Many years ago, I was privileged to spend some time with an incredible man named Hyemeyohsts Storm. He described himself as a “breed,” his mother being Native American and his father German. Storm was, in my own experience, a wise, insightful mystic, as well as also being what Native Americans call a “coyote,” a trickster, who was equally willing to hoodwink naïve Anglos in search of a shaman or to ignore the outrage of conservative Natives who resented his sharing native ideas with non-natives.
In fact, Storm drew on various traditions, ancient and modern, as well as on his own poetic imagination, to explain his philosophical insights. He has been both highly praised and criticized, as is often the case with one who, as is said, “has a foot in two canoes,” trying to bridge differences between cultures.
Because our society itself these days is so split, with whatever anyone says or does being subjected to praise and criticism, depending upon the listener’s perspective, I have thought to include here an excerpt from one of Storm’s books, Seven Arrows, a work that is part history and part fantasy, as much wisdom literature is. I think it speaks directly to us today as strongly as it did back when he wrote it. Glenda Taylor
“If you and I were sitting in a circle of people on the prairie, and if I were then to place a painted drum or an eagle feather in the middle of this circle, each of us would perceive these objects differently. Our vision of them would vary according to our individual positions in the circle, each of which would be unique.
Our personal perceptions of these objects would also depend upon much more than just the different positions from which we looked upon them. For example, one or more of us might suffer from color blindness, or from weak eyesight. Either of these two physical differences would influence our perceptions of the objects.
There are levels upon levels of perspectives we must consider when we try to understand our individual perceptions of things, or when we try to relate our own perceptions to those of our brothers and sisters. Every single one of our previous experiences in life will affect in some way the mental perspective from which we see the world around us.
Because of this, a particular object or event may appear fearful to you at the same time that it gives pleasure to me or appears completely uninteresting to a third person. All things that we perceive stimulate our individual imaginations in different ways, which in turn causes us to create our own unique interpretations of them. Love, hate, fear, confusion, happiness, envy, and all the other emotions we feel act upon us to paint our perceptions of things in different colors.
If the thing I were to place within our circle should be an abstraction, such as an idea, a feeling, or a philosophy, our perceptions of it would then be even more complicated than if the object had been a tangible thing. And further, the number of different perceptions of it would become greater and greater as more and more people were added to our circle. The perception of any object, either tangible or abstract, is ultimately made a thousand times more complicated whenever it is viewed within the circle of an entire People as a whole. The understanding of this truth is the first lesson of the Medicine Wheel…”