liveonearth (liveonearth) wrote,

My Germanic Tribe

There are 15 or more gangs here in Flagstaff, Arizona. The school system has decided to require specific colors in a dress code this fall, for all middle and high schools. Certain colors, and bandanas worn a certain way, are symbolic of various gangs. While I understand their intent, the school system is powerless to stop gangs. They believe that gangs are associated with identity formation, but there is more to it. Gangs provide young human animals with a tribe, a community, a bonded group to which they belong. This need is deep in us. Making the kids wear gray shirts won't prevent them from joining gangs.

Last night I visited with some of my tribe. Gunther and Ingrid shared their dinner and their house with me. Before dinner we joined hands and sang a song. We talked for a long time and Gunther was covering some new material with me. In spite of his memory losses, he is still a great teacher. Ingrid has heard most of his lectures many times, so she can help him fill in names and facts that he has forgotten. He covers the same material over and over because he can't remember who I am or what he has already told me. I think I am a good student because he says that usually it takes him years to get to this part. Much of his lecturing is intended at breaking through my American cultural worldview, and each time he realizes that to a great degree I already have a global view he is impressed. I also realize that every idea I have is a product of my culture and language, and I know that my view is narrow relative to the whole. I am there to have my worldview broadened.

Gunther's lectures circle around questions of language, culture, isms--militarism, catholicism, universalism, individualism, buddhism, totalitarianism, pantheism, monism, monotheism. Last night Gunther was intent on telling me his life story. Ingrid protested a few times, saying "you don't have to tell the whole thing" but he said that he did have to tell the whole thing, that it was his responsibility to future generations to try to educate me. He sees me as worth teaching. He says that my ears and hands show good breeding. Ingrid has good ears and even finer hands. His are not so good, but he chooses his companions from breeds that he finds agreeable. I think that I am predominantly Germanic, and that in part explains my attraction to these people. We are of the same people. Our tribes could be interrelated.

Gunther and Ingrid both have become strongly connected with the native peoples of North America. Every native that they meet is very significant to them. The Hopi tradition is one that they both especially admire. The Hopis have kept separate from the "progress" of the white man, they have held onto their language and traditions. The Hopis have never in many thousands of years put a single one of their people in a jail or a mental institution. Gunther has been a prisoner of war, and twice he has gone mad and been in a mental institution. He says that he had to go there to see how it works. When he learned that the Hopis refuse to use such controls, he had to find out more, so he is grateful to have lived in Arizona.

This time Gunther succeeded in giving me all of his books. The last time he tried to give me his books, I refused them, taking only the smallest one, the stories and the story. But the three big volumes are his life work, and he wants me to read them. Ingrid wants me to read them too. She helped edit them. I am taking the first volume with me to school, and storing the other two. I am trying to get my school library down to two crates, but I am unwilling. I was trying to get my stored library down to two crates, and it remains at three as well. I do not want to get rid of any more books in my life. I want a library of my own, or a shared library where my books will at least not be discarded and wasted. And I am going to start marking up my books more, so that I can find references in the future. I'm going to devise a system like Gunther's, of crayon colors which will not fade. There are teachings in his books that I am sure he cannot remember now, but he can still teach them through his writing. This is his try at immortality.

It took a long time to leave. Gunther could have talked for hours more but he saw Ingrid and me yawning. We all stood near the front door and Gunther burned sage. We scooped the smoke onto ourselves and wished everyone on this planet and beyond good luck. Then we each sang a song. We danced Gunther's dance and sang his song as we moved in a clockwise circle. Each person may have a song that is only theirs. Ingrid sang a more complex Paiute song, with an unpredictable melody (to me) and syncopated rhythms. I tried to sing along with her song. Then they had me sing my song, and I sang the Anusara invocation in Sanskrit. They liked it. I sang it several times, and finished with an Om, which they both joined in with heartily.

I cried in the pickup truck on the way home, and I am still at the edge of tears. I am sad to leave them. I am making other new friendships which are stronger and more real than many previous ones. I am glad that I am finding my tribe here in Arizona, and it is ironic that this change happened only when I decided to leave. My life is gaining momentum again, after eddying out for nearly seven years. Funny the cycles of our lives.
Tags: books, culture, education, germany, isms, language, memory, songs, tribes

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