On Philosophy

This part of my blog will be particularly for philosophical concepts that I encounter throughout the next two years. Specifically as I work on my Heidegger thesis, as well as my Hegel/Kierkegaard thesis, but also for reflecting on thoughts in whatever grad program I end up in.

As for the first two, I am not quite sure yet what I will be doing with the ideas in Heidegger, but that  will make up the vast majority of my work next semester. The Kierkegaard thesis, however, I do know exactly where I want to go with that. The thesis itself asks: how do humans, as beings who see “the other,” come to any understanding of God, or at least a perfect being. This thesis specifically is attacking, in a Kierkegaardian way, Hegel’s idea that Reason alone can bring us to unity with the perfect thing, or even more, that reason alone is the perfect thing. I confronted this in a paper I have already written on how the Hegelian mediator, as he states it to be, would not be effective. But rather, one would need a mediator that is fully the perfect thing, and fully human in order to bring humans to actual perfection in unity with the perfect thing. In essence, I was making a Thomistic claim about Christ as the perfect mediator, in line with Kierkegaard.

In order to do what I hope to do with this idea (which is a far greater chunk of philosophy than I have tried to do before), I first have to reiterate what Hegel claims, then disprove him on his own grounds, again. From there, I would have to look at how exactly Kierkegaard thinks about God and compare it to how Hegel looks at God. From there, I would take a Thomistic approach and see which idea of God is valid and true, and approach the arguments that way. Kierkegaard approaches God as another Being, thus he approaches God subjectively. From there I would look at how Kierkegaard supposes that we approach and think about a being we cannot see or understand subjectively.

After all of this, I would expect to understand how one can come to a subjective understanding of a personal God, and better yet, how the mediator works into that whole relationship to unify our mortal selves to the Perfect.

In Conclusion

So, as we have seen, the Navajo creation stories have significant influence in the Navajo culture, as well as how we can better understand them. Many of the Navajo ceremonies have to do with the creation stories in some way or another. Again, this would be expected as a people’s understanding of them-selves and why they are there is based on how they think they came about. Just as many Jewish, Christian, and Muslim ceremonies and/or rites are based on their understanding of their history, so do the Navajo people. And it’s not just me saying this either!

http://navajopeople.org/blog/navajo-symbolism-and-sand-painting-rites/ this blog also shows the kinds of ceremonies that there traditionally are, and where they came from. As I read through this, I definitely could find connections to the creation stories. One particular connection that I find interesting is that all of the ritualistic symbols and physical things used are also in the creation stories, where they are first understood as sacred.

By way of where I came by this understanding of Navajo creation stories, here are my references:

http://navajopeople.org/navajo-legends.htm

First World

Second World

Third World

Fourth World

Cover Letter 2

This project was particularly interesting for me, as it simply started out writing about whatever I really wanted to write about. I noticed certain things about memoir and the memoir culture in the class, and I wrote about the rhetoric in and around memoir. From there, I also added some small attempts at memoir from my own life, and that gave me a better idea of what it was actually like to write it, and be on the other side of it. With my observations from all of that, I began to form a thesis, and started directing my research and writings toward that thesis.

By way of weaknesses, I see the fact that I did not start out with a thesis as a weakness. While everything that I wrote ended up helping me develop my thesis, it was more difficult to tie it all together at the end. I think, though, that I ended up succeeding in actually making everything coherent and reasonable. My first installment was a bit challenging, but I think I learned a lot from it, and was able to make the second installment a little more focused. In an attempt to not repeat the kinds of things I did in the first round, I did eliminate some ideas that may have actually been helpful, or at least added more material to analyze in my concluding posts. On the other hand, I think that it was a strength that I wrote so much that might have seemed irrelevant, because by looking at it, I was able to more fully develop my thesis and support it with experiences of actually writing memoir, and reading memoir, and looking at other forms of memoir. It also made it more interesting to read, as the entire blog was not simply an analysis of memoir, but also related it to life experiences and modern understandings of culture.

For me, this project was invaluable to my understanding and learning of modern culture. I have always hated technology and the internet simply because I did not have a really well rounded understanding of either, so I ended up not liking it because I did not understand it. This project helped me to understand, not only how to use a blog well, but also how they really are meant to be used, how they fit into modern culture, and how memoir as a whole has formed and been formed by the modern culture. By using a blog, I was able to utilize many more capabilities than I would have been able to by simply writing a paper or typical memoir on the same things. The rhetorical understanding that we have about how a blog works was the foundation for understanding what I was doing in the project. By using a blog, I was also able to analyze different aspects of blog, and other mediums of social media, as memoir than I would have been able to. In this way, I was able to look at all aspects of modern culture as memoir and the reasons surrounding it.

While I did not always like the choices in memoir that we read, I think that it was a very diverse selection, and so gave us a good understanding of memoir in a short amount of time. The papers, while pretty easy for me, did help to develop my understanding of the works that we read, as well as rhetoric and memoir as a whole. The project, for me, was simply fun. It was very fun way for me to be able to analyze things that I had never thought of before.

