The chaos of the last couple of days, given the tragedies of Paris, makes carrying on as usual very difficult. So today, we will change course and discuss a few proverbs from the oldest cultures on the American continents. We cannot let radical evil alter the course of our lives and yet, we should and must confront the grief of so many lives lost due to evil.
Make no mistake: this is not about religion. This is about greed and power. It is easy to point fingers but we each are responsible for our own actions. As the Anishinabek Indians, of the Algonquin Nation and located in Ontario, would say – “No one else can represent your conscience.” Even the Apache, considered a southwest US American Indian tribe with a warring history knew that “It makes no difference as to the name of the God, since love is the real God of all the world.”
It is very hard to look in our hearts when dealing with those who have committed these egregious acts. We would rather react with anger. It is at such times we need the wisdom of the Arapaho: “When we show our respect for other living things, they respond with respect for us.”
I know what you might be thinking. “They showed us no respect.” That is true. However, as an old Cherokee proverb points out, “The weakness of the enemy makes our strength.” Their weakness is their need to strike out against innocents. They know they cannot win by using logic and reason for their course of actions do not have any. They must battle and they do not battle fairly. They cannot win a fair fight so they battle the unprepared, the untrained. They are cowards.
A Cheyenne saying advises us to “Judge not by the eye but by the heart.” We cannot let the images of tragedy be our compass. We must use our heart in determining our future paths. We cannot think to honor those who have died by causing more death. The Delaware Indians believed “Good and evil cannot dwell together in the same heart, so a good man ought not to go into evil company.” The Hopi agreed: “Do not allow anger to poison you.”
The Iroquois believed “In every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decision on the next seven generations.” The Lakota a tribe that was the merger of the Sioux and Teton tribes of the US northwestern area said that “true peace between nations will only happen when there is true peace within people’s souls.” John Lennon asked us to imagine a world where people lived to ether in peace. Today someone played his melody on a piano outside the concert hall of great carnage, the music soothing the pain.
There are no words to justify the tragedy of Paris not the tragedies of other bombings and brutal killings. All we can do is live justly and act, not react. I ask that you seek the light and goodness and ask whatever your supreme deity is to shower love upon those who were affected. We are all neighbors and need to remember that we are all called to be good stewards of our world and all living things. The Oneida identified how to live with light and goodness: “To be noble is to give to those who have less. It is an issue of service and leadership. Service is a spiritual act. Service is the rent we pay for living, the anchor to our humanity.”
Today many will attempt to pick up the pieces of lives broken. We need to let our faith anchor us as we offer goodness to the world. The Pawnee Indians believed “all religions are but stepping stones back to God” and the Osage taught that “we must assist each other to bear our burdens.” Let us use our energy to help our fellow neighbors to bear their burdens. Let us remember to be that which we would like to see in others and cast aside thought of retaliation and further killings. As the Shenandoah Indians proclaimed, “It is no longer good enough to cry peace; we must act peace, live peace, and live in peace.”