Mayflower Compact

Mayflower Compact

2018.11.21-22

Growing Community

 

If you go to the website plimouth.org, you will read what a community of Americans describes as the first Thanksgiving.  The community decided that was how they wished history to be.  However, it is not fact but rather a perspective that protected the community from seeming to be cruel or heartless.  Sometimes a community feels it must do such to protect itself.  I don’t know exactly when those in charge of Plimouth plantation decided to fabricate the partially true bit of history but it might fall under the heading of “fake news”.

 

Approximately 398 years ago, plus one day, the men aboard a ship of immigrants fleeing persecution were nearing the end of their sixty-six day journey across the Atlantic Ocean.  Hoping to soon set foot on dry land, they devised a legal and binding contract of behavior and governance for all to follow.  Before each man set foot off the ship he was expected to sign the document that, as of the late 1700’s, has become known as the Mayflower Compact. 

 

The ship these immigrants sailed upon was called the Mayflower and it was under the steerage of Christopher Jones.  Known as the master (today we would consider him the Captain), Jones’ quarters were at the back of the ship in the stern.  The sailors lived in quarters at the front of the ship and used a hole cut into the tip of the bow or head for their personal hygiene needs.  The quarters consisted on one room known as the forecastle, a wet room constantly hit by crashing waves and frequently quite cold.  In the area between the Captain’s berth and the forecastle were the quarters for the officers.

 

The passengers on the Mayflower were considered cargo.  One hundred and two men, women, and children lived in the dark cargo decks below the crew.  Today there are caravans of immigrants escaping persecution from Central and South America approaching the United States border but in 1620, the fleeing immigrants were below the decks, seldom seeing the sun and feeling the full brunt of the ocean’s currents, tides, and waves.

 

These immigrants in 1620 were known as the Pilgrims.  Before leaving England, they had obtained permission from the King of England to settle on land farther to the south near the mouth of the Hudson River (in present-day New York).  The wind drew them off course and instead landing farther south where they had expected to make shore, they landed in New England.  This meant they needed a new permission (called a patent) to settle there as all land in this New World had been claimed as property of the King of England. On November 11, 1620, feeling the need to maintain order and establish a civil society while they waited for this new patent, the adult male passengers signed the Mayflower Compact.

 

At this juncture, two important points need to be made.  First, there were over five thousand groups of people already living in this New World as the North American continent was known in 1620.  Claiming it for the sovereignty of England did not erase this fact.  These people had spent decades and centuries to reach this land mass, coming originally as immigrants from the Caucus Mountains.  Today in the USA they are called Native Americans or American Indians.  The Canadian term is much more apt – First Families.  Archaeological evidence places their arrival some thirty thousand years before Europeans reached North America and some twenty thousand years in South America.  It is estimated they arrived some fifteen thousand years before the Vikings reached the shores of northern North America.

 

The second important point is that communities make such compacts as a way of maintaining order.  This is true of religious communities, volunteer groups, municipalities, social organizations, businesses, etc.  It is to be hoped that such documents include all parties involved and are written to the greatest maximum benefit of all.  In keeping with the times, only men signed the Mayflower Compact as women were not considered to be of mental acuity to understand such.  Gender discrimination is not a modern-day issue.  Much like the laws of today, though, a piece of paper cannot guarantee success, or that all will follow what has been agreed upon, or that order will lead to a better tomorrow.  The community itself must work together for the betterment of all and be willing to chance.  If not, well…that is where things can often get complicated.  They certainly did in 1620.

 

Of the 102 passengers on the Mayflower, there were 50 men, 19 women and 33 young adults and children.  Just 41 were true Pilgrims, religious separatists seeking freedom from the Church of England.  The others were considered common folk and included merchants, craftsmen, indentured servants and orphaned children—the Pilgrims called them “strangers.”  Seeking the right to worship as they wished, the Pilgrims had signed a contract with the Virginia Company to settle on land near the Hudson River, which was then part of northern Virginia.  The Virginia Company was a trading company chartered by King James I with the goal of colonizing parts of the eastern coast of the New World.  London stockholders financed the Pilgrim’s voyage with the understanding they’d be repaid in profits from the new settlement.

