"Talking to the Owls and Butterflies" By John Lame Deer and Richard Erdoes.
Richard Erdoes transforms Lame Deer's message of "Talking to the Owls and Butterflies" into writing. *Comment 1 Lame Deer begins with a plea for all of us to sit down and experience the spirit of the earth in our lives. He demonstrates how to feel the strength and power of nature in our lives, like the Native Americans do. He then tells us, the white population, how we have made it hard for us to experience nature in the good way. Lame Deer proceeds to show us how the whites have raped and violated these lands. Lame Deer states that the whites have altered and degraded both the land and the animals on it, and taken away their power and spirit. There is power in an antelope, but not in a goat or sheep, which holds still while you butcher it and will eat newspaper if you let it. *Comment 2
Lame Deer then states a claim that the whites have not only altered, declawed and malformed your winged and four-legged cousins; you have done it to yourselves. *Comment 3 He claims that we live our lives artificially. Having a make-believe experience on TV when you no longer experience anything for yourself, eating food without taste-that's your way. It's no good. Lame Deer jokes about cultural deprivation, which is being an upper-middle-class white kid living in a multi-level suburban home with a color TV. *Comment 4 Lame Deer speaks about the terrible arrogance of the white man, making himself more than nature, more than God. Lame Deer *Comment 5 argues that we cannot see, feel, smell and hear the world we live in. The feeling of rain and snow on your face, being numbed by an icy wind and thawing before a smoking fire, these things make you feel alive, but you don't want them anymore. Lame Deer states that we have no regard for life, through the examples of the Native Americans and Vietnamese massacres, and the way we eat and kill for profit. He shows the difference between the life of the Indians, in which everything is sacred and full of life, and the life of the whites, which everything is dead and artificial.
Yet Lame Deer speaks of hope and change towards the end of the conversation. He is a man of vision and has foreseen a new-old spirit, not only among Indians, but among whites and blacks too, especially among young people. He predicts that the electric world will come to an end and that there is a Light Man coming, bringing new light. Lame Deer feels that we are all moving in a circle, back to nature and respect for the earth and each other. Lame Deer tells us in his vision that I have love for all that has been placed on this earth, not like the love of a mother to her son, but a bigger love which encompasses the whole earth. *Comment 6 Lame Deer hopes that we may all reach this point so that all of nature is in me and a bit of myself is in all of nature.
Lame Deer gives us all a reality check with this argument. *Comment 7 I would genuinely hope that the entire earth's population is moving back to nature and that a change in our attitude towards the sacredness of nature and life will occur. I think to have a fulfilling life, we need to bring the spirit and the power of nature into our lives, yet the degree which Lame Deer seems to hope for is unrealistic. *Comment 8
I recently took a class on Native American Literature, and I think I can stomach the criticism he gives us better than most people. Lame Deer reminds us of our forefathers behavior and actions towards the land and the Native Americans. Many of you may call his criticism extreme and don't feel it relates to you. I can recall one of you stating, Lame Deer can go live his life back in his tepee of wherever he lives. It doesn't involve me. True, none of us were never personally involved in the massacres and wars he describes and that we never were a part of the breakdown of the Native American culture. Yet, the main point Lame Deer is trying to convey to us is our attitude towards life.
Our attitude is revealed in the way we have raped and degraded the land and the animals. America is a progressive society. *Comment 9 We have been and will always be that way. We desire movement and progress and profit and anything that hinders these ideals will be thrown to the side. Technology and industry control much of our society's way of life and the excessive pollution and degradation of the land is concrete evidence of our attitude towards our land and ourselves. *Comment 10 Years ago, we came to America with an attitude of taming the wilderness. We can all observe the results of taming, and what happens to what hinders it. Are we moving in that circle Lame Deer speaks about back to nature? I am not very confident.
However, there are thousands of groups and organizations striving to reach the goal Lame Deer hopes for. People have extended their efforts as a sudden realization of the degradation of this finite resource. Environmentalism is a major issue for our society today. There are many who dedicate their lives and well-being towards the environment. Maybe Lame Deer truly is a man of vision.
Lame Deer also speaks about how we live in an artificial world and cannot see, feel, smell, and hear the world we live in. I can agree to his argument in this sense. This, of course is not in a medical sense, but more of a spiritual sense. Look at how virtual reality and cyberspace has taken hold of our society. My roommates spend at least 6 hours a day, no exaggeration, playing video games. *Comment 11 Other acquaintances have developed love, friendships and fantasies over the world wide web. Granted, these things may assist us in our lives for entertainment and occupations. Yet the rest of the world is blocked out. People are moving to an unrealistic world where they cannot see, feel, smell, and hear reality. Truly, we are living in a society that will struggle to attain Lame Deer's vision.
Lame Deer predicts that we are moving back to nature, and towards respect for each other and the earth. This point I am unsure of. He writes from a perspective not entwined in today's society. He has never grown with a technology-dependent way of life as many of us are. As Virginia Postrel said it, most people are not about to give up the benefits of modern living to embrace a lifestyle closer to nature. This relates back to our attitude and the way we have been raised.
I grew up in the mountains and base my recreational and leisure activities with the outdoors. These activities give the fulfillment in life I need, and are the reasons for many of my motivations and enjoyable experiences. I can't help but notice that I feel I have something extra when I feel the burn of the harsh wind, or experience the rush in a 4000 foot vertical climb in the mountains. Many in our society either cannot experience this or refuse to experience because of their attitude developed in their upbringing. I think there is a type of person who understands and somewhat lives the attitude that Lame Deer asks us to accomplish. However, I think everybody who is frustrated with their way of life as a result of work, the violence, the crowds, can take a step away and experience the breath of life nature provides. Maybe that is what Lame Deer is asking us to do.
So are we moving back to nature as Lame Deer predicts? Or the main question is, can we? The way each person lives clearly contributes to the degradation of the environment. According to Virginia Postrel, each of us needs to mediate between what we want and what the environment needs. Can we take the effort to reform our lives in a fashion which respects life and nature. Maybe the first step will be to sit down here, all of us, where we can't see a highway or a fence. Feel the ground with our bodies. Listen to the air, you can hear it, feel it, smell it, taste it.