"Dakota 38" calls from the shadows to move us toward the light of peace, love and reconciliation on Earth
Dakota 38 is one of the most profound and beautiful films I have ever seen and I wanted to share it today, Christmas Eve 2012. For me it reflects the spirit of the season, the year ahead, and what I hope will be a more conscious, intentional focus of the human collective for many years to come.
In 2005, Jim Miller, a Native spiritual leader and Vietnam veteran, had a dream in which he was riding on horseback across the great plains of South Dakota. In the dream, he came to a riverbank in Minnesota and saw 38 of his Dakota ancestors hanged. At the time of his dream, Jim didn't know that on December 26, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln had ordered the largest mass execution in US history in the town of Mankato, Minnesota.
Four years later, Jim and a group of riders planned a 330-mile horeseback ride from Lower Brule, South Dakota to Mankato. They planned to reach the site of the hanging on the anniversary of the execution. The film -- Dakota 38 -- is the story of their healing journey.
I find this story timely and remarkable for several reasons.
Closest to home is the spotlight on the culture of violence in the United States, illuminated by the events in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14th. The massacre in Newtown has drawn global support and solidarity for the healing process that is now underway. As the national discussion grows, many articles reflect that at least some Americans (including me) place this tragedy in a larger context of the violence that we as a nation perpetrated against Native Americans, and Africans torn from their homeland and forced to become slaves to European colonials in the New World.
Consider also the emergence of the Idle No More movement just four days earlier on December 10, 2012. Four women from Saskatchewan -- Indigenous and non Indigenous -- decided that they could no longer be silent about Bill C 45, legislation (later passed by the Canadian Senate on the same day as the Newtown massacre) that they consider an attack on First Nation people and the lands and waters across Canada. This grassroots movement aims to "repair these violations, live the spirit and intent of the treaty relationship, work towards justice in action, and protect Mother Earth". In just a short time, the Idle No More has also attracted support and solidarity from people around the world.
As I queud up Dakota 38, I was not certain I would end up sharing it, at least not until after Christmas. In the face of so much national trauma lately, I have mainly been listening to as many voices as possible. I brought my sharing on social networks under the scrutiny of "right speech" -- a principle that considers, among other things, the right time and place to speak or be silent and just listen, witness, and hold the field steady as people come to grips with its horror, try to sort things out.
What became clear in my heart during the first few minutes of the film, hearing people speak of their experience, is that sharing Dakota 38 on Christmas Eve felt right. This mass execution spoke to the shadow, the darkness I feel as a descendant of European colonists. But as I listened, I could hear the profound gifts of peace, love and reconciliation that these descendents of the Dakota 38 have to offer all of us.
What they speak to is not just an "Indian thing". It reflects a process of healing and transformation that is at the core of celebrations like Christmas, a process that I see spreading across the global range of the human family. It requires reconnecting with our dark and painful past to find what was lost or forgotten so that we can move forward or birth something new in the present with greater peace and wisdom.
In African culture this is the concept of Sankofa. It is also an idea found in the theory and practice of psychoanalysis and other psychological models of healing.
Sankofa Bird street painting in Kumasi, Ghana [Photo credit: Gorodilova]
So, in the spirit of the season, however you celebrate and understand it, I offer this gift via Chief Phil Lane who first shared a related link, and Jim Miller, and Smooth Feather Productions who offered the full movie to everyone at no charge:
The Light of Humanity in the Darkness: Reflections in the Shadow of Sandy Hook (Phillip Hellmich, 12/20/12 at Huffington Post)
Idle No More is not just an "Indian Thing" (Wab Kinew, 12/17/12 at Huffington Post)
First Nations prepared to fight Harper , Enbridge in international court (Erin Flegg, 12/23/12 in the Vancouver Observer)
Idle No More: On the meaning of Chief Therese Spence's hunger strike (Greg Macdougall, 12/22/12 at rabble.ca)
New documentary remembers largest mass execution in US history (December 23, 2010, Minnesota Public Radio)
"So many millions of info-bits on the Internet," I'm thinking, and then wondering, "what led me to this one?" Maybe a more important question: what made me zero in on this one and let all the others move in and then out of focused attention?