 

The strangers argued the Virginia Company contract was void. They felt since the Mayflower had landed outside of Virginia Company territory, they were no longer bound to the company’s charter.  The defiant strangers refused to recognize any rules since there was no official government over them.  Pilgrim leader William Bradford later wrote, “… several strangers made discontented and mutinous speeches.”  The Pilgrims knew if something wasn’t done quickly it could be every man, woman and family for themselves.  It’s unclear who wrote the Mayflower Compact, but the well-educated Separatist and pastor William Brewster is usually given credit.  One now-famous colonist who signed the Mayflower Compact was Myles Standish. He was an English military officer hired by the Pilgrims to accompany them to the New World to serve as military leader for the colony. Standish played an important role in enforcing the new laws and protecting colonists against the natives of the area who were considered unfriendly.

 

In establishing a community, it should be noted that other communities must be considered.  The Europeans came to this new land mass wanting to own all and did not give thought to those who were already living on the land and considered it theirs.  Because they dressed differently, had different customs and practices, they were considered savage.  When they tried to protect their homes, gardens, food sources, and families, they were called unfriendly. 

 

William Bradford kept diaries and what we known of the original Mayflower Compact has been learned through his diaries.  The original handwritten document has been lost but copies remain from over one hundred years later that are considered good references for it.  The Mayflower Compact created laws for Mayflower Pilgrims and non-Pilgrims alike for the good of their new colony. It was a short document which established that: the colonists would remain loyal subjects to King James, despite their need for self-governance; the colonists would live in accordance with the Christian faith; the colonists would create one society and work together to further it; the colonists would create and enact “laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions and offices…” for the good of the colony, and abide by those laws.  The newly-formed Plymouth (or Plimouth) colony was their new community and John Carver was elected governor on November 21, 1620, three hundred and ninety-eight days ago. 

 

That first year was brutal.  Disease, improper clothing for the elements, lack of food and shelter resulted in the deaths of over half of those making the voyage aboard the Mayflower.  Of the eighteen adult women in the new community, fifteen perished that first year.  The Mayflower Compact is considered important as it established self-governance in this new land, the first of any such.  It remained active until Plymouth Colony became part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1691.  John Carver perished that first year and William Bradford took over as governor. 

 

Also at the end of that first year, the new colonists discovered their neighbors were not so savage after all.  The end of the growing season meant the Indians would have their ritual of a harvest feast.  They invited the colonists to join them and the two communities, at least for several days, came together in peace and community.  Sadly, the Massachusetts Indians who were the hosts succumbed to the germs the English brought with them, typical everyday germs we all carry on our bodies.  There was no conspiracy to eliminate the Massachusetts tribe but it did.  The remaining thirty or so members of the tribe led by Chief Massasoit then joined a neighboring tribe, the Wampanoag Indians.  It was an Indian custom to have young men participate in an exchange program with neighboring tribes.  Such a custom shared knowledge but also led to an understanding and often, prevention of warfare.  It enabled the two somewhat different communities to ensure a future through discourse and education rather than annihilation.

 

Many believe the Mayflower Compact set the stage for the US Constitution.  However, the legislative branch of the US government bears more similarities to the governance of the Massachusetts and Wampanoag tribes than the Mayflower Compact.  This is, however, the way of history.  We form communities and we learn.  Those communities thrive when we gain and take the best of the past, giving thanks for lessons learned, and then move forward.  Of the time the Pilgrims had spent in the Dutch republic city of Leiden, historian Nathaniel Philbrick once wrote:  “Just as a spiritual covenant had marked the beginning of their congregation in Leiden, a civil covenant would provide the basis for a secular government in America.”

