Would it have been better to live as a Native-American? Jake Sully certainly found his place among the Na’vi preferable, but who wouldn’t? Only those senselessly striving for unobtanium? I know the grass is always greener, yet I want to know honestly, was the Native-American lifestyle preferable to middle-class American life?
To keep the 2200+ miles of this Colorado road trip tolerable, I have been listening to several audiobooks including “The Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History” by Joseph Marshall of which I am over half-finished. I highly recommend it.
It would seem foolish of me to long for the life of a Native American considering that with my bad joints, I would probably be dead by my present age of 25 had I lived then. True, the hardships the Native American’s faced were great, yet hardship is the forge of strength and character. It is tempting to romanticize the simple lifestyle of the “noble savage” while glossing over the difficulties, yet they possessed certain qualities of life essential to human happiness, which we are often lacking in 21st century America.
No Lakota boy ever wondered about his purpose in life; it was self-evident: provide meat for your family, fight for the protection of your people, pass on wisdom to your warrior sons, take care of the widow and orphan, and give thanks to the great spirit. No Lakota girl was ever confused about what she should do with her life; it was self-evident: bear future warriors and mothers of warriors, take care of her family, clothe them, please them, take care of widows and orphans. Some might object to this self-evident purpose as a limitation of choices, but choices can sometimes be the source of great frustration and unhappiness especially when they lead to a lack of purpose. I believe freedom and choice are desirable, but oftentimes we don’t know what is best for us. Sometimes we choose to strive for that unobtanium and other phantoms of happiness.
The Lakota never lacked family and there were no orphans. If a parent died, the grandmothers and fathers and aunts stepped in to raise a child since they had always been there anyway. The elderly were honored, cared for, and not abandoned to die alone in nursing homes as often happens today. The Lakota lived to serve their people. Is that not the essence of the Divine Law: love your neighbor as yourself?
Sometimes nature is the best teacher of God‘s truth. The Lakota had no artificial barriers erected to insulate them from the lessons mother nature had to offer. They called themselves “people of the earth” – the dust of Adam. There was a purity to their dirt. They were not innocent, but for what they did know their consciences held them accountable and for what they were ignorant who can hold them accountable?
They lacked some forms of knowledge, and knowledge is power and potential – potential for both good and evil. It is man’s destiny to advance in knowledge and therefore to advance beyond the garden-like state of naked ignorance towards both extremes of good and evil. The white man brought the Lakota the cursed fruit and forced them to eat. We long for the life of the Native American as we long for life in the garden – a state of ignorant bliss and simplicity – unimproved and undefiled by the fruit of knowledge.