"Change was a part of life, Crazy Horse advised. Yet it is wise to hang on to the things that make us all happy and worthwhile as Lakota. In the days of the far past the lance gave way to the bow and arrow as a hunting weapon, yet the essence of being a hunter didn't change. Trading for a blanket or a length of blue cloth didn't have to change the person trading for or using the blanket or the cloth, Crazy Horse was certain. Anything in the hand didn't have to be given the power to change what was in the mind or the heart. And that, he understood, was at the root of many fears, that the essence of being Lakota could be so easily changed by new and different things. It made no sense." --The Journey of Crazy Horse, Joseph M. Marshall III.
This quote was in reference to how Crazy Horse's father, a medicine man, thought. Crazy Horse at this point in his life still had his boyhood name, Light Hair, so called because, unlike most indigenous Americans, he had brown, wavy hair.
Things do change us though.What Crazy Horse was referring to was changing a way of life. In this case, some of the indigenous people were lounging around Fort Laramie waiting for blankets instead of hunting elk and caribou to make their own blankets, and they were waiting for allotments of beef instead of hunting buffalo. The question is, what makes up a way of life? Of course free blankets and beef made the harsh life the Lakota sometimes had to endure easier. But at what expense? What did the Lakota gain from living as one with the elements? The answer of course, is not just knowledge, but wisdom about the natural world that shaped an entire culture. That's nothing to sneeze at, or to blithely let die.
(Note to right-wing fundamentalists: that last paragraph is not in any way a commentary on what is commonly referred to as the welfare state. Some people do need help, and if nature made it hard on the Lakota in the late nineteenth century, I think our society makes it even harder on some people today.)
I ask that question all the time regarding technology in our own modern lives. I love technology and what it can do, but you can be a slave to it. Right now I'm blogging, and I'm not writing plays. What am I gaining here, and what am I losing?
As I said, I love technology. I do, though you might not expect that from a person who chooses not to have a smart phone and hasn't owned a television for almost six years now. Some people think I'm behind the times, but I think I'm ahead of the curve.
I tell this to people all the time: throw out your televison. Make a party out of it and get all your friends and go up to the second floor and push it out a window so it makes a loud crash when it hits the ground. And here's what will happen: After about six months or so you will have your first original thought since you were about six years old. That's about the time you started into the school system and really got indoctrinated into society.
People don't realize how manipulative television is. Oh, I know you think you're making choices, but you're not. You may even be one of those people who say, I don't care that I'm being manipulated, I like my shows. Or you may be someone who waves the standard of your intelligence and good breeding and only watches PBS and the history channel. You're still being manipulated, in so many ways. You're watching your favorite liberal newscaster, making all those deep, learned statements, and you're identifying with that person, thinking yes, that's exactly what I think, and at the same time you're looking at his/her hair and his/her clothes and you're subconsciously deciding that's how I'm going to dress and wear my hair. And then you go out and spend your hard-earned money on the haircut he has or the suit she's wearing, when the real you is supposed to be wearing t-shirt with Howard the Duck on it and a pair of bowling shoes, but you'd never find that out because the television is blinding you of that fact.
Or something like that.
To people who say they can't live without their shows or their televisions, this is what I say: That's exactly what the heroin addict says about his needle.
Throw out your television for six months. Seriously, what have you got to lose?
I've also made the concerted decsion not to buy a smart phone. Aside from saving myself I don't know how much, I simply don't want to be that person sitting on subway with my nose in a phone instead of looking around and being an active participant in my world. I sure as heck don't want to be walking down some street in some strange city with my nose against a phone instead of using all of my senses to experience all the new sights of where I am. I don't want some phone telling me where the nearest Italian restaurant is. I want to find it for myself, just like the Lakota should have hunted their own buffalo. I don't want to be told by whoever it was who paid the most money to Google to tell me where to eat. Some of the best experiences of my life came from serendipity. Discovering that little bistro down an alley. A delightful exchange with a stranger when I asked directions, or they asked them of me. I don't want to give up that part of my life.
I'm still connected to the world, but I choose how I'm connected and where I connect. To answer my own question above, I'm blogging right now because I'm choosing to reach out digitally to the world in this manner. I will settle in and work on a play later today.
And I keep up on current events, probably just as well or maybe even better than the person glued to CNN/PBS/Good Morning America/Fox News. The difference is I choose what I'm looking into, and where I get my information. For all you smarty pants out there, PBS is still making decsions for you. Here's the difference: You watching PBS is like you going to a restaurant and choosing from the menu. You can only eat off that menu. The way I do it is like cooking a meal in your own kitchen.