There are two things that come to mind when I tell someone I want to (eventually) do volunteer work. Can you guess them?
- Oh wow, that’ll look great on your transcript!
2. Oh wow, that’ll look great on your resume!
Sure, I get a few “that’s great work you’re doing” and some people who suddenly think I’m a great person for helping out a few homeless guys. Yes, I make it sound trivial on purpose because these people are missing a concept that one man finally put into words tonight that no one else could and that I’d yet to figure out how.
Responsibility is usually a term we use to describe someone’s duty, what they should be doing, usually on an individual scale. It’s your responsibility to take out the trash. It’s your responsibility to recycle. It’s your responsibility to not yell at the best buy workers because they seem to only come around when you don’t need something rather than when you do. Now, as someone with social anxiety, I’m not particularly keen on helping a bunch of strangers for a few days a week, not because I’m some malicious, anti-social personality who wants to stab everyone in the face, but because it’s very stressful for me and I know I won’t do the best job I can when under that amount of stress.
However, there is another reason. When I ask adults, students, friends, why I should have to do community service, the only answers I ever get revolve around how it will make ME look, and that I’m just supposed to “support” my community.
But why? I always ask that question. I ask “why” to everything. I ask physicists why they think the Big Bang created everything. I ask why people actually think money is important when it’s an inanimate object we place our own value on. I ask why anyone thinks getting a degree means something. I’ve never understand any of it and yet, yes, I am a scientist; I love it. I do like money, it buys me things and keeps me alive.And yes, I do want a Medical Degree.
However; I’ve learned a lot tonight, more than I’ve ever learned in any structured class, from a Native American man who spoke with my class.
Firstly, the professor wanted me to do the honors of presenting a gift to the guest speaker (I assumed this a common way to greet people) on which I said it was “on behalf of the class; a way of thanking you for speaking with us tonight”. Of course, me being the nervous wreck I was, I started freaking out in my head twenty minutes before the man got there because I knew for that brief second I’d need to stand up in front of all those people (three classes were in that room tonight; wish I would have been warned) and speak to someone I haven’t even got a chance to look at good yet.
Anyway, I did it, and I didn’t fuck up any words. I did, however, slam into the desk next to me while trying to sit down because I was so eager to get back to my seat. Almost spilled a dude’s coffee all on his crotch. He would have been pissed if I was the reason he’d never be able to have kids.
The first words out of his mouth were a song about fog. The second words out his mouth were about responsibility, the responsibility people have to their community. Not the county which I live in, but the people, the ancestors, the ones who lived first on this land and the ones who live on it now. A responsibility to the people of the community, not the community itself, because those people are the reason you’re here. They’re family, friends, acquaintances, whoever; they’ve given to you and so you must give back not because it’s a golden rule or whatever but because it’s how you show appreciation. It’s not an obligation. It’s not being nice. It’s not being a good person. It’s being responsible and acknowledging what has gone into making your life possible. And that to me is greater than any mark on some stupid fucking transcript.
That’s how I knew tonight was life changing.
Now, there are many things I believed in as a child. One of them was connectedness of everyone, everything, including the earth itself. I wasn’t taught it, I just felt it; I knew it existed because I could feel it within myself. I still do, everyday of my life. Yes, I’m socially anxious and half of the time prefer to be alone, but that doesn’t make me any less connected to the people around me. When they’re in pain, I’m in pain with them. I felt, as a nine, ten year old, everything effected everything, we were all intertwined. Our spirits and our minds.
Physics jumped on a treadmill to get in shape to race to meet us at the finish line. They call this connectedness Quantum Entanglement. To them I bow and say welcome, it took you a while.
As I grew older, there were other things I felt. When I learned about the Big Bang Theory I was intrigued. The more I read on it the more I laughed at it. Your math is nice and everything but honestly . . . you made math up. How do you expect it to explain something like nature? I always felt there was no beginning and no end, that we’re here in a perpetual cycle, that the only realness is this moment and each second that passes is gone forever into another world and each second that is in the future only exists as a potential moment. I dismissed the European ideas of God (but am absolutely respectful of them; we all believe the same thing just in different ways) and instead felt the consciousness of us all, the spirit of us all, gathers into another place, a realm we can’t touch but that calls to us, guides us even. A place we will return to one way or another.
