August 15th, 2007


A Poem: Wild Geese, by Mary Oliver, 1986

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of rain
are moving over the landscapes
over the praries and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese
high in the clear blue air
are heading home again.
Whoever you are
no matter how lonely
the world offers itself to your imagination
calls to you like the wild geese
harsh and exciting
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

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.
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