My beloved Santa Fe feels as though it’s falling, lost between the world of the healthy and unhealthy. I often imagine my ancient city as an old grandmother who is nearing the end of a four hundred year fight. Still, she came to me, just as my own grandmother did, with stories of a time when people lived together, both with the land and with each other. People shared stories as a way to connect and as a way to explain things they didn’t understand. In four hundred years, Nuestra Abuela, Santa Fe, has heard and shared stories about the sun traveling through the sky and the wind singing songs. People lived through what they told and through what they heard. In the people’s stories came a reality that comforted and extended lives through the years. Even in the biblical Eden, humanity emerged from the land. Our city knows that people and the land we share cannot be separated. Our stories are the umbilical cord.
Problem is, our modern lives hear the ancient stores and tend to write them off as naïve. We have science and its magic formulas to explain the sky’s blue and the sunset’s orange. But there aren’t any stories in those magic formulas and all the knowledge brings tears to Santa Fe’s ancient eyes. If I were to ask her, I’d bet she’d say, “our scientific magic explains how everything works. But in all that knowledge we’ve become ignorant of ourselves. Our ignorance has made us sick. We are no longer connected to each other and to the land. We don’t trust out stories because science has told us not to.”
It would be easy to blame science. It would even make sense to think that somehow we could boil the lack of trust in our own stories down to economic circumstances, as Santa Fe is economically polarized. But that wouldn’t be true. Many people with a lot of money become unhealthy and stay unhealthy until they knock down death’s door. And I can’t say that someone poor won’t be healthy, it happens more often that the power brokers of our world care to admit.
We can’t reduce the problem of our age to a simple matter of ethnicity: Black, white, or brown, I’ve seen and known many of each, healthy and unhealthy. Unfortunately, unhealthiness is color-blind and will saturate a soul without regard to the afflicted’s color of skin. What leads to unhealthiness is much more simple to see but much harder to fix. At the core of unhealthiness is that unending confusion that emerges from deep and long-standing disconnections.
Disconnection from what? Well, it comes down to loss of language and loss of beliefs and loss of connection to place. Ours is a spiritually homeless age where people can end up wandering in the abyss of self-fulfillment. When a person is so hell bent of his or her own success (in any definition of success), he or she shrinks into a single, isolated dot that has no real relationship with the world in which he or she lives. From that singe dot emerges a whirlpool of confusion that sweeps a person into a prayer of salvation that comes in the form of drugs or alcohol. The only recourse to these unhealthy prayers is death and death alone.
We need to reconnect with our true selves through our stories. We need to reconnect with each other. We need to return to our connection to this Earth. My God help us.