 

Many times we think of a spiritual covenant as relating to faith, a religious doctrine but I would offer that truly it is a nonphysical grouping of belief and we all have such.  This week might not be a time where you have an official Thanksgiving Holiday but I do think it a good time to give thanks.  We all should have an attitude of gratitude and move forward, committed to making our world a better community for all.  This provides not only a civil covenant for the future but a basis of a better tomorrow for us all. 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Notable Immigrants

Two Notable Immigrants

2018.07.04

Pentecost 2018

 

“Give me your tired, your huddled masses yearning to be free…”  Many believe this to be the beginning of an inscription when it really is the ending.  A sonnet written by Emma Lazarus to raise money to pay for the base of the Statue of Liberty, the sonnet declares the statue to be the Mother of Exiles.  This statue is as American as the flag and both the poetess and the women whom we will discuss today are shining examples of what this country has stood for throughout its history. 

 

Emma Lazarus was a Jewish poet born in New York City.  While some of her ancestors were from Germany, most came from Portugal, being some of the very first Jewish immigrants in the New World long before the American Revolution.  They came as many did seeking religious freedom and the chance to live their faith.  Her first book was published while she was in her mid-teenage years.  Lazarus was a prolific writer in her thirty-eight years on earth.  Her most notable series of articles was that entitled “An Epistle to the Hebrews” (The American Hebrew, November 10, 1882 – February 24, 1883).  It might seem as it was published more recently since in it she discussed the Jewish problems of the day, urged a technical and a Jewish education for Jews, and ranged herself among the advocates of an independent Jewish nationality and of Jewish repatriation in Palestine. 

 

Today is known in the United States of American as Independence Day, being the Fourth of July.  While the current debate centers on the right of people to emigrate, it should be noted that all humans living on the North American continent can trace their ancestry to immigrants.   Whether those known as American Indians, colonists, or refugees, everyone came from somewhere else on the globe before living here.  The settlement of this area is relatively new compared to the bones of those discovered in the Asian and European continents.  The first human settlement dates back to 9000 B.C. in Estonia and yet, science is convinced the history of man is much older.

 

Marie Jana Korbelová came to the USA at the age of eleven.  Her father was a diplomat in their native Czechoslovakia and the family settled in Denver.  At the age of twenty she became a U.S. citizen in 1957. She graduated from Wellesley College in 1959 and earned a PhD from Columbia University in 1975, writing her thesis on the Prague Spring. She worked as an aide to Senator Edmund Muskie before taking a position under Zbigniew Brzezinski on the National Security Council. She served in that position until the end of President Jimmy Carter’s lone term.

After leaving the National Security Council, Albright joined the academic staff of Georgetown University and advised Democratic candidates regarding foreign policy. After Clinton’s victory in the 1992 presidential election, she helped assemble Clinton’s National Security Council. In 1993, Clinton appointed her to the position of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. She held that position until 1997, when she succeeded Warren Christopher as Secretary of State. She served as Secretary of State until Clinton left office in 2001.

 

The first female ambassador, Madeleine Albright as Maria is now known, is a prime example of the determination many immigrants bring with them to this new home of theirs.  At the time of her birth, her father was serving as press-attaché at the Czechoslovak Embassy in Belgrade. However, the signing of the Munich Agreement in September 1938 and the disintegration of Czechoslovakia at the hands of Adolf Hitler forced the family into exile because of their links with Beneš.   In 1941, Josef and Anna had converted from Judaism to Catholicism.   Madeleine was raised in Roman Catholicism and spent the years of World War II in Great Britain, never knowing many of her family perished in the Holocaust.   

 

Madeleine Albright’s first view of the United States was the Statue of Liberty as the family landed at Ellis Island.  Requesting asylum, the family moved first to Long Island and the Colorado.  Albright is now an Episcopalian. Further example of the religious freedoms promised and cherished by the US Constitution.  Her accomplishments were not without hard work but she is a great example of what someone can do if they apply themselves, regardless of where they were born.

 

“It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent.”  Those who expected the first female ambassador from the USA to be docile were very surprised with the pint size, ball of energy that is Madeleine Albright.  “We might have the right intentions, but instead of acting, we decide to wait.  We keep waiting until we run out of “untils”.  Then it is too late.” 