By way of participation, I did a lot of group discussion. By participating in group discussion, I was able to articulate ideas that I had in my head, but were too many to put into the small papers that we had. This definitely helped me to understand memoir better and more thoroughly than I would have if I hadn’t participated. I never quite utilized the days that were online as well as I could have. I used the papers to look at aspects of the books that helped me develop my thesis. I also used the ideas that I talked about in the paper to help me develop ideas for my project. This helped me to understand memoir in a deeper way.

The White World

The Fourth World, the world that the Dine believe they live in now is the White or Glittering World, or Nihodihil.

1-4a Forth World

In the White world, the waters were still rising from the Yellow World. First Man and Woman asked the Water Buffalo why she was making the worlds flood, and Coyote showed the Water Buffalo’s children to her. He gave her back the male child, but he female child he kept for himself. During this transaction, many other sacred items were used. The children became known as the Male cloud (black cloud) and the White, Blue and Yellow clouds (Female clouds).

After this, First Man and First Woman made things in the world the way they were supposed to be. They rebuilt the mountains from earth from the Yellow World. They also started a fire with flint from the Yellow world and wood from the White world. The wood is still considered sacred, as well as the fire poker. They made a sweatbath and a sweathouse. First Man and Woman made songs and prayers for it and First Man was the first one to use them. Then they made hogans. First the Male hogan, only used for ceremony’s, and then the Female hogan to live in.

The First Man and First Woman made songs and ceremony’s to help the plants grow and the animals thrive. They had children, and thus the stories of the Monster Slayer (which I will not get into here). The main point of all of this, though, is that through these stories, and the understandings of these worlds of the Dine, we see what is important to them. We see where they get their traditions and ceremony’s, where they started, and why they are so important to the Navajo people.

The Yellow World

The Third World in the Navajo Creation Stories is the Yellow World or Nihaltsoh

 Navajo Third World

In the Yellow World, First Man, First Woman, Coyote, and the other creatures discover the sacred rivers, and the Sacred mountains. There were the four main Sacred Mountains, as well as other sacred mountains. Other animals were in the Yellow World, these were again just spirit beings, not yet fully animal. In the Yellow World, all of the creatures were happy. Until, that is, Coyote stole the Water Monster’s child. Water Monster caused a great flood that covered even Blanco Peak. First Man tried to help all the creatures to not drown, and so planted several trees (thus we first see trees as sacred) and finally planted a female reed that reached to the sky. All of the creatures climbed it, and thus they found themselves in the Fourth World where they all live today.

 

The Blue World

The Second World of the Dine creation stories is the Blue World or Nihodootlizh.

Nihodootlizh – Second World (Blue World)

When the First Man and First Woman came to the Blue World, all of the creatures that lived there were already fighting. Because of the war going on, First Man killed some of the creatures, but then sang songs and the creatures came back to life. As First Man looked at the Blue World he saw that creatures were not happy and wanted to leave the world for a new one. In compassion, First Man tried to help them leave by smoking “sacred tobacco” and blowing it to the four winds. This made the creatures feel better, but they still wanted to leave the Blue World. So, First Man continued to try different things to help the creatures leave. Finally, he made wands out of various materials: black stone, turquoise, shell and abalone. On these wands he carved four footprints. The creatures stepped into the footprints on the wands. They made an offering, and then went through the opening in the South.

Through this story, we see more creatures that are considered sacred to the Dine people. We also see stones, tobacco, and offerings that are still things considered holy today.

The Black World

The First World of the Navajo creation stories is the Black World, or Nihodilhil.

Navajo creation story – The First World “Nihodilhil” (Black World)

In this world, First Man and First Woman come to an understanding of space (the four corners of the world), the elements, and color (the colors of the elements), and other beings than themselves. They understood maleness and femaleness through the Black cloud and the White cloud and everything that the clouds represented. In this world, First Man and First Woman meet each other, and decide to go through life (existence?) together. Together, they learned that they were not the first beings in that world, and that there were many other beings. I do say beings, not simply in a philosophical sense, but rather because they are said to only have the form of man and woman, but not yet man and woman fully. As more and more beings appeared and joined the First Man and First Woman, the world was small, and thus became crowded, so they moved on to the next world.

On Being Human

What does it mean to be human? According to the Medieval Philosophers, it means having reason. While animals have some semblance of reason, it is not the same, in nature as humans. We call this the Chain of Being, and it looks kind of like this:

So what about humans, and particularly our reason, makes us the kind of beings that communicate, and want to communicate? Well, one way we can look at it is that stones don’t really do much. While interesting (and geologists would totally argue with me here), a stone’s existence does not tell us a story, at least not in the way that a human’s life does. Our reason helps us to understand our lives as they relate to time and space; thus, our lives are narratives. Our logic sees the patterns in our life and puts it together as a story. But our reason also sees that our life is not the same as other lives around us, an awareness that does not exist in flames or stones. So we communicate. Granted, that animals (most of them anyhow) have some basic form of communication, but we are able, at least in some way, to actually fully communicate our thoughts. We communicate them in the most substantial way possible: narrative.

