Thursday, August 6, 2015

Notes toward that book you're going to want to read, 3rd installment

Human beings belong on Earth. We—as in the greater human family—belong here, but our modern societies ask us to believe the alien way and accept as fact the idea that the Earth is something other than a home we share with all the many other living and non-living beings. They are not resources; they are our relatives.

Do they know they're related to all life on Earth?
Are they acting in the interest of all their relatives?

Many of us recognize this alien way of living as an illness and pessimistically perceive, and dismiss, humankind—ourselves—as a cancer consuming its host, the Earth. Others, by contrast, hold out hope that some miraculous technological breakthrough will be realized that will allow us to innovate our way around the desolation that all prior generations of technology helped us to create. These optimists forget that it was such notions of technological progress—that it was such hope—that landed us where we are today, aliens on Earth.

Einstein may not have actually said this, but it's close
to other things he did say. Read about it here.


We are writing Reaching for the Good Life because we recognize that the society generating such death and desolation, even amid the riches it also produces, is incapable of transcending its worldview. When alienated from the Earth and all the many other-than-human relatives who call it home, human beings can only propose alien solutions to such desolation and those are no longer what we need to live rightly with our home. In this book we hope to help human beings recall that they are not aliens on the Earth by directing them to consider the philosophy of the Anishinaabe Indian people as embodied in their notion of the seven virtues—the Seven Grandfather teachings—that a human being should strive to embody, especially as those teachings are expressed in the Anishinaabe language.

The Seven Grandfathers as pictured by Leland Bell

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Notes toward that book you're going to want to read, 2nd installment

Language teacher James Vukelich and I have undertaken a book project that explores the power and philosophy embedded in Anishinaabemowin (also known as the Ojibwe language) to help us look at the world and the problems it faces today. We cannot expect a technocratic, anthropocentric society, which created problems of intolerance, social inequity, and environmental destruction, to offer solutions that won't do anything but create similar problems. We need to step outside that world's structures of thought in order to address the problems it has created. As a means to that end, our book will introduce key Anishinaabe philosophical and spiritual concepts, such as the seven generations teachings, as well as examining the seven Anishinaabe virtues, and use them to gain new perspectives on these problems so that everyone may reach what the Anishinaabe call mino-bimaadiziwin, the good life.

We will be posting excerpts from the book as we go along. Feel free to share them on all your social media.

Read 1st installment here.

Many scholars have begun to refer to the era of this turning away from the Earth as the Anthropocene in recognition of the outsize impact that human activity has had and continues to have in re-shaping the Earth’s ecosystems. Re-shaping is the somewhat detached and seemingly neutral way to say disordering; re-shaping is a perfectly alien word. The disordering of this “re-shaping,” much of it taking place in just the last 100 years as the result of the incessant burning of fossil fuels that drives global climate change, places humankind in the midst of what scientists fear is the sixth great extinction event in the Earth’s history, one in which half the species that were alive in the year 2000 will be extinct in the wild by the mid-21st century. 

The five other great extinction events took place as the result of natural forces—forces beyond the control or reckoning of any one species. One need only think of the comet which crashed into the Earth 65 million years ago and ended the long run of the dinosaurs as the predominant species on the planet. 

A ball of ice is seminal in conceiving the Anthropocene
Human beings of the Anthropocene truly are as different from other animals as they claim to be: no other animal's actions will wipe out an entire species, much less half of the species of life on Earth. Re-shaping the ecosystem indeed.


Given their propensity for disordering the environment, and the death and desolation that follows from that disorder, it is time that modern human beings recall the fact that they are not aliens on Earth. They need to recall this fact because they are living beings here—just one species among many, but again, unlike other animals, humans suffer a crucial difference from their animal kin. Human beings doubt their natural state, thinking and believing that they are something other—something more—than beings who are born to seek sustenance and love, who seek through love to give life back to the Earth—through children and concern for the world that sustains them, and who, in dying, leave the world to the love of generations still to come.

Pictograph of Anishinaabe man singing of love to his sleeping girlfriend;
she is far away from him but his love reaches her heart
This is where generations come from kids.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Notes toward that book you're going to want to read, 1st installment

Language teacher James Vukelich and I have undertaken a book project that explores the power and philosophy embedded in Anishinaabemowin (also known as the Ojibwe language) to help us look at the world and the problems it faces today. We cannot expect a technocratic, anthropocentric society, which created problems of intolerance, social inequity, and environmental destruction, to offer solutions that won't do anything but create similar problems. We need to step outside that world's structures of thought in order to address the problems it has created. As a means to that end, our book will introduce key Anishinaabe philosophical and spiritual concepts, such as the seven generations teachings, as well as examining the seven Anishinaabe virtues, and use them to gain new perspectives on these problems so that everyone may reach what the Anishinaabe call mino-bimaadiziwin, the good life.

We will be posting excerpts from the book as we go along. Feel free to share them on all your social media.


Of all the mistakes that they could have made, human beings made an epoch-shaping one when they began to see themselves as aliens on the Earth. When they began to see themselves as different from other animals and living beings and when they began to regard themselves as superior to these other forms of life because they were self-aware and self-determining, they began to regard their purpose on Earth differently. They began to see themselves not just as superior to other beings, they began to see themselves as progressing from a lesser state of societal being to a greater one, evolving from what many of them thought was a primitive state of moral and material want to an advanced state of scientific knowledge and technological progress where they could remake the world to suit their needs and desires. 
Is ET us, or are we him?
The Earth ceased to be a home where one found physical, psychological, and spiritual grounding following this mistake. When human beings transformed the environments they lived within from homes to resources, they became alien to the planet that presented them—as in gave them a gift—with the means to live a good life.


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

squatch thoughts, foreteen

Sun falls, men. Falls beyond trees. Falls to earth there, men, there, beyond them trees. Beyond the dead trees shaped into your houses, beyond your footsteps, the sun edges toward the other side, another earth. The sun’s distance is night’s silence. Speak softly, men. Night is another earth.

Trees gather cold shadows, men, there where you seek me. Every shadow, me—your dream of another earth. Silent footsteps under dark leaves. No noise, men, no city, no war, no dead trees. Your footprints absorbed by the sun’s distant fall. Another earth rises.

distant shadows close

There, you gesture. There, in cold shadow! See him, you holler. Me, you mean. You see me in cold tree shadow, men. Distant like men, far from the warmth of that other earth. Cold men dream of warm earth and find only shadow, only silence. Men call that shadow silence me. Me, men, me! Why? I am not the cold shadow of distant men. I am not men.


Me? I am a warm star, men, shining above trees, above the sun, now, as it falls, drawn by distant gravity to another earth. That silver light in the west, men. Me. I warm the edge of the approaching dark, gentle blue sky to burnt orange to dark purple to the warm, close silence of night. My footprint shines in the sky there, men. There is another earth. Men, tear your eyes from the shadows. Look up, men, to find me. The evening star resists the pull of grave cold shadow. Look up, men, up! Warm yourself to the night of another earth. There, men, there! Look here!

sunfall, evening star