 

The future is ours to write and we need to embrace all of humanity in order to do so successfully.  The best celebration of any country’s Independence Day is a dedicated effort to move forward with peace and diplomacy for all.  “We have a responsibility in our time, as others have had in theirs, not to be prisoners of history but to shape history.”  These words of Madeleine Albright fit perfectly with the words of Emma Lazarus that we should extend to all a “world-wide welcome”.  It is, after all, the reason we sought to be independent.

 

 

 

The Monster Within

The Monster Within

Detours in Life

Pentecost 126 – 134

Megapost #8

 

Halloween is nearing and it is that time of the year in which the mythologies of the world invade our reality.  “We have this need for some larger-than-life creature.”  It may seem a bit ironic that one of the leading authors of a book on a giant, human-like mythological creature that may be real is actually an expert on much smaller animals.  Robert Michael Pyle studies moths and butterflies and writes about them but in 1995 he also penned a book about the supposed primate known, among other names, as Yeti, Bigfoot, or Sasquatch.

 

The giants in the American Indian folklore are as varied as the different tribes themselves.  It is important to remember that although they are grouped together much like the term European, the designation of American Indian applies to many tribes, most of which are now extinct.  Many millions of Americans over the past two hundred years could and should claim American Indian ancestry.  The story of Bigfoot is one story of their ancestral stories, the tale of a much talked-about and feared mythical creature.

 

The Bigfoot phenomenon is proof that there is a real place for mythologies in the present day.  The past several years saw people viewing a popular television program, “Finding Bigfoot” which aired on the Animal Planet network as well as being replayed via internet formats.  A group of four traveled the world, speaking and exploring the myths about a large, here-to-fore undocumented bipedal primate thought to be a link between the great apes and Homo sapiens.   One member of this group was a female naturalist and botanist but the other three were educated men in other disciplines.  To date, the three men have yet to convince their female scientist companion of the existence of the myth known as Bigfoot although she has dedicated several years of her life to searching for something she claims not to believe exists.

 

Even the more popular terms are modern additions to the myth.   A photograph allegedly taken by Eric Shipton was published with Shipton describing the footprint as one from a Yeti, a mythological creature much like a giant snowman said to inhabit the mountains of Nepal.  Several years another set of footprints was photographed in California and published in a local newspaper.  This time the animal was described as “Bigfoot” and a legend dating back to the earliest settlers in North America had been reborn.  The interest in such photographs is proof of the opening quote of today’s post.

 

The Lummi tribe called their giant ape/man mythological character Ts’emekwes and the descriptions of the character’s preferred diet and activities varied within the tribal culture.   Children were warned of the stiyaha or kwi-kwiyai who were said to roam at night and steal children.  There were also stories of the skoocooms, a giant race which lived on Mount St. Helens and were cannibalistic.  The skoocooms were given supernatural powers and status.  A Canadian reporter also reported on such stories and he used a term from the Halkomalem and named the creature “sasq’ets” or Sasquatch.   Rather than to be feared, though, some tribes translated this name to mean “benign-faced one.”

 

Mythologies of such giant creatures can be found on six of the seven continents and if mankind had been able to survive on Antarctica for thousands of years, there would probably be some from there as well.  We do seem to need to believe in something larger than life, as our mythologies bear witness.  What if there was proof of these creatures?  What if they really did exist and perhaps still do?

 

The Paiute Indians, an American Indian tribe from the regions between the Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountains also had folklore of such a character.  Their legends tell of a tribe of red-haired giants called Sai’i.  After one such giant gave birth to a disfigured child who was shunned by the tribe, The Paiute believed the Great Spirit of All made their land and living conditions barren and desolate as punishment.  Enemies were then able to conquer the tribe and kill all but two – Paiute and his wife and their skin turned brown from living in such harsh conditions. 

 

In 1911 miners working Nevada’s Lovelock Cave discussed not the guano or bat droppings for which they were searching but bones they claimed were from giants.  Nearby reddish hair was found and many believed the remains were those of the Sai’i or Si-Te-Cah as they were also called.  However, some like Adrienne Mayor in her book “Legends of the First Americans” believe these bones and others found nearby are simply untrained eyes not realizing what they are seeing.   A tall man could have bones that would seem large and hair pigment is not stable and often changes color based upon the conditions in which it is found.  Even black hair can turn reddish or orange given the right mineral composition in the soil in which it is found.

