeds for the growing of food. The arrival and upheaval caused by the Europeans altered the way that all native societies functioned and altered the roles of both gender changing the balance of power clearly towards the masculine gender and severally limiting the rights of the native women (and their own actually :)

The differences in belief and attitudes towards property and the environment between the Native American and the Europeans are stark. As both sides viewed the world around them in such differing way culturally, socially, and spiritually, it can come with little surprise that there was so much conflict and anger between the two groups. (While it is incorrect to lump all native peoples into one group as the Native Americans had many differences in their cultures depending on their location and groups, for this discussion I will discuss the generic beliefs of all Native American cultures versus the attitudes of the European groups.) Native Americans saw personal property as something that could be carried-such as tools, etc... land was owned by all beings including the animals and inanimate objects in nature. So, many native groups had areas were they lived and commenced their work, but no one in particular owned that land and all people used the land to keep it useful and ready for the next generations- a believe that this generation was essentially renting the land from the next generation. Their religion reminded them that they must use natural resources with respect and dignity... otherwise the spirits of nature could retaliate against them. Things that were passed on in kinship groups would pass down the matriarchal line and there was no distinction between communal or personal property in kinship groups. The Europeans with a rich history of Judea-Christian thought saw the environment very differently. One view that was held by these groups was that God had given Adam (the first man) the order to dominate nature.... and our intelligence gives humans the ability use science to learn about nature and improve and alter it which puts the human being on a dominant scale in relation to all others forms of nature and the environment. Europeans tended to see forests and densely filled land with superstitious thoughts of it being the devil's place (of filled with satanic forces) and so they saw it as they right- nay, duty to conquer and tame the land to make room for appropriate civilization. It also must be mentioned that Europeans believed in the concept of private property; that land could be owned permanently by one or more person and that land gave a person wealth and power. They believed that land could be owned by those who worked the land and this thought was one of the justifications for taking the land from the natives (as they were not working it like the Europeans.) Essentially, the Europeans saw land as a constantly marketable commodity and passed these commodities through paternal lines of kinship. The Europeans biased views allowed them to decide that Native Americans were lazy, poverty stricken because of their laziness and their duty to civilize both the natives and the environment. Native religions helped keep the overuse of the natural resources to a minimum while European religion justified European overuse and relentless usage of the natural resources.

The concept of the 'Ecological' Indian is a stereotypical 'idea' that was given to the Indians by the early environment conservation movement. This stereotype suggests that Indian culture was so pure and conservationist that it never left a mark or any harmful action onto their environment. However, like all stereotypes, there is only a little truth to the concept and while native communities did cause less negative impacts on their environment as a whole, they still did cause alterations, damage, and differing impacts on their environment. While, it can truly be said that the influence of the European and the assimilation of his culture made both the native and European population more exploitative of the land and its resources... it is true that native communities did cause a higher environmental impact on nature and their surroundings after assimilating parts of European culture and apostatizing from their own beliefs. Stereotypes also tend to make the object or community that is stereotypes simple and plain and doesn’t allow for the complexities and details of their culture to be seen or understood... and tend to make the details seem useless and unimportant. I have certainly found that any stereotype or 'label' that is used in my life to describe something or someone rarely is able to do more but merely scratch the surface of the beauty, complexity, and true understanding of the person, culture, etc....

There were a few reasons that European monarchs were looking for a new route to the 'East', but only one real focus. The aristocracy and monarchy of the European countries had been able to grow wealthy from trade with the east and were also able to enjoy luxuries that they were not able to easily or cheaply make themselves such as silk, spices, gold and jewels. However with only one route to the east and one way to trade and make money, trade and wealth for the monarchs of Europe was always contingent on control of the way to the East. When the 'silk road' was blocked by the Turks around 1490 and trade was on the decline, monarchs such as Queen Isabela of Spain were desperate to find a new way to get to India to continue trade. It didn't hurt that the Europeans themselves had already exploited so much of their natural resources that times were a little difficult- land was scarce and overworked, peasants worked land that belonged to wealthy people or institutions, and overcrowding was the norm. So this is the time that Kings and Queens sent out explorers to find new lands or ways to the East to find more resources.