Once again, Physics jumped on that old dusty Treadmill of theirs (they ate too many Twinkies and got out of shape again), joined the marathon and just barely fell across the finish line. They have evidence to dispute the big bang theory and they call that consciousness in the sky the Cosmic Mind. And once again, I bow and say welcome, it took you a while.
Am I saying I’m right in everything and physics is right in everything? Absolutely not. I’m just saying what I’ve felt since I was six years old. And tonight this Native man spoke about all of this, about the mind and the brain being separate, about the physicists taking forever to “prove” something his culture (and mine) has known for thousands of years.
The man who wrote that book I blogged about a while ago, “The Morning The Sun Went Down” said he was told by an elder to “Go into the new-comer culture, learn it, and use words as bullets against them as they used them against us”. And he did so, spectacularly.
And now that’s been passed down to me.
I’ve owned words ever since I can remember. Meaning, I’ve been using my words as bullets since I went from annihilating my french last name (I’m not French) to sculpting it with eloquent cursive, to once again annihilating it with a sloppy signature. Using my words as bullets is all I know how to do.
And this culture really is obsessed with the individual, it really is obsessed with the brain and not the mind. Two kids pulled out their laptops tonight. Another few had notebooks. What the hell are you taking notes on? I simply relaxed in my chair. The stuff this man spoke about were not things you can scribble down and memorize and say you understand. If you can’t feel it, you will not understand it and that is a truth, not an insult. You have to feel it to be fully human in these cultures and I think that’s a beautiful thing.
Elders of different tribes sit around at ceremony’s and tell their stories of how we were created. And you know what? After each elder is done, the other elders say “that’s a wonderful story” and then tell theirs. The cycle then repeats itself. The day you can get some of these Radical Christians and Radical Muslims to do that is the day hell freezes over.
This man tonight also spoke on the fact that we’re all native to somewhere but that the most spiritual people he’s ever met, the most “native” people, were the ones who dreamed in their own language. There aren’t a lot of Native languages left in this country of America. How could there be when “American History” in public school these days starts in the year 1492. How . . . how does that make sense? I suppose we only teach the history of the government and not of the country. People were here for thousands of years. Stop fucking these kids’ heads up.
Anyway, another kid in the class, the same one who rambled on about nothing last time, started rambling again about nonsense and analytical bullshit he was taught in school, then asked the odd question of “You say I’m native to some place, but do you think I’ll ever dream in my own language?”
He’s not feeling it. He’s analyzing it, he’s understanding the words, but he has no clue what he’s talking about. In that sense, these people were fake tonight, once again. I know the word “fake” has a bad connotation but it’s not a bad thing. It just means they’re being analytical (how you’re narrowly taught to approach things) and extra respectful (saying thank you, remaining quiet, forcing engagement) when they’re most likely never that respectful to any of their other teachers. I’m sure they do care about this subject and are great people, but if you can’t be who you are to everyone, then what does that make you? Are you pitying them? Trying to avoid being disrespectful? Why don’t you just feel it and shut up?
You memorize math. You feel culture.
I only have one picture of my great-grandmother holding me; I remember she has the deep brown skin and the high cheek bones, the eyes that hold years of stories, of being one with nature, of being human, and the two long braids that went from the top of her head to the tile of the floor. She wears multicolored clothes as a dress. She is not smiling. And yet, it’s one of the most beautiful pictures I have in my memory. I realize this now.
In this culture, death means you crossover. You can come back, you can watch over you. Your ancestors do and because of that they’re always a part of you and you are always a part of them just as we are all apart of the universe.
As for my medical degree; I could give two shits about that piece of paper. So what, I passed Chemistry and Physics and Calculus. I know the bones in your body. You think it makes me smart? You think that actually means something? Ha!
It’s what I do with it that matters.
Physicists should abandon calculus and differentials and just talk to a Native Elder. They might learn something useful.