 

What the mythologies of the world tell us, and especially the many celebrations regarding All Hallow’s Eve or Halloween, is that mankind needs to believe in something. In ‘The Magic of Thinking Big”, David Schwartz writes:  “Believe it can be done. When you believe something can be done, really believe, your mind will find the ways to do it. Believing a solution paves the way to solution.”  

 

Maybe you believe in the yeti or Sasquatch and maybe you believe in the disproof of them.  We create giants in our own minds every day – those problems that seem insurmountable or the dreams that seem impossible.  The only Bigfoot that matters is that one foot that takes a big step towards progress, towards peace, a step taken with hope.  The dawn of a new day requires us to take a step forward.  If we believe in ourselves, that step will have purpose and accomplishment.  The longest journey really does begin with a single step.

 

We find it so easy to believe in the fear we imagine and yet, believing in the positive is much harder.  Most of us could readily list our shortcomings and the monster within but stumble when it comes to describing our talents or positive attributes.  The best thing to believe in is you.  Let yourself be your creature to believe in today.  Detour away from fear and into your bright future, a future in which you believe you can do anything.  The reality is you can do whatever you set your mind to doing.  Turn your fears into lessons and steps toward success.  Believe in yourself.  You are amazing!

The Aftermath

The Aftermath

Detours in Life

Pentecost – 22

 

One year ago over two thousand flights were cancelled as a fier and power outage at a Delta Air Lines control center affected air travel worldwide.   Many people found themselves facing changes in plans, delays, and certainly detours in their everyday living.  These were temporary detours to be sure but they still created a type of chaos that many saw as avoidable evil.  Eventually, though, people did get to their destinations and life resumed again.  It did not seem like it at the time but those affected by these flight cancellations were luckier than many.

 

Bombings worldwide have become less once-in-a-lifetime events and are on the verge of becoming more common.  Recently in a southern town a gun battle ended a discussion between two teenagers out for a movie on a Saturday night at a popular shopping open air mall.  The mall has a strict curfew – no one under the age of eighteen allowed after 8 PM without a parent or guardian.  The movie theatre had a line outside of over hundred teens, most without an adult present and shoppers mentioned this to the security standing outside the theatre.  Security took a “What can we do?” attitude and nothing was said to the teens violating the curfew nor was any law enforcement called.  That is, not until a few minutes later when a fifteen-year-old pulled out a gun and shot a sixteen-year-old.

 

Weapons have been around ever since man decided to eat something larger than himself.  Sitting on a shelf, that weapon will most likely do no harm to anyone.  With proper training and usage, it might even one day be practical.  When weapons are used to illustrate a point, however, they become deadly and innocent victims will most likely suffer.

 

The simply answer to get rid of all weapons is not the answer but what we do in the aftermath of such events is.  When faced with detours we need to focus less on the detour and more on how we handle it and what we do afterwards.

 

Acts of terrorism are detours but they can be avoided if we remain calm and take proactive approaches.  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:  terrorism 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.  Days after the Paris scenes of terrorism someone played his melody on a piano outside the concert hall of great carnage, the music soothing the pain.

 

Today many will face detours in their living, serious alterations in the life they had planned.  Whether from violence or illness or changing life situations, 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.”

 

I have thus far taken somewhat a light-hearted approach to the various detours we face in our lives but some are deeply serious and life-changing.  How we handle the aftermath of these detours will determine what comes next.  Some detours are avoidable while others are not.  A driver crashed through a construction zone because he failed to be alert and take a different route.  A school bus slid off a roadway due to needing to turn around because its normal route was flooded by a sudden storm.   Both were detours of travel.  One was avoidable and the other not so much.  There were injuries in one and none in the other but both serve to remind us that even a simple trip home or school can result in a sudden detour.

 

Life gives us detours.  It is unavoidable but our response to such is critical.  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.”