Before the discovery of the Americas by Christopher Columbus, Europe is described by the documentary (America before Columbus) in stark and harsh terms. In 1491, Europe is crowded, the wealth of the rich and noble is at risk due to restricted ability to trade, the land is overworked, scarce, and overrun, the borders of countries are torn and damaged by wars, thirst for power, religious fervor. Europe is crowded with 100 million people, all natural resources have already been exploited, most people work for others as peasants, the main diet of the majority is fairly simple and unchanging (mostly grain products like bread and porridge). Water and wind are harnessed for power to increase yields on land that is small and overworked. The population of Europe is so large and the domesticated animals help by providing meat and dairy, fur hides and clothing, physical labor, and leather. Between the large number of people and the domesticated animals controlled by human owners, Europe is to crowded and cannot continue to really survive... let alone thrive without finding more resources to use. (or exploit). Even the seas and rivers have been exploited as a form of cheap protein and have been so over-fished (as well as the damage/ pollution caused by over farming the lands and the runoff and sediment), that the yields of fish diminish. The rivers also had diminished fish yields not only because of pollution but also the damming of the waterways to produce power and to help with irrigation which disrupted spawning and fish growth. Due to wars, need for fuel, buildings etc... the forest in Europe have been depleted. Wood is used for fuel as there is not much coal and while many buildings like cathedrals are made of stone... a lot of wood is used for roofs, pillars, foundation, ceilings, etc... Wood is also used for tools (for both wood tools such as ax handles, but also for the smelting fires to make the metals into weapons and tools) and furniture as well as transportation such as cart wheels. And forests take up badly needed land for food production. Wood in many ways is scarce and what is left is owned by the powerful. Venice itself is literally floating on wood and seriously depleted all the lands around it for the wood. Europe is simply in a desperate state and needs to find more resources or collapse whether through war, famine, etc... There is little to lose in exploration and much potential to gain.

One interesting civilization of note was the civilization of the Anasazi in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. The reason that this civilization is important to study and acknowledge is that even though this group of people used resources as correctly as they could, their civilization still declined until extinction and assimilation to another place. In 1491, this land looks much like it does today- barren, little vegetation, no water and few animals. Before this time the land was full of forests and vegetation and was the home of the Anasazi. From 700 AD on, these people built huge buildings- the largest and highest in North America at that time. The Anasazi have left no written records to tell us about their civilization and so to discover what happened to this civilization of around 100 people, environmental historians can study the trees, rate nests, and other environmental factors to help us learn what happened to them. Archeology will give some clues but studying the environment will tell us that the world was like around the people we are studying. I think this story is important to study and understand because we can see clearly through the study of the Anasazi and Chaco Canyon that the environment can not only be changed by us, but it can control us and even change us in dramatic ways. While there is some debate about whether the Anasazi harvested too much wood causing the loss of forests or if the loss is due to drought... or both, in the end we know that the forest receded causing erosion and more difficulty in growing crops. We know that the population was too large and not enough agriculture could be grown during the drought to feed the people... so they had to leave. (This seems to me to be a great metaphor for Europe in 1491 and the desperation of the population to find a another place to move to and more resources to use.)


Why Leaders Lose their Way and some Personal Introspection

I think I have seen leaders, both up close and certainly through the news media, that have lost their way and not only ended up being a failure as a leader but causing the organizations or groups that they are affiliated with to crash or stumble in a big way. I have worked with a few people whose leadership skills have been quite poor and I have personally felt the pain and frustration caused by their poor leadership abilities. So i took the time to look at the different archetypes of leaders that fail and try and analyze what parts of myself I saw in them. I think it is appropriate to say that after looking at the the archetypes of leaders (the Impostor, Rationalizer, Glory Seeker, Loner, and the Shooting Star), I can see qualities of each of them in myself and the way I think and react to things. First I looked at generic behaviors that I could see in leaders who have not been totally successful. Some of the behaviors I have seen displayed in others and myself are arrogance, the focus on selfish desires, the fear of failure, doubt and lack of confidence, as well as misplaced aggression, a sense of entitlement, and the sense of needed to be the hero. In my new understanding of what leaders are and what they can and should be, I have started to realize that I see these behaviors and 'failures' everywhere around me- at church, at local businesses, and at home. But I would be dishonest if I didn't also mention that I see some of them in myself.

