Pow Wow on Ile Bonsecours: Voices from Space-Time

Montreal, September 12, 1999


Along the quayside in the Vieux Port, .. people crowded up to the railings, ... ethnically diverse but somehow united by the magnetic, haunting pull from the drumming and chanting across the water on Ile Bonsecours. Were these primal sounds really emanating from the little islet on the edge of the St. Lawrence, .. or were they coming from the dark depths of space-time, ... from the living Containor, ... the one who was at that moment enfolding us all, even as he enfolded the voices of our ancestors?

The sun-warmed September wind played with the native song, as the Containor, not satisfied with playing host, energetically joined the activities and became the senior partner in the pow wowian experience.

"I am Ongwehonweh, I am Annishnawbek

I am who I am, you are who you are

Call out my name and my spirit will answer

I am Ongwehonweh, be who you are"

... were the heart and soul filling strains coming from the voice and guitar of Eliza Beth Hill and from Kiku Misumi's magic cello, ... and yet deeper in the background Emile heard another, older voice, ...

"Listen to her well, she speaks of a unity, ... a unity which is a plurality at the same time, .. a unity which we have forgotten. In its place we teach the unity of Aristotle, ... the unity which comes from clockworks, ... from detached plurality and causal sequence. Do you wonder that our children are confused and depressed?"

Emile turned around and inauspiciously looked for the source of the voice, but none was to be found. He recognized the words as those of Heraclitus, ... but the voice, ... the voice seemed to be coming from nowhere and everywhere at the same time. Emile cleared his mind and refocused on the pow wow circle in front of him;

...."Love that strong can't go wrong

Love that strong carries on

Love that strong has the way of Eagles

when they fly."

Elizabeth had related the Haida tale of the eagle and the whale, ... back when the earth was new. The eagle, he searched the land far and wide for a mate but found none, ... and the whale, she searched the oceans everywhere, ... but found no mate, ... then one day when the eagle was flying over the sea, he saw the whale's shadow beneath the surface and flew down to investigate, ... and she saw him overhead and rose to the surface, ... and there they met and became friends. He brought to her the twigs and flowers and things of the land so that she might know of his domain and she brought up for him the creatures and things of the deep, so that he might know of her domain, ... but he was of the sky and she was of the sea and though they loved, a sadness began to grow within them because they could not be together. One day, as her eagle love approached, ... she dove deep, .. as deep as she had ever dove, ... then turned and with all the force in her, swam up towards the surface, gathering such speed she broke through the boundary between sky and water and sailed on and up into the air, staying airborne long enough to come together in lover's embrace with the eagle. Soon the offspring of their loving union came, ... the killer whale, ...bearing the black and white markings of his sky-roaming eagle father and the dark sleek form of his ocean-diving mother. Today, when you see killer whale breaking the water-sky boundary and gliding high into the air, it is in rememberance of love that strong that it overcame the isolation of sky and water, ... the love that strong that his ancestral parents shared.

"If you dive deep enough

If you fly high enough

You'll make dreams come true to life

Love that strong has the way of Eagles

when they fly"

... Somewhere, from out of the space-time which contained him, Emile heard a voice again, ... a different voice this time;

..."Listen to her song well, ... she speaks of the way in which the container of sky pulled on the ocean to bring new lifeforms into the world, ... just as the sky pulled on the earth to bring trees and flowers forth. "There is a grandeur in this view of life, ... having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one, ... from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved."....and mark you that just as her song says, that family and member, simultaneous unity and plurality, come together and coevolve. Meanwhile, we teach, instead, of a world of detached and standalone things, which we purport to evolve on their own, artifacts of rational mind rather than experience, ... 'genes', abstract constituents of a mechanical unity and plurality which denies the presence of the Containor and the coevolution of whole-and-part, of simultaneous unity-and-plurality. Is it any wonder, with these conflicting messages, that our children are confused and depressed?"

... Again, Emile could find no source for the voice, but recognized the words to be those of Charles Darwin, ... phrases as spoken into the pages of his master work, 'Origin of the Species'.

It was true what these voices from the Containor were saying, ... about the school teachings, ... they were the opposite of what the songs and dancing and invocation said, ... how could young people be expected to sort out this fundamental conflict in the messages coming to them from their aboriginal traditions and those delivered by the white community, ... by their educators? The mechanical model of Aristotle, .. the sequential unity and plurality, ... where the future was seen as being imposed by the causal actions of detached things-in-themselves, ... pushed out mechanically into a void, ... without any contemplation of the presence of the Containor or 'Creator', as the all-enfolding evolutionary source was termed in english by the elders. The Aristotelian teaching permeated all aspects of the white mans world, even though many of the white man's own respected ancestors had given him alternative counsel, ... to embrace the simultaneous unity and plurality, as had the Rotinohshonni, ... as had Eliza Beth Hill and her people;

"I am Kanienkehake, and Onyota'aka Mootson,

Crow and Cherokee, I am Onondaga, I am Oglala

Zuni, Rumsien, and Cree, I am Lakota, I am

Mississauga I am Ojibwa and Ohionee I am Pomo

Kashia, I am Azteca, I am Dineh, I am Metis, ... call

out my name and my spirit will answer I am

Ongwehontweh, be who you are."

