Scraps on Your Journey

The Pawnee (a tribe of Native Americans living in Kansas and Oklahoma) have a legend about the meaning of life that I find both interesting and startling.

For years, I’ve studied origination myths–stories of how the world was formed, according to many religions, nations, and legends. I’m amazed at how many different stories there are, and how the stories have so many things in common.

Here is my recollection of the Pawnee legend:

The Journey. © Quinn McDonald, inks on paper. 2012 All rights reserved.

We must all walk our path. Each person’s path is different, but we must all walk on our own. We will cross other paths, and they may seem similar, but there is just one path for each person. We walk on it in the day, and we sleep on it at night. If we live to see the morning, we get up and continue walking. We cannot go backwards, we must always move ahead.

On the path, there are scraps of notes. These are experiences. Sometimes, we do not know what the experience means, but we must still live it, take that scrap and put it in our pocket. No scrap is too small. Even if the scrap has only a part of a letter on it, we must take it along.

There are times in our life, when we put all the notes together and look at the whole it makes. Maybe we understand what we read, maybe we have part of a map, maybe we suddenly see where we are going. That is the wisdom of experience.

There can be many understandings along the way, but there will always be more scraps, more notes, more experiences. We live life, and life also lives us.

When we understand what the Great Creator wants of us, when we do what we are born to do, we stop longing to be on another path and walk our own in peace.

* * *
I love this story, because it tells the story of keeping a journal, of making meaning through writing and art–the way we take notes about our life.

–Quinn McDonald is a note taker. She crosses paths with other meaning-makers, and spends time asking questions about their journey. In this way, she is a creativity coach.

16 thoughts on “Scraps on Your Journey

  1. I, too, love myth-making and how, in the different myth categories (such as origin myth, hero myth, etc.), there are so many shared features throughout the world, yet each retain their own individuality. I love the line here, “We live life, and life also lives us.”

      • Interestingly enough, I’ve read similar expressions in both Kierkegaard and Heidegger (existential philosophers), as well. When something keeps turning up like that, it might be worth paying attention to.

          • I’m sorry for my poor writing skills. I meant the synchronicity of the phrase we were discussing in the thread, “We live life, and life also lives us.”

          • Not poor writing skills, I just lacked the antecedent. Had I read your posts in order, I would have seen it. WordPress shows me the comments in time order, so I missed it. I’ve always loved many aspects of Existentialism, and found the philosophy to ring true in many facets. And I love both the existential and absurdist writers like Søren Kierkegaard, Franz Kafka, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Albert Camus. But another part of me believes in compassion and lovingkindness and an overreaching loving Spirit, so I guess I can do the Orwellian test of holding two opposing beliefs in my mind at the same time.

          • Ah. That makes sense regarding post order. I don’t think there is any problem with the opposing thoughts, either, though in the case of most of the existentialists you mention, if you dig deep enough, they too, hope and look for compassion and lovingkindness around them. Perhaps that is a natural human inclination? I would like to hope so, but I don’t know.

  2. Hey, I remember doing a project about the Pawnee way back in Indian Guides! IIRC the Pawnee paid a lot of attention to the night sky, and Venus was a very important indicator for them, maybe because it didn’t act like a star (obviously). It had something important to do with the first human, who in their story was a girl. She might have come from Venus, or maybe she WAS Venus or something. They were (or maybe are) matrilineal, but on the other hand their human sacrifices were only of girls.

    • According to Wikipedia (I didn’t go to primary sources, sorry), “Tirawa (also called Atius Tirawa) was the Creator god. He was believed to have taught the Pawnee people tattooing, fire-building, hunting, agriculture, speech and clothing, religious rituals (including the use of tobacco and sacred bundles), and sacrifices. He was associated with most natural phenomena, including stars and planets, wind, lightning, rain, and thunder. The wife of Tirawa was Atira, goddess of the Earth. Atira was associated with corn.”

  3. I came across this recently;

    “Even the idea of a journey turns out to be some kind of illusion. Where are you going if you are always here? Who are you looking for if you are always you?”
    Christopher Lowman, The Living Smile

    I’ve always loved the idea of paths snd journeys, but I like the simplicity implied by the quote. Perhaps the path is less about moving towards something else, and more about arriving at our own hearth.

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