Looking at the archetype of the 'Impostor', I do not recognize a lot of these qualities in myself but I do recognize that others around me have them. I lack the ability (at least I think that I do) to understand the politics of getting ahead and I allow almost everyone to stand in my way. :) I do not understand politics in almost any organization and at this point will not pretend to understand them in my private life. I will say that I am not confident in my ability to lead and at least in this point have no wish to be in any position of power or authority over anyone.... not even myself.

Focusing at the qualities of the 'Rationalizer', I see quite a few in myself as well as others. I certainly make mistakes to help things short term that have long term costs. I will admit that I didn't see that aspect in myself until the last year. I also rationalize not telling people bad things because if it isn't useful I think its better to not say anything. Little things like that sometimes do come back to bite me. I also tend to like to share responsibility with others so failure belongs to all of us and I do resist taking full responsibility for things myself. I am not sure if that is because I could be considered a blamer or I work so hard to not be the only maker of the 'choice'. If I work with others we are all responsible for the failure or success.

Looking at the archetype of the 'Glory Seeker', I think I had a few of those qualities earlier in my life. I wanted to be famous and successful and leave my past behind. In some ways I am still that person. I do not want good grades for myself, but so I can say that I have them. I joined the Honor's program because it was pointed out to me it wasn't a great deal more work and I would have that little 'badge' next to my name. I have two minors for my degree and while I wanted them both, I think I did the extra work to have that accolade when I graduate as well. I will say that I think my 'thirst for fame' is quite quenchable and I think I would like to spend most of the rest of my life unknown and not in any kind of limelight. I think I want to discover how to be successful for myself.

Focusing on the qualities of the 'Loner', I recognize that this archetype is the one that fits me the most right now. I do 'believe they can and must make it on my own.' I really feel very uncomfortable forming close relationships right now. I don't feel comfortable sharing much and while I have recently created a support network, I feel very uncomfortable using it for myself and only really feel comfortable using it for my family. I have quite a few superficial relationships and I think I actively work to keep them at arm's length. It is so much easier to keep secrets if I don't let down my guard and I am not close to anyone. I also do not know how to understand people sometimes when they are trying to give feedback.

Looking at the archetype of the 'Shooting Star', I don't see much of it in me at all. My career is so secondary and I then to use it to keep up with my 'Loner' archetype. That way I have social interactions, but have a professional distance from most people. I think at one point I allowed my church membership to act in this capacity and because I felt like there was so much need there I did allow my personal life to be ignored. If there is anything about this archetype that fits me it would be that I always tend to rarely make time to take care of myself. That is always last. I think that I do learn from my mistakes, but I also think that mistakes tend to make me more introspective and less likely to put myself at risk.

I think that any person or leader can find themselves in situations that can cause them to lose their way. I think that if I managed to be successful enough that I felt a bit of confidence in being a leader, I might not be a good leader because I do tend to be a loaner, un-trusting of others and doubtful that any risk is worth the risk of pain and failure. I can see myself struggling and losing my way if the one person I trusted had lost their way and I kept following them. When I was younger I had one good friend and there was a special activity that was set up at church where you were blindfolded and two people were supposed to give us directions across a field of obstacles and one person would give the wrong directions. The leader of the group had my best friend give me the wrong directions. Every other individual in the group only made one or two mistakes when they went through the 2000 feet obstacle course- I made it almost to the end before I stopped listening to Ashley. I think its a pretty good metaphor for myself as when I do trust... I trust strongly. And it takes a lot to lose that trust... but once it's gone I rarely give it back.

