Most people know greed was not a traditional Native American value. There is a Cherokee legend that tells how disease came to man as a result of our greed. Long ago the people and animals got along in harmony and man did not know sickness. When the people were hungry, a hunting party prayed for a sacrifice from the four-leggeds. When there was success, a prayer of thanks was immediately offered up to the spirit of the animal who had given himself so that the people could live. Great care was taken to honor the life of the fallen animal and every piece of the sacrifice was used so there would be no waste.
After time, the people began taking more than they needed. They started to hunt for sport. The animals were very disturbed by this and decided to hold council. One night, all the animals met in a big clearing to complain about how man had killed their brothers and sisters without giving thanks. They told of how their corpses had been left to rot, their death in vain. The animals decided they would curse humanity with disease. Each animal took his turn to create a disease that would forever inflict man for his cruelty. At last the sun came and the animals left the clearing.
The plants and trees had listened all night long and took pity on humanity. They vowed that they would hold the cures for the diseases the animals had invented. One by one, each plant volunteered to provide the cure for all that had been dreamed into reality that night.
The predominant culture wants us to buy things. A lot of things. All the time. We are bombarded with commercials selling us services and goods that we didn’t know we “needed”. They play upbeat songs and try to program us into believing that we will be happy if we buy these things. So we work hard, spending time away from home, family and activities that bring us true happiness in order to make money so we can buy the latest gadget that promises us joy. We believe this is how we show our loved ones that we care.
Greed spreads like an infection. A few are immune. Some are never cured. Our co-worker has the newest widget that has just been released and is receiving rave reviews. Everyone clusters around to see how it works and what it can do. He is the cool guy. He gets all the attention. This makes our inner children want what he has. They do not know any better. They think that if they have the latest widget they too will be popular and everyone will like them. Our inner children have a desperate need for this approval. They still believe the true self is unworthy of love. Our elder personas know that all this is phony. Accumulating things does not make us happy, it is simply one of the ways we avoid pain. These items are distractions from what causes us pain.
The commercials and peer pressure do their magic and now we find ourselves trying to buy happiness. We want bigger, better, faster, newer. There must be a place for all these things. I found myself in a four bedroom home filled with treasures from my worldly travels. I thought these things brought me happiness. When a fire took my home and treasures, I was very sad and focused on the insurance company helping me to replace them. I built a marvelous new home further away from the road on my land complete with a pool, horses, tipi and several fire pits. It was lovely and when it was completed I felt a marvelous sense of accomplishment. It provided me opportunities to do activities that brought me happiness.
Through the years the children grew and moved on. I was left with my things. No longer would I have to concern myself over little fingers breaking them and leaving them in places they did not belong. When this large home was no longer feasible, I had to consider which of my things really were necessary for my happiness and well-being.
We can only keep what we can take care of. If we do not take proper care of an item, it deteriorates and does not do its job for us when we needed. Things we have purchased must be stored so they can be used in the future. If an item is not frequently used, we are just paying for the storage, and what good is storing something that will rarely be of use only to find it doesn’t work properly when it finally is needed? It is far better to see it used and appreciated by those who may need it immediately. Do yourself and others a favor and give it away.
Native Americans traditionally shared everything. When a hunting party had success, they shared. Another group would find firewood and distribute it throughout the camp. This happens even today at our Sundance Ceremony and pow-wow gatherings. This comes from the knowledge that we are all connected, any of us could die tomorrow, we can not take our worldly possessions with us and an understanding of basic karma.
There is a short medicine story about a bird of prey, the “knowledgeable fool”. The bird of prey guards his kill and eats his meal. Nearby a mother bobcat and her cubs watch. The bird sees them and protects his food keeping an eye on his kill and the mama. He stuffs himself so the cats can not steal it. The mama waits patiently. When the bird has eaten all he can, she makes her move. The knowledgeable fool is too full to fly. He forfeits his prey and his life. It is wise to be prepared to leave our collection of things if necessary to save our life or the lives of our loved ones. By so doing, we can live to hunt another day. Our things can be replaced.
It is so easy to fall into the habit of collecting items we love. One of my favorite things to collect has been books. I had an entire wall behind sliding glass devoted to my collection. I subconsciously felt that if I owned these books, I also owned the knowledge. Many of the books I had not even read. It is fair to assume that less than half of the knowledge I acquired from reading those books stayed with me. Life kept me busy. My children demanded my attention, bills had to be paid, catastrophes taken care of, and I did not get to spend nearly as much time enjoying my vast collection as I had hoped.
If I had been told I had to leave in a few hours and could only take what I could gather in that time, those books would not have been at the top of the list. I was like the people in the Flowering Tree story, wildly going off in all directions trying to gather knowledge without balance. The knowledge I was trying to gather was in the form of books, but I never fully acquired that knowledge. If I had, I would not have needed the books any longer.
There are many times in life we put our brains on auto-pilot. When we are performing a task we have done many times, this is understandable. Life demands more multi-tasking than ever and more jobs are being done with less attention than ever before. Our life, however, is not something that should ever be on auto-pilot. It would be wise to devote undivided attention to the decisions we make on our path. That demands time to think our choices through to their logical conclusions.
Our resources are dwindling. The earth is being pushed to the limit by humanity’s greed. In our effort to take from, use and reshape the planet we have forgotten how to work with the ecosystem. It was a result of shortsighted ignorance, but even more than that, it was done out of greed.
I believe there is something that can provide for our needs without depleting the planet. This one thing that can provide for an amazing number of our needs. It can give us food, clean the air, provide energy, be made into plastics, construction materials, industrial solvents, medicine, paper, cloth, and much more. That one thing is cannabis.