The weather has turned frigid; this follows last week’s record shattering warmth. It has been an up-and-down sort of winter, which is, increasingly and alarmingly, the norm.
I grew up in a farming community on the plains of the Midwest. We spent a lot of time outside, and learned early to keep an eye on the sky. After all, blizzards, ice storms, and tornadoes were the norm, and each was dangerous as well as exhilarating. By the time I reached eighth grade I was a devout student of climate science and meteorology.
In spite of my love of science, during my undergraduate studies I was lured into becoming an art major. This was a surprising turn, as I had imagined myself studying ecology. Sadly, both the ecology program at the university was less than engaging. The art department was vibrant, as was the religion department, and I spent my undergraduate years firmly settled in those disciplines. I also took literature, writing, and theatre courses, much to the dismay of the art department faculty who firmly believed visual artists should draw rather than write.
My first turn in graduate school was in visual arts, although I spend a good deal of that year in the microbiology and electronic music labs. While the art faculty could not fathom what I was doing, they proved surprisingly supportive.
After a few years in the work world, I found myself studying cross-cultural approaches to counseling, and deeply engaged in learning from Indigenous teachers from many traditions. Following several years working as a clinician in both inpatient and outpatient settings, I returned to school to study environmental studies. Once again I found myself at the nexus of several disciples, including ecology, anthropology, and psychology. It was a heady and hearty time! I went on to teach art, ecology, anthropology, and psychology, often interwoven, at a small college for over thirty years.
Now we seem to have entered a time of gathering darkness, an era in which the arts, ecology, climate science, and cross-cultural studies are viewed with suspicion, and, too often, outright hostility. Perhaps most distressing is is the realization that Native values, culture, and lands are again under intense attack. I guess we should hardly be surprised at the hostility shown these realms of knowledge and experience; after all, each is remarkably subversive to any agenda that would produce normative hierarchies and simplify the world, and that gives preference to ideas about cultural and racial superiority.
Lately, I find myself struggling to address the attacks on these systems of knowledge , and ways of living, I treasure. I imagine things will only get worse before they get better, even as I hold out hope that they will indeed improve. For now, I do my best, although that is not enough to stop the darkness from growing. I try to keep in mind the words of a much beloved teacher, “The world is as it is, do only what you can.” Still, I would that I could do more.
2 thoughts on “A Life”
I think most of us wish that we could do more to halt the growing darkness. Those of us with love and devotion for the fields of study you mentioned bear the task of trying to be lights in the darkness. Rather than preach to the choir of an echo chamber, we have to gird our metaphorical loins and plunge into battle against the ignorance and overwhelming odds of corporate power which will ruin us all. It’s tiring and takes a lot of courage. But if we can change one mind, and then one more, if enough of us can reach those brainwashed by the darkness, then I won’t stop believing that there is hope. Teaching, writing, speaking to those who *don’t* share the same values has to be an important step in the process. I think your teacher was right, and we can only do what we can in our own, small corner of the world. Local action with the hope of global results.
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I imagine our best ope is to tell stories, especially the stories of people who are different from us, yet who find themselves harmed by the cruelty of power. Those stories might just build the communities of care we so desire.
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