So I think it is safe to say that until recently I have never tried to be my on person and I haven't really actively tried to go my own way. I have simply tried to surround myself with good leaders. I am very effected by external pressure and only in the last year have I tried to analyze that tendency and fight it. Too bad I allowed myself to get into the hole I am in now before I got some guts. :/

I have a huge sense of failure. I absolutely fear failure and the pain and problems that it causes myself and others. I fear that I will harm others, myself, and I fear causing permanent harm to everything around me. I fear what others will think of me and how I will be treated. And I think there is a little pride in the sense that I do not want to be seen as a failure by myself. I want to see myself as a good person and I want to be a good person. The funny irony is that I also feel that I cannot say no to anyone who asks for something. I will say yes to someone who asks me to do something that I do not want to do and think isn't helpful, but they asked and the yes trips easily off my tongue... another reason to be careful who I hang out with. :)

My fear of failure affects everything and every decision in my life. I have refused to make many decisions unless I am sure that I can succeed in it. I prefer to stand back, be quiet and sometimes add a comment to a group, but I think I try to be a chameleon and meld into the nearest environmental object... be it wall or picture. I think that I consciously avoid situations in which I need to be a leader and therefore I can avoid the risk of individual failure.

How do you deal with failure? Do you see any of these characteristics in yourself?


Thoughts on the Document 'Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen'

I thought it was interesting to read this document and how different times and cultures would read and interpret it differently. One word that stuck out to me as up for varying interpretations was the word nation. The text of the 'Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen' is in some ways vague about who actually makes up the French 'Nation.' The word is only used in the third declaration which is:

The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation. No body nor individual may exercise any authority which does not proceed directly from the nation.

This statement suggests that when the word (nation) is used, the meaning is 'everyone'- that no person or individual is to be excluded and so any time that the word 'nation' is used the assumption is that it includes all human beings. That said, a thorough reading of the rest of the document seems to suggest that certain rights seem to have been given to men only while others were given to all citizens (which I assume includes women, children, and those of other races- I recognize that is a false assumption based on my current culture.) Taking the time to read and assess other documents from the current environment as the 'Declaration' for answers didn't make the definition much clearer. For example, one document states that nobles “opposed measures that they feared would increase ministerial power and insisted that the French 'nation' be consulted about fundamental changes in its constitution. And they saw themselves as the natural spokesmen for the rest of the nation.”
So the word nation in this sentence really seems to be the nobles who believe that they speak for everyone economically lower than them... which is most of the population of France. Emmanuel Sieyes, another contemporary writer at that time, stated that the Third Estate (most of the population) “has... within itself all that is necessary to constitute a complete nation... If the privileged order were abolished the nation would be not something less but something more.” This statement clearly suggests that the average commoner or anyone not a member of the 'privileged order' should be the actual meaning of 'nation'. So it appears that the definition of 'nation' changed depending on who uses the words and what their motives were.

This 'Declaration' has many pieces of it that are quite forward thinking and revolutionary for that time. French society before this time period was very stratified in nature with a small percentage of privileged and the 'inherited' classes on top, a small layer of wealthy and landed families, and a large layer of serfs, peasants, etc... The first declaration in this statement is that all men are 'born and remain free and equal in rights; social distinction can be established only for the common benefit.' This statement recognized and started the process of abolishing the separate layers of this clearly stratified society. The second declaration states that all men have certain natural rights that no government can or should infringe on which are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression - in later declarations these terms are described. Free speech is allowed, only actually lawfully forbidden laws can be punished and punishments must be reasonable, the presumption of innocence, the public’s right to be able to have information from the government, etc... However, in many ways this document is not that revolutionary. Women have no actual rights declared (until recently and in some cases in this country we still do) and unless a law specifies women then the law doesn't necessarily include them when the law uses the word 'men'. How this has been interpreted is that if the law is a negative such as stealing, women can be prosecuted under the law and they are. However, laws that are positive and provide benefits (such as owning property) tend to have be interpreted as excluding anyone except for men. So while some men gained more rights in France during this time, no one else did. Property was now considered a sacred right that could not be taken away by the government without due cause, but the property still belonged to those who had been of the privileged class... leaving the vast majority to have freedom, but no property so they were still in some ways tied to the land. The Declaration also seems to have been interpreted to only give white males the rights and so minority men could still be slaves and not covered by the law... in fact they could still be considered property so the law gave them no rights except for the sacred right of 'being owned'. So the privileged order may at that time be considered 'not as privileged', but they still had the land, the money... and now that the government was overthrown, they had that power to. It was in their interests to keep as much as they could and still keep the 'Third Estate' happy. Some rights were given to citizens but the definition of what a citizen was is not in the document and was left for other people to determine- again being able to interpret it in the ways that suited the wealthy and the property owning classes.... and their own biases.

