Empathy. The difference between humans and worms.
Before we decided to drive to Standing Rock, North Dakota, I was incensed about the North Dakota Pipeline. Big business, private interests stealing from the people with permission from the US government. Water contamination an obvious outcome of this pipeline. 904 oil spills in North Dakota this year. The government taking from its own people via eminent domain. Obvious conflicts of interest and gross misuse of power.
Then we decided to gather donations and drive to Standing Rock. It is as if my heart was allowed to feel the full force of grief. The crimes against Peaceful Protectors. One letter difference between a protector and a protestor. The crimes against our Earth. Allowing this information in on a deeper level through an open heart HURTS.
I am not native. Actually, I am an invasive. I have been all my life. Growing up in Hawaii, I was reminded incessantly how I wasn’t from there. I was too white, haole, and to go back to where I was from. I don’t know where that is. I forgot, my people forgot, in a sense we all forgot our true home. The Great Forgetting of where we are from and who we are connected to. My paternal side has been in Hawaii for four generations and my maternal side for three generations. I am fifth generation born in Hawaii and my son is sixth. Thinking of going back to where I am from always left me in a quandary. Should I go to Scotland? The land of my paternity, of which I have 50% of my genes, a place I have never been to people I have never met. Or to the small islands off Portugal, the land of my maternal people, also a place I have never been and people I have never met. This lead me to the idea that the people there wouldn’t want me either. I would still be an invasive. A girl with no homeland. And so I have been my whole life. I am not sad about this, anymore.
As an only child, there is always a bit of longing to be a part of that familial web that I don’t really understand. I have family, the greatest mom I could have, uncles, aunts, cousins, all sharing bits of genetic code yet the existential “who am I” is a bit more literal. It doesn’t seem that my family members share the same lack of place. When I was in Bali, I started to understand the way the people there all participate in this large web of life that maps them and tethers them. Maybe it’s the tether of “this is where you belong, this is your place” that I am missing. My place on the map.
We all exist in the anthropocene and are cruising through the sixth extinction. We know how we live changes the biotic and abiotic factors. It is not hoax that our species has altered the environment drastically. We know that we are heading for a shift in energy use, whether we choose to acknowledge the eventual end of fossil fuels or not. We know that we have decimated species and many more are on the brink of extinction, example Orangutans killed for palm oil, burned to death in the process of creating farmland, our most genetically similar relatives. We know that horrible things happen to children, our most valuable and vulnerable of society, yet we push forward. I push forward, IMUA.
I have seen the many Facebook posts, read articles, seen footage of the Water Protectors, Peaceful Warriors brutally attacked and felt helpless. Utterly helpless. It could seem hopeless. Hope and hopelessness: an interesting mingling of feelings. I find it harmful to hope, it sets me up for unmet expectations, essentially it leads me to suffering. I choose to have faith over hope. And I am choosing to have faith in myself and our species. Faith that we can bring a bit of our intention and energy to those who can stand up for their beliefs because we all want to believe. Faith that empathy will allow us to share our bounty and abundance with those who have abundance of conviction and in turn share a connection.
At this time, there seems to be an unveiling of sorts. As if we are remembering with our hearts things we had wiped away through the Great Forgetting. I think it is societal to turn away from our history of violence and oppression towards groups that are anything but the white man. That is hard to write. I am white. And in some not so distant past my ancestors may have participated in brutality against others. The Great Forgetting is like a giant eraser of those memories that has been handed down and all I am left with is a blanket of nondescript guilt and lack of place. A denial of our collective memory that causes guilt/ sadness/ heartache. My guilt could partly be attributed to my Catholic childhood, those catholics and their horrors. It could be guilt for my opportunities and my access to alternative choices because I am not such a minority. And it could be due to the DNA we all share that is coded with all of our history.
This Great Forgetting has lead to apathy. A feeling like a low grade sickness at the back of your throat, nothing full blown that you need to take action on, but there waiting to get worse. Apathy is widespread. I see it. I feel it. The memories are in us but vague, unreachable. We remember through the DNA passed to us, the atrocities our people endured and participated in. We carry this. Yet, we also carry the memories of our connection. Embedded further in our twisted base pairs. This is time for the Remembering. We have to sort through our layers.
In Hawai’i, there is a ceremony called Ho’oponopono– to make right. Essentially, in the easiest way to share- I am sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you. Start with yourself then work out. I want to share a prayer I keep in view at my house by Aunty M.
Father, Mother, Child as one…If I, my family, relatives and ancestors have offended you , your family, relatives, and ancestors in thoughts, words, deeds, and actions, from the beginning of creation to the present,
We ask your forgiveness…
Let this cleanse, purify, release, cut all the negative memories, blocks, energies, and vibrations and transmute these unwanted energies into pure light.
As it is said, it is done and set free.
The first time I read this out loud I cried, hard. It gave me faith that in my Remembering I have the ability to change and heal. I can empathize and not be swallowed by another and their suffering. It is okay for me to remember and dive deeper toward connection. It is okay to offer forgiveness to myself. It is okay for me to help even with all of my flaws.
Standing Rock is part of our Remembering. And our Healing. This is evident by the people here in Eugene who have donated their time and energy to help two girls on a mish to drive supplies to North Dakota for people who are beacons of light. It is evident in people from around the world doing what they can where they are. This support, for the plethora of reasons motivating each individual, has strengthened my faith in our collective human experience moving toward the light. My heart hurts and cracks feeling the violence happening to the Water Protectors and our Earth. And I am grateful for this pain. For each time my heart breaks, even just a little, it opens and with each crack I have a little more room to hold goodness, love and peace. This is what puts me on the map.