 

 

 

A Disappearing Act

A Disappearing Act

Detours in Life

Pentecost 8

 

They are one of the oldest legumes known to mankind.  They grow along the Rocky Mountains and were a staple of the tribe for which they are named.  Along with a blue maize or corn, they are all that remains of a most interesting group of indigenous people to live in North America.

 

The tribe is known as the Anasazi Tribe and they lived and then disappeared between 550 and 1300 ACE in an area now called Mesa Verde, Colorado.  IIN 1870 a photographer accidentally discovered remnants of the Anasazi civilization, a most sophisticated culture for its day and time.  Their life was based on agriculture and they invented innovative and creative ways for irrigation as well as constructed hundreds of miles of roads.  They did not have the wheel nor do we believe they had the means to transport animals except by foot.  Their homes literally hung on the hillsides and mountains and even today are accessed only by the most skilled of mountain climbers using modern ropes and pulley systems.

 

The word “Anasazi” exists in the Navajo language and translates as “ancient ones” when spelled Anaasazi.  However, it is also very similar to the Greek “Anasa” and “Zi” which translates as breath lives.  Some believe the name was the name of their queen and literally meant “Long live the Queen!”  Archaeologists have found evidence of the Anasazi in Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado, the “four corners region” as it is now known.  Many consider the tribe disappeared due to drought and a subsequent lack of food.  However, then the question is asked – Why not simply move elsewhere?  Others believe the tribe became disenchanted with their deities, the gods of their mythology and, once angry with the gods of their culture, they left, disappeared to…?

 

Today the closest neighbors of what would have been the Anasazi lands are the Hopi Indians.  Theirs is a culture very different from the Anasazi and no one believes they are descended from them.  It is very interesting that, while the Anasazi people have disappeared, one of their most prominent deities has not.  The Anasazi were the first to have myths about Kokopelli, the god of harvest, fertility, and plenty.  The Anasazi believed that a visit from Kokopelli would bring a bountiful harvest and good luck.

 

Kokopelli is claimed today by most American Indians and indeed many tribes have myths about him or a similar character.  Most described him in like fashion:  “ . . . everyone in the village would sing and dance throughout the night when they heard Kokopelli play his flute. The next morning, every maiden in the village would be with child.”  In modern times Kokopelli was compared to A Shakespearean character from “A Midsummer’s Night Dream”, Puck.

 

With these myths from the indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere, the newest lands of mankind’s living, we can see the similarities between all people.  Whether named for a Greek Queen or being used for a Shakespearean character, the history of myths and cultures follows similar paths.  Sadly, what does not disappear are our less than admirable traits – discrimination, fear, jealousy, and greed, among others.

 

What legacy has remained of the Anasazi includes their beans, a legume similar to the pinto or kidney bean and their blue corn.  What remains of the American Indians, even those extinct tribes are their words and names.  Almost half of the fifty states within the United States of America have American Indian names.  Other words, though create their own mythology.  American Indian words are often used to evoke images of might and strength.  A four-wheel drive vehicle originally created for military use became popular with the general population and one of their first models was named after a southeastern tribe – Cherokee.  Another model used mainly for off-roading was given the name of a southwestern tribe – Apache.  The military also appropriated American Indian names for one of their helicopters, the Chinook, and a missile, the Tomahawk.  Currently sports teams of all levels use American Indian names and the National Football league is embroiled in a dispute of such regarding the Washington Redskins.

 

For many, such appropriation of words from these indigenous peoples ensures that they will not be forgotten.  History sometimes is written for the victor and, in many cases, these indigenous tribes were not victorious in maintaining their lands or the ability to continue their culture.  Colonization sometimes becomes annihilation.

 

We can face that same dilemma when we are confronted with societal pressures ourselves.  Maintaining a lifestyle that adheres to one’s beliefs is not an easy task.  Remembering that faith is the strongest weapon is sometimes forgotten when we see the stories that terrorists create.  Nonetheless, faith is strong and it becomes stronger when we live it.

 

Life offers us a chance to detour from the heat of arguments to be vessels of peace.  We can either give in to the hysteria of fear or elect to be calm winds.  Faith is to be used, exercised, displayed, illustrated, and renewed each and every day.  We and we alone are responsible if our faith disappears.  It isn’t a magic act to live one’s beliefs.  It just takes doing it and that is the strongest force of all.  Sometimes life throws us a curveball and we must take a detour.  When we travel that road with faith, we ensure we will not disappear but make a lasting impression.

