Milt has been reading Albert’s Manuscript as a possible scene starter for the theater performance we are planning for early fall. He made an interesting comment. He said, I can’t get past seeing that Albert sounds like you—and you are not an old Lakota man.
I’ve been thinking about that and wondering if maybe I am an old Lakota man. In Albert’s Manuscript a young Albert travels to the realm of the spirits looking for his father. He is a troubled guy and is demanding some answers to the complexity and pain of his life. He tumbles into the spirit realm and is taken on a learning journey.
One of the scenes that I love is when “First Man” tells a story of seeing his village destroyed in a massacre and his parents left dead on the ground. The pain was so great that he froze and stayed frozen for a thousand years. During that time, the world around him continued to shift and change, and he became a witness to the Wind of a Thousand Years which was scattering the people of earth to the four corners. In this witness state, he was able to watch the world turn from a high, high perch above all the comings and goings of the people. It was only from this high perch that he could begin to “thaw” and see that on the ground there was much pain and suffering, many broken hearts, a world spinning around its inhabitants, blood flowing into the earth.
It was not necessarily a comfortable place to be, this high perch, but it gave him greater perspective about what matters much and what matters not so much. It was also from this high perch that he could see that a person doesn’t really lose their parents (he thought they could be lost) but that they join their parents in this higher view. It was a view he couldn’t get—or keep—when he was struggling with the pain of life itself in his smaller self.
Those of you who know me know that I’ve spent my life in the study of why we do what we do and who we are as human beings. On paper, it looks like a Masters in Human Development. In my soul, it feels like the experience of First Man witnessing the world turn. When I hold this wider, distant view, I can see that human beings are self-absorbed and consider themselves to be the center of this universe. We think we matter. As my father would say, we have gotten “Too big for our britches. I don’t necessarily like this view, but at least I am not frozen.
But when I zoom into my on-the-ground Jamie Lee view, my heart nearly breaks, and I feel like I can’t breathe. I see families falling to pieces, people suffering beyond their ability to bear the suffering, I see politicians making stupid decisions both about our planet and our humanity. I see a slow shifting of the burden of responsibility for what is not working in our society onto the children and educators who are underpaid and underprepared to deal with the fallout of a society coming apart at the seams. Dana—I know you think I am an endless optimist, but you see here that it is a matter of perspective.
Last night we had a picnic and later a campfire under a nearly full moon. The trees looked like dark fringe edging the night sky. Our fire was quirky—it didn’t matter where you sat the smoke was going to get in your eyes. My family was there—a few brothers and a sister and all the in-laws that over time have come to matter to me as much as my birth siblings. We are all aging together and also watching the next generation come into being. I met my first grand-niece for the first time.
There was a sweetness to the night that I didn’t want to let go of even after everyone had gone. I sat alone by the fire thinking over the endless conversations, the sudden telescoping in on a single issue and then zooming out again to complexity and chaos. I felt like First Man again. I wanted to sit on the moon and look down at it all and wonder what it all means from my Man on the Moon perspective.
I can’t tell you what it all means. I can only tell you that we need to be able to step way out to see things clearly before we step in and think we know the answers or know what to do next. I can also tell you that the only things that really matter are those moment when we connect, we reach, we dream, we share, we stare at the moon, we blink against the smoke in our eyes, we cry and we love.
That really is all we get.
No, I’m not old Albert or First Man. I’m not Lakota. I’m not wise. I’m a speck in a vast universe of the unknown.
There is only one thing that I am absolutely certain of. If anybody gives you a one sentence summary of or solution for an important issue—racism, family, poverty, economics, education, spirituality, etc.–he or she is full of it and you should quit listening to them.
On another note, I’m going to quit promising to publish Albert’s Manuscript and just get it done. I’ll have it uploaded by my next blog post! You’ll be interested to hear how that story came to be.