Sunday, November 20, 2011

Potlatch time

Potlatch is the Chinook word for a ceremony of the native tribes of the Pacific Northwest. To celebrate and give thanks, a chief would hold a feast for his tribe and give away his belongings. The bigger the chief, the more he would give away, including his wives.

In the late 19th century, the United States made potlatching illegal. They considered it "a worse than useless custom" that was wasteful, unproductive and contrary to civilized values.

I'm preparing for a potlatch. I will not be giving away my wives but I'm going through my belongings and picking out things that have meaning for me, and giving them away to people in my tribe. I'm excited.

One of the things I'm giving away is a book called DAMN EVERYTHING BUT THE CIRCUS by Sister Corita Kent. She is one of my favorites.

On each page Sister Corita has illustrated a letter of the alphabet using fluorescent colors and vintage wood cuts and handwritten words she's chosen from Camus and Dostoyevsky and Cream and Helen Keller. Forty years later it feels fresh and inspiring. It feels good to share it.

Great ideas, it has been said,
come into the world as gently as doves.
Perhaps then, if we listen attentively, we shall hear,
amid the uproar of empires and nations,
a faint flutter of wings, the gentle stirring of life and hope.
Some will say that this hope lies in a nation;
others in a man.
I believe rather that it is awakened, revived,
nourished by millions of solitary individuals
whose deeds and works every day
negate frontiers and the crudest implications of history.
As a result, there shines forth fleetingly
the ever-threatened truth
that each and every man,
on the foundations of his own sufferings and joys,
builds for all.

Albert Camus

Then an old advertisement:

Beware of Counterfeits!
RELIEF for the DISTRESSED and BALM for the WOUNDED is found in
Manufactured by PERRY DAVIS & SON,
No. 74 High Street, Providence, R.I.

And at the bottom, in Sister Corita's tiny handwriting:

J.C. he pitched his tent here


Update: Here are the rest of the items in the potlatch.

1 comment:

I'm principal of a said...

Have to include one more thing from the book!

...damn everything that is grim, dull,
motionless, unrisking, inward turning,
damn everything that won't get into the circle,
that won't enjoy,
that won't throw its heart into the tension,
surprise, fear and delight
of the circus,
the round world,
the full existence...

S. Helen Keller