I was having a hard time tearing my attention away from his words, spoken in a soothing tone, in order to take notes on his answers. But how else would I capture his wise thoughts?
I was volunteering at L.A.’s Green Festival when I spotted this older man dressed in traditional Native American clothes. I noticed him lingering after the conclusion of a lecture so I decided to approach him to discuss his culture’s relationship with the environment.
He introduced himself to me as Daniel, but also offered his other name, Eagle. I noticed him holding a wooden staff with a carved eagle, reassuring me of his commitment to his identity.
“We are one with all, we do not stand apart,” he started as he explained his people’s strong connection with the environment. They saw themselves as caretakers of all the elements –the wind, air, water, fire.
Gesturing to the large number of attendees at the festival, I asked him what he would advise to those who wish to tackle our current environmental issues. Where should they begin?
“Go within. The balance of life lies within,” Eagle stated simply. His words encouraged me to contemplate the state God created us in. God informs us in the Qur’an of the balance He established and asked us to maintain (Surah ar-Rahman, verses 7-9).
“Don’t discover who you are, remember who you are,” Eagle emphasized as I continued to reflect on God’s creation of mankind’s spirit.
For if we are able to look beyond the distractions and pressures our society imposes on us from all sides, we may find ourselves ready to embrace a more moderate and balanced life. A life not governed by consumerism and wastefulness. A life not filled with dissatisfaction and discontent. A life that breathes with the earth, not against it.
To my pleasant surprise, Eagle turned out to be a UCLA alumnus. So before we parted, he gave me a final message to share with my fellow bruins:
“The bear spirit walks with you. Know that though it seems slow, it is quick. It is strong.
The bear knows how to live at one with this world.”