Unfolding the Map
We stop with William Least Heat-Moon (LHM) at the Second Mesa where the Hopi have their Cultural Center. While you rest there, I will muse and ponder on some religious, philosophical questions, based on a little knowledge of Hopi myth, about balance in self and world. I humbly beg your indulgence, and hope it might cause you to think about balance in your own life. Are you able or not to keep balance in your life? Click on the thumbnail of the map to your right to see where we are currently balanced on our literary journey.
"Like bony fingers, three mesas reached down from larger Black Mesa into the middle of Hopi land; not long ago, the only way onto these mesas was by handholds in the steep rock heights. From the tops, the Hopi look out upon a thousand square miles. At the heart of the reservation, topographically and culturally, was Second Mesa. Traditionally, Hopis, as do the eagles they hold sacred, prefer to live on precipices; so it was not far from the edge of Second Mesa that they built the Hopi Cultural Center. In the gallery were drawings of mythic figures by Hopi children who fused centuries and cultures with grotesque Mudhead Kachinas wearing large terra-cotta masks and jackolantern smiles, dancing atop spaceships with Darth Vader and Artoo Detoo."
Blue Highways: Chapter 5, Part 2
Hopi Cultural Center, Hopi Reservation
To prepare for this set of posts, I read a little on Hopi prophecy. Okay, I happened to be at the library, saw a book on Native American prophecies, Native American Prophecies by Scott Peterson, opened it, and found a chapter on the Hopi prophecy of Pahana. It was quite fortuitous, because I really wasn't sure what I was going to write about since I have never been to the Hopi Reservation, and my knowledge of some of the other pueblos to which they are related was only going to go so far.
After reading a synopsis of the Hopi creation story, and about the prophecy that helps define their culture and how they view the world, and then how historic and modern events play into or jar against that prophecy, I am left with some broader philosophical questions. Perhaps these would be answered by a visit to the Second Mesa and the Hopi Cultural Center, or perhaps not. But, since I am not really taking a trip but am riding shotgun with LHM by reading about his journey, I hope you will indulge me a little philosophical speculation and musing.
First, a quick rundown of the Hopi creation myth and prophecy. The Hopi believe that we all live in the Fourth World, and before that, humans lived in the Third World inside the earth. They were happy until that world got out of balance due to selfishness, greed, power, and licentiousness that affected everyone from the leaders on down. The leaders, seeking another and better world, sent out animal and bird emissaries, and a sparrow found a hole in the sky and flew through into our world, which was dark. There the bird met the Earth's caretaker who initially refused the people's entrance into this world but eventually relented when told that only the good ones would come. The people planted a bamboo reed and climbed inside it up to the hole in the sky and crawled through the sipapu into our world. There, they were taught how to plant and to live simply and in balance with the earth. The caretaker gave gifts of corn to all of the people, but only the Hopi showed the wisdom to choose the smaller ears of blue corn. The caretaker then scattered the people to the different directions, and the Hopi were told that after a period of migration, they would see a star and the star would guide them to a place, on the backbone of the earth, where they were to build their village and live in harmony with each other and in abundance from their environment.
What really strikes me about this creation myth is that it seems to touch upon common themes that accompany many other creation myths. It seems that there is a powerful message in these synchronous myths - one that we continually fail to heed. The long and short of it, to me, is that humans once lived in an almost perfect state, and then we screwed it up. Whether humans came out of the earth after messing up the Third World, or were cast out of Eden after screwing up there, or any other creation story where humans have to fall or fail before rising again, it seems that over and over we are reminded of how things once were better until we started getting arrogant and upsetting the balance. Balance is important in the world, and we often forget the whole in our minimal perception of the part that affects only us. The effects of our choices on our physical and social environment, even to those we cannot see, especially harmful ones due to our selfish actions, is something that is continually addressed in our creation myths, and we ignore them.
These creation myths also, for me at least, point to our inner selves. We were born into a state of innocence. At some point, when we start making choices, we lose that innocence, especially when we learn that a choice is bad and suffer some kind of punishment for it. Sometimes, our innocence is taken by others. Childhood abuse is a way we lose our innocence, for example. Or when we are adults and some violence is visited upon us. But at some point, even if we've had hardships in life, our choices become our own. We've all known people that seem to create their own miseries. They live out patterns that may have been started by a traumatic experience that is not their fault, but through their choices they continue to create trauma and drama in their lives and others' lives. I relate to that, because I too was a victim in early life, but as an adult, I cannot fall back on that excuse any more. My abusers can't be blamed for any of my decisions as an adult. Any bad choices I have made of my own free will that have upset the balance in my life and have caused me pain, and I've made a few of them in my life, are my responsibility alone.
I'm beginning to understand that when we make choices, we start to live the lives we make. Many of us can make happy lives, a few of us make ourselves miserable over and over again and put the responsibility on others. We can cast blame about for the terrible things that have happened to us that are out of our control, but when we make choices we can continue the patterns of trauma or stop the self-destructive tendencies that permeate our lives and put us out of balance. We are capable of making good choices or bad ones, and if we make bad ones, then what happens after the choice is made cannot be laid at anyone's feet but our own.
My sister, who is a sort of wiccan mystic and clairvoyant, told me that she believes that souls are reincarnated over and over because they are curious and want to explore almost every possible experience. She tries to encourage my soul to move to a better place. Buddhists, it is my understanding, believe that our actions in a present life determines whether we are reincarnated with more understanding and wisdom. For Hindus, reincarnation allows us to move from lower lots in life to higher ones if we don't screw up - then karma will send us tumbling back. Judeo-Christians, of course, believe that when we die, if we were good in life we will be rewarded with everlasting life in heaven. All of these beliefs add up to a belief in a progression based on doing well, on staying in balance in our inner and outer lives.
Peterson's book says that the religious beliefs of the Hopi about inner and outer balance govern almost all of their actions. I, for one, could learn much from their world view, because I suffer when my life gets out of balance, and I am happiest when it is in balance. The Kachinas, which LHM mentions above, are the Hopi equivalent of saints who live among the mountains and fly down as clouds and take human form among the people. They warn the Hopi of the consequences if they lose sight of the balance of world and self. I could use some Kachinas in my life, especially during my times of distress. Perhaps they are around me, and try to help me, but I just don't listen when they speak to me.
I wanted to put a different Bruce Cockburn song here, called Hills of Morning, which I thought actually fits a little better, but I couldn't find it online. This one, Creation Dream, will do nicely. Though sung from a Christian perspective, I think it captures the essence of creation...a power or reality beyond our imagining and all for good. If creation is corrupted, it is we who corrupt it.
If you want to know more about the Hopi Cultural Center
Next up: Oraibi, Hopi Reservation