As the drums of 'Young Nation' and the song of 'Eastern Eagle' filled the air, ... Emile's attention turned to the dancers, whose painted faces, feathered costumes and rhythmic crow-strutting pulled him into centuries-past depths of space-time. Little children ran into the circle, attracted like bees to honey to the colorful shapes and sounds, ... not the slightest bit intimidated by the proceedings. When the dancing finished for the day, Emile strolled around the perimeter of the Ile, looking in the many booths with their native crafts on display, ... but still he was unable to reconcile himself with the strength of the voices he had heard, ... voices he had heard before, but far more weakly, when he had written about Ashanti myth and the story-telling of other African tribes, ... stories whose notions of space-time also reconciled with the ideas of Heraclitus and Darwin, ... but which differed radically from modern western teaching, ... notions of the story-teller swallowing himself within the telling of his story, ... being reborn into a new story or a nest of new stories, ... a view of space-time in which the past was continually being enfolded into the present, and giving the appearance of a nesting of theatrical within theatrical, ... differing radically from the western idea of the past dissolving in the process of constructing the future. While the aboriginal sees life as an ever-enfolding experiential continuum, the white man sees it as the mechanical growth of knowledge, ... as a linear progression in time.

But why were the voices so strong now? ... The spicy taste in his mouth brought forth an unexpected thought, ... 'the food!!', ... perhaps there was something in the food, ... peyote maybe, ... and he looked suspiciously down the barrel of his half-consumed caribou sausage. But the sausage was too tasty and the voices were too interesting, so Emile relaxed, ... and continued to munch and think.

The thoughts of an augmented pow wow attended also by the authors of the ghost voices came to Emile's mind. What if Heraclitus, Kepler, Darwin, Faraday, Einstein, ... those who saw the beauty in the continuum of space-time, ... in the harmonic co-evolution of Containor with contents, ... what if they could all be here and meet together with the aboriginal elders and their ancestors? Could this be made to happen? Could today's children, orphaned from their past by the mechanical teachings of the western world, ... by sitting in on such a pow wow, get it back together? Could they rise above their entrapment by the abstract notion of a 'sequential unity and plurality' which cast away living container-and-contents and reduced everything in the world, including people, to the status of detached 'things in their own right'? Could they leave behind them the warped notion that nature's offspring competed amongst themselves in a 'survival of the fittest' war, ... a dissonant and destructive win/lose competition amongst 'constituents' seen as 'independent' and fully detached?, .... a visualization far from the whole-and-part harmonic fitness and living 'grandeur' which Darwin had seen and spoken of, ... that many modern physicists have spoken of as well, wherein conflict is resolved through the co-resonances of whole-and-part.

Emile felt the strong urge to share his thoughts right there and then, as he so often did, ... but the urge was overtaken by the insight that he, too, must do so from 'coresonance' and not from 'cause' and 'control' or what he personally deemed to be 'right', ... and the song of Eliza Beth Hill came once again to him;

"You can't rush love

You can't rush love

You've got to let go

It's out of your control

You can't rush love

No, you can't rush love"

If there was something here in the making, a love child waiting to be born, ... it would have to be left to come into being naturally, coresonantly.

Sunday noon and the walk down to Ile Bonsecours came early for Emile, who had been up till 4:00 a.m. thinking and writing of other things, ... things of science and complexity, but things seemingly interwoven with the song, dance and story-telling of the pow wow.

Emile was no longer reticent about letting in the voices from the Containor, ... upon arriving he went over to the food stand and bought a plate of moose meatballs and wildrice. The girl serving was generous and as Emile looked at the near dozen meatballs rolling around on his plate, ... he knew the voices were going to be busy.

After the chanting, drumming, dancing and singing had prepared him, he let himself submerge down into the depths of the ancient stories, ... stories which seemed amazingly consistent amongst ancient cultures in their space-time topology, ... amongst eastern cultures as well as aboriginal and Celt, mythopoeic predecessors to the western rationalist culture. It seemed more amazing to Emile, that the white man's culture continued to ignore these stories, ... and even to repress them.

