In considering how I could link President Obama's addressing of the American Indian predicament the other day to the story I've been telling and my approach to it, there was one passage that struck me as particularly relevant:
"PRES. OBAMA: ... And few have been more marginalized and ignored by Washington for as long as Native Americans, our first Americans. We know the history that we share. It's a history marked by violence and disease and deprivation. Treaties were violated. Promises were broken. You were told your lands, your religion, your cultures, your languages were not yours to keep."
I began making notes that highlighted how those words encapsulate the life story of the Hopi Elder, David Monongye - which he himself had related to me. "Grampa David's" truly shocking personal account of what he and his people had endured, begins in the final decades of the 19th Century and covers every aspect mentioned in that excerpt from President Obama's statement - and more.
Since much of the contemporary part of story was already told in the "FROM HOLLYWOOD TO HOPILAND" article, I noted how I could add a few more scenes that further displayed the nature of the Hopi people, whose very name implies "Peace"-- and how I had been given the privilege, through my interactions with them over an extended period of time, to have an insight into the differences between our view of life and theirs --- interactions which also included participation in some of their ancient ceremonies.
I ended the note-taking with what in effect was an overview of a major one-night-only event that I had co-produced and written, and that featured more than a dozen major "stars" and more than 150 Indians from over 40 Tribal Nations. It was held in the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and I called it, "Night of the First Americans".
Here's a reminiscence of that extraordinary evening's events:
My friend and colleague Harry Waterson called me one day and asked me if I would be willing to co-produce and write a Benefit Show that was being put together to establish an Engineering scholarship program for Native American students. Peter MacDonald Chairman of the Navajo Indian Nation and “The Council of Energy Resource Tribes” had called on Lorne Green (“Bonanza” TV series) to act as Executive Producer, and he in turn called Harry to be the nuts-and-bolts producer - - But MacDonald had also already asked his friend Wayne Newton (Choctaw) to do a Vegas-style Variety Show. “Something’s missing” said Harry to me on the phone – “Maybe you can figure out what it is”. I said I’d do it if they forgot about the Vegas-style Show and allowed us to put together a program that told the Native American story. They agreed.
The first thing I did was come up with a name. Actually I woke up from a deep sleep with it in my head: “NIGHT OF THE FIRST AMERICANS”. Then I called two friends – the “Grandfather of Native American Film-Makers”, Phil Lucas (Choctaw), and legendary actor (“One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”) Will Sampson (Muscogee-Creek); reason being I never did a project about Native American people without the assistance of at least one Native American in some Executive or Creative capacity. Phil co-wrote the show with me and Will led the evening off by setting the stage for the evening’s proceedings. As the lights came slowly up on an empty stage, we saw just the outline of the North American Continent projected on a huge screen. Then little flashing dots of light began to fill the outline until there were literally hundreds of them… as Will recited the following words in that extraordinary voice of his:
“In the beginning there was the Land… And the Land beckoned us to come forth… And we came… We came from the Six Directions… We came from Below… and we came from Above… and we came from the North … and from the South … and from the East and from the West … and we covered the Land… And we called ourselves “The People”… And the word for “The People” in each of the languages we spoke was “Dineh” … Cherokee… “Cheyenne” … Lakota … “.
At that point our Musical Director, legendary Jazz musician Jim Pepper (Kaw and Creek) and his Orchestra kicked us into high gear by performing his equally legendary “WITCHI-TAI ” as more than 150 Native Americans from over 40 participating Tribal Nations in full Traditional Dress rose from out of the audience and filled the immense stage of the Opera House in Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. This was followed by Two Acts of Music, Dance, Comedy and serious Narrative and offered performances by some of the following:
( NOTE: The Program that was handed out that evening (That's a Kevin Red Star painting on the cover you see above) also had a page with the Two Act breakdown and a list of "The Cast" . Some of “The Cast” were no-shows. But on the other hand, Loretta (" Coal Miner's Daughter" Lynne showed-up with her entire Orchestra. It was that kind of “One-Night-Only” experience for all of us.)
However, life doesn't follow the construct of a Hollywood movie with a "big ending" like the NFA event. There would be another three or four years of further activity with American Indians after it. One documentary that I co-produced, wrote and directed for the Yakima Indian Nation wasn't exactly filled with thrilling re-enactments of bygone us-against-them scenes, but it helped win back their water rights -- rights which had been surreptitiously "acquired" by some apple growing conglomerates whose land adjoined their sprawling million-plus-acre Reservation. What was left of their access to an agriculture-sustaining water supply, was being severely impacted by its journey through the antiquated watering system the US Government had installed almost a century before, when they had forced the Yakimas into adopting a stationary, agriculture-oriented structure from their historical hunter-gather lifestyle -- a way of life that had, for millennia, consisted of movement over vast areas of land, that was determined by the seasonal changes and the availability of game and vegetation. Our documentary helped to bring about long overdue legal and functional changes to the situation and to the present day environment.
But all that activity came to a life-altering halt one day, when a multi-talented Lakota Indian man who had worked with me on that documentary and a number of other projects, and whom I considered as close to me as a younger brother, turned on me in a most violent way. He had also served three tours of duty - by choice - as a Marine during the Viet Nam War. On that day, I suddenly found myself on the receiving end of a severe case of PTSD - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - something that is by no means culturally confined. And that's what brought an end to my direct American Indian experience, permanently.
