What we choose to focus on

What we choose to focus on becomes our primary reality. If we choose to become emotionally attached to that which we are trying to move away from – for example, if we become attached on an emotional and intellectual level to “winning the fight” against pollution and climate change – we may unintentionally perpetuate the violence we are committed to transforming. From the standpoint of the Elders, violence involves any actions, thoughts, feelings, or words that consciously or unconsciously sets one person against another, regardless of how well intentioned we are. … We must take the same bold actions to protect that which we depend upon and love, but do so from a place of positive vision, intention and compassion. The Indigenous Elders say that nothing is created outside of ourselves until it is created inside ourselves first.

I don’t think about climate change and species loss so much these days, or about civilization’s dawning Age of Dis-enlightenment. These things make me feel helpless or angry. Either way, a failed person in a failed iteration of human society. That’s not to say that they’re not always present. It’s like the sound of a fluorescent tube permanently flickering in the other room, the tinnitus of twenty-first-century first-world life.

Where possible I’ll try to “make a difference” in some negligible way, reining in my consumption or making a constructive nuisance of myself, but some of the steam’s gone out of it. Probably connected with getting older. I’m glad and grateful though that so many others have the passion and courage to take action. Driving campaigns, bringing people together, and calling bullshit on the rotten narratives that plague our world.

For whatever reason I’ve become more and more drawn to those perspectives, commonly held in indigenous traditions, that keep alive the flame of communal stewardship. A faith that it will be possible to heal the land, and each other, and “provide a blueprint for what a better world might look like” (David Cobb). In particular, the notion that there are ways of knowing, alternatives to the ruling civilizational mindset, which can, with patience and humility, bring us back into some kind of “right relationship with all of life” (Ilarion Merculieff).

That expression, and the quote at the top of this post, are from this essay by Ilarion (Larry) Merculieff, of the Unangan people of St. Paul Island, Alaska. The essay is rich in honesty and experience, and I warmly recommend it to anyone who’s interested.

Image c/o: thevalleycitizen.com

4 Replies to “What we choose to focus on”

  1. Thoughtful article and I totally recommend reading the essay included! Thank you, Chris for continuing to bring more awareness into our “WHOLE” humanity!

  2. Thanks for this quote, Chris. Amplifying indigenous voices – and the stature of cultures that never developed the “world-conquering” mutation that is so much a part of our narrative – is one way of “making a difference.”

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