The Landscape of Mind, Body, and Spirit

Silko informs readers in her essay “Landscape, History, and the Pueblo Imagination,” that oral stories go beyond historical purpose for the Pueblo people. These stories “maintain and transmit an entire culture, a world view complete with proven strategies for survival” (1007). Essentially, oral tradition defines not only culture, but thought process. According to Silko, Pueblo thoughts do not allow humans to be removed from the landscape because “human consciousness” lies “within” the components of the landscape; to consider otherwise “assumes the viewer is somehow outside or separate from the territory he or she surveys” (1005). A Pueblo world view summarily understands that human beings are part of the landscape (1006). The Pueblo perspective integrates human beings into the landscape; they are not observers, nor outsiders who study and think about the landscape, but Pueblo view wholly unifies a human’s mind, body, and spirit with the landscape.

The unified landscape of Silko glaringly and surprisingly exposes the imperialistic perspectives of Thoreau, Dillard, and Berry, particularly. Thoreau addresses how best to consider use of the natural environment in Walden, predominantly encouraging a simple, economical perspective of respectful consumption that preserves the integrity of the natural environment. Dillard observes and invades the privacy of the natural environment, exposing the intricacies of the nature, though she seeks a spiritual understanding, she seeks spirituality for herself, again a consumer point of view. In Berry, the imperialistic perspective is perhaps most egregious in that Berry’s view promotes proper managing of land, even restoring it, which makes humans responsible for the land, elevating the human place, making humans parental and authoritative over the land. Though Berry promotes ethical practice, his views reflect a noblesse oblige point of view, a point of view inherently making the human being superior.

The acculturation and domination of native cultures, plant life, and animal life flows counterintuitive to environmentalism. Alice Walker takes on this acculturation and domination and presents the native view in “Everything Is a Human Being.” Walker writes in a passage readers interpret as personification: “As I was lying there, really across their feet, I felt or ‘heard’ with my feelings the distinct request from them that I remove myself. But these are not feet, I thought, peering at them closely, but roots. Roots do not tell you to go away. It was then that I looked up and around me into the ‘faces.’ These ‘faces’ were all middle-aged to old conifers…Clearly these were sick people or trees; irritable, angry, and growing old in pain” (American Earth 660). After considering Silko, the passage is more clearly a desire by Walker to communicate a native view that when nature is sick, humans are sick. Instead of personification, which by definition is based on a human’s viewpoint, Walker encourages us to take an inverse perspective by “naturalizing” humans, or challenging readers to consider a perspective in which the trees look at the human. Unfortunately, Walker cannot use the language of nature, but she tries to unify human perspective with the trees by presenting the text as a dialog between her and the trees.

 

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