When reading this document and trying to decide what the writers envisioned in a society that was governed under the 'Declaration of the Rights of Man...', I feel like these individuals were hopeful to make good change but also wanted to really calm down the rebellion. By making the new basis of government so vague, everyone could feel satisfied and calm down and get back to their everyday lives. During this time, the laws and government could then be made and as long as there appeared to be some benefits, the majority of people wouldn’t have revolted again. Getting the violence stopped and everything back to 'normal' would have been a key thought in the mind of these writers. I do believe that the writers did want to make the world they lived in more equal and to move away from the absolute monarchy, but I also think that this document is still based on the assumptions and biases of these writers- all of whom were white males of good family and not wrung out in poverty. So I envision them looking for a country without violence, more equality and a more representative government... but a country where white men still ruled and had more benefits than anyone else.

If you take the time to read this document (it is only a few pages), what are your thoughts on it? How do you read it and what does it mean to you? What do you think it meant to its contemporaries and its authors? This document is very like the American 'Bill of Rights' as many of the writers and contemporaries who gave voice to both documents thought were the same... Does this change how you feel about either of these documents?


Thoughts on Revolution, Potential Causes, and Revolt

I did quite a bit of reading on the causes or potential factors of building a revolution- I am currently studying the French Revolution that started in 1789. There are many different causes that can be pointed to in hindsight for a revolution and during my studies I have certainly found several potential factors- poverty, lack of prosperity or hope for the majority of French constituents, poor economy and lack of jobs, huge governmental debt, perception (or reality) of the government being weak, unable to lead or create positive change, and ignorance or indifference (or at least perceived ignorance or indifference) by the few who had the most ability to create change.  All of these could be considered primary factors in creating an environment that sparks a revolution- I think that the more of these factors you add, the more you can actually bet on the spark being lit by a 'small' act and the revolution is now fully operating, so to speak. During my studies, I tried to think of factors that would make me as a person be willing to join in an overthrow of my country's government. As I thought I decided that all of the answers that I gave above would (at least in my case) really be secondary factors- all of them are bad, but I do think that to actually join or start a revolution, I would have to have one other defining factor. I think I would need to have pretty much all of the above, but I also would need to feel that the safety of my family and community are not only at risk, but the idea of the status quo being just as dangerous and life threatening as a revolution might be would be the primary factor that would get me to be involved. I think I would have to feel passionately that all of us (friends, family, community) might be dead unless I did something.... and most of the above factors would have to be in effect for most of that to happen I suspect. The thought that frightens me the most about this line of thinking is that I think many countries, including our own are in this sort of 'swimming pool'- the factors above are all in place and the pool is full and glistening in front of us... we are simply waiting for the one thing/person that gets us all going off of the diving board. I really think that most people will not join a revolt or cause one that becomes a revolution unless you have many factors that they feel passionately about, no ability to see that they will be fixed in the future and the very real possibility of the problems getting so much worse. If you have been suffering for awhile, even a small suggestion of more suffering could really be a breaking point.

