Monday, April 05, 2010

Illusions of Arrogance

My old friend Jerry Johnston writes wonderful columns for the Deseret News. Not long ago he wrote one that I especially liked (Saturday, March 27, 2010) and thought I would share. He titled it "Nothing on Earth is under our control," and began by relating how TIME in Yuba City, Arizona, is reckoned. Half the city is on the Navajo reservation. The other is on the Hopi reservation. Because one half subscribes to Daylight Savings Time and the other doesn't, you can time travel from one side of the street to the other. "And here," Jerry writes, "is the funny part. Nobody seems to mind."

Most Native Americans "don't put much stock in man-made constraints -- things like minutes and seconds, private property, mineral rights, and air space. Jerry says these things were invented by haughty human beings to give them an illusion of control.

"They're fantasies," he writes. "And the idea that people can actually own a piece of the earth -- all the way to the center of the planet" is only a little less silly than thinking "you own the air above your property. It's like claiming to own the sun itself, or the breeze in the sycamore trees or the sound of wild foxes as they bark on the hills...I've heard white Americans complain that Native Americans don't show more pride of ownership.

But I have seen puzzled looks on their faces when a town nails a city limits sign on the top of a mountain -- miles away from the community -- because the city fathers want to control all the zoning. And I've seen them listen extra carefully, trying to understand why farmers and industrialists say they own so many cubic feet of a river.

We'd "go nuts," he says, "living in Tuba City. We'd want to beautify the place, when the truth is the desert landscape is about as beautiful as it gets. We'd want to make the place more efficient. We'd want to know exactly what time it was, every second of every day in every part of town. We'd want to feel we were in control of our environment.

The truth is, nothing is under our control. We are at the mercy of the elements and the Creator every moment of every day. Control is an illusion. It's a delusion of arrogance -- like thinking we actually own the air above the swaths of Earth we think we can buy."



Annie said...

Way to make a comeback, Joyce! Great post. Your mention of Tuba City evoked long ago memories for me. I have put a reminder in my writing notebook to write about my Tuba City experience of 1972.

momA said...

I love this post! I have some Indian blood in my veins and have always thought the same way about "owning things", but still cling to my clock like a dumbie!