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jeudi 6 avril 2017


Levy-Strauss the respected name in the field of Anthropology, French, Jewish and did his field work in Brasil and was professor in various universities and had written a lot about symbolism.
He argued that Symbolism came before language.
Before objects had symbolic meanings, but with the arrival of language, the universe surrounding the humans came to signify things but that does not mean we understood things around us any better.
Immediately I thought of that novel that had influenced me so much while I was still in Australia, trying to learn the meaning of magical realism, only to make it, a purpose in life.
Melquiades always fascinated me, a wandering Gypsy, dressed in clothes that were about to fly off in the wind, with an Asian face but no definite nationality attached to it, who could talk about beri-beri in Jakarta to the cyclones off the coast of Madagascar
Macondo where Aureliano Buendia had decided to make his home, Macondo, is sheer symbolism, especially when you learn about the Latin American history of the invaders and creoles who were born there who did not see eye to eye with the Spaniards
The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point them
Here is the first page of One Hundred Years of Solitude. In those sultry nights by the sea wall along Baracoa, Cuba which was our own Macondo, we used to recite the first and last lines of the books by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Gabo to us in Cuba.
Of course, over the course of the time I have been living among the Omaha, I have understood what Lame Deer talks about Symbolism, how it is so prevalent in the daily life of the Indian.
"We Sioux spend a lot of time thinking about everyday things which in our minds are mixed up with the spiritual. We see in the world around us many symbols that teach us the meaning of life. We have a saying that the white man sees so little, he must see with only one eye. We see a lot that you no longer notice. You could notice if you wanted to, but you are usually too busy. We Indians live in a world of symbols and images where the spiritual and commonplace are one...We try to understand them not with the head but with the heart"
Lame Deer
He also had this to say about Sacrifice and Suffering:
The difference between the white man and us is this: You believe in the redeeming powers of suffering, if this suffering was done by somebody else, far away, two thousand years ago. We believe that it is up to every one of us to help each other, even though the pain of our bodies. ...We do not lay this burden onto our God, nor do we want to miss being face to face with the Spirit Power. ...We want no angel or saint to gain it for us and give it to us second-hand."
Lame Deer, Lakota
I have to give a talk to a gathering of Indians in Anchorage, Alaska in June. I have to explain to people who are not working in the field of health, the symbolism and metaphors present in the world of the Omaha Indians when it comes to illness and suffering and the dysfunction of the body.
As Lame Deer had said, I have to speak with my heart and not with my head.
How can I explain how I learned to assist Omaha in their quest for better health?
It would have been far more difficult had I not studied Medical Anthropology!
1.     Accept the Omaha Indians as Unique, in the way they look at the world
2.     At the same time, reduce this CULTURAL, SOCIAL, HISTORICAL, PSYCHOLOGICAL differences between the Omaha and the observer (doctor, anthropologist or whichever outsider) by living among the Omaha.
3.     Discover the common humanness
My testimony would be of interest not only to the Omaha Indians but to other Indians as well.
The sun is about to set in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. People are going to work in the Americas and the people are retiring for the night in Australia. So I am in this magical state, neither asleep nor fully awake but conscious of this entire planet that is moving around the sun.