Tuesday, May 20, 2008

We Are One

Wow. The time IS "always now."

Barack Obama was adopted by the Crow nation yesterday; he was given the name “One Who Helps People Throughout the Land.” His adopted/ee parents' family name is Black Eagle...so if they pass it along to the next generation in their tradition, he gets to be Barack Black Eagle. :)

In reading Jamie Sams' The Sacred Path Cards and Medicine Cards (co-written with David Carson), one observes that "Eagle medicine is the power of the Great Spirit, the connection to the Divine. It is the ability to live in the realm of spirit, and yet stay connected and balanced within the realm of Earth...."

I first found her books in the early '90s. They are wonderful links to Native American wisdom that speak to all humanity. The concepts of the sacred path, the whirling-rainbow-of-peace and others are transcendent. There's much to appreciate. (And other books like Black Elk Speaks and Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, and Daughters of Copper Woman are also powerful in gaining perspective.)

As a little girl when playing cowboys and indians, I always chose to be an "indian." My brother and I were raised to have respect for all people, and as the daughter of an open-minded convert to Judaism, I easily connected with those considered "others." When my third grade class read "Little House on the Prairie," I imagined finding colorful beads with Laura around a deserted campfire, watching in awe as the Native people followed their stoic leader single file to their future, leaving their homeland and the settlers in peace.

I remember her seeing a child about her age riding a pony; I wanted to be the nearly naked, sun-browned child on horseback. Years later talking with Grandpa Paul, I learned that I am connected to Native Americans by blood.

But "blood" isn't the important thing; spirit and action are. One doesn't have to be born into a tribe to be part of it. There is a belief that "the people's" spirits are reborn into bodies of all "colors" and it's up to all of us to remember the next Seven Generations in our actions.

This connects with the teachings of my childhood's rabbi, Jossef J. Kratzenstein, Ph.D. A student of Martin Buber's and a survivor of Europe's Holocaust, Rabbi K often spoke of a time when people would work to make the world a better place...that this "messianic era" was up to us all to create. It wasn't about worshiping a leader as divine; it was acknowledging and acting upon the truth that we are co-creators of our reality and can act to make a better world.

Rabbi K stressed this point often and more than once left me questioning whether he believed in "God." He wasn't certain...his being open about this seemed honest and bold to a 10-year-old. How could we fathom the unfathomable?

It is in that questioning that reminds us not to be bystanders, not be content to wait but to pursue what is right..."justice, justice, you shall pursue."

I remember Rabbi K explaining the Hebrew words above the entrance to the sanctuary..."know before whom you are standing." Awareness is important; self-awareness is key. We discussed the concept of God being neither male nor female; I questioned the disconnect using male pronouns in the prayer book. Rabbi K said that the kabbalists identified a feminine side of God, the Shekinah, but that one had to be very careful in studying Kabbalah. I took that to mean there were dangers in following the wrong path...one had to be aware.

I had a problem with the concept some had of identifying this female aspect of the divine as subservient to the male. If God is neither male nor female--not a body--then it didn't make sense for either to be dominant. There could be a balance, a unity, a one. (For me that did't contradict the idea of nothingness/everythingness or of the eternal..."ain sof." Without end. Spiral of continuity.)

Why wasn't this discussed more? I wondered. It wasn't in the prayer book we used on Friday nights, and I hadn't heard about this concept in the Torah portions--although I hadn't been to Temple on all those Saturday mornings to know if it was missing.

Rabbi K explained life's path as a circle; he drew one in the air with his hand; I saw it like a corkscrew...we are born, we live and when our body dies we return to that place quite possibly to await being reborn again. It's a cycle. It seemed very "Eastern" to me. Now I think of it as universal.

When I was older while visiting Rabbi and Mrs. K, he encouraged me to read Plato's Republic. Specifically, the story of the cave. Socrates teaching via parables and asking questions was important. And it was this style of discourse that Rabbi K preferred. He asked, like Socrates, if it was better for those in the cave, who had always known darkness, to live without ever seeing the light or to have the opportunity to see it, knowing that they would have to once again live without it. We debated the issue but agreed that it was better to have seen the light, however briefly, than to have never had that experience. I thought it must be even more painful to have and lose something than to never have had it, but that the knowledge and insight would be worth the anguish.

And that's where we are as a country now, as ever. Leaders like Barack Obama are a blessing because they are not about ego, but about what we can do--each of us--to make this a better world. It's up to us.

We should not be afraid of the light and of losing it. We carry it inside us. All.

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