He listened on, ... When the story came to where the 'skeleton' lady was accidently reclaimed from the deep by the hunter-fisherman who had been expecting a big fat fish, ... and it had terrified him so that he ran from her but could not escape, ... the voices started to become active again;

..."He is being awakened from his sleep, ... the sleep which has him go through his life indifferent to what he is doing to himself, ... indifferent to his own possibilities, ... to his potential to 'plunge into' his own authentic life. We who live in the eastern mediterranean have this myth too, ... it is the forgotten myth, ... displaced by the control and domination myth of Heracles, ... it is the myth of Psyche and Eros, ..."

Emile got hold of his mind and re-tuned in to this strange imagery in the Inuit myth, ...of the hunter-fisherman flying back to the refuge of his ice house, ... the skeleton-lady, unknown to him, still strung up in his fishing gear and dragging along behind him. Finally he reached his home and dove into through the small tunnel entrance into the darkness of his unlit igloo, ... finally he could rest and relax and feel safe again. He lit his oil lamp and as the light filled his igloo, ... to his great shock he saw skeleton-lady's twisted and contorted form lying on the furs which lined the floor of his home, ... one leg over a shoulder, ... another lodged within her rib cage, ... armbones akimbo. Skeleton lady could do nothing about her state of disarray, having lain for so many years beneath the sea, ... sacrificed by her own parents in their desire to escape from the storm which they blamed her for. Her rounded beauty and fleshy hands taken from her too soon by the creatures of the sea, and her teeth and bones now mottled and encrusted by barnacles and sea-growth, stared vacantly out at hunter-fisherman. Strangely, he felt a caring begin to glow in his heart and he responded to it by going over to her and straightening out her limbs, ... then he slept, ... and he dreamt. And in his dream, ... one of those dreams where great emotions are stirred, ... a tear came to his eye. Skeleton lady saw the tear beginning to form, and the thirst of her long exile at the bottom of the sea rose up like a passion within her. She moved towards the sleeping hunter-fisherman and began to drink of the tear, ... and as she drank, the flow began to grow, rapidly becoming a torrent which commenced to fill and replenish her. Soon she had fresh young skin again, .... and rounded breasts, ... and the fleshiness of the divine divide between her thighs swelled and opened with her desire. She climbed under the furs with the sleeping hunter-fisherman, ... took off his clothes and he awoke in the passionate warmth of their love-making.

.... "Psyche has returned from her trip to the underworld, her descent into Hades, ... and Psyche and Eros are now united in sacred marriage", ... the voice said.

Emile looked around for the source of the voice again, ... but all he could see was the Inuit elder who played and softly chanted into a large circular hand drum, to accompany the Inuit woman as she told her skeleton-lady story, ...

... "The watchtower of Jupiter, the sun, radiant center of the world, whose doctrine, misshapen by the forgetfulness of the ages, once again informs. Is it any wonder, when youth is told, instead, that the world is fragmented into unnumerable centers, the centers of detached things, .... the perspectival centers of a voyeur viewing of the world, ... that our children are confused and depressed?"

This time Emile recognized the words as those of Johannes Kepler, ... speaking of the 'simultaneous unity and plurality' of the system of sun and planets, ... and the simple intellect which comes to us all from the center of intuitive intellection, ... a simple intellect needed to give us story, ... to make sense of all our mechanical ratiocinations.

Emile recognized the difficult journey into the underground that faced everyone, ... a journey which transcended rationality, ... in which the watchtower of Jupiter, the center of intuitive intellection, could be the only guide. Just as the hunter-fisherman had had to abandon and go against all conventional wisdom in facing the skeleton-lady, ... to descend through the layers of cultural convention to get to a deeper, truer story, ... so, it seems, must we all today. For the aboriginal, orphaned for hundreds of years from his authentic place in the world, ... for the western whiteman, orphaned for thousands of years from his authentic place in the world, ... it had become exceeding difficult to run against entrenched cultural tides, ... to go with the wind of nature and against the flow of affection from those who would keep you on the hollow path, ... to put the Containor, ... the simultaneous unity and plurality of the mythopoeic peoples and modern physics in a primacy over the 'sequential unity and plurality' of the western world. It was formidably difficult to look into the face of your own death and not turn away, .... to recover your true potentiality from its deep burial beneath the bad advice of those who insist they need you and give their love as proof, ... to turn your back on the powerful forces of co-optation which plead with you to live someone else's life and betray your authentic self.

It was 2:00 a.m. Monday morning now, ... and Emile had finished his typing of "Pow Wow on Ile Bonsecours" He didn't know when or if the sacred marriage would come in him, ... but his heart felt full at the moment and he was at least temporarily reconciled with the fact that one 'could not rush love'. He went over to the CD player and punched a few buttons, ... waiting for the now familiar voice of Eliza Beth Hill to fill the room, ...

"I am Ongwehonweh, I am Annishnawbek

I am who I am, you are who you are

Call out my name and my spirit will answer

I am Ongwehonweh, be who you are"

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