I think that these factors are the same reasons that will continue to push for revolutions now and in the future on our planet. I think that as long as people feel hope that things can become better, they can feel help and that they have a voice for facilitating change... then we can as a people will continue to suffer with the economy, shrinking public safety nets and community services, and other difficulties and will do so looking for the light at the end of the recession, etc... But suffering for long periods of time, feeling 'dull' and hopeless, and finding no ways to move forward and only despair and suffering can and will eventually cause people to strike out in their frustration, anger and desire for something else.  I think that is why revolutions tend to be so bloody- the negative emotions cause people to do things that they might never do in any other circumstances. And that is one reason that I dislike the idea of revolution so much. People kill children and people who do not agree with them to up hold their virtue - whether it is change, human rights, etc.... and their virtue becomes in some senses a demon; harming and killing everyone in its wake until the fire of their passion and virtue is put out, contained or destroyed. Many die who had no part in making the problem, many die who wanted to fix the problem, and many die who may not have even understood what the problem was. I will admit that I don't feel comfortable with revolution – even non violent revolution- simply because of the ferocious pace. I prefer change that comes gradually but sure and brings people happily or confusedly into the group... not by force, or other negative means.

Do you think that America has many of the factors that I described above? What are your thoughts on this issue? What would you need to have to get involved in a revolt/revolution?


A Day of Remembrance

Every once in a while, I find that I find myself feeling sort of uneasy in church. The feeling that I know something that nobody else knows and the wall of silence that it seems to build up around me is a bit uncomfortable. Today was one of those days, but today instead of feeling silent I felt so disappointed and in a way let down. Rationally, I know that the disappointment was inevitable, but I felt it all the same.

The build up to the remembrance of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2011 was pretty big this year and rightly so. Whether you knew anyone who died in that attack or not, it was a powerful statement and injury on our consciousness. The understanding, motivations, deaths, heroes, and compassion that almost always arise in force during times of great trial was burned into us and whether we agreed with some of the motivating factors or not, we still thought about them, chewed on them, and swallowed the bitter pain of the waste and irrationality of it all.

So it was not a shock to me that our Sacrament meeting and lessons today focused so much on these horrible attacks. But I will admit that every year I am disappointed that the vast majority of Mormons now spend this day only in remembrance of this event. This date should be imprinted on the soul of every active Mormon member, not for the above mentioned event, but for a massacre perpetuated by our ancestors. This day should be remembered every year for so many reasons, but one of the most important reasons is that to be a member of this church... to embrace the gospel and many parts of our history as a standard and a part of our faith that is positive, strengthening and heroic.... we cannot be true to ourselves as a community if we push our failures under the rug. Take a poll in every ward or branch you attend and you will find the majority of members have heard of the Hauns Mill massacre, but very few have heard of Mountain Meadows. It is one of our community's -and I say 'our' including myself- big embarrassments, an act in itself of terrorism, and an act that no matter how rationalized or justified... is a shame and a sore on the covering of the gospel and the church.

Some people believe that we should not talk of these things and there are many reasonable reasons to not speak. But in our silence, it can cause more difficulty for members and non members alike when they discover the sore for themselves and become part of the festering mass of confusion, anger, shame and betrayal that is found underneath. Some argue that, like reparations for slavery, it is in the past and so it is no longer relevant. For those who say this, may I ask a question? Look deep into your heart and your memory and think of the sins that you have 'quietly' repented of... or the sins that you kept to yourself and have hidden from the light... Do you feel that they are now all better? Do you feel that repentance absolves you of any responsibility to try and fix the harm you have inadvertently caused? In my mind, repentance is much like a u-turn: when you realize that you are going the wrong way, you repent and turn around.... but that doesn't stop you from having to recover the ground you have traveled. True repentance is a journey, not a magic spell that will apparate you back to where you began when you lost your way. (Although living in the world of Harry Potter would make a few things a tiny bit easier- imagine your few second trip from Maine to Paris for a romantic dinner and then home for work the next day. :)

While none of us living have any responsibility for the crimes of the past, I firmly believe that we all have a responsibility to try and continue the process of healing- for the family members, for the ancestors on both sides of the tragedy, and for the continued healing of our present community. I hope that next year, maybe a few more people will remember this date for more than just the attack in New York. I hope that more people will pray and remember Mountain Meadows and that even good, kind and godly people can make a mistake in ignorance, anger and fear. Remember that all of us are capable of horrible things in the grip of many negative emotions such as anger and fear. May we spend the day in remembrance and good works. Today is an important day....