 

 

Enemies Gather

Enemies Gather

Pentecost 194

 

Today in the USA is a holiday, a holiday known as Thanksgiving Day.  Stories are told, depending upon one’s perspective about the American Indians living in the area hosting a harvest festival for the Pilgrims, newly arrived from England, or that the Pilgrims invited the Indian savages to a meal of giving thanks to the Creator.  It is a day set aside to give thanks, regardless of how you celebrate and many will gather with families to do just that.  It will not be a typical, ordinary day but rather one with platters of food and desserts, games, and frivolity.  It has been welcomed in this tense political climate and many consider it a pleasant change from the daily mood of the country.

 

In truth, the first Thanksgiving, taking place in 1621, was held amid much the same derision and division as people feel today.  The Pilgrims wanted to celebrate their first anniversary in the New World, a pilgrimage for religious freedom that had taken them first to Amsterdam and then Leiden in the Netherlands.  These Separatists had broken from the Church of England in 1607 but after a decade decided they needed to join the already established colony of Virginia.  Thirty-five members of the English Separatist Church joined other would-be settlers to embark on a journey across the Atlantic Ocean aboard the Mayflower. 

 

Those undertaking the trans-Atlantic journey included a professional soldier named Myles Standish and the leader of the Separatists, William Bradford.  While still on board the ship forty-one men signed a document ensuring they would work together in a “civil body politic”, a document known as the Mayflower Compact.  The document would become the foundation for the first independent government of sorts in this new land.

 

The Mayflower failed to reach its intended destination of Virginia due to rough seas so those aboard hoped to settle in what was called New Amsterdam, now known as New York.  It was believed the two settlements were close together; we know today they are not.  Arriving in Plymouth Harbor in December, the newly arrived lived mostly on board the ship while they carried supplies to shore to build their living quarters.  Of the one hundred that had made the journey, over half died that first winter.

 

Living in the area were various tribes of the Wampanoag people.  The Indians had lived there for over ten thousand years, having originally been descendants of people from the Caucasus Mountain region in Eurasia. [The Arabs called these people Caucasian because of that although today the term is not used for American Indians but for people who came from west of these mountains, those of European descent.  Again, perspective has rewritten history.]    Those encountered by the Pilgrims as they now called themselves were of a group under Chief Massasoit, known as the Massachusetts tribe.  Tisquantum was an Indian living with this tribe, having escaped an attempt to make him a slave several years earlier.  Known by his English name Squanto, he had been captured by John Smith in Virginia and taken to England, as much a trophy as a servant/slave.  He had escaped and ended up with the Pawtuxet, another tribe living in the area.  Tisquantum/Squanto had learned English and served as a go-between for the two groups.  The Indians shared agricultural tips and hunting locations and the Pilgrims shared newer techniques for living.  In the fall of 1621 a joint feast was held amid the still simmering suspicions each group had of the other.

 

By 1622 power had corrupted Tisquantum/Squanto and his attempt to lead the Pilgrims in a revolt against Chief Massasoit failed.  He died later that year while leading an expedition around Cape Cod.  One of Massasoit’s sons, known as Metacomet or Phillip, assumed leadership of his tribe and in 1675, a war broke out between the two factions – Indians and settlers.  The conflict left over five thousand inhabitants of New England dead, seventy-five percent being American Indian.  IN terms of human loss of life, this was twice as deadly as the American War Between the States and seven times more deadly than the American Revolution or Wear of Independence.

 

That first ship the Mayflower had arrived in 1620 and was followed by the Fortune in 1621, the Anne and the Little James in 1623.  By 1630 some one thousand Pilgrim settlers were living the in Massachusetts Bay Colony.  Those first arrivals were known as “Old Comers” and many ended up leaving to go elsewhere due to the politics of the settlers. The term Pilgrim was not used until Daniel Webster adopted it in 1820 at the colony’s bicentennial.

