having ears to hear

Last night, we went to sleep under the stars in a remote part of the state. I woke up often during the few hours of sleep and acknowledged the spinning of the planet by noticing that the stars were in a different position each time I woke. There’s nothing quite like sleeping under the stars, when the lights from civilization are minimal. Well, maybe what comes close is driving home while the sun slowly rises behind you. That’s how my day started.

One of the joys of taking a more arterial route to work is that I’m able to savor some hidden joys of not driving I-5. When I’m paying attention, I can see and acknowledge the birds. I’m able to see that slight movement on the side of the road and acknowledge the rabbit. If I’m paying attention, I can acknowledge the trees and say miigwech to them on a daily basis. Recently, heron has been a prevalent spirit on my drive into work and I’ve taken the time to seek her meaning. I have eyes that are capable of picking up the subtle moments of our existence, but I don’t always remember to use my eyes in that way so some days the drive in to work is just a grind. I try to not take for granted this gift and forget how to be thankful.

So it is with ears. We have ears on the sides of our heads, and they process a ton of information. They are capable of picking up both the subtle and the gross. However, mostly they pick up on the gross. The ears inside our hearts allow us to pick up on the subtle whispers of life, if we know how and can remember to use them. This last week, I picked up on a message that I believe comes from the subtle world of Creator and my ancestors. It came after I was painfully contemplating the conversations and denials surrounding the genocide of Indigenous people. I am no longer amazed by the amount of ignorance that exists within the general consciousness. But I am ALWAYS profoundly hurt to realize the pervasiveness of the continued, willing existence of that ignorance.

How is it that such ignorance continues to be so prevalent? It’s not as if there aren’t people telling the stories. The histories are documented. It seems to me, today, the telling of the history is not the problem. It’s the hearing of these stories where the insufficiency lies. This promotes a rich soil for propagating ignorance. Profound and willful ignorance boggles my mind and can lead to the creation of deep bitterness and cynicism in my heart. I don’t like having space for bitterness and cynicism in my heart so I invest energy and space to uproot them before they go to seed.

There is an inability to hear which is pervasive in our collective consciousness. An unwillingness to acknowledge where violence, atrocities, and evil actions have preceded a supposed ‘victory’ or ‘conquering’ of people exists. This willingness to be ignorant is used as a tool of denial to try and silence the voices of those who carry and speak the stories. I recently read a brilliant article that discusses some of the nuanced arguments used to outright deny or minimize the reality of Native American genocide. Cutcha Risling Baldy Article Cutcha’s words are powerful but it’s mostly her brilliant approach at logic that I think wins big points in making headway toward understanding.

To show you that I’m not immune to this persuasion to be willfully ignorant, here is something that informs my contemplation of this issue: realizing my paternal ancestry is both Ojibwe and Scottish. This has meant coming to terms with the knowledge of the history of Scottish settlements in North America – and coming to acknowledge the history of Scottish people being driven from their lands.

I have come to realize how complex the decision to be an informed human can be. It’s difficult. It can be painful and potentially devastating to one’s sense of self. To realize that there is a huge possibility that some of my ancestors participated in or perpetrated horrible actions against some of my other ancestors is immensely disturbing to me. Not everyone has the capacity to receive this information and to figure out how to live life knowing this history. Knowing what it really means. That it’s not just a story, but a reality that happened to real people. And knowing that there really is no excuse for this violence, this lack of humanity. Perhaps this is why people choose to be willfully ignorant.

Here is the subtle message that came to me this week: May the stories of atrocities and violence that have been endured be heard so that healing may begin and justice may be engaged.

The key word being “heard”. We must keep telling the stories and trying to navigate the incredibly tough parts of accepting this history. It’s apparently not enough to tell the stories. I’m hearing a nuanced message that we have to also pray that the ears in the hearts are opened so that truth and justice may prevail. That when we tell the stories, we are honest in our telling so that the truth has it’s proper power. There is probably more to the message, and I’m sure it wasn’t meant for just me. So, I’m sharing in the spirit that those who have ears to hear may pick up whatever message or lesson lives there for them.

I pray that my words are strong, written in a good way and bring good things to the world. Apegish wii-zhawenimik Manidoo

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Twylia (the 'i' is silent)

~ I am Anishinaabe-kwe with Scottish heritage and Sami DNA. I speak on the behalf of no one but myself. My ancestors inform and guide me. My voice is but one of many who are calling for change. We have much work to do to create a good space for the real human beings who are waiting to be born.

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