Excerpt From `Blue Highways'
THIRD IN A SERIES Home Forum's series on American Indian art and writing continues with excerpts from two notable books.
The novel ``Love Medicine,'' excerpted on the oppo site page, won the 1984 National Book Critics Circle Award. Tomorrow the series concludes with an interview with its author Louise Erdrich.
In ``Blue Highways'' William Least Heat Moon, of Osage background, recounts travels along the back roads of America, the highways marked in blue on maps, a journey he took after losing his job. The book, a critical and popular success, became the first bestseller by an American Indian.
THE Hopi believes mankind has evolved through four worlds: the first a shadowy realm of contentment; the second a place so comfortable the people forgot where they had come from and began worshipping material goods. The third world was a pleasant land too, but the people, bewildered by their past and fearful for their future, thought only of their own earthly plans. At last, the Spider Grandmother, who oversees the emergences, told them: ``You have forgotten what you should have remembered, and now you have to leave this place. Things will be harder.'' In the fourth and present world, life is difficult for mankind, and he struggles to remember his source because materialism and selfishness block a greater vision. The newly born infant comes into the fourth world with the door of his mind open (evident in the cranial soft spot), but as he ages, the door closes and he must work at remaining receptive to the great forces. A human being's grandest task is to keep from breaking with things outside himself.
``A Hopi learns that he belongs to two families,'' Fritz said, ``his natural clan and that of all things. As he gets older, he's supposed to move closer to the greater family. In the Hopi Way, each person tries to recognize his part in the whole.''
``At breakfast you said you hunted rabbits and pigeons and robins, but I don't see how you can shoot a bird if you believe in the union of life.''
``A Hopi hunter asks the animal to forgive him for killing it. Only life can feed life. The robin knows that.''
``How does robin taste, by the way?''
The religion doesn't seem to have much of an ethical code.''
``It's there. We watch what the Kachinas say and do. But the Spider Grandmother did give two rules. To all men, not just Hopis. If you look at them, they cover everything. She said, `Don't go around hurting each other,' and she said, `Try to understand things.'''
``I like them. I like them very much.''
``Our religion keeps reminding us that we aren't just will and thoughts. We're also sand and wind and thunder. Rain. The seasons. All those things. You learn to respect everything because you are everything. If you respect yourself, you respect all things. That's why we have so many songs of creation to remind us where we came from. If the fourth world forgets that, we'll disappear in the wilderness like the third world, where people decided they had created themselves.''
``Pride's the deadliest of the Seven Deadly Sins in old Christian theology.''
``It's kahopi [`not Hopi'] to set yourself above things. It causes divisions.''
Fritz had to go to class. As we walked across campus, I said, ``I guess it's hard to be a Hopi in Cedar City - especially if you're studying biochemistry.''
``It's hard to be a Hopi anywhere.''
``I mean, difficult to carry your Hopi heritage into a world as technological as medicine is.''
``Heritage? My heritage is the Hopi Way, and that's a way of the spirit. Spirit can go anywhere. In fact, it has to go places so it can change and emerge like in the migrations. That's the whole idea.'' c. 1982 by William Least Heat Moon. Used by permission of Little, Brown & Co.