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Posts Tagged ‘daniel a. brown’

Review: “Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions” by Richard Erdoes

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

A review by Daniel A. Brown
©2010 Daniel A. Brown

This book, published in 1972 about a contemporary Lakota elder and holy man was co-written by an unlikely source. Born in 1912 in Frankfort, Germany; Richard Erdoes was a shy, lonely kid, finding solace in nature and loving American Indians thanks to Karl May, who was famous in Europe for writing fantastically vivid Western epics.

Fleeing Hitler, Erdoes re-settled in New York City, but found himself traveling to the wide open prairies of South Dakota, which filled him with a sense of peace. It was only a matter of time before he came into the company of Lakota spiritual elders, one of whom, John Fire Lame Deer, decided that he wanted Erdoes to write a book about his life and Lakota traditions. And so they began, at a time when Native Americans were finally emerging from their own Dark Ages of having their culture suppressed. “Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions” is the result of this collaboration.

The story is narrated exclusively by its namesake and the old guy is a hoot. Profane, hilarious, sacred and profound, he destroys every stereotype about not only grim, unsmiling stoic Indians, but also grinning, antiseptic New Age “teachers”. Raised on the Rosebud reservation right after the turn of the century, he began life as an angry, if not, imaginative rebel who refused to accept his humiliating station in life. Early in his story, Lame Deer describes this mad car-stealing spree in which he hijacked several Model T’s in the middle of a South Dakota blizzard while “drunk as a boiled owl”, one of the colorful metaphors that Lame Deer peppers his language with.

Sent to a reformatory, he learned a trade and after a stint as a sign painter, rodeo clown,  peyote-church worshipper, tribal cop, and sheep herder; all described in nuances that suggest an indigenous Garrison Keillor, he finally settled down into what he decided was his true mission in life, namely, “Being an Indian”.

A major portion of the narrative concerns the explanation of Lakota rituals and spiritual world-view that are most likely well-known to any informed reader. But these sections are not what make this tale unique. It is more about Lame Deer observing how the secret threads of life operate differently from the linear pattern we have come to expect: Go to school, get a job, get married, move up the ladder of material success, and then retire.

Lame Deer looks at this differently, the result of his own erratic life. “The ‘find-out’”, he explains, “It has lasted my whole life. In a way I was always hopping back and forth across the boundary line of my mind.” He identifies with artists because they are the “Indians of the white world”. Meaning, they are the dreamers and visionaries who see the spirit realm and usually have trouble navigating the “Green Frog Skin World”, the colorful adjective referring to Lame Deer’s term for money. Lame Deer understands only too well what a corrupting influence the Green Frog Skin has had, not only on his own people, but on humanity at large.

“Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions” might seem dated in the present culture of Indian casinos and New Age megabucks but it is an excellent bridge between the current and the traditional as well as a shrewdly entertaining read. Both Lame Deer and Erdoes have passed away but their book is a fitting tribute to the integrity of both men and their unusual partnership.

A Lesson in Gratitude, part 2 of 2 by Daniel A. Brown

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

As Thanksgiving approaches, this tale helps me to remember gratitude. Gratitude is a doorway through which the blessings of The Universal Friend flow into our lives.

A Lesson in Gratitude
Part 2 of 2
©2008 Daniel A. Brown

After a shower and some blessed hours of sleep, we joined the family for dinner. To my dying day, I’ll never forget the meal we were served. It consisted of Kraft’s macaroni and cheese, Wonder Bread and “cherry” Kool-Aid. Now, normally, I don’t eat food like this. Wonder Bread is bread in name only, all the nutrients being sucked out of it before being baked into some tasteless white glop. Kool-Aid is basically sugar mixed with red dye #2 that causes cancer in mice and the cheese in the macaroni comes from a fluorescent powder that is probably extracted from a nuclear waste dump. In all, this meal was un-natural, un-organic, and unhealthy.

I ate every bite.

I did so because the meal was offered to us with the purest of love and to refuse it would have been rudeness bordering on blasphemy. Had they served a cake baked with rat poison for dessert, I still would have shared it, convinced that the loving energy in which it was offered would have counter-balanced any potential harm. Thirty years later, I am still thankful for this particular meal.

