I usually watch TV while I eat, a habit I picked up watching Seinfield reruns years ago. At lunch today I was skipping around the channels and stopped at FNX (First Nation Experience). There was a series of shorts on the Creative Native program. In one a woman showed how to make a ‘book’ to hold an eagle feather; the eagle feather is treasured by Native Americans. The ‘book’ would help preserve the feather between ceremonial uses. Next there was spot about using art as an expression of culture. One of the tribes represented were the Maori of Australia. There was a panel of four women who gave opinions about what name, or term, was the best to use to refer to Native Americans. As you may imagine, “Indians” was not a favorite because people who are really Indian come from India. Finally there was a program that focused on teaching young children the language of the tribe to which they belonged. One of the teachers said, “If the members of our tribe don’t know how to speak our language, how can they claim to be from our tribe?”

The Creative Native program ended and I skipped to another channel, WYCC. On this program there were children on a playground who were being interviewed. They spoke a language I never heard before. I could tell by their dress and surroundings that they lived in Europe so I watched for a while. Then a teacher was interviewed. She spoke the language too and was talking (there were subtitles) about how their language almost died out and said, “If we let out language die, we let our culture die too and we’ll soon forget the important lessons of our past.” A minute later one of the teachers spoke English and I found out that the language the children had spoken was Irish. I felt strange. My grandfather came from county Antrim in Northern Ireland. I  heard him speak Irish when I was a child, but I never learned it, neither did my father.

It was interesting to see two groups, separated by the Atlantic ocean, sharing the same concerns for their culture and language. After thinking about it I wondered, ‘Is it the language and culture they are trying to preserve or are those things symptoms of the universal feeling that we have lost something, something that would improve our lives if we could recover it?’ I don’t have an answer, but I suspect those feelings are universal worldwide, and I suspect it has to do with our existence as spiritual beings in physical bodies. What do you think?

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