Siege Diaries 7/5/2021

Today’s Daily Stoic writing prompt: Am I doing the honourable thing?

Interesting prompt tonight on CBC’s Ideas: How do I become a good ancestor? It’s the topic of a book by “public philosophere” Roman Krznaric, which I think I am going to need to seek out and read. That ties into what I’m talking about below, but the idea of legacy projects is very appealing. It’s not very Stoic, but it can be if what you are interested in is not so much your name, but your impact, however small that might be.

The episode in question is here.

I had a great catch-up call with my favourite cousin today. She was telling me that about an aunt and uncle who were not vaccinated (despite multiple medical issues, not to mention age–I believe they’re in their mid-to late 70s, maybe even 80), and their daughter, who is anti-vax. I wish I could say I was surprised, but I’m not. I know they’re not the only ones in the family, either. It’s sad–but it’s particularly sad when we’re talking about vulnerable people.

I finished up the Indigenous Canada course today. It really was worth spending the time on–not just because it’s a topic I think all Canadians who aren’t Indigenous should learn about, but also because of the historical content, the concepts of law, and, of course, the artwork, storytelling, and material culture (which is so much richer when put in its context as a living context, rather than seen in a museum). Hopefully, in the future when it becomes possible, I will get the opportunity to visit to Six Nations for a pow wow. I think it really helped that I’d developed somewhat of an interest in Indigenous-written classical music (having heard three or four different pieces performed by various orchestras, as well as recorded works by Jeremy Dutcher, Tanya Tagaq, and Cris Derkson), artwork, and beadwork. Of course, the imperative for taking the class in the first place was the current focus on the graves being discovered at former residential schools, but I think it’s important for those of us who are not Indigenous to get an understanding of the underlying cultures and worldviews as the treasures that they are, and maybe to start to really listen to their teachings.

I think the real challenge for someone who is not Indigenous is that so much of it is tied up in deep knowledge of a culture that is passed down through generations. Or, to put it in another way, it’ll be hard for me to ever feel this in my bones. I can respect it, I can see the wisdom in it, but it’s not mine. And maybe that’s the learning? My culture has lost its connection with its ancestors as a concept. Oh, we usually know who our grandparents were–although, to be honest, for me they’re mostly just names; I have no idea what any of my grandparents did for a living, for instance–but the sense of being part of a kinship group? Nope. (Maybe it’s better for those who haven’t been completely subsumed into generic “Whiteness” ? Especially since “Whiteness” is so toxic in so many ways?)

We’ve also lost any connection with land as anything much more than property. Land for me is a place to live. I’m more used to thinking of cities and neighbourhoods, of the things that are in these places, such as buildings. But when I think about it, the buildings that matter are those that evoke memories or a shared past–so perhaps that does begin to produce an understanding for those of us who are lacking that kind of upbringing. So, again, maybe the challenge for me is to to try to look at things differently, to really start to consider the long view–not so much to get every last iota of pleasure of my time here on earth, but to think of the future. I may not have children, but I have a responsibility to the future.