A Base Human Being
May 27, 2014
Bent, New Mexico
A Base Human Being
I have spent my entire life just a little apart from most other people, the odd one out, never quite fitting in, the kid everyone seemed to pick on. I blamed it on my hair, which was too curly and always frizzy, my glasses, my heritage (Jewish), and my weight as I was a little pudgy to start. Later when my family fell from grace and went from nuevo riche to poor it was yet another excuse, along with my freckles. As I got older I thought it was my strength, my independence, my solitary nature, all fruits of the earlier rejections, which set me apart. I left home as soon as it was possible and hitchhiked across the country, finding myself along the way but also pulling away a little further, never quite finding my niche. It is only now, as I consider the beguiling qualities of my newest friend that I finally recognize what it is that always separated me from the crowd and the very quality which lets me fit in here amongst the Native American community.
I am a base human being, just as those who I care for the most are, and always have been. I have met them on the road and on the street, in the mountains and out on the Plains and we have always recognized each other. I have read their stories and dreamed of their adventures and have sought their company from the time I was a child. I have looked into their eyes, the elders and the children and known them for what they are yet until now I have never put the words to it. In this instant it all becomes so clear.
Base: 1. Low in thought, morals or rank. Of humble or low birth. As with so many other definitions there is a play on words which twists the meaning and the intent. Base, to me means simple, basic, down to earth, qualities I revel in but which are so easily judged as inferior. Just as I have said that one can have intelligence without intellect, so it is with people such as myself who are unfairly looked down upon because of their moral values and their social status. The very choices which to me are ethical and descent appear to others to be a failing of character. I choose to live close to the earth, to embrace nature and the simplicity she has to offer. I prefer to cut wood and carry water as opposed to living in some fancy dwelling and I find my happiness by doing so. This does not make me less of a person and in many ways it has enriched my life, yet I am judged all the same. I am base and have no misgivings about it, I am only sorry I did not recognize it sooner.
It is only now that I can truly question what it is that makes some people feel that they are so high and mighty due to their ‘social status’ that they believe they can look down upon others. I have felt this disdain and been treated poorly in spite of my own upbringing which groomed me for the same. I left home because of this very measure of humanity as I was unwilling to play the part they had chosen for me; I have never lived to regret that. Certainly we are all entitled to live and be as we choose but what right do we have to render judgment on others for their choices or their lot in life? It was the very rejection I received from my piers which set me free to be myself, it was a gift I never had a chance to thank them for, at least until now. I hope they will read my words and learn from them and perhaps find some greater happiness in the process. I hold no grudges, if anything I feel sorry that they are so trapped within the constraints of their own beliefs! I am instead free of the same.
If anything I have come to believe that this form of social hierarchy is actually a mechanism meant to force people to live and work beyond their personal desires and ambitions. Just as we train and drive horses to race and perform so we groom our greatest minds and spirits to do the same; we must excel, we must win and stand above others to be recognized. Without this pressure and demand how many of us would devote their lives to providing greater comforts and luxuries for the whole of mankind? How many of us would have been content to simply provide for our own livelihood and then relax and enjoy the comfort of the same? It is far easier to demonize those people and things we cannot understand than to try to accept and understand them, fear trumps doubt every time. I am a contributor because I have to be, not necessarily because I want to even though I do enjoy the part, I have been taught to do so. Given the choice I would have kept my life far more simple, it is my goal to return to that!
There are many different sorts of people amongst the Native American community I live and work in. I am not sure how they classify each other, or if they even do so, this is a decidedly Anglo practice and it has little place here. These people may be judgmental at times, as we all are, depending on the standards each of us holds ourselves to, but the acceptance of these differences is what sets this place apart. Everyone is someone here, no matter their heritage, their appearance, or their life choices; they are all still very human and are treated accordingly. When there is a feast nobody is turned away, if a hand is stretched out for help it is almost always given, if the need is there it is filled. I have differentiated the people by my own measures. There are those who are part Spanish, part Anglo, or simply of a modern mindset, and there are those who are not. Invariably I am drawn to the ones who are not, though I am equally fascinated by those who are as they seem to have made an adjustment that I myself have struggled with for my entire life. If anything it is these individuals who are judged the most harshly for trying to advance themselves. It is as if they have betrayed their ancestors by embracing the Anglo values and beliefs. It may be for this very reason so many of them fail to return to their homes where they could benefit so many people and live off the reservation instead. I have never even wanted to make that transition, I have simply been forced to adjust in order to survive and there are those here who have not. I am learning something of life from them all but in drawing close to those who have neither the desire nor even the ability to move into the modern realm I am finding more of myself. I love these people as I have loved few others and for the very reason of whom and what they are and how it so fits the way I have always been; base.
The people here within this reservation can trace their lineage directly to the fiercest of the warriors, the greatest of the leaders and the very roots of their community, they know their history and they are proud of the same. Theirs is a story which reeks of injustice and struggle in more recent years and yet reaches further back to a rich and fulfilling existence, the heritage remains. They need only go back a couple of generations to visit a life which was in harmony with the earth itself and with each other, a community such as I have never known, at least until now. There are those who have made the necessary adjustments and grown with the times, there are others who have never made the transition and in spite of their intelligence and education have remained much the same sort of people their predecessors were, unpretentious, uncomplicated and humble to a point of reverence. I love these people and wish to be more like them than I will ever be able to be! They are genuine and honest, calm and simple and so direct as to challenge my very faith in whom and what I am. I am honored that they have taken the time to point this out to me; most others would not have bothered to do so. They think enough of me to want to show me a better way, I am an eager pupil.
I am intelligent and I have the intellect to go with it. I am also intellectual but it baffles me more than it helps. It is what causes me to go off on a tirade trying to understand and explain the reason for it rather than simply just being who and what I am; it is far more complicated than that. It is the same complexity which sets me apart from my closest friends here, they think I am out of my mind to worry so much about such things, and they are all so right. Everything must have a foundation, a starting point and a supporting structure, a base. These people understand that principal and I have, after so many years of searching, finally found one also. For them it is simple, they just are who they are and live their lives accordingly. I wish to do the same and I have been trying to do so all of my life. If I stay here long enough I just might learn how to do that!