I was in the process of trying to figure out how to tell all that in a chapter or two - since the larger, more all-encompassing story I am telling has to do with whether it's possible to discern the real meaning of life - if there is such a thing - when burdened with a "MEDIATED MIND" like mine -- when that mind, like the mediated minds of the rest the world, was inundated with the news of the terrible Fort Hood tragedy. It was difficult to think of much else for the remainder of the day. Here was an officer and an MD in the United States military who was supposedly ministering to the kids who were coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan with the very syndrome that had ended my American Indian experience for me, but instead went on a murderous rampage himself. And as horrific as the specifics of the scene that was unfolding were, it was one of the last pieces of information that was revealed in the late evening, that carried with it unthinkable possible repercussions. It was reported that just before he started firing both weapons, he yelled "ALLAH AKBAR!". Loose translation:"God is greater than anything that can be imagined". And then he killed 13 people and wounded more than 30 others.
I fell asleep with the TV on that night. Perhaps sensing that the Fort Hood events would be with us for a long time, I must have switched channels to the one that shows old movies; a sure sleep-inducer, and as always, it worked -- until I woke up a few hours later and found myself looking at the man you see at the top of the page, on my TV screen -- There was handsomer than handsome Tyrone Power arriving at some place high in the Himalayas, where he was being greeted by a very tall old man with a white beard that was (no kidding) half as long as the man himself. For those of you who don't recall, I already made reference to that scene in the first entry of MEMOIRS OF MEDIATED MIND which I titled BACK STORY, explaining that it was from a movie that had been a favorite of mine since adolescence:
RAZOR’S EDGE' is based on a story by Somerset Maugham about a young man
named Larry Darrel who, disillusioned by what he saw as a fighter pilot
in World War I and post war life, travels to India where he meets a man
who changes his life forever.
difference between Larry Darrell’s story and mine, is that I didn’t go
to India... In fact I didn’t even go looking. Nor was I in any way
disillusioned. I was perfectly content living the life of a successful
TV Comedy and Music writer when Variety shows like Carol Burnett and
Laugh-In and The Smothers Brothers were in high-style.
"This story is about how my life suddenly took an unexpected turn and brought me into direct contact with two of the most unique minds of the 20th Century – or, for that matter, any century -- Spiritual figure J. Krishnamurti and Theoretical Physicist David Bohm."
Bundled up in the warm comfort of my bed, in the middle of the chill Wisconsin night, I watched that same movie and that unforgettable scene of Ty Power as Larry Darrell saying farewell to that very old man, after his stay up there in the mysterious, hardly approachable Himalayas. Power tells the old man, and us, that during his visit - which we watched unfold in a montage that lasted for about ten minutes - he had been given something "that words cannot describe." The very old and obviously very wise man then uses words to describe the approaches to whatever Power/Darrell had been given, in detail. There are three paths to that indescribable something, says the old man. I forget the first two he mentioned, but the one that Darrell chose was the "path of Wisdom through knowledge and God".
And that's what triggered my remembrance of those last words that tragically troubled man had uttered during the Fort Hood incident, before he opened fire: "ALLAH AKBAR!"
It was at that moment, that it became clear that while some Hollywood screenwriter had perhaps innocently interpreted in that good old reliable Judaeo-Christian way of interpreting all things "spiritual", what the wise old man character most certainly used words other than "God" in Maugham's book to describe "the path" that Darrell had taken -- it was in stark contrast to the manner in which, earlier in the evening, a FOX NEWScaster, had zeroed in on and punctuated that man's use of those "God is greater than..." words. To him, it was in no way just another aspect of the total picture of the senseless violence that had occurred at Fort Hood, that he was reporting about. It may have been a hidden agenda before the events of that day, but from now on the use of the word "God" would become the weapon of choice - the one held highest in defiance by the media and those who are driven by similar self-serving agendas, like hate mongers, fear baiters and suicide bombers. It is, after all, the ultimate dividing line - the one that cannot be breached - because it is based on what David Bohm called "an assumption of Absolute Necessity " - as opposed to an "assumption of Contingency". The latter implies an assumption that can be otherwise. But not the former.
As devastating as the results had been when Hitler and his henchman Goebbels put into play their "Deutschland Uber Alles" world view, the game and the stakes have now changed, and on a global level. Now it's "My God uber Your God". Evidently there is no assumption that is more Absolute than that one, to us humans. And as Bohm so vividly pointed out, it is those assumptions of Contingency and Necessity - including those of Absolute Necessity that ultimately define us and how we respond to life.
So as we proceed with our story, I respectfully ask the reader to keep in mind that what Krishnamurti was talking about, had nothing in common with any "assumption of Absolute Necessity." To the contrary, what he was doing was trying to wake us up to the most deep-rooted of those assumptions, many of which lie concealed within us, but which nevertheless form the ground of our very beings - as had my well meaning but totally irrational assumption that I could save the world.
Recall also, that in a previous Chapter, where I explained about the two decades of JK/DB Dialogues, I began with where they began - from opposite ends of the intellectual spectrum - the scientific and the spiritual - and showed how the two men initially came together, by determining the limitations of the human Intellect and the means by which we access its content, the "Thinking Process" -- that magnificent but flawed mechanism that is capable of producing incredible technological advancements, breath-taking artistic and cultural manifestations of immeasurable intrinsic value, but can also bring forth potentially malevolent verbal realities such as "Assumptions of Absolute Necessity". And it is that same flawed mechanism that directs us to kill each other in defense of - or when advocating - those kinds of assumptions, as happened just days ago in Fort Hood, Texas.
But my earlier overview of those Dialogues also pointed to the fact that Krishnamurti and David Bohm suggested that there may be a possible way out of what seems like a "No Way Out" scenario for our species - - a scenario that is presently being determined by a flawed mechanism which we have erroneously labeled "Human Nature". A closer look at the content of the JK/DB Dialogues, which lies ahead, will show that this was not just an assumption on their part.
And now back to our story...