Japanese artist Isao Hashimoto's time-lapse map of the 2,053 nuclear explosions that shook the Earth between 1945 and 1998 certainly set off a lot of thoughts, feelings and questions for me this morning. None of them were things I had not thought, not felt, not questioned before. (See my August 6, 2010 post: "The Bomb"s at 65.) In a way, perhaps, Hashimoto's art has brought it all more profoundly into my body.
A couple of experiences with this video today stand out.
The flashes of light and sound representing each detonation evoked the feel of a gaming arcade, or maybe a casino, pure entertainment in the zone of things imaginary. At the same time, the connection of the flashes on the map to another human being's home place was not lost on my heart. The white-light flash on the screen beneath the cross-hairs over Hiroshima sucked time, along with my mind, into a six-decade implosion. For a second I was simultaneously in the rooms where generals gave the destruct order, in the cockpit of the Enola Gay, and on the ground with WTF-amazement at my fiery ascension into the poisonous mushroom.
A few years pass in the upper right hand margin of the video before I can make sense of the flags, beeps, tones, pulses, flashes and numbers emerging in front of me.
My mind reorganizes. It occurs to me how far some of the flashes on the map are from the capitols of the countries that exploded them. How foolish to think that a nuclear explosion in a sparsely populated area would not have consequences.
What is the source of this privilege, this arrogance (or pathetic mindlessness) that could possibly endorse such destruction inside or outside of its own boundaries, against its own (or other) species? It would have to be people who are totally disconnected from laws of nature, people who, blinded by the superpower of fear and loss, have forgotten that what we do to others, we do to ourselves.
Perhaps it's not that Hashimoto's art brought my nuclear thoughts, feelings and questions more profoundly into my body, but that his interpretation put me more profoundly in touch with something that was already there. After all, the atoms in the bombs and the atoms in my body are the same, all connected, all communicating, all the time.
When the US dropped that bomb on Hiroshima, it dropped on me, though I wasn't yet born. The cells that would grow and develop as a vessel for this local self I know as "me" already held the memory of that nuclear holocaust, and have no doubt reverberated with every explosion since, though well beyond conscious awareness...until now.
And so I renew my questions with a louder voice: Who is really the scariest bomb maker? I think a case could be made that it's the folks who have exploded the most bombs, the people who dropped the first ones on unsuspecting citizens of someone else's country.
But here in this first week of 2012, another question comes to mind: What if we as a species misread the impulses that led us to build such things as bombs in the first place? What if the seed of the bomb is our own atomic not-yet-conscious memory of the life-giving Big Bang? It wouldn't be the first time that humankind misunderstood the cohesive evolutionary forces of love, light and life and chose instead a path of undoing.
What if the explosion of light we are driven to seek and give form on Earth is the spiritual fire, the atomic essence of our true Selves?
I got some links from Joe Brewer at Cognitive Policy Works today that included this video presentation on what needs to happen in order to bring about change in behaviors that are harming people and nature. Joe focuses on some key ideas from cognitive neuroscience that I'll be weaving in with whatever I write about my earth and psyche research project. I decided to post this so I can link back to it in future posts.
Joe's video is brief but has some really fundamental info that, sooner or later, activists, healers, policy makers and just about everybody else I can think of will need to be aware of:
Cross-posted from Earth and Psyche
This article from Dave Belden at Tikkun (December 28, 2010) is part of the reason I've been busy digging deeper into notions of conscious evolution, evolutionary biology and epigenetics with respect to attachment, affective systems and other points of interest to me as a psychoanalytic practitioner. Here's an excerpt:
A major milestone in the development of evolutionary science was the defeat of the idea held by evolution’s first great theorist, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744 – 1829), that offspring could inherit the characteristics that their parents had acquired during their lifetimes. This was before it was worked out that biological inheritance works through genes and the language of DNA. While your DNA can be damaged, there is nothing you and your mate can do to otherwise change the genes you pass on to your biological kids. So if you learn to live in the desert or play the violin, you can teach the desert or violin skills to your kids but they won’t inherit them. “Lamarckism” became a major heresy in evolutionary science.
