i've been reading in C.A. Weslager's book on the Delaware Indians that liquor laws were introduced very early in the delaware river valley to try to prevent sales of liquor to native americans who couldn't deal with alcohol. of course, now science has shown that native americans completely lack the enzyme necessary to metabolize alcohol, which explains a lot. but i just have to say that i had no idea that pennsylvania's liquor laws, blue laws as we used to call them, were in place mostly because of the native american population.
later, others came to the area who may also have been perceived as needing these laws too, but by and large, most people were christians - even most of the native americans were eventually - so not working on sundays and other aspects of the blue laws were probably just fine and dandy with most folks. my recollection, however, is that as a child i heard a LOT of complaining about the blue laws. now of course they've been revoked.
today, it seems to me, intoxicant abuse can only be prevalent among people who are not happy with their lives. doesn't that make sense? poverty is usually a direct result of oppression and racism everywhere in the world, and i would say only secondarily a result of material lack - famines, lack of trade goods, and so on. extreme poverty is more than likely a fairly strong condition for creating unhappiness, i would think.
and also, of course, another strong predisposer towards alcoholism is genetic as well. Even rich people, oppressors and the like, can become strung out on alcohol. how can something so good also be something so bad?
so far, this novel has been the most difficult of them all for me to read and enjoy. partly because it is much more about the native community living out 'in the wilds' (on their allotment lands) in their traditional manner. it's interesting, of course, but isn't something i relate to as much, personally, except in terms of the backpacking i've done. also, i never enjoy reading about witchcraft - probably because it makes me feel anxious - and there is some of that in this book. there is an amazing moose-hunting scene, and i have to say louise erdrich makes another time and place come alive most convincingly. history and anthropology never read better. but i found it extremely difficult to see this family lose its land. i knew all along that it was coming, and it was just wrenching and agonizing when it came. still, i think that if i'm going to immerse myself in learning about this part of our history (and i find i can use the word 'our' in a very inclusive sense after all), there is nothing for it but to endure the pain. the more i learn about our indigenous forms of spirituality - and i am grateful to my ancestors for guiding me back to them and showing me how to make the connections - the more i can see how they could - possibly - survive all that pain. not that everyone has done so, by a long shot. but i can see the way. it is really quite amazing.
now i am reading 'the crown of columbus,' a book Erdrich wrote with her former husband who is now deceased. this book is interesting in a whole other way, and i'll write more about it when i've completed it.
G. is going on two backpacking trips this month. He just returned from the first one this evening, and he has some beautiful photos, which I will share in the coming weeks.
He went on this first trip with an old hiking buddy who is starting with Alzheimer's - he seems pretty much the same as before, perhaps a bit dispirited - and the buddy's 30-year old son. That was the young man's first time backpacking. The three had a good time.
Here is something I really liked from "Daoist texts with commentary by Thomas Cleary" (with my own comments in [ ] brackets).
“Ordinary expressions and common sayings accord with the path of sages; you should turn to them for careful research.If you use everyday activities to search in reverse, everything in the world turns to jewels.” [This reminds me of how I felt about the Book of Proverbs when I was 21-22.]
“The Tao is not far from people;what people consider the Tao is far from people.[This was true in Catholicism too.People thought the mystics were so extraordinary that there was no way on earth we could have any of their experiences.We grew up with that bias and discouragement.]The Tao is essence and life is the eternal Tao, the eternal Tao is the Tao of daily life; it’s just that while people use it daily they do not know it.
“If you carefully investigate the principles, you do not need to read a thousand classics and ten thousand texts; there are great revelations of the celestial mechanism right in ordinary expressions and common sayings.For example, good people are called really genuine, truthful, conscientious, reasonable, respectable, aware of proper proportion, aware of when to go forward and when to withdraw, circumspect, perceptive, having their feet on the ground; bad people are said to be inhuman, lacking conscience, and unreasonable – they hurt others to benefit themselves, are self-deceived, violate nature and reason, take suffering for pleasure, take the false for the real, pick up one thing and forget another, without knowing death and life, without knowing good and bad, only knowing one and not two, only aware of the existence of themselves and not that of others.”(p. 156, The Taoist Classics, Volume Two, from ‘Understanding Reality.’)