I try very hard to be mindful of words that truly belong to certain people, races, cultures etc. No one wants to be called a culture vulture or to be accused of appropriating. I have had amazing conversations regarding how to enjoy, promote and appreciate something that is does not particularly “belong” to the culture to which you were raised. One of the ways that I have researched to be respectful and honor those areas that I have an affinity with is to go beyond the item and interact directly with the source.
As far back as I can recall I was most fascinated with television when my dad and I would watch PBS. There was always something on there that pulled at some deep dormant knowledge that I believe we all possess. I felt connected to places, peoples and even animals that living in a trailer park on the outskirts of Des Moines, Iowa would have never been physically accessible to me. Where this lead me was to a deep appreciation to honor other peoples cultures.
I wanted access to as much material as I could find. There was a drive to discover the world in its entirety. All through school I can remember picking topics for reports and essays that seemed way out of my league. Malcom X was a 7th grade essay topic. I have written reports on the Salem Witch Trials and many others non typical age appropriate matters. Because I was not allowed to learn to drive until I was 18 I did not have access to a lot of things. So, I would take any opportunity I had to get to bookstores and libraries. My sister and I use to ride our bikes several miles to get to the library. I most certainly was not a person who’s nose was always in a book but I certainly made sure I was absorbing as much as I could.
I never knew my affinity for nature. I wanted to know about all the flora and fauna I could. They had a language that I thought everyone could understand. It would take much pain, pride and persistence to understand I was not like others. For the longest time I felt ostracized and isolated. I was constantly being told that I was doing something wrong and not the right way.
The more I was pushed away from others the closer I became to nature. I have had trees as friends. I have seen things that I know were not of imagination or of a sick brain. If you look into nature with the same gaze that you look into what you love it will stare back and share.
All of my life every time I have slept I have dreamt. That is a lot of dreams for a 41 year old. I started to recognize that my dreams were gateways and a vehicle to other places. There was always so much emotion and activity wrapped into a nights slumber. Even when I would nap I would dream. What does all of this have to do with honoring others? Because I was raised to believe that fact is fact and fiction is fiction. It was not until I started understanding that the words were not nearly as important as the definition that those bearing thought it was.
If everyone cannot see it, hear it, experience it etc it is not real. If they can its real. I felt very much like I had been switched at birth and this was no way my people. I did not belong. I was too much of this. Too little of that. If I was experiencing something and no one else was, I was fibbing. Fibbers were not to believed. It was not until I found freedom in my own room, my own heart and my own mind that I realized that I was in fact not like “them.”
As soon as I could drive and afford a vehicle I was spending time in nature. Most of the people my age was out partying and getting into trouble. Though I had my run ins with teenage angst I was nothing like my peers. It was not until I watched 7 years in Tibet with Brad Pitt that I learned and realized that I had a gift. That I had potentially been honored by having multiple essences within my body. This bigger term for this is reincarnation. What I also understood was that I could not have open conversations with everyone.
That movie opened up an understanding of Buddhism and from there launched me into the fringes of the cosmos where I felt like I had been traveling my entire life to while I slept.
The difference in honoring and harboring to the point of appropriation is that I am 100% content with who I am to begin with. I am honored by my own existence and life’s journey. I simply want to honor the experience of others and share that experience with those around me. So, when I speak of having a spirit animal I never thought of something exotic or far away. I had a cat name Delores growing up that we had a very deep connection. When she had her first litter of kittens she stopped the birthing process to come and get me in the living room. When the Crows would caw outside my window and I would speak to them they would speak back.
My dad took me deer hunting in my tweens. We had just gotten to camp and all the men were setting up and getting ready for the day. There was a fire blazing and I felt like I was being stared at. I look up and thought I saw a cow. I said, “Dad is that a cow?” He said, “No, it is a deer.” I had never been that close to one before. The deer slowly turned away and went back into the woods. I could feel where the deer were around us.
I was not raised being told that these connections meant something. But, in other cultures and parts of the world it is instilled at a very young age. So, like most when I liked something I wore it. I tried my best to explain where it came from and what I understood its purpose was. What I have learned through conversations and research is that is minimal difference between honoring and appropriating.