There is a great deal of hope and comfort in this for anyone who has lived through the worst that humans can do to each other: war, genocide, famine, prison, or other horrors. At least your kids can get a fresh start, if you can raise them somewhere safe. Yes, your own fears and trauma will inevitably be transmitted to them in some ways, but that will happen culturally, not, thank goodness, biologically. Biologically they will be a blank slate.
Now it appears it is not as simple as that.
Interesting article (actually, an excerpt from Arnold Mindell's book by the same name) in the May, 2011 issue of Noetic Now. Excerpt:
Today, about a century after the discoveries of quantum theory and relativity, cosmologists are still wondering about “the secret of the Old One.” Stephen Hawking and Paul Davies refer to the intelligent force Einstein sought as the “mind of God.” Some theoretical physicists hope to find this “mind” in unified field theories or related concepts. C. G. Jung, Roberto Assagioli, and other depth psychologists speak of a “collective unconscious,” the “transpersonal Self,” or some type of transcendent or “unitive” consciousness. Quoting sixteenth-century alchemists, Jung and his friend Wolfgang Pauli, a Nobel Prize-winning quantum physicist, speculated about a unified psychophysical region of experience – the “Unus Mundus.” Religions have always spoken of the design, powers, and wisdom of the universe in terms of a Self, a God, or gods.
I call Einstein’s “Old One” the processmind. By processmind I mean an organizing factor – perhaps the organizing factor – that operates both in our personal lives and in the universe. Studying and experiencing this processmind will connect the now separate disciplines of psychology, sociology, physics, and mysticism and provide new useful ways to relate to one another and the environment. The processmind is both inside of you and, at the same time, apparently connected to everything you notice . . . Processmind is in your brain yet is also “nonlocal,” allowing you to be in several places at the same time.
Cross-posted from my Speaking blog:
Many years ago when I first read Alan Schore's Affect Regulation and the Origin of the Self, one of the ideas that blew some new doors open for me was the idea that the brains of infant and mother work together in a mutual project of creating a self. This idea has profound implications for all kinds of relationships and can inform our work toward personal and planetary healing and transformation.Here's an excerpt from the abstract of a study that looked at nuerological detailed of mutual brain work:
Verbal communication is a joint activity; however, speech production and comprehension have primarily been analyzed as independent processes within the boundaries of individual brains. Here, we applied fMRI to record brain activity from both speakers and listeners during natural verbal communication.
note on Schore's work: I found this first volume in Schore's now
voluminous work almost overwhelming, primarily because of extensive
references to studies at that time. He since has written several updated
books that are much less packed and much less expensive. The page for
the book linked above has links to several other of his books as well.
Some of his papers are also available online. If you are intrigued but not familiar with his work, you may want to start here and check out some of the Google search results.
Thanks to Norm Holland on the PsyArt listserv for the heads-up on the PNAS paper by Stephens, et al.
The concern about empathy reflects a long tradition of valuing rationality, and the Enlightenment’s imperative to overcome instincts, passions, and emotions through exercising reason. This exclusive focus on reason applies across the board: to moral theory, to the law, to professional conduct, and to our assessment of our own choices and decisions.
I want to challenge the idea that we make better decisions without emotions.
Kashtan goes on to talk about the cross-wiring of human mental and emotional systems being explored by neuroscientists such as Antonio Damasio, author of the very readable and thought-feeling provoking book, Descartes' Error.
I happened upon Damasio's work many years ago when I became interested in the emerging field of neuro-psychoanalysis. His work and others inspired a huge shift in the way I felt-thought about who I am and how I experience being human -- alone and in relationship to other people and to nature. I think about the systemic interconnectedness often, but perhaps not often enough. That in itself speaks to the way that threads of Descartes' "I think, therefore I am" are so tightly woven into the rug of assumptions on which we daily stand, and from which we make meaning of our experiences.
That's why I'm especially grateful when other people revitalize discussion of this fundamental relationship of feeling and reason as mediated by the brain, and continue to explore contexts in which such an idea can be played with more consciously. Kashtan has done this by relating this broader discussion to the possible values of empathy as a key emotional capacity to advance social and political transformation.
