Grandfather William Commanda Passes
Grandfather William Commanda passed over into spirit on Wednesday, August 3, 2011. He was 97 years old. The elder passed just 2 days before the start of his annual spiritual gathering in Maniwaki, Quebec, so this year travelers will be gathering to mourn the loss of a great spiritual leader and inspiration, as well as to celebrate his spirit, life and vision of "A circle of all nations, a culture of peace." This Musings column from Sept/Oct 2002 was inspired after my return from the annual retreat that year. Read a news account memorializing William Commanda's life at APTN. — Editor, Carol Bedrosian
Musings: The Future Unplugged
I was looking over past "Musings" columns in Spirit of Change and I noticed a little trend in my writing inspired by the spiritual gathering in Maniwaki, Quebec which I attend each August.
The gathering is hosted by Algonquin Elder William Commanda and follows the Anishinabe traditions and teachings of the sacred fire. Elder Commanda’s vision of a circle of all nations and a culture of peace is fulfilled each year at the gathering when indigenous elders from many traditions participate in ceremony, speak from the heart, facilitate healing and inspire those present.
For the past four years, the September/October “Musings” has urged readers to look beyond the comforts and conveniences of our material lifestyles to see how we might bring more awareness of our role as spiritual beings and caretakers of Mother Earth into our daily lives. Each summer when I return from this gathering, strengthened and inspired by the sacred fire and the words and drumming of the elders heard around it, I experience a bit of culture shock when I am deposited, once again, back into the realm of daily living with TV, newspapers, phones, faxes and emails. This year, in particular, the transition was even more difficult as the “war on terrorism” marches on around me to the beat of a totally different drummer than the one I heard in Maniwaki.
An image from this year’s gathering will be forever present in my mind: she was a petite Mexican grandmother, crawling upright on her knees, back and forth in front of the sacred fire, crying out in Spanish (translated by others into several languages as she spoke), “What can I do for you America? You take our land. Our resources. You kill us. What can I do for you America? You rape our women. You take our culture. We work for you. What can I do for you America? What can I do for you America?” Over and over, the outpouring of the pain, unawareness and injustice, the experience of a lifetime and generations of lifetimes before her was exposed to us.
Americans live in a culture of denial. This is what allows them to keep consuming more and more extravagantly or fawning over those who do — million dollar weddings, multi-million dollar entertainment industry award shows honoring itself every month, billions spent annually on amusement, recreation and luxury — while two thirds of the world population doesn’t even have food to eat. It is denial and unawareness which prevents Americans from admitting that their lifestyle of reckless consumption is killing the entire ecosystem of the planet and inflicting massive pain and suffering on whole countries of people and other creatures through genocide, slave labor, factory farming, pollution, corporate globalization, war, economic sanctions, etc., all so that we can have it all and more — protect “our interests” around the world. It is denial which allows us, even knowing all these facts, to spend $300 for a fashionable coat for ourselves while we donate just $30 to “charity.” With all that we already have, the numbers should be reversed.
Witnessing this courageous woman’s pain helps break through that wall of denial where we can finally say, “Enough is enough!" Statistics don’t lie. We are 5% of the world’s population consuming 25% of its energy resources. We have used up more than our fair share and even though it hurts to give it up, it hurts more to cause so much pain, suffering and imbalance around the planet. Our mission now is to rebuild, renew and regenerate the beauty of this planet and its life everywhere. We can use our abundant resources to create, not consume. This is a vision which is possible; there are those who are working on it this very moment in both spiritual and physical realms. Logically, it’s the only choice we have because either we scale back the long arm of our consumption around the world or we self-destruct from our own addictive greediness.
Despite the propaganda we see in advertising that corporate America is taking care of us and doing good things for the world by advancing its economy and technology all over the planet, things are not all right in the world, as this Mexican grandmother or any indigenous person or non-capitalist will tell you. The shocking events of September 11, 2001 alerted us with this same message as well. Change is overdue. One way or another, a new world order is coming. Either this new world will be ordered from the greedy top down through fear and might, or cooperatively with respect for life from Mother Earth up. I, for one, vote to be Earth-centered, to share and nurture life just as Mother Earth does with me. Thinking of Earth as our Mother — providing us with everything we need to live and survive — helps strengthen our understanding that all of life is connected: one body, one world. “Whatever we do to the web of life, we do to ourselves.” (Chief Seattle)
Some friends gifted me a copy of Derrick Jensens’ life-altering book A Language Older Than Words. Jensen is both spiritually reflective and well researched and informed in probing the hardcore issues of our global situation. A quote in the book attributed to Mr. Aoki says: “Our goal should not be the emulation of the ancients and their ways, but to experience for ourselves the aspects of human existence out of which arose those ancient forms which when we see them elicit such a feeling of…longing.” It is this longing that we feel around the fires of traditional people which reminds us which direction we need to follow now. What we’ve gained in convenience and comfort through pursuing materialistic lives, we’ve lost at the price of our spiritual wellbeing and by selling out brothers and sisters around the planet as well. It’s not worth the cost and it’s never too late to make that change.
In the middle of writing this column, a power surge shut off all electricity in the office and with it, all the background whirring and buzzing which drones constantly, but goes ignored. In an instant, my busy little electronic world ceased to exist and I was left with what’s real: silence and myself. It was a huge unexpected relief, and at that moment I realized it took “pulling the plug” for me to stop, look up and appreciate being alive. The more I sat and absorbed the peace and calm settling around me, the more readily I could imagine the future unplugged.
Carol Bedrosian is publisher and editor of Spirit of Change Magazine .