Saturday, June 12, 2004

PhD Exams and Fools Crow by James Welch

I feel as if I am coming out of a long, dream. The PhD examinations strained me physically, mentally and spiritually... its not that it was so difficult, for one could just learn the materials and repeat the accepted knowledge/traditions in a manner that would please the committee. It was more that there seems to be something wrong in the diretion of our society and I'm trying to see if there is another way to learn, communicate and share knowledge--what can be learned from the past, what is healthy/dangerous that we know now, and where should we look to in the future. As the coastal people of my homeland of San Diego know it is draining/dangerous to swim against the currents of any ocean (be it physical or mental). I am weak and a poor vessel for these serious meditations--I've spent my whole life being more of the trickster/jokester, making fun and taking apart, sensing that life was "of the moment"... why have I changed?

How fortunate that the first book I picked up to read for "fun" after these trials was James Welch's novel Fools Crow (Penguin: 1986). It has a beautifully realized moral universe that helps one to rethink our current way of life. The writing is lyrical and it realizes the key elements of any great novel bringing a sense of dramatic development of "identity" (Fools Crow), place (Montana Territory in 1870) and community (the Lone Eaters, a Blackfeet tribe struggling in a changing world). This book is beautiful in the sense that it quite literally took my breath away at the thought of the possibility of a different "way" of life. I was moved by the rituals and practices that fused individual desires/needs with collective knowledge/history and how it helped to fuse their individual lives into the collective group in a meaningful way. I cared deeply about these people and wanted to know more...

James Welch:
American Novelist, American Indian

We are stronger, wiser for having read Jim Welch

James Welch's essay on Native American Literature written for a bookseller

Joy Harjo on James Welch

2003 Obituary

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