by George Pletnikoff
July 22, 2007
Well, painfully and sorryfully, we did not make it to Kipnuk. This, however, not for the lack of trying. We really made an effort, but that is not what I wanted to talk about today. Today is all about present-ence, if I am spelling that right.
We spent almost twelve hours, from the time we left the ship until our return, in an absolutely wonderful place with more. Toksook. An unassuming little Yupik town in an unassuming part of Alaska with unassuming people. We were the assuming bunch. Assuming we know of what we speak, and more, maybe of how we speak about what we speak.
We came, saw, and were totally conquored by a people and a village where life is full of present-ence. People who, although from the surface, seem to have so little, but are full of joy. Struggle for them is simply a way of life. We look at struggle in life, I guess, as a negative, something to avoid at almost any cost. They simply seem to see struggle, and sure, always not fun, simply as just a part of it, not to be negativeide, but as a presence.
For weeks now I have been asking questions during our interviews for our documentation of our visits. Research? Outreach? Nay, visits. We are visiting life, and it seems, life in its simplicity. We may, and ofcouse its just my tainted opinion, look at what we do as critical, important, interesting and problems to be solved. We create many of them, simply, perhaps, so that when we solve them, or come close, we feel gratified at our abilities. We invent things, toys, machines and such, often complicated ones, such as the one I am now using, perhaps so that when we finally are able to get good at using them, we must feel intelligent and knowing. Often, I wonder, if that is not what we do with our speak. We often speak in codes, perhaps thinking that those to whom we speak, if they cannot understand our codes, we must be all the more aware. Aware of what? Codes for who? or whom, as the case may be. Solving what, and why and again, for whom?
In an interview yesterday, in unassuming Toksook, somethings happened to me. Well, lots of things happened to me, and in retrothought, is still growing. I saw wiseness, patience, living, honesty, codelessness, plain speak right from a part in us we often do not meet. I witnessed, watched and heard. Looking back on my life, I wanted to be somewhere, someplace, something. Learned. Articulate. Understanding. Smart. And I may have found what I was and have been seeking. Rather than wanting to be all these unattainable traits of "full of myselfness" why not just be? Not just be for anyone else, for if I do that, I am being something which I think someone wants me to be and thus not truely honest. Present-ence.
I was interviewing an elder. A truely full and real human being. We often say, in my culture and language, that before the Russians came and interrupted our ways, we called ourselves Unangan (they called us Aleut). And we say, Unangan means "real human being." And I understand that many people have similar names for themselves, with similar meanings. But, and then, we venture off trying to be that. Not, in my mind, this gentleman. He was not trying to be something. Not trying to solve the mysteries of problems. Not trying to impress anyone. Not trying to do all the other things we often try to do to make ourselves something we cannot be if we don’t simply be. He simply said and answered.
I have been blessed with many times in my life to witness simple goodness, and if I am allowed to say, simple holiness and peace. I have vested myself in garb, vestments, clothes which enabled me to stand in the presence of the Lord during worship, allowing me to know I am doing somthing which is not "of this world, but surely in this world." I have stood in front of altars, blessed and dedicated to fully immerse myself, totally and deeply in this act of love. And I have bathed it that. Like that, this man allowed me to stand in that presence. At least in my mind. Now I know of human weaknesses, frailty, and sin. I know they exist, and this man, I am sure, has had his fill, and perhaps in many ways still does. But…..he wavered not. He spoke, not in code. He poured out honey from his soul. And he wanted nothing in return. He said of what he knows. He sought to teach and no returns expected. Not even solutions to the many questions. He is a present-ence. We must seek to meet him. And in so doing, we must, like he, be still. Stop thinking that in our intelligence, in our egos, in our smartnesses, in our abundance of technology, in our learnedness, we can solve anything and everything. In doing that, we become as a lion, lurking in ambush. We must be aware that all we can probably do now is lessen real coming sufferings, sufferings we ourselves have caused. I guess the assuming answer might be, if we hear silence, we are there. We have solved somthing. We will go on and seek and look and ask and hear. We will struggle to find solutions and solutions will come. We are on the right track, we people who are working to restore healthy life. And we are and will continue to meet goodness. We have to be prepared to recognize that when that is present-ence, when that happens. Oh I hope this comes accorss as meaningful, somehow, but afterall, its Sunday morning in Etolin Straigt, village hopping, and I hope I am allowed to ramble. But, I met a good man, and for that, I am humbled and perhaps forever changed. This planet we call Earth is good. She was, is and will care for us. She is simply asking, perhaps in the end, for us to listen to her silence.
Until next time.