Kashtan makes reference to the backdraft discussion that occurred when Barack Obama suggested that empathy is a desirable capacity for a Supreme Court judge. The fiery debate that later shot its flame toward Sonia Sotomayor left hot evidence of the national feeling about reason versus empathy in our judicial system. (See her article for some great links about this.)
I, along with fellow grassroots activists for environmental justice, encounter similar resistance to the emotional roots of reason all the time. Recently activists got some suggestions from a federal agency that offered this bullet point on public comment writing:
“Leave the heart out". The agencies are looking for facts and will ignore emotion.
They didn't leave us totally without official avenues for emotional expression, however, suggesting that we take the emotional stuff to our Senators and Representatives. Not a totally bad idea, I suppose, unless your Congressperson happens to be among those who have publicly devalued the "heart" of the matter or demonstrated profound lack of empathy.
Here's the problem I have with such categorical dismissals of empathy, of resistance to matters of heart-mind. If cognitive and emotional systems are in fact cross-wired in the brain, the natural consequences of that structure -- most of which (for most of us) are beyond conscious control -- continue to operate nonetheless. Without awareness of this, humankind can continue to believe that it's possible to carve out territories of reason and feeling that can actually be enforced. This illusion makes it possible to believe in such things as righteous exclusion, marginalization, exploitation, oppression and killing.
When we choose, on the other hand, to cultivate awareness of our inherent heart-mind wiring, we free ourselves up to look inside, to explore how we identify ourselves, and how we relate to fellow beings and to the Earth, our home. Then we can begin to insist that we be allowed to speak both heart and mind -- any time and any place -- to mediate, as Kashtan suggests, the unconscionable suffering of people and nature:
The gift of empathy is that it integrates mind and heart in the very same act as it brings together self and other. When we ignore empathy, we pay an enormous price in the form of depression, apathy, victimization, and anger on an individual level, and crime, neglect, alienation, bullying, even war, on a societal level. When we cultivate empathy, our emotional health improves, and in addition also our sense of hope, and our capacity, both individually and collectively, to act as moral agents in addressing the enormous challenges facing us today.
If we can help each other get that far, maybe we can entertain an even wider-scale, collective integration of spiritual dimensions with those of body(brain)-mind-emotions.
The Unconscious Politics That Shape Our World, Choose Presidents and Save or Destroy Lives | | AlterNet
Scientists are finding more and more evidence that human behavior is not rational, not conscious and may be completely programmed without logic or knowledge. These unconscious drives affect jury decisions, elections, wars, our everyday experiences and can sometimes determine life and death. This is the subject of two recent books: Shankar Vedantam's The Hidden Brain: How our Unconscious Minds Elect Presidents, Control Markets, Wage Wars and Save our Lives, and Guillermo Jimenez's Red Genes, Blue Genes, Exposing Political Irrationality. Both demonstrate irrationality but from slightly from different places. We recently discussed these phenomena with the authors.
Cathie's notes: Lots of articles and books popping up in the past year or so on the unconscious side of life. It has been my contention that for the past decade or two, the human collective has been living the unconscious from the inside out. When such a shift occurs (if it does) the notion of the unconscious itself becomes hidden or dismissed as relevant.
I think that the election of Barack Obama signalled a collective return to a more conscious track of awareness and expression. I'm thinking that the notion of an unconscious side of life, in such a circumstance, would become more interesting to mass consciousness, and thus enjoy more coverage by the media, which in many ways acts like an instrument that picks up on the collective thought and emotion and, in a sense, puts it into words.
I'm working on a longer piece related to these ideas.
Understanding the fears behind the racial politics of both conservative and liberal whites can help change a society in which wealth and well-being are still tied to race.
Cathie's notes: [cross-posted from my Raising Cain blog.] This article by Robert Jensen, a professor of journalism at the University of Texas, Austin, was written for the Spring 2010 issue of Yes! Magazine.
As a white liberal on an anti-racist journey, I found it to be interesting, informative, challenging and inspiring.