Questioning one's life values...
I sometimes have difficulty coming to terms with the modern world's culture and often ask myself what is it really all worth for the next generation. What kind of world is it that we honestly desire for our children? Are we really conscience of the choices we make and of the consequences of our decision making for future generations?
In my daily work with at-risk children and young people during my last 20 years in Brazil, I like to believe that what we are offering those children through my organisation, the Children At Risk Foundation, are life values that hopefully they will adopt and pass on to their future offspring, maybe in some way breaking the cycle of an impoverished education. My work has taught me how important we adults are as role models and about the fragility of human culture when we are not, but does our modern society really understand how our own behaviour forges a vital connection between the older and younger generations? Are we really aware of our responsibilities?
So many questions, but only each of us, through our individual and collective behavior and attitude can provide the answers...
Through my recent cooperation with the Guarani Mbyá Indians, who tragically have lost many of the natural conditions that guaranteed the continuation of their significant traditions and way of life practiced through generations, I have learnt how important the consistent transmission of meaningful life values in a society can be and how we must strive to become more conscience of our choices and not simply misguided by the mass media propaganda bombarding us every day in the modern world, resulting in the fact that 90% of what we buy simply ends up in a landfill within 6 months.
This becomes even clearer to me when one observes the Guarani in practice and experiences the vital connection that storytelling, as with their songs, dance, music and spirituality has between the older and younger generations in the Guarani tradition.
10-year old Jeguaká Mirim is a Guarani Mbyá Indian and son of indigenous writers and storytellers Olívio Jekupé and Maria Kerexu, who live with their tribe in a small demarcated area of the Atlantic Rainforest, called Tekoa Krukutu in Paralheiros - São Paulo. At a recent cultural exchange event between the children and young people of my organisation's Hummingbird Project with children and young people of Tekoa Krukutu, Jeguaká Mirim had the opportunity to share with our children one of the 14 stories he has compiled for a book that he hopes to have published soon. As Jeguaká's father already knows, after self having realized a dozen publications, that is not an easy task for an indigenous author.
This was Jeguaká's story to the children of Hummingbird:
The tree in the desert...
"Once upon a time in the middle of the dry desert there lived an old tree.
One day a boy passed by the tree when he suddenly heard the tree crying out: "I am dying of thirst, can you please fetch me some water so that I may drink and continue to live?"
The astonished boy replied to the tree: "Yes! I will go to my village and bring back some water for you". So off he went to the village and collected water in a small pail, which he planned to bring back to the thirsty tree in the desert.
As the boy walked the long journey back to the tree in the desert, he himself became more and more thirsty and would each time drink a little of the water from his pail, but by the time he reached the tree, there was no more water left in his pail to share with the tree, who cried out even more: "Please, please bring me water, I am dying of thirst...!"
The boy immediately promised to do so and hurried off back to his village to bring some more water, but this time he filled a big bucket, making sure that he had enough water for himself on the journey back and could still arrive at the tree with plenty of water left. So after filling the bucket with water off he went back to the desert again, feeling happy to bring water to the thirsty tree.
But, alas, on arriving back at the lonely tree, the boy registered that the tree could not speak to him anymore. The tree was dead! The boy looked at his bucket of water and just cried and cried........"
On hearing Jeguaká's story, I feel he is attempting to pass on something that reflects the Guarani's attitude they have towards their fellow beings that also describes their community economy called Jopoi, which means open-handed: "When they receive something they are already asking themselves how do I pass it on, so not to necessarily pass it on unchanged, but how can the pass it on be enhanced to the right person who is right to receive it," explains Paulo Humberto Porto Borges, a professor at the State University of Western Paraná, who has worked with the Guarani these last 11 years. “It's a dynamic that is open so that if they receive money, or wisdom, or emotional understanding, or possessions of any kind, they are asking themselves how can that pass from the one hand that receives it and the other that gives it away, in contrast to the white man who they describe as closed-handed. The Gaurani are generous, because they are not people who accumulate, they don't close their hands” says Porto Borges.
Obviously Jeguaká Mirim is harvesting important life values from the storytelling traditions passed on through his people and is using them to form his own ideas and create pathways through the difficult future he and his people face as Guarani Indians in the white man’s Brazil.
"When any given human culture disappears, humanity becomes more fragile and poorer," Porto Borges said. "The Guarani teach us that it is possible to resist and to maintain their integrity and culture even though they are fighting a globalized culture like ours."