A very interesting theory recently developing is the idea that narrative is The Form of Communication. Meaning, it holds within it every substantial form of argumentation and thing that we rhetorically respond to as humans: “tells us about the speaker, the situational context, and the matter under discussion” (237). Everything that one needs to know about what is going on in any particular situation, as well as the why, and reasoning all around the situation is told in a story. It is a basic understanding of how we exist in time and space, and it comes out in a narrative.

As humans, our reason, dictates that we understand the laws of time and space, and so order our lives in a kind of narrative. This is why we share our stories with others, and write them down for ourselves. We know that we can only understand our lives in the context of a narrative, and others can only understand us in context of a story.

Woods, William F.. College Composition and Communication 40.2 (1989): 236–238. Web http://www.jstor.org.libproxy.nau.edu/stable/358142

On The Beginning of the End

So, what then is the point of all of this rambling of mine? The point, is that whatever we are, in our Western world, we care about others. We care about others, and we want to know where other people are from; we want to know that hero’s still exist and that there are people out there that are going through the same things we are, and different things, and that they are doing okay.

 We care about others, and we want to know where other people are from; we want to know that hero’s still exist and that there are people out there that are going through the same things we are, and different things, and that they are doing okay.

The point of memoir is knowing that we are not alone, but at the same time, knowing that we are different. The human experience is different for every person, and we want to know that we are doing a good job living it. So why read memoir? Because you’re human.

So why read memoir? Because you’re human.

As people, we care about other people. We want to care, we want to experience other things, and throughout the ages, we have looked to books to get away from our own world. It has been happening for ages, and it will continue to happen. Part of the human experience is wanting to experience things outside of ourselves.

Books allow us to experience things outside of ourselves, inside of ourselves. We are able to take scenery and imagery that the author gives us to work with, and make it our own. This is why people get so mad when the movie is not like the book: they owned the book in their own particular way, and the movie, or other people’s interpretation of the same work is not that same way.

e8a74d43955024a017a1c8e332178a06-1.jpg

Yes, thank you Doctor, books, memoir, are the greatest weapons in our modern day to combat prejudice, hate, and misunderstanding. Looking through the eyes of another in such a way that you own it and can experience it in your own mind encourages an understanding deeper and far more intimate than any other learning of the world.

This is why we read about other people’s lives, from St. Augustine to Twitter, we use words to communicate in a way that people will process intimately. Through words we are able to communicate what we are thinking, feeling, worried about, and what we have achieved.

200_s-2.gif

We talk to understand, we talk to be understood.

We talk to understand, we talk to be understood. And, we use words in a particular way when we write it down. The words become immortal. Anyone can forget a word that was simply spoken, but no one can forget a word that has been put down in writing. It will always exist. They exist at the end of a Google search. They exist in the minds of all who have seen them. And they exist forever in the mind that wrote them.

In school, we write papers for a reason. Writing words down on a page or a document help our minds to process the information in a particular way. We take notes in lecture to synthesize and summarize the words another person has said. Writing has an interesting way of making us learn and making us remember. Any teacher knows this. Any student knows this. Memoir does the same kind of thing.

Not only does it help the author understand what has happened, it helps its audience to understand another person’s life.

On Navajo Creation Stories

The Dine’ or Navajo have their own sets of origin stories. In these stories, we see what is held sacred by the Navajo people. The stories move through four different worlds: black, blue, yellow, and white. While the colors do seem to mean more than simply the color of the world that First Man and First Woman experienced, I have not yet found the symbolism. In each world, the First Man and First Woman encounter various beings who travel with them to the next world. Many ceremonies revolve around the experiences depicted in each world and story, as well as simply worldview and way of life understandings. Much of the symbolism that occurs in the stories affects how the Navajo understand the world around them, and understand how they should live. All people wonder where they came from, and why they are here. While the Navajo’s origin stories might not answer the second of those questions, they do answer the first.

Navajo Creation Story Painting by Kee Lee

As Westerners have their own ideas of where they came from and where they are going, so do the Navajo. What I find particularly interesting, is that in some way, the creation stories of the Dine reflect the Western understanding of the history of the world. While not being the exact duplicate of our Western stories, the creation stories do have certain elements that ring true to a more universal understanding of where we have come from. They also are particularly interesting as they are very specific to the Southwestern identity, and certain creatures and experiences that are very Southwestern. For example, the mountains that the First Man and First Woman encounter in the Third world are specific mountains in the Southwestern area (Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico specifically). And, just as the Western ideas of origin and creation shape how we think and act in the world, the Dine form their culture through their stories.

I find the creation stories interesting as they give an insight into how the Navajo people think about themselves and the world around them. Where we come from and where we are going is a major part of the human experience, and the culture’s answer to that question shapes how each person in the culture understands their place in the world. Understanding how a people thinks about themselves is key to understanding their culture and world view. A major part of the Navajo creation stories is the unity between the other creatures, the earth, and the First Man and Woman. Knowing that they understood themselves to all be equal, and even that the Humans were not the ‘first born’, (if you will), helps us to understand their desire to help preserve and take care of nature, and their feeling of unity, even today, with the environment.