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.

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