Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings 3 and 4

The past couple of blog posts have been about the first two parts of conflict resolution outlined in Joy Harjo’s book, Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings: Poems.  The third part is “give constructive feedback”. I’m having trouble understanding this section. One reason is feedback is a response to a statement or event, and I don’t see what the feedback is in response to. Maybe the point is the feedback below is not constructive. Please leave any comments that would help me understand.

3. GIVE CONSTRUCTIVE FEEDBACK:

  • We speak together with this trade language of English. This trade language enables us to speak across many language boundaries. These languages have given us the poets:
  • Ortiz, Silko, Momaday, Alexie, Diaz, Bird, Woody, Kane, Bitsui, Long Soldier, White, Erdrich, Tapahonso, Howe, Louis, Brings Plenty, okpik, Hill, Wood, Maracle, Cisneros, Trask, Hogan, Dunn, Welch, Gould
  • The 1957 Chevy is unbeatable in style. My broken-down one-eyed Ford will have to do. It holds everyone: Grandma and grandpa, aunties and uncles, the children and the babies, and all my boyfriends. That’s what she said, anyway, as she drove off for the Forty-Nine with all of us in that shimmying wreck.
  • This would be no place to be without blues, jazz—Thank you/mvto to the Africans, the Europeans sitting in, especially Adolphe Sax with his saxophones … Don’t forget that at the center is the Mvskoke ceremonial circles. We know how to swing. We keep the heartbeat of the earth in our stomp dance feet.
  • You might try dancing theory with a bustle, or a jingle dress, or with turtles strapped around your legs. You might try wearing colonization like a heavy gold chain around a pimp’s neck.

Harjo, Joy. Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings: Poems. W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.


The fourth part, “reduce defensiveness and break the defensiveness chain”, does make sense to me. Has some beautiful ideas and expressions.

4. REDUCE DEFENSIVENESS AND BREAK THE DEFENSIVENESS CHAIN

  • I could hear the light beings as they entered every cell. Every cell is a house of the god of light, they said. I could hear the spirits who love us stomp dancing. They were dancing as if they were here, and then another level of here, and then another, until the whole earth and sky was dancing.
  • We are here dancing, they said. There was no there.
  • There was no “I” or “you.”
  • There was us; there was “we.”
  • There we were as if we were the music.
  • You cannot legislate music to lockstep nor can you legislate the spirit of the music to stop at political boundaries—
  • —Or poetry, or art, or anything that is of value or matters in this world, and the next worlds.
  • This is about getting to know each other.
  • We will wind up back at the blues standing on the edge of the flatted fifth about to jump into a fierce understanding together.

Harjo, Joy. Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings: Poems. W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.

“Every cell is a house of the god of light” is a new way to think about the Inner Light. “I could hear the spirits who love us stomp dancing.” The spirits who love us. “Until the whole earth and sky was dancing”.

One of the first lessons I learned about justice work is that it is not about you. You have to learn to step out of yourself to get a better view of what is going on. There is no “I” or “you”. There was us; there was “we”. That is how to break the defensiveness chain.

I was talking with my friend Matthew Lone Bear several months after the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March and the subject turned to walking some distance. He said, “man, we can walk anywhere”. We.

“There we were as if we were the music”.

“You cannot legislate the spirit of the music”.

“This is about getting to know each other”. Getting to know each other was the point of walking 94 miles over 8 days along empty country roads. That gift of time, place and space allowed us to share our stories, story after story, getting deeper and deeper.

“Jump into a fierce understanding together”.

What a beautiful concept. And the defensiveness chain is broken.

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