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Welcome to my blog, a quasi-weekly column on topics and issues that have my attention, or that are intended to inform or inspire--including the following reminder:

"Realize why you're here, and be about it!"

We cannot be alone

The indigenous belief that “In this universe all things are connected” has a corollary: we can never be alone, except in our own heads. The attempts we make to isolate pieces of the universe—identifying the wave as separate from the ocean, or the single body of water that covers the planet into five separate oceans—are linguistic conventions, artificial categorizations. While they may have been created to help us understand reality—to break it down into manageable segments, suitable for scientific investigation—they have become so fixed in our thinking that they now camouflage what, for the indigenous, is an incontrovertible truth: We cannot be separated from creation, from each other, from the Infinite, from whatever we call God, no matter how we categorize bits of the universe.

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In this universe all things are connected

This statement of the fundamental unity of all creation is perhaps the foundational principle of the indigenous worldview—which differs starkly from the prevailing Western view.

“In this universe, all things are connected” implies far more than just the “knee bone is connected to the thigh bone” type of connectivity (although even this most basic statement of the obvious frequently eludes Westerners, as we see in the practice of modern medicine). Indigenous connectivity implies a universe so intricately ordered and interwoven that it confounds the mind—which is perhaps the point. As the ancient Greek philosopher Plotinus said,

The stars are like letters which inscribe themselves at every moment in the sky.
Everything in the world is full of signs.
All events are coordinated.

All things depend on each other
; as has been said:
Everything breathes together.

(Emphasis added.)

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A general's call to end war

It's quite sobering to consider the number of high military officials who become compelling--perhaps the most compelling--proponents of peace.  General Douglas MacArthur gave this speech to the Los Angeles County Council of the American Legion on January 26, 1955, calling on the people to demand an end to war:

"The leaders are the laggards. The disease of power seems to confuse and befuddle them. They have not even approached the basic problem, much less evolved a working formula to implement this public demand. They debate and turmoil over a hundred issues — they bring us to the verge of despair or raise our hopes to Utopian heights over the corollary misunderstandings that stem from the threat of war — but never in the chancelleries of the world or the halls of the United Nations is the real problem raised. Never do they dare to state the bald truth, that the next great advance in the evolution of civilization cannot take place until war is abolished. It may take another cataclysm of destruction to prove to them this simple truth. But, strange as it may seem, it is known now by all common men. It is the one issue upon which both sides can agree, for it is the one issue upon which both sides will profit equally. It is the one issue — and the only decisive one — in which the interests of both are completely parallel. It is the one issue which, if settled might settle all others.

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What the shamans gave me

Don Marco has given me a homework assignment for my last night in Peru. He has asked me to write what I received from each of the shamans I worked with: Don Nasario, Don Pedro, and Don Ysidro.

Don Nasario is easy. He was my warm welcome to Peru and to Andean shamanism. His childlike openness, non-judgmental acceptance, and ready friendship put me instantly at ease. While Don Marco ensured my physical safety, Don Nasario helped me feel emotionally safe, as well. I remember our first ceremony together: we took a short hike up to a cave where Nasario smudged me clean and reintroduced me to the ancestors. As if I were a child, Don Nasario held my hand on all the steep parts, coming and going.

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