Biff America: Bon appetite, bug eater
February 15, 2008
When white America was in its infancy, a European scholar and sociologist traveled our new nation. His purpose was to document the cultures and society of the many Native American tribes. The scholar was shocked and delighted by the sophistication of what he once assumed were a very primitive people.
He was impressed by the complex societal system of the Nez Perce tribe. He listened to detailed recitals of oral history of the plains tribes, and heard a Gros Ventre medicine man expound a Yin-Yang philosophy worthy of a Zen Master. He sketched proud Sioux and Comanche braves and marveled at the mastery of healing herbs by the Hopi and Zuni tribes.
The visiting professor marveled at the simple efficiency by which many natives governed themselves and their harmony with their surroundings.
His study completed, he began heading to begin his trip back to Europe. On route he passed through an inhospitable section of the Mojave Desert. While doing so, he stumbled upon a small and unknown tribe.
The tribe, numbering less than 50, was runty in stature, unclean and emaciated. They spent their summer days in primitive lean-tos, avoiding the heat.
When the sun was low in the sky, they would leave their shelters to rout around their immediate vicinity digging up bugs, worms and grubs to eat. Catching the occasional lizard, snake or ground squirrel was cause for celebration.
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The historian was dismayed. After months of observing the sophistication of many tribes, he felt pity and some repugnance for these filthy bug-eaters. He wrote in his journal of the harsh conditions these natives endured and wondered why, with many more hospitable places only a few weeks travel away, they endured their miserable habitat.
After many days, an interpreter was located and the leader of the tribe was invited to the historian’s tent. The Chief seemed shy but unimpressed with the white man’s trappings.
Through the interpreter the researcher asked one question of the Indian leader. “Are you happy living here?”
The old man’s face lit up and his eyes brimmed over with joy, and he said: “Oh yes, this is very good place to live. There are many wonderful bugs to eat.”
Now I’ll admit that is a rather longwinded story leading to a quote of a long dead Indian with beetles on his breath. That said I believe within that the old man’s simple statement lays the secret to happiness then and now. Keep your needs simple, your wants few, and appreciate your blessings.
If you don’t count, clinical depression, disease, death or visiting relatives, much of life’s joys and displeasures are subjective; you can either choose to be happy or not.
We live in a country where creature comforts are often taken for granted. In other nations, and in other times in our own nation, to be sheltered, fed and healthy would be cause to rejoice; now for many of us it is only what is expected.
Shakespeare said: “Poor and content is rich and rich enough.”
If you’re lacking perspective, talk to anyone who has survived a serious illness, near death experience or a time-share tour. They’ll tell you what is required for happiness ” health, love, laughter and (in Summit County) a love of snow shoveling. Yesterday after a magnificent sunrises and beautiful morning, I was in a coffee shop where a guy was outraged over the fact that there were no whole-wheat bagels left; I felt like shaking him.
If you’re reading this, it is my guess that you have it fairly good. Especially when you consider those with real problems; the poor sick, those who ski in New England.
When I do that I realize the old Indian was right.
Every day is a gift and every bug a blessing.