 

What has not changed in the successive years of celebrating Thanksgiving is the fact that food is involved and groups of people gather, groups with differing opinions and usually lifestyles.  The momentum behind the celebration has also not changed – the effort being designed to give thanks.  Regardless of the year, the climate or the culture, gratitude is definitely worth our efforts.

 

Grateful people are healthier people and more successful.  They have lower stress levels and seldom suffer from depression.  Gratitude is not only seeing the silver lining of a dark cloud, it is living thanksgiving every day.  We are seldom if ever in a place where everyone is exactly alike or thinks exactly the same about anything.  Today as many gather together around the Thanksgiving table, some will like one style of mashed potatoes while others wanted candied sweet potatoes.  Turkey is the traditional meat entrée but many will have sausage dressing with it or oyster stuffing with their fowl.

 

The fact is that wherever we are, we are among those who are different, who at some point in history have probably been viewed by our ancestors as enemies.  Thanksgiving is a time to realize our uniqueness and celebrate our differences while recognizing that we all have something to offer to each other.  That first Thanksgiving was not a love-in.  It was a coming together with respect to give thanks to the Creator and creation.  It was time to celebrate the ordinary in an extraordinary way.  Hopefully, one day we can learn their example and live the lessons they passed down to us.

 

 

A Folk Tale

The Three: Willow, Branch, Leaf

Family of Man – Harvest

Pentecost 115

 

As promised, here is the story of Willow, Branch, and Leaf.

 

It is said that the creator looked through the clouds one day and saw a need for shade.  The heat from the sun provided much for the world but the people were beginning to spread their own type of heat – anger.  Grieved at this, a tear fell from the creator’s eye and from it, a tree grew.  The tree could bend and move as no other and it was called “willow” from the word meaning to roll and turn.

 

Beneath the willow tree three plants grew.  One grew outside the tree’s shade while another used the tree trunk to grow tall.  Still another stood straight and offered shade to plants around it, much like the willow tree did.   The plants provided food for the people who became more loving in the shade of the tree.  They reached out to each other more and life was good.

 

Nearby there were three sisters living together.  Different in appearance, the sisters loved each other and stayed together.  They believed their being together made them strong.  A visitor soon entered their life and spoke of other places and other customs.  Several nights later one of the sisters had disappeared and within the week another was gone.  The remaining sister blamed the visitor and cast him out.  She never spoke to strangers again and grieved deeply for her sisters.

 

Time passed and then the same visitor appeared.  This time he was accompanied by the second sister.  She told the elder sister that she had not meant to cause her grief but had wanted to grow and so had gone to see the different places the visitor had described.  She had come home now and had many different ways to improve their land.  The sisters hugged and were overjoyed.

 

One day after much time had passed the third sister appeared with her own family.  She was welcomed by her sisters and asked why she had stayed away so long.  “I needed to grow”, she replied.  “I also wanted to see the world, to make my own way.”  She also offered advice on different ways to do things but unlike her other sister, she eventually went back to her new home.  The sisters did stay in touch, secure in their love for each other which time had not dimmed.

 

A willow tree is very flexible and yet it is also quite strong.  Once believed to have possessed magical powers, its leaves are often used to help combat fevers.  Our folk tale of a willow tree being used to help alleviate heat has some scientific bearing.  The willow is one of the strongest trees, bending to the wind but never fully snapping or being brought to death by other forces of nature. 

 

The family of man is like the willow tree with all its different varieties.  We cannot ignore our differences but neither should we forget our similarities.  When we plant strong roots in our being of goodness and kindness, we will grow and flourish wherever we are.  Nothing can truly take away our love of family when we allow it to grow.  We too need to branch out and stretch ourselves both mentally and physically.  Through our actions of kindness and goodness, we drop leaves that can grow within other environs and improve the world.  Willow branches are said to be used by those believing in magic.  We can create the magic of goodness when we use our skills and actions for good. 

 

Archbishop Desmond Tutu knows the value of our stretching and growing to spread seeds of goodness.  “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”  The family of man will grow when we remember to do good, not evil.