Over the recent years, I have joined the Buddhist monks and nuns of our local Peace Pagoda on various pilgrimages around the nation. I noticed that, because they depend on the benevolence of strangers, they aren’t picky about the food they are offered. Thus, I have seen them offer prayers of thanks for meals ranging from a bowl of brown rice to a plate of greasy fried chicken straight from Fry-o-lator Hell. It’s all the same to them and they only express displeasure at some of their more spoiled pilgrims who reject a meal because of what is euphemistically referred to as “food issues”. For those of you outside the loop, “food issues” are manifested by people who won’t eat this or that for a long list of real or imagined health or social issues. Being privileged Americans, they are free to accept and reject what is available to eat to make sure that only the purest, healthiest and fair-traded foods enter their delicate systems.

Unfortunately, billions of people in other parts of the world suffer from “food issues” too. If they don’t find something to eat, they and their children starve to death. To me, that’s the ultimate “food issue”.

In retrospect, I try to eat a balanced and healthy diet (as long as it includes pizza and coffee). But I also try to stop and remind myself to express gratitude and thanks for the fact that I am eating and don’t suffer either from physical want or the fear of want. There but for the grace of God go all of us in the shoes of those who are hungry and have little on their plates. They don’t have the luxury of choice. We do.

http://www.danielbrownart.com

Dan Brown’s Latest Paintings

Saturday, November 21st, 2009

More at Dan’s web site.
Beauty of God
Beauty of God

Darkest Hour
Darkest Hour

Birches
Birches

Ridgelines
Ridgelines

A Lesson in Gratitude, part 1 of 2 by Daniel A. Brown

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

As Thanksgiving approaches, this tale helps me to remember gratitude. Gratitude is a doorway through which the blessings of The Universal Friend flow into our lives.

As kids growing up in 1950’s America, our family observed the standard Thanksgiving ritual of going around the table and declaring what we had to be thankful for. Being raised in privilege, my sister and I took everything for granted and couldn’t really think of anything truly humbling. So instead, we mumbled some cliché we probably heard on television and waited for the turkey to be carved. Back then we knew that other children were starving in China and India but had no idea that they were equally hungry right up the street in Harlem and down the road in Appalachia.

The concept of gratitude never sank in until later in life and in a rather unusual manner. During my stint with the Renaissance Community, I was part of a commercial painting crew that remodeled the S. S. Kresge and J. J. Newberry five-and-dimes that inhabited small-town America before they were destroyed by Wal-Mart. While the work was mundane, the method was anything but. We would arrive Saturday afternoon just as the store closed, unroll huge sheets of plastic to cover the long aisle-length counters, set up the spray gun and work non-stop until opening time on Monday morning, a period of 40 straight hours without sleep, fueled by a healthy diet of cigarettes, coffee and Brach’s Kandy Korns.

It’s the kind of crazy adventure you cherish in your youth and subsequently bore your grandchildren with. And it’s one of the verities of youth is that you can accomplish anything if the music is loud enough. On that Monday morning, however, we found ourselves too understandably exhausted to drive all the way back to Turners Falls so we tried to find a motel to collapse in. But Lake George on a long July 4th holiday weekend offered no such advantage so we did the only thing smart painting contractors could do. We went to the nearest Benjamin Moore paint store and asked the lady behind the counter if she knew a place where we could crash. She responded that we could stay overnight with her and her family which surprised us completely. Here we were, a gang of tired, shaggy hippies, aromatic with sweat and Thin-X, being welcomed into the home of a solid American citizen. But our weariness outweighed our wariness so off we went to her tidy ranch house just outside of town. Upon meeting her husband and kids, part of the mystery of her kindness was explained. Her husband was wheelchair bound; suffering from a degenerative disease that he knew would eventually kill him. Since his infirmity, most of his friends had deserted him, a shock which had taught him the finer points of generosity. Thus, we were graciously invited into his home.

©2008 Daniel A. Brown

Dan Brown’s latest paintings

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

Again Dan takes us into the beautiful astral realms and treats us to his sublime visions and breath taking colors. My favorite is “Monument Valley Moon”.

HaArvest Moon
Harvest Moon

West Wind
West Wind

Pagoda of Peace
Pagoda of Peace

Monument Valley Moon
Monument Valley Moon

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