James Giago Davies. Photo courtesy Native Sun News Today

Struggling to find a place in a modern world

Native Sun News Today Contributing Editor

When cultures clash, a shared perspective of what has been, what is now, and what is yet to come, will be forced into an arena of critical scrutiny. Participation in this arena happens to almost every single person, given enough time and inevitable circumstance. We all live together, and we are forced, often by law, to mix and meddle with the other.

Two groups often form at the opposite fringes of such an arena. On the one end, are those who will not compromise on the traditions of sacred ancestors. On the other, are those that refuse to recognize the merit in ancient belief systems. The traditionalists often see change as a threat to sacred truth, and the non-traditionalist often sees tradition as ancient superstition blocking a deeper comprehension of how reality operates.

Even the most steadfast traditionalist has hope in the future, and the most sacred aspects of tradition are those that prophesize a future where the wrongs of the past and present are overcome. In this, they share the same optimistic vision as the non-traditionalist, but the non-traditionalist believes that social progress happens because enlightened understanding replaces superstitious myths, and as ignorance is replaced by understanding, the world achieves a deeper grasp of how reality operates.

Finding the common ground between these two mentalities is often marred by cross purposes, a fundamental and persistent misperception of what the other group wants or believes. Flexible tolerance is not an arrow either side tends to pull from the quiver as first resort.

There are wise people who try to address the conflict gap. Joseph Campbell wrote eloquently about the value of tradition and myth, attempting to create a bridge between what is held sacred, and what wonders enlightened reasoning reveals. Writers like Vine DeLoria cooked up elaborate alternative explanations, but his assertions were a house of woo cards built on a mound of shifting sand, while writers like Sam Harris, abused the principle of critical thinking to mask intolerance of other cultures, and wanted to box up anything spiritual and sink it to the bottom of the ocean.


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James Giago Davies is an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota tribe. He can be reached at skindiesel@msn.com

Copyright permission Native Sun News Today

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